Reliving youth with 'Monstrosity'

As adults, the biggest stressors might be a mortgage, a marriage or a demanding job.

In middle school, a zit can ruin your day. Maybe even a full week.

Filmmaker Alyssa Price shows the power of the pimple in her short film "The Monstrosity," showing May 4 at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Her husband, Jesse Singer, lends a hand as executive producer.

The UC Irvine alumna was excited to come back to Orange County for the screening of her coming-of-age tale.

Inspired by Mary Karr's memoir "Cherry," which involves an embarrassing zit scene, the book caused Price to recollect her own experience while on a high school trip.

"I was on a bus and a cute boy said to me 'Alyssa, close your eyes'," Price said. "He pointed at my zit and yelled 'Cyclops!'"

Her short came to life shortly thereafter.

Price shot the film in August of last year over the course of five days in her hometown of Los Olivos, a small town near Santa Barbara, recruiting a group of kids from middle school classrooms.

It was funny, she said, to talk to principals — one was her second-grade teacher — not because she was in trouble but to pitch a film.

"It was so nostalgic," she said. "It has been a really good experience for me to have such a positive relationship with my community over the years. It was just fun to retrace my childhood steps."

As her main character, Milly, realizes the "monstrosity" that sits between her eyes, she locks her bathroom door, trying to find the perfect homemade concoction. As she further exacerbates her facial issue, the audience can easily identify with the adolescent moment of desperation.

Kid or adult, man or woman, almost every person can say — "I've been there."

"There's always a stage in your life where you feel you don't fit," she said. "The message of the film is that you don't have to change."

Leanna Zamora, who plays Milly, couldn't be further from a child star. When the film premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, she couldn't be coaxed from her Science Camp night hike. However, the entire family came to a second screening of the film.

Other girls in the cast took the opportunity to dress up and hit the red carpet. The male lead, Beau Allen (who plays Dylan), isn't shy when telling people how excited he is about the film, Price said.

And as if filming a childhood story in her hometown didn't bring things full circle, the day after she wrote the script, the boy that once teased her added her on Facebook.

She has him — and a zit — to thank.

For more information about the film, visit

If You Go

What: Screening of "Monstrosity"

Where: Triangle Square, 1870 Harbor Blvd. Costa Mesa.

When: May 4 at 3:30 p.m.

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