Nineteen isn’t such a young age to make your first feature — if you’re in film school. For Luke Eberl, whose “Choose Connor” debuted at CineVegas in June, “Everything I learned about directing came from being a child actor and just watching everybody and finding out how they work.”
Eberl started acting at age 7 onstage in Colorado. He landed his first film part at 10, “and from that time I just knew this was a form of art that I was interested in participating in.” Now 21, the driven young man found behind-the-camera work at the Boulder public access TV station, then moved out to Los Angeles, where acting gigs came regularly — most recently as the wounded Oklahoma soldier who connects with Baron Nishi in “Letters From Iwo Jima.”
Eberl made friends with the other teen thesps he met on auditions and shoots: “The community of young actors in L.A. is kind of like a big high school actually,” he says. When the time came, those peers pitched in to help Eberl produce his screenplay, about a middle-school prodigy who gets a crash course in political hypocrisy. The project called for two teen leads, and Eberl turned to casting director Deborah Dion, for whom he’d auditioned many times, to find the right kids.
“When I’m casting younger actors, it’s a lot easier for me to see through their bullshit,” says Eberl, who cites Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson, Francois Truffaut and Andrei Tarkovsky as inspirations for his style.
Eberl didn’t necessarily advertise his age when trying to get the project off the ground, lest investors get cold feet.
“The good thing is that when you’re raising the money for a film, you’re doing a lot of your work over the phone, so they’re not really going to know I’m as young as I am,” he jokes. “When older writers are trying to write movies, a lot of what they know about young people is recycled from television and other movies, and the advantage I had was being able to draw directly from life experiences.”