"This script was really a form of creative therapy," Michael Angarano tells PEOPLE of his inspiration for Avenues
Angarano, 31, wrote, directed and stars in the upcoming film Avenues, opposite fellow actors and real-life friends Nicholas Braun, Adelaide Clemens, Ari Graynor, Maya Kazan, Greg Vrotsos, Juno Temple, and PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at the trailer.
The New York City-set film revolves around a long day and night out for lifelong friends Max (Angarano) and Peter (Braun), who are attempting to celebrate Max’s birthday in the wake of his brother’s suicide. Their adventure includes two new lady friends/potential love interests (Clemens and Graynor), confronting personal demons and contemplating their next steps in life.
Angarano tells PEOPLE that the film has been in the works for a decade.
“I wrote the first draft of the script in five days when I was 21 years old, and then spent the majority of my twenties developing it,” he says. “We would eventually shoot the film in 15 days over Christmas break in Manhattan, in the middle of a polar vortex.”
How was he able to shoot a film in one of the busiest cities in the world, in just two weeks?
“Partially due to the good grace of the NYPD,” he says, but also because his cast and crew worked smoothly, swiftly, and made the most of their time. “The best part about shooting in New York was that the people who weren’t paid or hired extras would just go about their normal day while Nick [Braun] and I are doing full emotional scenes, yelling at each other in the middle of the subway.”
Angarano says he turned to directing “to make something that I was creatively accountable for,” and that writing and making the film inadvertently tapped into all of his creative energies at the perfect time.
“This idea came into my head in my parent’s kitchen,” he explains. “It was in the middle of the writer’s strike, I couldn’t get work for over a year, I was in the middle of a break-up, and I literally didn’t know what to do with myself. So this script was really a form of creative therapy. To put time and effort into making it and to have people be affected by a moment that was a vulnerable one for me is more satisfying than anything I’ve ever experienced.”
Avenues opens in select theaters March 12.