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Big Time Adolescence, written and directed by Jason Orley. Photo credit: Hulu.

Filmmaker Spotlight: Jason Orley

Amazon recently announced the global digital release for its upcoming Jenny Slate and Charlie Day-starrer I Want You Back. The romantic comedy is slated to drop this February 11, just in time for Valentine’s Day 2022. The film follows two recently single individuals, Emma (Slate) and Peter (Day), who join forces to sabotage the relationships of their respective exes in order to win them back. The star-studded cast includes names like Gina Rodriguez and Scott Eastwood as well. Jason Orley directs the film, which is just his sophomore feature endeavor. So how did the budding filmmaker make it to landing a project with an A-list cast for a major streamer? We thought you’d never ask.

The filmmaker shared with Deadline that he grew up in Michigan with two older brothers. “I was really surrounded by older guys, their friends, that were always kind of giving me bad advice,” Orley recalled. “And I always really admired them.” His own experience served as inspiration for Orley’s feature writing and directing debut, Big Time Adolescence. The comedy centers on a suburban teenager (Griffin Gluck) who comes of age under the tutelage of a charismatic college dropout (Pete Davidson).

Orley was just 23 years old when he wrote the script for his feature debut, a feat made more impressive by the fact that it landed on the 2014 Black List. But the budding filmmaker faced a number of setbacks in getting the film made and it didn’t come to fruition until years later. He detailed to Vanity Fair how the drawn-out process shaped the project. “I wrote this script as a young, single guy living in a guesthouse, and now I’m married with a daughter,” Orley noted. “It’s probably for the best. If I had gotten to make it as soon as I had written it, or when it was on the Black List, it would be a very different movie.”

The film made its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and put Orley’s name on the map. Previously, he’d served as a writer on Epix’s Graves, as well as developed TV pilots at TNT, CBS, and Hulu. Orley had also appeared in front of the camera in Nancy Meyers’ 2015 heartwarmer The Intern and even solicited Robert De Niro for advice on how to stay cool on set. But it was Big Time Adolescence that solidified his place in the industry as an up-and-coming filmmaker.

Orley shared about his approach during an interview with the Los Angeles Times, noting that his role as writer/director did not include forcing an exact interpretation of his words on actors. “I kind of was guiding a stream and just making sure that we were staying in the lines, and as long as we were telling the right story, [I was] just letting these guys have fun,” Orley said in reference to his cast. The technique seemed to work, considering Big Time Adolescence garnered a nod for Grand Jury Prize at Sundance before being picked up by Hulu. And when asked at the film’s premiere what advice he’d give to a younger version of himself, Orley didn’t hesitate. “Just keep waiting,” he answered. “It’ll happen.”

The budding filmmaker’s perseverance certainly paid off with the breakout success of his first feature endeavor. You’ll have to wait until Amazon releases I Want You Back on February 11 to find out how Orley’s second time helming a feature goes, but in the meantime, we certainly think he’s earned a place in this spotlight.