By Mikael Krummel

The Boy Who Never Tangoed is a full-length film — a coming-of-age story about an awkward high-schooler who, in an attempt to win the affections of a girl classmate, embarks on an unanticipated weeklong endeavor to prepare a stand-up comedy routine for a talent show, compelling him to deliver the performance of his life. That wasn’t the original plan.

In fall 2021, Mike Brown and Akira Talaba, a pair of students at South Eugene High School, launched what they expected to be yet another short, quick, self-written, self-produced video project. Their history as hobbyist buddies dated back a decade, and their initial thought about the movie was that it would be a relatively modest expansion of their youthful experiences as storytellers, script writers, scene directors, and video technicians. Turns out, they surprised even themselves with the ambitious scale of the feature film they eventually premiered the night before their high school graduation 15 months later.

“High school setting movies usually feature characters directed by people no longer in high school,” says Brown. “Consequently, those movies often showcase characters the filmmakers wish they had played themselves.” Talaba nods agreement. “A lot of the uniqueness of this movie,” he offers, “is that it reflects our school experiences and those of our peers during the period we were making the film.”

Talaba and Brown estimate that four, maybe five dozen of their friends and peers participated in the film. The lead actors — Casper Skolnick, Tessa Macmaster, and Chad Kushuba — were all South students. Given that background, it’s not so surprising that a recent local public screening of The Boy Who Never Tangoed drew an audience of more than 200 viewers. The film has also screened at a handful of regional film festivals, generating respectable reviews and several awards. That’s impressive given both the project’s unusually low production costs and, frankly, its youthful (but clearly passionate) producers. The positive responses have bolstered Talaba and Brown’s ongoing efforts to fundraise and seek support for wider film distribution and future projects.  

“I’d say that the film has been successful on a certain level, on our level,” says Talaba. “Yeah,” Brown acknowledges, “I’d say we’ve been surprised by our outcomes!”