LSA senior Claire Sloma is on her way to making it big.
Two summers ago, she wrapped up shooting on her first feature film “The Myth of the American Sleepover.” Sloma played 14-year-old Maggie, a free-spirited teenager entering her freshman year of high school.
This March, “Sleepover” went on to make waves at the SXSW Film Festival, picking up a Special Jury Prize for Best Ensemble. There, Sloma was lauded by The Hollywood Reporter as a modern-day Molly Ringwald – “an enchanting pixie who dazzles in all the right places” and by CNN as “the standout in a large ensemble cast” in a “star-making performance.”
“I like things like ‘Pretty in Pink’ and ‘Sixteen Candles,’ which was why it was really cool when The Hollywood Reporter said that (comparison to Ringwald), because I was like, awesome. I love Molly Ringwald,” Sloma said.
Just ten days ago, Sloma flew over to France for the International Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival, where “Sleepover” made its international premiere. The last American film to screen at Critics’ Week was Miranda July’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” five years prior.
Despite all the press she has gotten, Sloma remained down-to-earth and completely ecstatic about her Cannes experience in a recent interview with the Daily.
“I got to meet James Franco,” Sloma laughed.
Directed by Wayne State University graduate David Robert Mitchell, “Sleepover” tracks the intersecting lives of four Metro Detroit adolescents for one dreamy summer night, mapping out the experiences, insecurities and anxieties of growing up.
“It’s usually compared to ‘American Graffiti’ and a modern-day John Hughes with more dialogue,” Sloma said. “The film isn’t plot-driven and focuses more on the real teenage experience.”
“It’s not something you would see in a huge party movie,” she added. “The director wanted to focus on that innocence of being a teenager that gets overlooked a lot. When you’re a teenager, you get so angsty — you just want to grow up and you want to kind of skip that part of your life. The film reminds you of what it is to be like at that age.”
One of the film’s leads, Sloma’s character wants to experience a little more of life before entering school. Another part of the storyline, filmed on location, follows two twins attending freshman orientation at the University of Michigan and features shots of Angell Hall and the IM Building.
“Maggie is what some people would call a ‘layered character,’ ” Sloma said. “She wants to embark on an adventure, but just like any teenage girl there’s situations that she’s very insecure about. She wants to break away from being a kid and hang out with older kids and ditch a sleepover to go to a party, that kind of thing.”
Sloma found out about the audition the summer after her freshman year at the University, after reading about it in the Royal Oak community newspaper. Prior to “Sleepover,” she had only had experience in theater, participating in several RC Players productions.
“Going into high school … I definitely had a lot of upperclassmen friends,” she said. “I identified with (Maggie) on that level of wanting to be accepted. Having to relive that moment through a character in a film was kind of interesting. Even challenging.”
The film was shot completely in the Metro Detroit area, with several scenes taking place in the cities of Clawson, Madison Heights, Ann Arbor, Taylor, Farmington Hills and downtown Detroit.
Sloma describes several incidents where cars would stop and watch the cast while they were filming.
“We filmed this right before Michigan did the whole tax break thing, so this was before it became normal for films to be filmed in Michigan,” Sloma said.
“There are just scenes where we’re just riding our bikes around the neighborhood and David (Mitchell) really gave that feeling of riding your bike in the summer when you’re a kid — you know, before it got all uncool to ride your bike. He brought the essence of Metro Detroit into it completely.”
The producers of this Detroit-centric film are currently trying to set up a screening in Michigan this summer. “Sleepover” already has a French distributor, but it is still under negotiations to find one in the U.S.
Though a Michigan native, Sloma has been studying German at the University of Freiburg for the past year and plans to graduate from the University this December.
“I want my degree,” she said. “I’ve worked really hard to get into U of M and being at U of M, and I don’t want to throw it all away just because this film is doing well. But once I get my degree and have a backup plan, once the opportunity to act presents itself, I’m going to take it.”