A Teacher | Director Hannah Fidell

A Teacher A Teacher

[PREMIERE SCREENING: Sunday, Jan. 20, 5:30pm — Prospector Square Theatre, Park City]

I like to tell people that I moved to Austin, Texas in order to make A Teacher even though nothing about the story necessitates that it needs to be made in Texas. The film is about a high school teacher who has an affair with one of her students. It could have been made anywhere, but after one too many blizzards a few years back, I was looking for any excuse to move out of Brooklyn, at least for a little while.

It’s no secret that moving to a new city is hard – making friends, being out of your comfort zone… it can be a lonely and frustrating experience. But that’s what I needed in order to stay focused on making my first feature. There was no FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on all the fun things my friends were doing…because they were all in New York! OK, yes, I had (and still have) friends in Austin, but it’s different there…life moves at a slower, some would argue, better pace and I never felt like I was missing out. No one gave me shit for staying in and writing late into the night instead of going out. In a way, I sacrificed the comfort of having my best friends and family nearby in order to give myself the space and time to write and make my film. But the sacrifice was worth it. The short film I made when I first moved to Texas (pre-Teacher) premiered at SXSW in the Texas Shorts category. It was there that I ended up meeting other filmmakers based in Texas (Kat Candler, Yen Tan, James Johnson, Kelly Williams, Jonny Mars) – all with films at Sundance this year as well – who only wanted to help another filmmaker, who offered advice, support and friendship to the new girl in town.

At the same time, a lot of what I was feeling, primarily the loneliness and isolation of being in a new city (albeit self imposed), made it’s way into A Teacher. That sounds pretty depressing, but it really wasn’t. All of my senses were alive because the city, the people, the landscape were all new to me. This helped as I was writing; casting, location scouting…it helped in every bit of the process.

Sundance Responses 2013