Interview with writer/director Bo Burnham and actress Elsie Fisher

Eighth Grade

Photo courtesy of A24

Eighth Grade is about Kayla (Elsie Fisher), who is all about blending into the woodwork so that she doesn’t stand out. All Kayla wants to do is survive the last week of the eighth grade so she can start high school on a clean slate. Life has decided that Kayla should come out of the shadows. Kayla decides to start a YouTube channel to help other teens like her get through life as a teenager.

Back in April at the 2018 Atlanta Film Festival. I had to the good fortune to interview on the Red Carpet writer and director Bo Burnham and his star of the film Elsie Fisher.

Mike: Hi Bo!

Bo Burnham: Glad to meet you.

So, this is your first feature film.You’ve done a lot of YouTube videos and you created and wrote the TV show Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous. So how big a difference was making this movie compared to the other stuff you have done.?

Bo: On a scale very different. The main difference was the it was collaborative. I did stand up for a long time and that is very singular, where you are doing everything. I really enjoyed working with other people and relying on other people. That was the main difference but I tried to approach it the same way. I didn’t go, oh, it’s a movie so I have to do it this way. I just tried to do what I always do and try to make something that I like and enjoy.

So Elsie, am I right that you graduated eighth grade and then that summer you made the film?

Elsie Fisher: Yeah, exactly.

Eighth Grade

Photo courtesy of A24

So that must have been a surreal experience for you?

Elsie: On, defiantly. It was like i was back in eighth grade again. It was like I was experiencing a very long, long eight grade year.

Are you very similar to your character that you play in the film?

Elsie: I would say yes. We share a lot of anxiousness and being uncomfortable about certain things. And not having a lot of friends.

Bo: But that’s changing now.

Elise: There is little stuff like my room is influenced by movies and music. There is some drawings up on her wall in her bedroom and those are my actual drawings.

Bo, so what was the inspiration for this film?

Bo: I wanted to talk about my own anxiety. I kind of got on the internet and figured out that I could tell my story through the eyes of an eighth grade girl. I wasn’t like I suddenly go inspired. I just wanted to make a story about being nervous, expressing that nervousness on the internet. I think that the internet makes eighth graders of us all, so if you making a story about being in the eight grade than it should involve the internet.

Eighth Grade

Photo courtesy of A24

So I am seeing a lot of teens coming to this film tonight, so what do you want them to take away from this film?

Elsie: You are not alone in your experiences. All through eighth grade I kind of felt alone. Feeling anxious and worried about stuff, I would think that I was the only one that was feeling that way, that no-one else was was feeling like that. Then I figured out that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t crazy, that other kids experienced what I was feeling. So, yeah, you are not alone.

Thanks so much and enjoy the Atlanta Film Festival.

Eighth Grade opens Friday in Atlanta at select theatres.

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