Director David Shane Reveals His Awkward Teenage Self in 'The Board'

Semi-Autobiographical Short Screened at Tribeca Film Festival

Published On
Apr 25, 2016

Editor's Pick

David Shane is at it again with his new short film, "The Board," which recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and was dubbed one of the fest's eight shorts worth watching by Filmmaker magazine.

Shane previously has had us in stiches on comedic campaigns such as the award-winning "Awkward Family Viewing" for HBO and and the holiday effort from Curry's PC World, in which Jeff Goldblum gave lessons in how to respond to bad Christmas gifts. In recent years, he's also delivered laughs in short films such as "Second Thoughts," about a feeble-willed cult leader and "Plane Crash," a funny play on the familiar crash survivors-turned-cannibals scenario.

Co-written with longtime writing partner Scott Organ, "The Board" chronicles the angst of a socially awkward teen boy, who constantly finds himself at a loss for appropriately cool words during his encounters with the opposite sex. It follows his quest of sorts -- a phone call to his big crush, which he maps out to precision on a giant chalkboard with a flow chart detailing all the potential turns of conversation and responses he might deliver.

While again laugh-out-loud funny, the film represent a new stylistic turn for Mr. Shane. "I definitely tried to do something a little different with this one," he said. " It has a little more heart, maybe, than some of the darker, dumber things I usually make. It's a little more stylized and non-linear than usual, which was really fun."

It also so happens that the short is semi-autobiographical and harkens back to Shane's own awkward teenage years. "Whenever I got up enough nerve to actually call a girl, I would fill up post it notes with 'interesting thoughts' and 'witty jokes' for every conceivable topic that I thought might come up, which is as idiotic as it sounds and never worked," he said. "The conversation would always go to an unexpected place inside of like, 30 seconds. So that was the starting point. But Scott and I obviously embellished. I swear I never asked anyone out after being told their dad was in the hospital."

Shane said that the script was "deceptively tricky. It's super non-linear in the first half. We're often cutting between multiple locations and times of day in the course of a single line. I kept getting asked stuff like 'Why is he saying he's not where he is and won't be there 'til later?' Shari, our amazing script supervisor, almost lost her mind. And then [Editor] Gavin Cutler made perfect sense of it all, saving me from myself, as he always does."

Regarding the casting, ad aficionados might recognize the female lead, played by Tessa Albertson, who also portrayed the unimpressed teen daughter in his HBO campaign. "She's just crazy good," said Mr. Shane. "Never makes a false choice." In the case of the male lead, "I couldn't find a boy, though, and was about to shelve the project when Beth Melsky, who cast it, suggested we try some performing arts schools. So we put up some notices and maybe twenty kids came in and read for it. All various degrees of not so good. Zach [Zamsky] was the last kid. I kind of blinked back at him, and I was like, 'Is this kid as fucking good as I think he is?'"

As far as what happened in the real-life story of the teenager hoping for a date, "I didn't have many girlfriends," laughed Shane.