Like any independent movie, the biggest hurdle was finding the financing. This void led to some interesting meetings (which I plan on sharing more about as soon as the confidentiality agreements expire) and I actually considered putting a couple organs on the black market to acquire the funds myself. Luckily, we found Camilla Entertainment and Struck By Lightning found its proper home.
Everything from then on was a perfect storm, no pun intended. Brian Dannelly was the first director we met with and I knew he was the perfect man for the job in the first ten minutes of our meeting when he said “I want to direct this movie because I was this kid in high school.” We shared such a mutual vision for the movie at times it was scary. Come to think of it, I don’t think we ever had a disagreement – ever. From what I hear, that’s rare.
We used to joke about the ambitious names our sights were set on when it came to casting – but we surpassed them and won a casting jackpot. I’m still shocked when I watch the movie just considering the cast alone.
Allison Janney was the only actress I had ever envisioned to play the role of “Sheryl,” Carson’s mother; even in my Speech and Debate days I used to emulate her characteristics. I had met Christina Hendricks a couple of times and thought she was perfect for the role of pregnant pharmacist “April,” but never in my boldest dreams did I think she would take the role. Rebel Wilson was cast as Carson’s sidekick “Malerie” the night before she started filming (14 hours to be exact).
A challenging factor when we finally got around to pre-production was that I was on a worldwide tour with Glee. I was as involved as physically possible, taking part in as many discussions that Skype and international calling allowed. I remember at one point I was singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at the O2 in London, ran underneath the stage to send off an email about casting and locations, then slapped on a unitard and ran back out for “Single Ladies.”
We started filming three days after the Glee 2011 summer tour ended and shot the whole movie in 17 days. Of course due to the budget and timing there were cuts and revisions made to the script, some more painful than others, but overall the true spirit and essence of the story remained.
I’ll never forget the night it debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. The movie received a standing ovation – and my parents didn’t even start it! The publishers of my novel The Land of Stories saw the film that night and asked me to adapt it into a novel. And so I wrote Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal, and am so happy I did. It gave me a chance to spend a little more time with my first set of characters — and I wasn’t ready to let them go just yet.
I’m so thankful Carson’s journey has finally found a way out of my head and into the world, mostly for my own mental health. I’m not sure what I would have done with myself if the project became a disastrous failure – and I think that uncertainty along the way became one of the biggest reasons I was so inspired to tell the story.
I can’t speak for all generations but I feel like mine has always been programmed to believe one thing about aspirations; you win or you lose, there is no in-between. And unfortunately, the embarrassment of failure has always discouraged the attempt for success, so consequently, we don’t try.
There are a million reasons why I hope Struck By Lightning resonates with audiences, but on a personal level I hope by showing a character like Carson, someone tragically robbed of all the life and potential they possess, I’ll help convince this generation (and maybe even convince myself) that trying doesn’t mean you’re weak – it means you’re alive.