Low budget independent films may lack the funds for bells and whistles on screen and lavish star accommodations and perks off it, but that makes them a lot more eco-friendly. Case in point: "Struck By Lightning," the first feature from "Glee" star Chris Colfer as writer and lead. "It was a very green film. There were barely any trailers — less pollution. So much energy was saved because it was shot digitally," says Colfer. "We could do scenes in the dark because the digital cameras pick up so much more light and you don't need to add any, so a lot less energy was used."
In the film, which opens Jan. 11, Colfer plays Carson, whose story unfolds in flashback because he's killed by a lightning strike in the first few minutes. He came up with the idea and started writing the script when he was in high school (he's 22 now), but it was more catharsis and venting mechanism than autobiography. "He's someone I wish that I was in high school," Colfer confides. "I was very ambitious but not outspoken whatsoever. I was very shy. I internalized everything and I was very much a victim. I'd go home and cry and write rather than getting all my frustrations out there in the open. Writing was very therapeutic. It was a great way to get through the daily struggles of being in high school."
Colfer is glad he decided to go the indie route rather than make the compromises that come with studio releases. "It would probably be about Carson losing his virginity and I would not be in it." This way, "I had total control over what the story was. I wanted it to be about ambition and dreams and goals, not sex and drugs."
While the character of his closest friend (Rebel Wilson) is based on a real person, none of the others are, including his frowzy, alcoholic mother (Alison Janney). Colfer confides that his real mom "is terrified that people with think that's my mother. She also wants to make it clear that she and my dad are happily married."
Colfer wrote a novelization of his screenplay after the fact that preserves the story, but the book jettisons the film's structure; it's the last three months of Carson's life, as written in his journal. Although he admits that his social life has been "a casualty" of his busy writing, acting, and promotional schedules, he isn't complaining. "I love writing. And I love acting. I got bitten by the bugs at the same time. I'm a very good multi-tasker. There's so much down time on set, which some actors find frustrating. But I'm like, 'Great, I'll write this scene!'"
Asked about his future with "Glee," he responds, "We'll see. It's not fully my decision." Having the opportunity to be an inspiration to so many young people as a result of the show made him even more eager to tell his "Struck By Lighting" story. "It's about hopes and dreams ... and knowing you can get out there and fulfill them. I really hope that it inspires aspiration. I'm so proud of the final product," he adds. "I think that it's incredible what we were able to accomplish with the means that we had. There are many scenes that had to be cut or things that had to be changed because there was no money for it. But the message is still the same."