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Exclusive: Director Kevin Asch and writer Antonio Macia talk 'Affluenza'

Director Kevin Asch attends the 'Affluenza' premiere at SVA Theater on July 9, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

In "Affluenza" aspiring photographer Fisher Miller (Ben Rosenfield) escapes his middle-class life for the moneyed mansions of the young, beautiful elite. With a stash of high-quality weed and a vintage camera, he gains access to his gorgeous cousin Kate's (Nicola Peltz) circle of wealthy and indulged friends. The film hit theaters and VOD this past weekend and on today July 14, we are sharing our exclusive interview with the film's director and writer.

Kevin Asch co-wrote and directed the film.

How did the script come to you?

Well it came to me when I was about 16 or 17 years old, and I'm 38 now. I was living in Great Neck, New York and I was going through a difficult time as a teenager. Having the pressures of growing up in an affluent community and the peers around me, and not really being able to relate to them. My family was going through difficult times, breaking up and my mother remarrying. My innocence was really lost at the time. It was also the same time I read "The Great Gatsby," and I read a few other books that really inspired me, and really actually helped me. To understand what other people were going though from "The Catcher in the Rye" and "Hamlet." They all were young men in an affluent world, in affluent families, questioning one's position in society and identity. This seed of the story planted in me at the time, and then when I found my screenwriter and collaborator, Antonio for "Holy Rollers," I told him about this and Antonio grew up differently from me. He grew up outside of that affluent world, but having a vantage point in it from his mother who was a nanny of people like this, and his father who was a driver. The movie's really told from that point of view.

Tell me about the casting.

I am so proud of the cast. I work with the same casting director again. It's really hard to put together a cast of young actors that don't have that many credits, you can't really get a movie financed with them until they break through a certain point. But that didn't matter to me. Some of my favorite movies are the seminal movies with groups of young actors that you've never seen before, and they become stars at a certain point, and the film is a capsule of that moment in their career, and a capsule of a coming of age moment for a generation. I really wanted make a film that fit into that vernacular. So I went about casting, I needed my lead, so Ben Rosenfield was the first person in my cast, and Nicola Peltz was my second and that was about a year before I shot it. So it is set in the summer ... I went to find my Dylan Carson, I had to go to LA to find him. I couldn't really find his type with the type of ability in New York for some reason. I went to LA, I had Nicola there with me to did some chemistry reads and that's were I found Gregg Sulkan and Grant Dustin.

The rest of the cast came together really organically, I had Steven Gutenberg in mind, I knew he's from Long Island, was excited to see him do something differently, bring him back to the audience's attention. I've always been a really big fan of Samantha Mathis. I knew that I might have the opportunity to have her play this part. I already cast Steve, they work and seem like a perfect couple. I really try to create a clear palette and a distinct choice in each role. Beyond that, the rest of the actors, they're really renowned Broadway actors, and I respond to that. I love people that can do it all, that can do comedy, theater, drama, because they're just more human and they love it. They just get up on their feet and they're willing to just do more with it. So I feel very fortunate and really proud of them. I'm not surprised that they're doing so well in their career. I'm certainly invested in that.

Antonio Macia co-wrote the screenplay.

Tell me about the writing process for this film?

Well the writing started with with Kevin. Kevin came to me with this idea of re-imagining "The Great Gatsby," but setting it in a contemporary setting. So that’s where the genesis of the story was really at. Looking at this issues of financial collapse, how it affects people, how it affects kids growing up in a affluent environment and that’s really where it came from.

What was the most challenging part about putting together the script?

I believe the most challenging part about the script is when I think you’re putting together a world with affluent people, creating characters who are sympathetic, that you get a sense of what they’re going through.

How did you get your start in screenplay writing?

I started as a writer here in New York as an actor first, then I slowly made that transition into writing. My first film "Anne B. Real" was nominated for a couple of Spirit Awards. That was really my first break.

What do you think about the casting?

I’m in love with all the actors. Each of them embodies the roles, they were so selfless with each other, they respected the material, and brought a piece of themselves to everything. All of them were fully committed to Kevin’s vision and they were amazing.

What’s coming up next for you?

Well Kevin and I have a film coming up called "King’s Highway" and it should be going into production soon. It kind of returns to our roots in a crime drama.