This narrative look at the sex-, booze-, and drug-filled lives of kids raised in early 1980s New York City is touching, if at times disturbing, in its portrayal of a lost generation raised by nannies and hooked on activities that shouldn’t be explored until later in life.
How much is this story from your personal life?
Most of it is from my personal experiences growing up in the 1980s in New York City. I wrote the first version of the script 10 years ago and set it aside until a couple years ago when I tossed the first draft, and rewrote it from scratch.
More specifically, did you have a Chilean nanny, an imaginary friend, a permissive mom, or steal coke from your brother while growing up?
I had a Chilean housekeeper named Aida who was a very important maternal figure for me, and a mother who was more friend/confidante than maternal figure. My best friend in eighth grade, a talented artist/writer, had an imaginary friend who was always up to things, like spray-painting trains upside down or seducing unsuspecting pre-school teachers in chapel, etc. This same friend also managed to steal some coke from his older brother when he was 13 or so, which he showed to me in school. So yes, it’s quite autobiographical.
How much do you think this situation, where the hired help is really raising the kids, happens in New York, or America at large? Is that a good thing?
I’m sure it’s not rare, and I have no judgment as to whether it’s good or bad. Like in any situation, it depends on the individuals.
For being relatively young, the actors are very powerful. Did that come naturally for them, or was it a challenge to tease out these strong performances?
I was lucky to have two weeks of rehearsal with the young actors. Though they were all extremely talented and natural, they had to handle some intense material, so I was happy to have some time to acclimate them to that precocious-coming-of-age-very-New-York-1980s world. Some needed less coaxing than others!
During the shoot, Spencer (Oliver) was 13, the same age as the character he was portraying so that was exciting — to watch him grow up on-and-off camera simultaneously. I was impressed he was able to portray/embody feelings and experiences that were perhaps beyond his 13 years. After the shoot — and exposing Spencer to beer guzzling, unsnapping bras, three-way kisses, drugs, etc. — I was very happy when his father (who was a marvelous/comforting force on set) sent me a picture of Spencer goofing around in an amusement park eating cotton candy, saying, “I have my kid back!”
The film is somewhat risque, in that it deals with sexual topics as discussed by teenagers. Was anyone apprehensive about that, or do you get any backlash because of that?
No backlash — or, rather, not yet. I think it’s an authentic portrayal of my experiences growing up in NYC in the 1980s. It might be different now, it might not. I do know that some of the young actors were excited about the script precisely for the way the kids spoke and behaved. Apparently it seemed true to them. It’s interesting — I asked a friend who grew up with me in NYC (and has kids that age who are growing up there now) if he thinks his children are doing what we did. My friend looked at me horrified, “No way!” I thought, “Really?” Maybe we rewrite our past when we become parents.
Do you think that more films should directly address this critical period of our lives?
I don’t think films should do anything except come from an authentic place from the filmmakers. Not meaning autobiographical but just true. Whatever their subject/genre may be. When people start making films because they “should” or to fill gaps in certain perceived cultural lacunae, the audience is going to roll over and snore because it will be fake. Also, what a drag for the filmmaker. For me, films should at least come from an authentic place and strive to find a human truth within those parameters — whether it be cartoon or abstract art film — they wish to explore.
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