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SIMPLY JESSICA: Teen movie director talks about believing in yourself

Imagine a beckoning hybrid of the teen movies “Easy A” and “Mean Girls” mixed with a story about believing in yourself sprinkled with self-confidence.

Bianca Piper toiled in her Cleveland neighborhood about how to get Toby Tucker to notice her. Before she could figure that out, her childhood friend, Wes tells Bianca a damaging secret that she is not aware of. She is a DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend).

She is the girl among her friends that people approach in order to learn what her attractive friends’ plans are for the evening.

Imagine, for a second, this: Nothing seems different about this particular day, except you watch a movie that makes you feel like you are the main character in the movie. You are not the prettiest girl, but you have pretty friends.

It does not seem strange to you that guys ask you a million questions about your friends. You do not think twice about it. How can you see your friends the same after watching this movie? Is being a DUFF bad?

The only way to get answers to my questions was to interview Ari Sandel, the director of “The DUFF.” Did Ari Sandel have a DUFF around him in high school?

“The whole point of the movie is that everyone is a DUFF,” Sandel said. “Brad Pitt is someone’s DUFF. If your sense of yourself is based off of how you compare to your friends then you are always going to be at the mercy of other people’s judgment. You should be the one who defines you.”

Actor Romany Malco, right, and director Ari Sandel. Malco plays a high school principal in Sandel's latest film, 'The DUFF.' (Courtesy photo)
Actor Romany Malco, right, and director Ari Sandel. Malco plays a high school principal in Sandel’s latest film, ‘The DUFF.’ (Courtesy photo)

Sandel said that believing in yourself is a life-long process. He believes that most people never fully learn this. “You have periods in your life when you feel confident,” Sandel said. “Then you have times when you do not feel confident, but as you get older this happens less, but it happens a lot more when you are in high school as you try to figure things out.”

It is that subject matter about figuring things out that makes Sandel love directing teen movies. In fact, he is being dubbed as a teen director, but the title does not bother him. As long as the material is good, he is eager to sink his teeth into teen material. “I look at the characters,” Sandel said. “I make sure the material will get people to leave their homes and drive to the movie theater. I love to direct movies that have not been done a thousand times. I love movies with heart to them.”

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