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Mar
2024
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Patricia Frontain Directs ‘Surviving the Sleepover’ For Lifetime

Director Patricia Frontain mined her own teenage memories to dial up the humanity in Lifetime’s Surviving the Sleepover

“It’s about a new girl in town who is invited to a sleepover, and things go wrong,” she says. “I was once a new girl — I moved from New York City to a tiny town in Texas.” 

Premiering at 7pm (CDT) on Saturday, March 23, Surviving the Sleepover is the second feature Frontain has directed for the channel. The thriller features an ensemble cast starring Sloan Mannino, Dawn Marie, Jenna Hogan, Joshua Bertell, and Sage Moore.

The story begins with a prank at a high school slumber party. Targeting the newbie, initiated by the popular girl, it feeds a group mentality that escalates throughout the film. 

Recalling similar situations that she faced back in the day, Frontain decided to paint this scenario in rich tones. “I didn’t want it to be a black-and-white objective morality,” she says. “I wanted to humanize the mean characters to find out what motivates them and why they feel compelled to always be on top.”

The approach helped her cut a new path through familiar territory and, in particular, avoid the temptation to merely recreate existing films like Mean Girls.

“Of course, Mean Girls is really funny,” Frontain says. “But I wanted to explain that these characters are multifaceted — that they have lives and feelings — and maybe help the viewer be more sympathetic.”

“Girls can be very, very mean to anybody who’s different and they’re so afraid of their own insecurities,” she continues.

SURVIVING THE SLEEPOVER DIRECTED BY PATRICIA FRONTAIN

 

BEHIND THE SCENES

Frontain helped the cast do their parts by doubling-up on a particular phase of preproduction, which began last October.  

“I spent 15 hours at the wardrobe fitting and tried to have related characters in at the same time,” she says. “I had the four ‘mean girls’ in together, I let the mother and daughter figure out their dynamics, and I talked to the actors individually.”

When it came to roll (one camera for every scene), Frontain worked with Director of Photography Hana Kitasei, who she recognized as a “fantastic” talent during their first pre-production meeting. “I thought we were going to get into shooting and vision, and she said ‘no, no, no. we’re going to get to know each other and understand why you’re drawn to certain scenes,’” Frontain recalls. 

As the pair explored the Los Angeles home where most of the action would be filmed, Frontain was thrilled to witness Kitasei’s technique in action. “Hanna said, ‘I imagine it black and then I put the lights in in my head,’” Frontain recalls. “She also pointed out a white fence — one that I hadn’t even noticed — and said, ‘that will reflect and be beautiful.’”

 

ON THE MOVE

Patricia Frontain, 2024 (Photo: Dan Patton)

Before assuming the helm of Surviving the Sleepover, Frontain directed Twisted Sister, starring Mena Suvari, for Lifetime in 2023. Later that year, she decided to say goodbye to NBC’s Chicago PD, where she spent eleven years as script supervisor, and pursue directing full time. This month, she travels to Montana to begin pre-production for her next Lifetime feature, a thriller. 

Frontain also runs the nonprofit Patrick Lives On, which she founded in 2015 after her son Patrick was killed in an act of senseless violence. With help from several One Chicago actors, the organization hosts variety of shows and film festivals to raise funds for after-school programs designed to keep kids away from gangs, guns and violence. 

Although she has never been short of professional confidence — Frontain is a former theater actor who has performed at the Cleveland Playhouse, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the Actors Theatre of Louisville and dozens of other stages — she says that the abundance of recent projects has allowed her to begin “trusting myself more.” 

“You don’t have time to second-guess because you’re making a lot of decisions and you’re making them fast,” she says. “Like all Directors, I want to continue learning and get better with each project.”

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