The last time Haley Joel Osment was in Portland, he was just passing through on his way to a remote location near the Oregon Coast. The then 11-year-old was off to film the only exterior scenes for A.I. Artificial Intelligence, a science-fiction movie directed by Steven Spielberg.
On an unrelated trip to the state, director Isaac Feder spent some time working on a film in Astoria, Oregon. Little did either of them know that more than a decade later, both would find themselves back here promoting their new independent film Sex Ed.
Written by Bill Kennedy and directed by Feder, Sex Ed is a romantic comedy about Eddie Cole, an inexperienced young educator played by Osment. In the film, which is Feder’s first major motion picture, Osment’s character mentors a group of young social outcasts struggling within the social structures of a modern public school.
“It’s essentially a glorified detention hall,” says Feder, adding that Eddie quickly discovers that part of what makes the students’ life awkward is their lack of knowledge about the birds and the bees. Thus the name “Sex Ed.”
“It’s sort of a little in-title joke,” says Osment.
For Osment, the film represents one of the first major film roles he’s taken on since his earlier career filling roles intended for children or young adults.
“I did sitcoms for a little while when I was little, but it’s different as an adult now and it’s different when you’re the lead in a film like this,” Osment says.
The film’s world premiere takes place on August 26, the opening night of the second annual Portland Film Festival. According to creator Josh Leake, this year’s festival will be grander and more accessible than last year’s.
“Our opening night is going to be big,” says Leake. “An amazing director, Isaac Feder, has given us the opportunity to host the world premiere of Sex Ed. It’s a raunchy comedy with an all-star cast and amazing crew.”
Opening night will also feature the documentary Glena, directed by local filmmaker Adam Luebke. Glena profiles a mother in her 30s who is struggling to become a professional mixed martial arts fighter. The film was accepted into the selective Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah earlier this year.
One of Leake’s goals is to bring films and stories to Portland that the community might otherwise lose out on in favor of larger cities. Hosting the Sex Ed premiere is a real coup for the festival and for Portland.
“We have over 100 films playing this year and most of them wouldn’t normally be played in our market, even stories that are significantly associated with Portland or the Northwest,” says Leake.
Leake mentions that the soon-to-be-released film Wild is an example of the type of movie that would be a perfect fit for the festival. Wild is the movie adaptation of the memoir by local author Cheryl Strayed.
The film is directly linked to the culture and landscape of Oregon and was filmed in various locations in Portland, Ashland and other cities and towns throughout the state.
Though it’s doubtful that the film will be included in the festival’s schedule this year, Leake says he has reached out to the producers to see what possibilities there may be for creating local connections. (Wild is scheduled to be released in theaters on December 5.)
In addition to procuring higher profile and locally made films like Sex Ed for this year’s festival, Leake says he has also expanded and improved logistics and access.
“We have a mobile schedule app this year, so we’re encouraging filmmakers and attendees to use it and cut out the paper.”
Leake says his overall goal is to create an atmosphere where people can enjoy cinema, great stories and the city, something that Feder and the Sex Ed cast and crew are looking forward to.
“We’re a pretty fun group says,” Feder says of those who worked on the movie. “When we come back [for the Sex Ed premiere], you’ll see. We plan to have a lot of fun. Portland will definitely know we’re here.”
The Portland Film Festival opens on August 26. Tickets are available online in advance and at the following theater locations:
Portland Film Festival — 2014 Venues
- Cinema 21 - 616 NW 21st
- Clinton Street Theater - 2522 SE Clinton Street
- Crystal Ballroom - 1332 W. Burnside
- Hollywood Theater - 4122 NE Sandy Blvd
- Laurelhurst Theater - 2735 E Burnside Street
- Living Room Theaters - 341 SW 10th Ave
- Mission Theater - 1624 NW Glisan Street
- Pro Photo Event Center - 1801 NW Northrup Street