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Tribeca Directors to Watch: Robert Scott Wildes on the Visually Inventive ‘Poor Boy’

Tribeca Directors to Watch: Robert Scott Wildes on the Visually Inventive 'Poor Boy'

Poor Boy” is the tale of two misfit brothers living in boat in the middle of the desert who barely get by with half-baked plans and small-time thievery. The story is often guided by the brothers delusions and unique brand of logic, which opens first time feature film director Robert Scott Wildes to create a playful visual world with bold uses of cinematic language.

From the hard-charging pacing, to the offbeat visual humor, to widescreen images of the dessert landscape, to a dreamlike world where what is real isn’t always clear, “Poor Boy” announces Wildes as director independent film fans need to keep an eye on. Indiewire recently caught up with Wildes to learn more about the new director who before Tribeca hadn’t been on anyone’s radar.

I see that you graduated from AFI in 2010, along with your DP and three of your producers. I’m assuming AFI was a pretty big stepping stone in your development as a filmmaker? 

The American Film Institute, as well as the Purchase College Film Conservatory, were both influential in my development. Essential really. I learned so much from my professors and just as much from my fellow classmates. If I had to simplify it, I would say, Purchase encouraged me to express myself and AFI taught me how to realize that expression. It’s a curious place, film school; you’re buried in a bubble of discourse for a concentrated amount of time and then set free into a world that could care less. I like that. I like having collaborators who went through the circuit with me. We speak the same language. We’re in this together.

How long have you been trying to get this film made and what was the key to finally making it happen?
The script was written very quickly in December 2013. Lots of revisions leading up to production but the first draft came out in a few days. Initially, it was going to be shot entirely on Mini-DV in rural Florida with non-professional actors. I hadn’t raised any money and after a few months I was beginning to think it was never going to happen.

I think I had to convince myself the movie was real. Agents thought it was a practical joke when I sent offers for actors to play a character called Prickface. But as soon as I started to really believe in the project, other people did as well, and then it started to come together. I emailed the script to my close friends, who in turn would share it with their friends. Eventually, after several months, we had a nice assembly of actors willing to come play with us and make this movie.

How does a New England boy who went to the AFI end up making a film in Southwest desert?
I’ve always had a fascination with the desert, the American southwest. I lived in Arizona for a few years and that’s where I met my best friend Logan Antill. The day after we met he moved into my bungalow and we started writing films together. We spent many hours exploring sprawling desert towns, freeway loops and new housing developments. Air conditioning and coyotes. The desert is super inspiring. It takes you in. Holds its own space inside of you.
And what was the inspiration for these two misfit brothers? 
Logan told me a story about this poor soul in Florida who would wrap his face in packing tape and make his mom film him wandering around grocery stores where he’d just stare at strangers and say, “I’m just a PoorBoy.” The same exact day I had a dream about a man named Prickface lost in a cave, trying to drink coffee, trying to find his way to a magic shop. We started banging around the idea that Poor Boy and Prickface were brothers and we should just make a movie about them stumbling through the world.

Sometimes you listen to the desert. Sometimes it talks. Sometimes you’re alive in the 21st century and you watch animals run into walls.

Who are your directing influences and what were you going for cinematically with this film?
I’m influenced by so much – filmmakers, musicians, children, dreams, my friends, the weather. There wasn’t a specific filmmaker that I drew on when making the film. “Poor Boy” is a collection of memories and stories; it’s a bedtime story of sorts, a lullaby for the dusty ones.
What was the key to making something cinematically exciting with not a lot of resources?

If you love what you’re making, that energy is contagious. When my daughter starts dancing, I dance. Exciting cinema has never been dependent on resources. You look at what you have stacked in the back of a truck, piece it together, and start waving it around. It’s a totally insane and maddening process that no one will ever be able to define. 

“Poor Boy” premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

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Check out another Tribeca premiere below, with a clip from “The Last Laugh”:


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