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As a senior at John C. Fremont High School in South Central, 17-year-old Eduardo Cho grew up surrounded by movie studios and the ubiquitous billboards touting their latest big-budget releases.
Never did it occur to him that the entertainment industry might hold a place for him. “It may seem pretty weird that we’re just a few minutes from Hollywood,” says the soft-spoken Cho. “But for me, it was just a dream.”
But after attending the Aug. 31 premiere of his freshman effort — a hilarious short starring Seth Rogen and James Franco called Dumpster Diving — Cho is singing a different tune.
And so, for that matter, is his 16-year-old creative collaborator, Kimberly Carrillo. “I wasn’t familiar with Seth before this,” she admits. “But now I’m more familiar with what he does and I want to be a part of it.”
Landing both of the stars of Pineapple Express for your very first film is the stuff of Hollywood dreams. But thanks to Rogen, 35, and his longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg, 35, dreams are coming true.
The pair behind hit comedies like This Is the End and the upcoming Disaster Artist teamed up to give two lucky groups of students — eight grade-schoolers in Toronto and 13 high-schoolers in L.A. — an opportunity to write and shoot an original movie, starring some of the biggest names in comedy.
The project is called And Action!, and it emerged from conversations between Goldberg and Toronto-based teacher Adrienne Slover — friends since meeting at Vancouver’s Camp Hatikvah in the early 1990s.
“I was obsessed with the number of people I know who didn’t stumble into filmmaking until they were older,” explains Goldberg. “I thought it would be cool to show these kids that there are opportunities.”
For Goldberg and Rogen, the bug bit in childhood at Point Grey Secondary School, where the Vancouver campus often served as a movie set. “Like, Patrick Stewart would be there making his movie Masterminds,” Goldberg recalls. “I would see it and think, ‘I could be that guy.'”
It was at Point Grey (which would later become the name of their production company) that the boys, then 13, collaborated on their first feature-length screenplay — Superbad, which would eventually get made and released in 2007 and rake in $170 million worldwide.
Slover came up with the idea of pairing And Action! up with We Charity, the youth-empowerment movement behind the immensely popular We Day events. For the pilot program, they focused on two schools: John C. Fremont in L.A. and the Rene Gordon Health and Wellness Academy in Toronto, where Slover teaches kindergarten through third grade.
Students were not tipped off that any major stars might be involved. Instead, they were presented with the opportunity to work “with professionals in the film industry” and were invited to submit a written application.
“They asked us to describe ourselves, what movies we liked, what we could do to help our communities — really simple questions but questions that really mattered,” says Cho.
In L.A., the lucky 13 met with Goldberg to brainstorm what their movie would be about. “They started off shy,” Goldberg notes. “They said, ‘We want it to be like Superbad.’ I said, ‘OK, you’re saying that because I made Superbad.’ But no — they really wanted it to be like Superbad. They identified with it, as high-schoolers.”
Adds Rogen, “But they wanted it a little zanier. I think Rick and Morty has gained in popularity since Superbad came out.”
The idea was to give each of the films a resonant message. For the younger kids in Toronto, the theme became bullying. (The result, Robot Bullies, stars Jay Baruchel and imagines a future education system filled with mean androids.)
But the high schoolers were more focused on peer pressure.
Says Goldberg, “To them, it was, ‘I am always being pulled away from my attempt to have a great life.’ Gang guys who think they’re cool. People who try to woo you away from what you should do. That turned into a conversation about ‘wannabe tough guys’ — guys who act super tough and make people’s lives miserable because they think it’s cool.”
Goldberg spun those sessions into the script Dumpster Diving, an 11-minute comedy about two bullied teens (played by Rogen and Michael Pena) who fall in with a couple of gang members (Nick Kroll and Hannah Simone). They are eventually introduced to gang-leader El Diablo, played by Franco, 39, covered in face tattoos.
The involvement of Rogen and Franco — two stars at the top of any studio wishlist — was kept under wraps until the day of the shoot.
It shot at John C. Fremont over a single Sunday, with an A-list production team donating their time behind the cameras and Goldberg at the helm — as so many Rogen-Goldberg productions have gone before.
But even a seasoned vet is allowed the occasional jitters.
“Of all the shit I’ve performed in a long time, this made me really nervous,” Rogen says with laugh. “Because I had to rap in front of a group of high school kids. Who wrote the rap lyrics.”
Watch Dumpster Diving below.
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