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Planning The Perfect Sleepover
The initial idea for Sleepover came to producer Chuck Weinstock when he realized that his own children, aged 6 and 9, could not see any of the films he had made. They were too young.

"My son became obsessed with the motion picture rating code,” says Weinstock. "I decided I should come up with a movie he and his sister could actually see, so I started thinking about what mattered to them.”

Soon enough he thought of the sleepover, that suburban rite of passage. "Sleepovers are an important assertion of freedom for kids,” Weinstock continues. "It's how they practice leaving home.”

At the time, Weinstock had a producing deal with Bob Cooper's company, Landscape Entertainment, and together they took the film to MGM. They quickly enlisted writer Elisa Bell to come up with her own sleepover ideas and fashion a screenplay.

"I had a lot of sleepover parties when I was young, and I knew they hadn't really changed too much since then,” says Bell. "One thing I knew immediately was that the girls were going to have to sneak out of the house. We always did!”

The writer patched together several ideas from her own slumber parties as well as keeping an ear open at malls and amusement parks to hear what today's young girls were getting themselves into. One group she approached was on a frenzied scavenger hunt, giving the writer her idea for why Sleepover's characters would dare to leave the house.

"Also, I decided what was at stake: the primo lunch spot at high school,” says Bell. "If you got that spot, you were automatically cool. It defines who you are in school. The nerds sit in one place, the popular kids in another – and that hasn't changed. I went back to my old high school not long ago and the same kids were eating in the same places.”

Producers Weinstock and Bob Cooper (of Landscape Entertainment) started their search for a director who would bring a fresh touch to the story while lending a talented hand to the filmmaking. First-time feature film helmer Joe Nussbaum, a young director of commercials and television, had shared earlier film projects with both Weinstock and Cooper as well as Elisa Bell. One look at the script and Nussbaum clamored for a chance to direct.

"Chuck mentioned his idea over lunch one day and told me Elisa, whom I knew, was writing the script,” says Nussbaum. "When I saw the script, I loved it. It was a throwback to movies I saw as a kid like Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. These films stand the test of time because they have a lot of heart as well as laughs.”

Nussbaum is a graduate of the University of Southern California Film School. He has been involved with several feature film projects after graduation thanks in part to the success of his seven-minute calling card: a short film called George Lucas in Love he directed and co-wrote in 1999. Thinking most film executives had very little time to view full-length features, he and producer (and USC alum) Joseph Levy created a film that could be viewed in under ten minutes. As a result, the comedy short not only brought Nussbaum job offers, but also became one of the most popular-selling shorts in history.

After a studio meeting, Nussbaum convinced the filmmakers he was right for the project. "I told the studio how much I loved the story and how we could make it colorful and funny,” Nussbaum continues. "I wanted people to love these girls in the script and go on this adventure with them. Lucky for me, they agreed and gave me the job.”

"Joe is one of the few young directors who is good at both craft and storytelling,” says producer Bob Cooper. "Everyone who saw his short film knows he's fantastic.”

Once Nussbaum was on board, the search began for the young talent who would star in the film. The filmmakers were determined to find girls and boys who were the same age as those in the script instead of finding 18-20-year-olds and having th

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