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This edition comes from budding filmmaker Jason Yamas, offering an enthusiastic open letter to Richard Linklater after seeing his epic "Boyhood" — which opens in theaters today.
I arrived tonight at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) to watch
the opening night premiere of your film, Boyhood.
My date and I were unaware that you and your lead actor, Ellar Coltrane,
would be there, presenting the film and engaging in a brief Q&A, which you
noted is a rarity prior to any
screening. I’ve never fully understood the fascination and desire of “fans” approaching
“celebrities”. What might one person have to offer that anyone from the media
or even their own friends and family hasn’t told them already? What’s the
point? Tonight, I have a point; I have several points. And I wish greatly that
I could have engaged with you for a few moments.
You’ve delivered us extraordinary rides over the last couple
decades, from tender love stories to casual yet pervasive small-talk of
disconnected locals in Austin, TX to animating digital film with interpolated rotoscoping, not to mention casting Keanu
Reeves in a good film! With Boyhood,
you had only one trick up your sleeve: you were filming this story over the
course of 12 years. That’s it…and that was enough! You needed not to fancify
or surprise. You avoided inciting incidents. You did not need to make any
character spectacularly unique. You handed us real-life in the most
straightforward, honest fashion and as a result, I whimpered through smiles and
gritting teeth for 160 mins, wiping tears and popcorn residue on my brand
I’m writing this, firstly, to thank you. Secondly, to suggest
to all readers that there is a film waiting for them, in some cities, that
treats life how IT IS. Plain & simple.
Ironically, the opening song of your film was “Yellow” by
Coldplay, which came out on this day 14 years ago: a fun fact or perhaps
mystical connection, but who’s to say.
Myself and many modern audiences crave a solid surprise in our
narrative intake. I love an unexpected turn of events or the elimination of our
seeming protagonist. I remember The Usual
Suspects and the shocking reveal in the final moments of the film which
substantiates all the details before it.
Boyhood did not surprise me, not
once, nor do I wish that it had. Rather, you invited us into an extremely
familiar process of life. Your experiment worked! We met new “friends” tonight
who we had the privilege to watch grow, learn, struggle, fail, experience
quintessential “firsts” and seeming cliches. And as a result, we cared. While I
walked down the balcony stairs to exit the theatre, I attempted to maneuver the
packed house of folks buzzing, so as to not continue my stream of blissful
tears in too bright a light, I noticed the echoes of voices were an excited,
layered, verbal “word cloud” of the multitudes of relatable moments everyone
had just undertaken. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen and heard such a mass of
humans bursting at the seems, impatient to rehash the simple experiences within
a movie. Simple experiences, accumulated, add up to the constitution of
existence and are lifted into “the epic”. All lives being lived presently and
forever are each, individually and substantially epic. When your character was
driving a car in a wide shot and the following shot was a closeup of action
inside the automobile, I was not expecting the ever-anticipated side-collision
that lands us in the Emergency Room for the next scene. That’s what I expect.
That’s what we’ve been accustomed to expect. It simply wasn’t needed and GOOD
for you to know that. Good for you to show us that. Your characters and their
decisions were all familiar archetypes, but your offer to invite us into their
lives for the long haul elevated them and stripped away the possibility of
cliche. The pestering older sister, the adolescent male who fancies taking
photographs over throwing a football, the Southern grandparents who gift a
rifle and a personalized Bible, the at-first impressive “father figure” who
ultimately drowns their misery into a bottle, the boss who shows up to your
high school graduation with a US Treasury Savings Bond, or the teenage friend
who pressures you to “get tail” out of his own insecurities, et cetera, et
cetera…We know these people. They exist because humans aren’t so different
from one another, no matter their locale or placement in the timeline.
Everything in life happens just once. It may not seem that way, but it is. Nothing
truly repeats, not exactly. We graduate from high school just once. Our kids
graduate just ONCE. While watching, I recalled my desire to skip graduation and
not make a huge deal and I recall my mother telling me, “You don’t have to want
a graduation party. Do it for me.” You engaged us in a sense of nostalgia that
is rarely accessible through fictional narrative. We all experience those
moments when we wish we could go back and educate the younger version of
ourselves, but it is just…not…possible. That dynamic is both the tragedy
and blessing of existence. Each of us gets to live every moment only once, yet
as we age and evolve, we can at the very least reflect back on how we received
the moments before now and hopefully learn to extend more consciousness,
awareness and importance to those moments that are ahead of us. That is what I
took from this film and I hope the other audiences do as well. Cinema need not
shock us or dramatize or romanticize. It can simply convey honesty and elevate
us with a mere mirror.
I am a budding filmmaker. I had an experimental feature
premiere at MIX NYC Queer Film Festival last year. There was an interview in
Indiewire about it where I focused on the elements of crafting the
hallucinogenic visual and audio conventions I had utilized. And recently I
applied to an arts/film mentorship program started by film director, Ira Sachs,
where I was asked, “What kind of art do you make? What kind is important to
you? What KIND do you want to make going forward?” While I was proud of the
delicately layered film that I had spent three years crafting, I answered that
this form does NOT interest me any longer. I am invested in becoming a
storyteller who can create dramatic stakes born from GOOD INTENTIONS. That’s
life. Most of us are rather good people at heart. BUT, most of the media we
consume is expedited and driven by an “evil” or a catastrophic event. That content is engaging and perhaps
addicting too, but how lovely is it to develop relatable and profound stories
that derive from good-hearted, yet conflicting intentions. That is the majority
of drama in real life. I fear that my choice to be a storyteller and filmmaker
may not create the impact I crave to better the community or world around me.
Tonight, you made me deeply feel, recall, analyze and reflect on my past and
future and how it relates to those around me. I am moved and changed. That’s
more than I could’ve expected, even with the price of movie tickets these days.
Thank you & congrats,
Jason Ryan Yamas