Hannah Fidell interview: ‘A Teacher’ creator
“I dislike television or films that feel like candy,” admits “A Teacher” creator, writer and director Hannah Fidell. For our recent webchat she continues, “my goal was that people not only feel like they have a new understanding of how complicated consent can be; but also how complicated it can emotionally be to be victimized in such a way. I like watching stuff that makes me question my beliefs and see the world in a new way. I hope this show can do that for other people.” Watch the exclusive video above.
Fidell adapted “A Teacher” from a 2013 film she wrote and directed of the same name. The series tells the story of a young female high school teacher (Kate Mara) that engages in grooming and an affair with a senior student (Nick Robinson). Fidell explains, “The film only covers the moment in the relationship right before they are caught. It doesn’t show how the relationship began, and it doesn’t show the consequences. Translating that to television, I was able to start with the beginning and it allowed me to explore the character and the consequences in a way that felt necessary.”
The creator reveals, “I think the most challenging scene to get right across the board was the scene where Claire confesses to her co-worker that she is sleeping with her student. It is a moment that is so important. For the first few episodes the intent was to make the audience complicit in what they’re watching, to feel like they want this relationship to happen and feel enamored with the teacher. That is the moment where we pull the rug out from under the audience and say, ‘no what you’ve been watching is very wrong and we know it.’ The show is about to make a major left turn. We are going to do something radical. The whole rest of the show is going to be about the consequences. That whole scene needed to be done with nuance and it had to feel honest on the page and on the screen.”
Fidell reflects, “I had learned that for male victims of childhood sexual trauma, it takes a long time to see themselves as victims or accept it. We always knew we were going to make a radical time jump for the final episode. I thought, ‘why can’t we jump in time to the more important moments?’ The show was not a courtroom drama. I didn’t need to see the courtroom stuff. I felt like that would take away from what I was interested in, which was the emotional consequences of how they both effected each others lives.”