More than four years after thinking of an idea for the script while eating lunch at Parkside Dining Hall, Logan Austin’s first-ever movie has finally reached completion. A screenwriting major who graduated from USC in 2017, Austin’s forthcoming film Progidy tells the story of a teenage genius who graduates college at the age of 16, only to return to high school to recapture a childhood she feels she missed out on.
The title Progidy hints at a running joke in the film, and was Austin’s attempt at capturing the overall premise of the movie into a single word.
“We came up with it before we had a reason for it, since the script’s original title was ‘A Small Pun,’” he said. “But at the start of the summer before shooting, we thought it would be cool to have it be a symbol [of her story]. ‘Prodigy’ is the label she was given as a child, and then ‘progidy’ is that, but given its own unique spin on it, which is what her arc in the movie is about.”
Through comically light-hearted mishaps, character revelations and unmistakable high school vulgarity, the movie follows the main character Stephanie through her “senior year” as she furiously attempts to check off her list of requirements for the perfect high school experience. Initially, Austin had a more dramatic, troubling story in mind, but as the film developed, the plot began to take a different turn.
“I was eating lunch and it just popped into my head: ‘What happens when a child prodigy just gives up?’” he said. “So originally I was going to make it much more sad, more about being a failure, instead of about accepting limitations.”
Somewhat based on his own high school experience as the ultra-driven student who sought to branch out and expand his social life as graduation approached, Austin even filmed the movie at McIntosh High School, his alma mater in Peachtree City, Ga. He tapped several of his best friends from school to serve as his crew, and filled many of the casting roles with other classmates who had prior acting experience.
Without a network of people willing to help him turn the script into a reality, Austin doubts the film would have been possible.
“It was born out of a community, it wasn’t born out of a person,” he said. “I don’t think I could have made this movie if I had been an introvert in high school, because I knew a ton of people who I was on reasonably good terms with, where they would say, ‘Yeah, I can dedicate a day to being in your movie,’ or others who dedicated a whole summer to the project.”
Their commitment proved essential to Austin, especially in the face of an avalanche of setbacks that occurred during the filming and editing processes that followed. After a failed Kickstarter campaign forced him to rethink his financial strategy, Austin picked up a summer job waiting tables and dipped into his savings to fund the project. Still, his final budget was less than half of the original $8,000 he planned to have available, an adjustment that severely impacted the sound quality while on set.
“We had a shotgun microphone, a $20 crappy pre-amp, and then a TASCAM voice recorder, and we had to strap them all with zip-ties to a piece of PVC,” he said. “We had to use paper clips as part of the wiring, it led to a lot of buzzing and mechanical clicks during the sound. We ended up using camera audio for a lot of it, which is probably worse.”
Despite the complications, however, Austin is pleased with how the movie came about, and made a note of things to improve on for future productions. New discoveries on set eased the pain of prior plans that fell through, and made for a final product that took on a life of its own thanks to the individual influences that various cast members brought to the table.
“It was messy, but I’m happy with how it turned out,” he said. “We were always open to things popping up while shooting and taking their place in the movie, so it evolved so much from what the original draft had been.”
Austin is currently submitting Progidy to various film festivals, and plans to release it online once the process concludes The movie doesn’t yet have an official release date, but he hopes to screen the film at USC in the near future.