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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #40: Scott Coffey Explores the Myth of the American Dream and Artistic Aspirations in 'Adult World'

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire April 15, 2013 at 4:44PM

Scott Coffey has had a 30-year-long career as an actor, appearing in films such as "Mulholland Dr." and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," as well as in his directorial debut "Ellie Parker" in 2005. This year Coffey adds a second film to his directing filmography with "Adult World," starring Emma Roberts as an aspiring poet who takes up a job in a sex shop, and John Cusack, as a punk poet. The film, which was inspired by the satirical tone of Alexander Payne's "Citizen Ruth," comments on the replacement of the American Dream with youth's current struggle for fame.
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Scott Coffey

Scott Coffey has had a 30-year-long career as an actor, appearing in films such as "Mulholland Dr." and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," as well as in his directorial debut "Ellie Parker" in 2005. This year Coffey adds a second film to his directing filmography with "Adult World," starring Emma Roberts as an aspiring poet who takes up a job in a sex shop, and John Cusack, as a punk poet. The film, which was inspired by the satirical tone of Alexander Payne's "Citizen Ruth," comments on the replacement of the American Dream with youth's current struggle for fame.

What it's about: Amy Anderson graduates college convinced she's going to be a famous American poet. Unemployed and desperate for work, she takes a job in an adult book and video store. Meanwhile, she stalks her mentor, the famous punk poet Rat Billings.

About the filmmaker: I was an actor in my twenties and finally made the move to writing and directing with my first feature "Ellie Parker." "Ellie Parker" starred Naomi Watts and premiered in the dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival. I've been directing commercials, music videos and writing scripts between "Ellie Parker" and "Adult World". I live in Brooklyn.



What else do you want audiences to know about your film? I wanted "Adult World" to be a gentle satire about a generation who no longer has the promise of the American Dream available to them, not in the way their parents did anyway. Maybe that was always a false promise but it's really faded now. Sometimes I think striving for fame and recognition have replaced whatever the American dream was. We've been over-praised by parents and teachers and constantly told we can do and be anything we want, even if it's a famous poet. It's like we're all just entitled to have whatever we want at the expense of the real world. It's an especially hard time for young people when jobs are scarce and aspiring to be an artist with integrity and originality seems harder that ever. But I also find Amy (our lead character) full of hope and that inspires me.



What was your biggest challenge in developing this project? The biggest challenge with "Adult World" was being mindful never to make fun of the lead character. The original script was a broader comedy than I was interesting in making. It was not very based in reality and a little silly. I wanted to make sure that all the moments and relationships in the movie were real and not just comedic for the sake of a laugh. I put a lot of myself into the lead characters and tried to make things as personal as I could when I was rewriting. Editing was our biggest challenge overall because we had a lot of footage. I kept things every fluid and almost workshop like on the set and just used the script as a kind of blue print so we had a lot of choices and the movie had an interesting aliveness. The actors contributions were really crucial. Shooting in Syracuse in the middle of winter wasn't easy but it was a fun challenge.

"Adult World."
Tribeca Film Festival "Adult World."



What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away with after seeing your film? I hope that audiences will appreciate the comedy and the performances most. I want people to root for Amy even thought she is hopelessly optimistic about her future, sometimes at the expense of reality. I hope that people will recognize themselves in the characters.

Did any specific films inspire you? There are a few films that I thought a lot about as I made "Adult World." "Wonder Boys" was one. I love the warmth of that movie even in the cold winter that it takes place in. The academic bubble that the lead characters live in was something that inspired me. Noah Baumbach's great movie "Margot at the Wedding" was a movie that always inspires me. Alexander Payne's "Citizen Ruth" was a movie that hugely inspired my approach to "Adult World" especially its tone and visual vibe. It's a near perfect satire.

What do you have in the works? I have an original script called "Jupiter" that takes place in Jupiter, Florida. that I hope to do next. It's a comedy about religion, sex, drugs, and relationships. It's very much about finding home in other people and how we learn to trust each other in this weird world.


Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.



Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.

This article is related to: Tribeca Film Festival, Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers, Adult World, Scott Coffey, Emma Roberts , John Cusack