Writer/Director, Justin Lerner, was born in State College, Pennsylvania, but considers the Massachusetts town of Wayland his home town. He is the product of an interfaith marriage between a Jewish man and a Catholic woman, both of whom are developmental psychologists, who compromised by sending him to Quaker school until he was eleven. He studied theater arts and film at Cornell University, from which he graduated cum laude.
In 2007, he received his MFA in directing at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television, where his thesis film The Replacement Child was awarded with two Student Emmys, one for Best Drama and the other for Best Director. The Replacement Child made its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival and went on to play over forty other U.S. and international festivals, including the Sundance, Los Angeles and Torino Film Festivals.
Justin currently lives in Los Angeles. Girlfriend is his feature directorial debut.
“I was not interested in creating a work of fiction about Down Syndrome,” Lerner explains. “What remained infinitely more interesting and challenging was putting an actor with Down Syndrome into a role that did not require an actor with Down Syndrome in order for the narrative to work.”
“Evan often improvised lines,” Lerner shares, “saying beautiful, poetic things that worked far better than anything I had written.”
“I knew at that moment I was working with a delicate, amazing actor, some kind of virtuoso who was able to transform himself in ways only the best actors can.
“It’s a performance,” Lerner insists, “that cannot be ignored.”