Dallas Director Augustine Frizzell on Her Teen Comedy Never Goin' Back That's Goin' to Sundance

Maia Mitchell (left) and Cami Morrone star in Never Goin' Back, the new comedy film from director Augustine Frizzell that's headed to the Sundance Film Festival next month.EXPAND
Maia Mitchell (left) and Cami Morrone star in Never Goin' Back, the new comedy film from director Augustine Frizzell that's headed to the Sundance Film Festival next month.
courtesy Augustine Frizzell
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The reckless teenager is a common figure in comedic films, like Superbad and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but most of them depict rich kids. How else would teenagers get away with crimes like smuggling beer out of a private residence in detergent bottles or hacking into a school district's computer system to change their attendance record?

If a less fortunate kid did any of those things, the story would turn out more like Harmony Korine's gritty shock drama Kids or Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of The Outsiders. Dallas filmmaker Augustine Frizzell knows this from experience, so she set out to make a more realistic comedy.

"I definitely had a tough time as a teen, but my recollection of it — and I don't know if this is just something I've always done as a defense — but anytime I recall things like my pregnancy, I could look back on it, and even though it was challenging and that I had health problems and emotional problems, it was the best time," Frizzell says. "I loved being pregnant, and as dysfunctional as those times were, I always looked back at the fun times I had."

Never Goin' Back is a coming-of-age comedy movie about two high school dropouts who get in a heap of trouble while they play hooky from work to spend a day at the beach. It stars Maia Mitchell, Cammi Morrone and Saturday Night Live's Kyle Mooney and will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival next month.

"I wanted to make a movie about people like me and kids who grew up like me that was not a drama," Frizzell says. "So many times, you have lower economic kids who come from a lower socioeconomic background, and it's always full of drama and parental conflict, and there's drugs and it's a such a big deal and lives are ruined, but that's not always the case. Sometimes the things that are most important about that hectic life at that age are the friends you have around you."

Frizzell first started working on Never Goin' Back in 2013. She shot a quick first cut of it in and around Dallas, but "it didn't turn out like I envisioned, so I scrapped it and ended up cutting it into a short," she says.

"I showed it to producer Toby Halbrooks, and he found it really promising," Frizzell says.

Halbrooks and her husband, director David Lowry, encouraged Frizzell to rework the script. Lowery directed Pete's Dragon for Disney and this year's indie hit A Ghost Story. Frizzell says she finished the second draft of Never Goin' Back a few years later and got a new team together to reshoot the film.

Frizzell says the biggest writing challenge she faced was finding a way to raise the stakes for her lead characters without making the film too serious.

"You don't have as high stakes in a movie like Superbad," she says. "If something bad happens, the consequences are never as bad as something like going to juvie for the next 10 years or being homeless or dying of a drug overdose, and that's something I had to balance so you don't feel sorry for the kids."

Earlier this year, Frizzell reshot her film in Grand Prairie and Fort Worth. She used many of the local actors from the first shoot. Now, Never Goin' Back is already heading to Sundance.

"It just all came together very fast," she says. "It went so quick. Normally when you're trying to cast a movie, you send it to one person and they take their time, but this went really fast."

Most important, Frizzell says she accomplished what she set out to do four years ago and finished the movie she wanted to make. 

"I'm super excited," she says. "I can't wait. I'm not nervous yet. I just feel like we all worked really hard and are all really proud of and people will respond to it and if not, it won't hurt my feelings. I think when I set out to remake the movie, I set out to make myself happy with the end result. I want people to like it. That's why you make films, but finally, after this long process, I feel like there's closure and a sense of ease because it's something that I made that I'm happy with."

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