Pioneer High grad Zack Pearlman stars in new teen comedy 'The Virginity Hit'
courtesy of Columbia TriStar
22-year-old Pioneer High grad (’06) Zack Pearlman is making his movie debut this week with a lead role in “The Virginity Hit” — a teen sex comedy produced by FunnyorDie.com team Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. The Columbia Pictures movie is being screened in a limited release in college towns around the country, and it will be shown locally at Rave Motion Pictures this weekend.
But how does an unknown with no previous audition experience end up starring in a feature film for a major studio?
“It’s pretty weird what happened,” said Pearlman in a recent interview.
Not long after graduating from Pioneer, Pearlman was taking classes at Washtenaw Community College when he decided to drop out.
“I was doing stand-up comedy, and I felt I was restraining myself from fulfilling my full potential at that point,” said Pearlman. “I was kind of just an ignorant 18-, 19-year-old who had insane aspirations, and I got super lucky, is what happened.”
More specifically, while working at game store Get Your Game On on Packard Street, and enrolled in nothing but a filmmaking class at WCC, Pearlman spotted info about a FunnyorDie.com contest that asked applicants to submit an embarrassing story on film. The prize was the chance to audition for a new movie.
“I was like, all right,” said Pearlman. “Literally, I will try anything.”
Pearlman’s embarrassing moment happened at age 16, when his sister, Allison, walked in on him during, well, a private moment. Pearlman decided to involve his sister in the telling of this story on film — without her knowing that's what she would be doing. (She thought she was helping Zack out with a film assignment for his class.)
“It kind of turned into a really funny thing, and I put it on funnyordie,” said Pearlman. “Then I got a call from (a casting agency) in New York. They said, ‘If you want to, you can fly yourself out to New York, and we have an audition for this movie that we want you to do.’ And I was like, ‘OK.’ So not knowing what an audition really was, or how frequently this happens to people, I spent the remainder of my bar mitzvah money to fly myself out to New York on, like, two days notice.”
Pearlman met up with a high school friend — who lives in Hell’s Kitchen, and who agreed to provide Pearlman with a place to stay — before hauling himself to his audition.
“I’ve had zero sleep, I’m super tired, but I go in, and I have a lot of fun in the audition,” said Pearlman. “All I do is improv, basically. They gave me the sides, and then I went back to Mark’s and passed out. And then I got a phone call from a 212 number. I was really groggy, and the phone woke me up, and I was like, ‘Hello?’ and they said, ‘Hi, this is (the casting agency) calling for Zack Pearlman.’ So I was like, ‘Oh, did I leave something there?’”
No, but he was being invited to a callback audition the next day. “And at this point, I was just frozen in time,” Pearlman said. “I had no idea what was going on. It was my first day in New York, it was my first audition ever, so I literally had no idea — I was just frozen. I said, ‘E-mail me all the information, and of course, I’ll come in tomorrow.’ And then I called about 100 people. I called everyone in my phone book.”
After the callback, Pearlman returned to Ann Arbor and heard nothing for two weeks. At that same time, he’d abandoned his either broken-down or fuelless car on Granger for a while, and while riding with his dad to get it, they entered into a tense discussion about Pearlman’s future.
“I was kind of secretly deciding that I was going to move out to New York or Los Angeles, take improv classes, and then try to be an actor without a college education,” Pearlman said. “We started having this big, heated argument about whether I should go back to school, or whether I should try the actor thing.”
At the argument’s climax, Pearlman decided he needed to step away from the situation. “And as I’m getting out of the car to cool down, I get a phone call from a 213 number, and this time, it’s Los Angeles, and they’ve called me to tell me that I’m one of three finalists for this part, and that they’re going to be flying me out the next day,” Pearlman said. “So it was pretty amazing to get instant gratification. And just to win a fight that fast was really fun, too.”
courtesy of Columbia TriStar
Pearlman flew out to Hollywood, while the film’s younger, already-cast star, Matt Bennett, arrived with his father. Pearlman called Bennett’s father and invited him and Matt to dinner, since Pearlman knew no one in town. Pearlman and Matt quickly became friends while talking about their favorite bands and television shows.
“Then, I got there the next day to find out that it was something called a chemistry read, where, the three people who were in my role were all going to read with Matt,” said Pearlman. “And Matt and I had already become friends. We connected in such a unique way that, when we got to the room and read together, it was very natural.”
According to Pearlman, “Virginity Hit” co-director Andrew Gurwin called about five minutes after the audition to tell him he’d won the part.
That was May 1, 2008, and Pearlman had to wait a little more than a year for filming to get under way. (Producers had asked Pearlman not to audition for other projects in the interim so that “Virginity” could be his introduction to audiences.) Shooting finally began May 15, 2009, and wrapped two months later.
The film’s official website describes “Virginity Hit” as “a comedy about three pals documenting the progress of their socially awkward friend, who tries desperately to lose his virginity.” Here's the trailer:
“My character is someone who’s never stopped recording,” said Pearlman. “And what it is is, Matt’s girlfriend cheats on him, so I (concoct) this great revenge plot, where I’m like, ‘Let me film the breakup after you guys lose your virginity to each other. I won’t film you guys losing your virginity, but I will film you telling her how terrible a person she is for cheating on you.’ And then everything goes wrong.”
The movie employs documentary-style camerawork, so it appears that one of its young characters is doing much of the filming. “It’s very, if this were to happen, this is exactly how it would happen,” said Pearlman. “This is how life is being a teenager. There’s so many social pressures to have sex that it’s not so much about the actual act. It’s more of like getting it of the way nowadays.”
Pearlman is quick to note, however, that the movie isn’t a mindless raunch-fest.
“I’ve been blessed because my first movie is also one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen,” Pearlman said. “ There’s a lot that the trailer doesn’t show. It’s got a lot of heart, and it’s truly about these four friends trying to leave adolescence and move into adulthood.”
Photo by Myra Klarman
One thing you might ask about is Pearlman’s thoughts about “Virginity Hit” co-producer Ferrell, who flew Pearlman out to see his Broadway show, “You’re Welcome, America: A Final Night with George W. Bush,” just before shooting for “Virginity” got underway.
“He’s such a sweet guy, and he’s super-funny, but again, he’s not always doing bits,” said Pearlman. “He’s a family guy, and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, and just so generous.”
Six months ago, Pearlman made the move to Los Angeles, where he’s now working on a pilot he’s producing, writing, directing, and starring in, in addition to working and taking classes with the improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade.
“I’m trying to be adventurous,” said Pearlman. “I think that I’m in such a unique position that I should be able to explore any aspect of film that I can before this fun time runs out. Because the business is not the nicest. It can be very harsh, it can be cold. So I have a unique time to just go out and make my own content and have fun and meet cool people.”
"The Virginity Hit" screens at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Rave Motion Pictures, 4100 Carpenter Road.