Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Mike Elliott, Director and Visionary, Shares His Trade Secrets

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike Elliott, the director of American Pie: Girls Rule. In our discussion, we discussed the challenges of continuing one of cinema’s most famous comedy series and how this film differs from his experience as both a director and a producer.

American Pie: Girls Rule is the ninth installment in the franchise. After nine films, the series has garnered a reputation and an expectation from its fans. So, Mike Elliott had to approach this film from two fronts. First, he had to keep in mind the “formula” that the American Pie series follows – a raunchy, but explorative and innocent story. Second, he had to find a way to separate this film from its many predecessors. To do so, American Pie: Girls Rule switches perspective and looks at the comedy of relationships from the female perspective instead of the male.

While American Pie is historically meant for older audiences, Mike Elliott has worked on films for much younger audiences, including being a producer of the kid’s film, Woody Woodpecker. While they may have different audiences, both have a similar style of physical comedy with a “pay off and set up of jokes,” Mike Elliott explained. Additionally, Mike tries to put a moral in every film, no matter who is its final audience.

Getting the comedy from script to screen is not an easy process and involves collaboration between the director and actors. While the director can ensure each comedic element is set up for the jokes, it is up to the actor to have the perfect body language and reactions to compliment that humor. “That’s the kind of thing you can’t teach anyone,” Mike explained.

Yet, the director’s focus goes from there. Mike listed three main areas of focus for film directors. First, they must know the story in intimate detail, from the large plot elements to scene-by-scene character developmental beats. Second, they must have a planning mindset where they keep in mind everything they need to do every day and throughout the production.

Lastly, the director must be a leader. A film set is comprised of producers, set designers, makeup and hair stylists, actors, special effects creators, cinematographers and more. It requires a strong and trustworthy leader to combine these many, often contrasting, elements into an entertaining and meaningful movie.

For more of my interviews exploring leaders in the entertainment business, make sure to check out my interviews with Glenn Ross, CEO Universal 1440 Entertainment; Scott Ross, VFX Specialist; Glenn Entis, former CEO Dreamworks Interactive; Maureen Fan, CEO Baobab Studios; Gary Gutierez, SFX Specialist; Cynthia Hsiung, Award-Winning Director/producer; and Steve Michelson, Award-winning Documentarian. And here’s a link to my playlist of over 300 interviews and reviews on the KIDS FIRST!  YouTube Channel.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
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