Director Oran Zegman Interview: Honor Society – NBCNEWS

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Currently available to stream on Paramount+, Honor society follows Honor, the senior of high school, who is determined to take control of her own destiny and panics when her elaborate plan to enter Harvard fails. Realizing that her place in college isn’t as secure as she thought, Honor implements a new plan to keep her competition out of the running. Still, Honor doesn’t expect to befriend her rivals, let alone fall for her worst enemy. Constantly wrestling with her conscience, Honor faces a decision that could change the trajectory of her entire life.

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Honor society stars Angourie Rice (Spider-Man: Homecoming) as lead actor Honor Rose, Gaten Matarazzo (Weird stuff) as Michael Dipnicky, Amy Keum (Bad) as Kennedy Smith and Armani Jackson (Grey’s Anatomy) as Travis Biggins.

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Screen Rant talks to director Oran Zegman about setting the tone for Honor society and the creative decision to break the fourth wall.

Screen Rant: One thing I love about this movie is Honor’s character. She is a very uptight, extremely intelligent person who has a plan for just about anything. Honor is what drew me into the movie. Did the character draw you to this project, or was it another aspect of the movie?

Oran Zegman: For me, everything starts with a character. When I read it, I was also very, very surprised at how she was doing and how “go-getter” she is without apologizing. When I’m checking materials, it’s always important for me to either really connect with a character or the theme.

And with her I really felt like we both came from – she’s from a small town and I’m from the very small country of Israel – we both stop to get what we want, and focus on our goals without apologies . Which in our society sometimes comes across as “too strong”, but no one will ever say it about a man.

Screen Rant: Oh, absolutely.

Oran Zegman: I really like the theme of the movie. I think that’s why I wanted to make it. When I look at materials, I always try to find a theme that I need to work on in my personal life as well. So in this case it was vulnerability versus weakness and often authenticity. Like, how often do we – especially women, but not only – how often do I think that if I show my vulnerable side, I’ll be seen as weak? I had a lesson in working with this in my own personality, as did Honor.

Screen Rant: Another thing I liked about the movie was the format. I love how Honor breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience. I thought it was funny how she would say one thing to a character, and then she would turn to the audience and say the exact opposite. What was that like during filming? How did that creative decision shake things up?

Oran Zegman: For me, breaking the fourth wall is something else that really made me want to make this movie because I like movies, you know, like Ferris Bueller and Easy A. So for me the camera – and this was for my very first pitch for the movie – the camera was the most important character after Honor, because it’s basically the audience. The camera is the one that gets a window behind Honor’s facade. You get the front row to know exactly what’s happening to Honor.

Nobody really knows her and she lives her whole facade life. We actually built the whole arc and the whole emotional arc in front of the camera. In the beginning, the camera is just there all the time and is kind of her best friend; want to know everything; ready to take anything the owner gives her. But then, slowly and gradually, the camera takes a stance and turns away from her when she picks something wrong, or stays there looking at her if Honor doesn’t want her to be looked at.

The camera becomes her conscience. When we were working before production started, Angourie was really, really aware of where the camera was going to be. I’ve always made Angourie understand why the camera is there and not at another angle. It was a lot of fun working on this with my DP and with Angourie, just thematically with this. The camera plays a very, very significant role in this. I love it.

Screen Rant: That’s definitely something that sets it apart from other movies I’ve seen recently. The camera really felt like a character, and it wouldn’t have felt like the same movie if we hadn’t let her break through that fourth wall. And then I also want to talk about the tone of this film. There are many comedic aspects, but it is also this really authentic story of a girl who reevaluates who she is and what she wants and builds real friendships for the first time in her life. So what was it like balancing so many different elements?

Oran Zegman: It wasn’t easy. I like merging tones. And you know, it’s really the hardest thing in the world to keep the tone and make sure that everyone is always on the same page and that everyone understands exactly what the tone is. Because if you don’t keep the tone, he can easily turn the key. Or it could be just like, you know, not deep enough or not dark enough.

And so for me, everything starts all over again with a character. And what I thought when I was building the tone, I like to use words to describe the tone to the people I work with. So I just started with Honor, and to me Honor was very sophisticated, and dark, and flawless, and stylish and whimsical. And I just picked all those words that describe Honor perfectly for me, because this whole movie is really everything from her perspective.

So it has to be that she and her character have to be in everything and be included and she really sets the tone because it’s everything through her world through her glasses. Once we figured it out and not everyone was on the same page, it was always easy to go back to those words that describe the tone and feeling I want to have. And I like to play with genres. You know, I think there’s some, you know, some whimsy, but also some drama. Yes, I don’t know if I answered your question.

Screen Rant: You did, you absolutely did. I’m a big fan of dramas – dramas and comedies – you know, so that was something I loved too. I recognized Angourie from a number of different films and I thought she did a phenomenal job portraying Honor and all the different sides of her. What was it like working together to bring this character to life?

Oran Zegman: So Angourie and I have very similar personalities in many, many ways. And from the very first meeting, she was just the one, you know, just by talking to her. I like talking to actors instead of putting them right in front of the camera and just letting them read. So right from the very first meeting, she challenged me with questions – and frankly, I wasn’t even ready at the time. And she was just like being overly smart in the best possible way. Angourie is truly the best actor I’ve ever worked with. She is so eager to learn and wants to know everything I have in mind.

We did a lot of table work together. We had long zooms—like three, four, or five hour zooms—when she was in Australia and I was in Canada. She is a bookworm and she takes her craft so seriously. And I remember she even made a folder for a cheat sheet—not a folder. A hard cover. And she read The Handmaid’s Tale, I think probably three times. She’s just a really, really hard worker, something that I really appreciate in actors I work with. I am a digger and it was really nice to have someone who is willing to take the challenge and get started. Because it was all hers. You know, she had 97 scenes out of 99 scenes.

Screen Rant: Oh, wow. Yes, that’s a lot.

Oran Zegman: We counted the number of words she had. She had fifty-one-something words in the script.

Honor society Short content

Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Mr.  Calvin in Honor Society streaming on Paramount+.

Check out our other High Society stars Angourie Rice, Armani Jackson & Amy Keum and Gaten Matarazzo. You can also watch our previous interview with Matarazzo for Stranger things.

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Honor society is currently available to stream on Paramount+.

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