If director Deb Hagan knew her binge-drinking freshman year at the University of Delaware would actually be used as research for her first feature film 15 years later, she might’ve stayed around an extra couple of semesters just to make sure she understood the full meaning of the term “riding the porcelain bus.”
Nevertheless, Hagan survived her years of higher learning, graduated with a degree in visual communications, and went on to work in the advertising field where commercial directing became her forte.
In 2004, Hagan produced and directed “Pee Shy,” a dark comedy short about a boy scout who becomes so frightened by his troop leader’s campfire stories that he wets himself thus becoming the center of all ridicule. Pee Shy went on to screen at nearly 60 film festival across the U.S. and won numerous awards.
Hagan doesn’t stray too far from “Pee Shy”’s bodily function humor with “College,” the first feature film of her career. The movie follows three high school seniors who get more than just a tour of the library when they spend the weekend at a college as prospective freshman.
Via phone, Hagan talked about her fun-filled days and nights as a Fightin’ Blue Hen in Newark, and why Greek organizations are so easy to pick on.
One of the movie trailers for “College” refers to it as the next generation of rebellious teen comedies after “Animal House” and “American Pie.” As a director, does that put added pressure on you?
Well, I went into it thinking it was a modern day “Animal House.” I hope to deliver something like that. To be considered in the same arena as “Animal House,” I’d probably pass out. I think that “College” is a really funny 94 minutes of go sit and laugh and enjoy yourself.
Looking at the poster for “College,” I’m wondering when the last time it was that you had your head in a toilet.
I suspect that all week long leading up to the movie I’ll be spending a portion of my day like that just from the nerves. (Laughs) It’s been a while since I’ve had my head in the toilet but I must say I have spent some time doing that.
Did you ever get a chance to experience college life as a high school senior like the characters in the movie?
I did visit the [University of Delaware] and stayed with a friend of mine. I had a weekend not completely unlike what’s represented in “College.” It took me five years to get out of school and I have to say that my first year was pretty much dedicated to this movie.
I feel cheated. I spent the night at a college, too, and the two geeky guys I stayed with took me to see Amistad and then went to bed at 11 p.m.
(Laughs) Did you end up going to that school?
No, but I doubt it was because of that, although it was pretty disappointing.
(Laughs) See College and maybe that’ll make up for it a little.
So, tell me some of your crazy stories from college.
If I was specific I think my parents would disown me. Sufficed to say, I’ve spend the night on a bathroom floor, I’ve done body shots, I’ve mixed assorted alcohol together that should never be mixed. I generally had a great ol’ time.
Not too many female directors, if any, have taken on this genre before.
Well, I love telling comedy stories. I may just have the sense of humor of a 14-year-old boy. Being female might give me a different take on it, but I still think it aims for what the demographic wants.
I’m guessing your weren’t in any Greek organizations in college.
I was on the outside. I never felt like I fit in with them so maybe that is a point of view I bring into the movie. I have sympathy for the high school kids. I was never into [sororities]. I played volleyball in college so I was focused on that more than being a part of a social group. I didn’t think I needed some Greek letters on my chest to make me feel like part of the university.
So, it was easy for you to make the fraternity guys and sorority girls the antagonists.
Frat guys and sorority sisters are such a clique. I think they’re easy to use as the antagonist because you have to be accepted and welcomed into that circle, which is always a challenge for anyone.
Movies like “College” normally don’t get critical acclaim. So, since this is your first attempt, are you ready for bad reviews?
Sure, bring it on! (Laughs) “College” is not an art piece. It’s a very specifically designed piece of entertainment. Hopefully it will do well in the box office and make people forget their own lives for at least 94 minutes. If you walk away laughing and having enjoyed yourself, I think I’ve done my job.