It is a known fact that comedic films are often overlooked for their exceptional acting and poignancy. It can even be argued that some comedic films touch on real life issues in a more relatable way than their dramatic counterparts. They just get to be cheeky! This theory could not be more true for laugh out loud comedy, FAT CAMP. In between laughs, this film highlights relatable characters tackling issues such as, sexuality, body image, and bullying.
Before the film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival, I got the chance to talk to director Jennifer Arnold on the red carpet about casting, themes, and obstacles that came up while shooting.
One of your most recognized and acclaimed films was the documentary, “A Small Act”. What was the transition like going from such a deep, serious film to a laugh out loud comedy?
Arnold- I mean, I think on paper it seems like total whiplash to go from Small Act to FAT CAMP. But in all honesty, I as a person have a nasty, dirty, irreverent sense of humor. I love doing documentary, and I love doing uplifting films like, Small Act. But, I was dying to represent the other side of myself. I just wasn’t necessarily looking for broad teenage comedy. When I read this script I laughed so hard and thought, I got to do it, I got to do it.
You mentioned that you never thought you would get offered a “teen-boy camp comedy”. How did this project come to you, and what was your initial reaction?
Arnold- Actually, I was part of the Fox Directors Initiative. Valerie Standler, who’s from Fluency, was the financier and she was saying let’s try to find a script to do together. I reached out to the writers from the Fox Writers Initiative and FAT CAMP was one of the scripts that I read (from the Fox Writers Initiative). So, two different people from the Fox labs came together to make this happen.
I really loved that the film tapped into conversations such as body image and sexuality. What would you like the to audience take away from that?
Arnold- Well, first, and foremost I want the audience to laugh. But under the laughter, I want people to think about what it really means to exist in this world and to love yourself. Whether you’re dealing with sexuality, whether you’re dealing with some sort of racism, whether you’re dealing with some sort of ageism, or whether you’re dealing with a body issue, I think it’s important that you’re proud of who you are. We’re all a work in progress. It’s never too late to find a way to love yourself. That was sort of the under current of the film no matter how raunchy we got.
You decided to use real teenagers and not 20-somethings passing for 14. What made you make that decision?
Arnold- It was very important to me to go with actual teenage kids, because I thought it wouldn’t be funny unless you saw those sort of irreverent words coming out of real teenager’s mouths. I wanted it to feel like a movie that would feel real.
It’s such a happy film, but I am sure there were some days filled with obstacles. What were some difficulties you had while filming FAT CAMP?
Arnold- Every moment of this film was uphill. There are films that get lucky and are sort of blessed. Then there’s films…I won’t say cursed…but films that are hard- and this was hard. There was never enough money, never enough time, never catching a break. But, we still loved making it. It still made us laugh at set everyday.
After doing such a stellar job on FAT CAMP, do you see yourself directing more comedies in the future or going back to documentary?
Arnold- I am not planning on leaving documentary, but I am definitely interested in narrative, and I am definitely interested in doing more fiction. I love comedy so I hope! My fingers are crossed that I have more comedies in my future.
“We’re all a work in progress. It’s never too late to find a way to love yourself.”
– Jennifer Arnold, Director
*The film premieres tonight, July 17th on BET.*
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(Photos courtesy of Fluency Films, Wire Image, and Film Independent)