Struck By Lightning Director Brian Dannelly on Glee's Chris Colfer and Avoiding Teen Movie Cliches

It's senior year of high school, and all any kid is thinking about is making it to graduation, the first real milestone for a young adult. These years require, in essence, survival of the most awkward and angsty times of your life. But tough titties, because sometimes a lightning bolt comes out of nowhere and smites you in a freak accident before you make it to the podium to pick up that diploma. At least that's what happened to Carson Phillips.

Don't worry, this isn't some sort of tasteless obituary. Phillips is the main character in Chris Colfer's Struck By Lightning, in which the 22-year-old stars; Colfer also began penning the screenplay back in his junior year of high school before achieving mega success on Glee. What started out as a ten-minute piece for a speech and debate event, in which Colfer played every character, is now a full-length feature with star names like director Brian Dannelly (Saved), Allison Janney (The Help), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids), Dermot Mulroney (J. Edgar), and Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) attached.

In the film, Phillips recounts the last few weeks leading up to his untimely demise with clever, insightful flashbacks, including the blackmail scheme he and best friend Malerie (played by Wilson) cook up to force the popular kids to contribute to his literary magazine.

"You can't live your life planning for the future and not in the moment; there is all this stuff you can miss," Dannelly told Cultist over the phone.

The project is Dannelly's second feature after Saved, a cult hit which was planned to be filmed in Fort Lauderdale, but had to change locations a week before cast arrived.

At first, Dannelly had no interest in Struck By Lightning. "I got a call from my agent saying one of the kids from Glee wrote a script, 'Are you interested?' I said no...but my friend David Permut [the film's producer] was working on it so he told me to look at it," Dannelly said.

After reading the script, Dannelly had a change of heart and he was the first director Colfer met with. Colfer, being a big fan of Saved, decided it was a match, and the two tackled the project. "I was a little nervous at first...He was extremely professional, he left the directing up to me. Extremely collaborative, we have the same sort of taste about what's funny and what's not, so it was actually really fun...From the moment he did his first scene I knew it was good.

"The most important thing for me is the performance, making sure they're honest and authentic," Dannelly continued. "I try to pick work that's interesting and a little bit off the beaten path....something that's a bit different from other teen movies, and I think Chris has that," Dannelly said.

Although it begins with a doomed introduction, Struck By Lightning is a hopeful film with much to look forward to. "I think we're all trying to figure out how we're spending our time and it just reaffirms this is it, this moment is it and make the best of it," Dannelly said.

The film will screen at select theaters for a one-night-only preview, including Miami's own O Cinema this weekend, before its release in select theaters Friday, January 11. Colfer will host a Q&A session via live webcast after the film where audience members nationwide will submit questions and comments through Twitter.

Struck By Lightning premieres at O Cinema Miami Shores, 9806 NE 2nd Ave, Miami Shores, on Sunday, January 6 at 8 p.m. General admission costs $10.50, or $9 for students and seniors, and $7.50 for members. Call 305-571-9970 or visit

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Briana Saati