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Director 'struck' with inspiration from high school life

Brian Dannelly, director of 'Struck by Lightning,' uses adolescent experiences to help him craft movies with meaning. The film screens in Laguna Beach on Thursday.

December 17, 2012|By Michael Miller
  • Chris Colfer, left, and Brian Dannelly, right, shoot a scene from "Struck By Lightning," which will screen Thursday in Laguna Beach.
Chris Colfer, left, and Brian Dannelly, right, shoot… (Courtesy Suzanne…)

Once, like the lead character in his new movie, Brian Dannelly was a wide-eyed, ambitious high school senior itching to find adventure in the big world.

Unlike his character, Dannelly was lucky.

Dannelly's new film, "Struck By Lightning," which will have a special showing Thursday in Laguna Beach, tells the story of a 12th-grader who is annihilated by a lightning bolt in the school parking lot. The rest of the film tells his story in flashback — about how he spent weeks trying to assemble a campus literary magazine, even blackmailing popular kids into contributing pieces in hopes that the resulting journal could help get him into Northwestern University.

High school life has provided rich source material for Dannelly, who directed the 2004 teen comedy "Saved!" So what is it about those adolescent years — one 20th of a typical life span, to put them in perspective — that proves so resonant?

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"I think it's just a microcosm for the world," Dannelly said. "It's inescapable. It's the first time you started thinking about your future and falling in love and trying to find yourself. Everything's just slightly more rough than when you get out."

Those seeking more insights from Dannelly, adolescent and otherwise, can visit the Laguna Art Museum on Thursday evening, as the Laguna Beach Film Society will host a reception and screening for "Struck By Lightning." The director will be on hand to answer questions about the film, which stars screenwriter Chris Colfer as the ill-fated senior.

Keiko Beatie, the curator of the film society, is a longtime friend of Dannelly and invited him for the screening. "Struck By Lightning" is scheduled to go into general release next year after a series of film festival showings.

Beatie said the film may resonate particularly with viewers in wake of recent discussions about combating bullying in schools — not to mention the documentary "Bully," which became a hit last year.

"I've always been consciously aware of kids in high school who feel like they don't fit in," said Beatie, whose film society has operated for 11 years. "It's a very difficult time."

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