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‘The To-Do List’: Director Maggie Carey Goes Home in Aubrey Plaza Comedy

CBS Films touts sex comedy at CinemaCon

Maggie Carey, director of “The To-Do List” has big plans for her 20-year high-school reunion in June at Borah High School in Boise, Idaho.

She’s trying to arrange for a screening of the CBS Films’ comedy — set in 1993 in Boise and based partly on her experiences as a Type A high-achiever. In the movie, Aubrey Plaza portrays a tightly wound high school senior who decides methodically while working as a lifeguard that she will lose her virginity by the end of the summer with the help of friends, played by Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele, and her older sister, played by Rachel Bilson.

Carey, along with husband, Bill Hader and Plaza, came to CinemaCon to promote the micro-budget “The To-Do List” — which carries a $1.2 million price tag — at a well-received late-night screening Wednesday at the Orleans multiplex a mile away from Caesars Palace, where nearly all of the four-day event took place. CBS Films has set an Aug. 16 launch after pulling the movie out of a Valentine’s Day slot.

“I think it makes more sense as a summer movie since it takes place in the summer and a lot of the scenes are at the swimming pool,” Carey. ” The opening song is 2 Live Crew doing ‘Me So Horny,’ which really sets the tone,” Carey mused Thursday morning over coffee. “My high school was pretty conservative, so it will be interesting see how they react to this.”

Carey began work on the script when she found herself with some unexpected free time: She was in her second trimester of her first pregnancy, the TV she she was writing on was cancelled, and Hader was in New York working on “Saturday Night Live.”

“You have a lot of energy in the second trimester,” she mused.

The screenplay emerged with help from her Boise friends.

“I got straight As, was in advanced placement classes, and on the soccer and basketball teams, and worked as a lifeguard at the Borah pool,” she said. “In my journal, I was totally boy crazy, but I didn’t do much about it in my life. Alia and Sarah are composites of my four best friends, who have been very helpful about supplying me with material.”

Carey was able to persuade producers Jennifer Todd and Brian Robbins to come on board. “My managers , Tom Lassally and Greg Walter just kept telling me ‘pretend like this is going to happen’ even though we had no financing,” she said.

A table read at the Austin Film Festival in 2011 with Plaza and Hader went well and CBS Films agreed to buy the rights a day after financing was obtained. The 24-day shoot began in the San Fernando Valley last July, with “The To-Do List” having obtained a California film tax credit a few weeks early in the program’s lottery.

“I told the set designer it should look like 1988, because Boise is five years behind California,” Carey recalled.

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