By Sidney Butler
“Tenured” which premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, is the joint project of director Chris Modoono and actor Gil Zabarsky (who stars as Ethan), two NYU alums that found their love for comedy and collaboration at NYU’s Stonestreet Studios. Developed from the 2012 Tribeca Short “Teacher of the Year,” “Tenured” is a comedy about Ethan Collins, a cynical elementary school teacher who deals with his divorce in the midst of trying to direct the annual school play. WSN sat down with the duo to discuss the project.
WSN: What was the inspiration for the film?
MODOONO: I met Gil first and we had worked on another short together, “12 Floors Up,” and having seen him act at Stonestreet, I thought he was perfect for the role in that film. He had developed the character [of Ethan] a long time ago and the character was simply this teacher who speaks in a very adult way to kids. We both said that we liked this character that he would do and so we went back to think of what would make this person act this way to children, what would’ve happened to make him be this way.
WSN: How was it working with more children than adults on this film?
ZABARSKY: We got so lucky with the kids, they were great and great actors. They were all amazing. Working with them was surreal because of how insanely adult they are. They just seemed like they had their life together in a way that I don’t even have now at 27. They were so professional; they were like, “And yes, can I have your Twitter account?” I loved the kids, they were so surprisingly mature about everything — I say some really bad things in front of them [in the film] and they didn’t seem fazed by it; like the cursing and everything, they were cool as cucumbers.
WSN: What was the environment like on set?
MODOONO: We shot in 12 days. It somehow worked out that we were shooting during the worst heat wave in Los Angeles. So everybody was sweating and gross and I remember it being this really amazing experience. Every crew member was very positive and everyone really digged the script and were super on board. Gil, Kathleen (Abigail), and I were all staying in the same Airbnb, and we would all get in our little rental car together and go to set and Kathleen even said that it felt a lot like summer camp.
WSN: What’s next for you two?
ZABARSKY: So Chris and I are working on a couple of things. One is a web series about a female assassin who decides that she doesn’t like killing people for money so she becomes an event planner. And then we have a script that Chris and I wrote a couple of years ago which is about a young man who gets an internship working for Satan. It’s because he cheats on a test at Harvard and Satan makes him a deal.
“Tenured” is effortlessly funny and surprisingly heartfelt, holding a charm rarely seen in modern comedies. The film will be available soon on VOD.
Sidney Butler is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.