Those Awkward Teenage Years

Two Eugene filmmakers make their debut with a coming-of-age comedy

Can Andy create and deliver the stand-up comedy routine of a lifetime in just one week — with no prior experience — to win the heart of his high school crush, Karina?

For that matter, can two teenage males, now 19 years old and friends since kindergarten, deliver in less than two years a debut coming-of-age feature film set mostly in Eugene about a shy and awkward teenage boy who signs up to do this comedy routine and impress this girl, with a production budget of less than $2,000, have that film take home awards at festivals and snag a one-week showing of their film at Art House?

The answer to the second set of questions is, “Yes,” and you can see the film, The Boy Who Never Tangoed, at Art House April 5 through 11. 

Be sure to congratulate the writers, directors, editors and producers (what didn’t they do?) Mike Brown and Akira Talaba. From start to finish — with help from volunteers and with office space being the first available table at Killer Burger in downtown Eugene — this was a true DIY operation.

“The introduction into screenwriting began when we were young,” Brown says. “Our friend group bonded over going to each other’s houses, and we did videos and skits. That was in fifth grade. We did that for a good while.”

Outside of a two-year period when Talaba lived in British Columbia, Canada, the two first-time feature filmmakers have been inseparable. They began writing The Boy Who Never Tangoed near the end of their junior years at South Eugene High School in 2022. It was completed the next year, shortly before they graduated, and privately screened to family and friends at Art House in June 2023.

In the press media kit, the filmmakers explain that the goal was to make an authentic coming-of-age film, a film from the perspective of people “that felt genuine to our experience as we were living it.”

There were detours along the way. The most notable was the fact that the intended short film — with a David Lynch surrealist-like quality to it — was growing by the day before Brown’s and Talaba’s eyes.

“We said, dang, this may be bigger than we thought,” Talaba says. “This may have to be a feature.”

The Boy Who Never Tangoed is the story of Andy (Casper Skolnick, plucked from the drama department at South Eugene High School), who is bowled over by Karina (Tessa Macmaster). Yet Andy is, well, a wallflower to the extreme, and he feels that the only way Karina will notice him is if he forcefully breaks out of that mold and stands in the spotlight to deliver a stand-up comedy routine at a talent show, mirroring his idol, Wolfe B. Collins (Chad Kushuba). Nevermind that he has never been in the spotlight and that he has only a week to master this.

“The vast majority of this was based on ideas,” Talaba says. “It was ideas in spirit rather than anything ripped out of real life.”

From there the movie hit the festival circuit, and it delivered. It won “Best Feature Film” at the West Sound Film Festival in Bremerton, Washington, “Best Comedy Feature” at the Oregon Independent Film Festival in Portland, and Skolnick captured the “Best Youth Talent” award at the Skiptown Playhouse International Film Festival in Los Angeles. 

And now The Boy Who Never Tangoed is ready for its one-week run at Art House.

“We wanted to push the idea that there is something for everyone in this film,” Brown says. “You can get some inspiration from it.” 

The Boy Who Never Tangoed runs April 5 through 11 at Art House, 492 E. 13th Avenue. Times and ticket information are at