Chris Weitz, the co-director of “American Pie” and one of the producers of Ms. Cohen’s film, attributes the shift to technology that puts audiences in control.
“It was one thing when the gatekeepers, mostly old folks, dictated what kind of content would be released about teens,” he said. “Now teens can get all kinds of content about themselves that they’ve created themselves, which gives them a greater sense of truth than something a movie producer would come up with.”
With that landscape in mind, Mr. Garelick decided to make the films himself very cheaply. Done correctly, they can easily be piped to streaming platforms, which are constantly on the lookout for new material, especially content that attracts the ever-elusive teenage audience.
He thought that shooting two films in a row in one location could save a third of his production costs. If he shot three, he could save half. He could be like the now-defunct New Line movie studio, applying the cost-cutting method “Lord of the Rings” to the world of teen comedy. Peter Jackson relied on New Zealand’s verdant landscape for his Hobbit-powered epic.
Mr. Garelick is said to have an abandoned school.
“That’s when I had my ‘aha moment,'” he said. “This is how I’m going to make my high school movies. Nobody out there makes them. Now it’s time to dive in.”
In today’s complex content ecosystem, studios are spending more and more to entice a general audience to the cinema with blockbuster franchise movies, while the streamers are mainly trying to keep their fragmented audiences attached to their services by offering niche content. Teen comedies may not have enough consistent commercial potential for the studios, but Mr. Garelick thought that if he could provide a consistent stream of movies, a streaming service would definitely bite. And if he found a location where he could take advantage of local government tax incentives, his dollars would go further and he could benefit from the support of the local community.
First, he needed a school, something gritty and stately, at once inhabited but also easily adaptable to any high school scene. He thought of the basic settings in almost every teenage comedy: a high school gymnasium, a cafeteria, classrooms, hallways, an auditorium.