Day of Youth: How to Forget Why You “Can’t Make Your Movie”
Written by Dave Walker | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
Day of Youth is a soft-spoken comedy about growing up in your twenties. Set in a nameless, dingy Boston neighborhood (it looks like Brighton), the film centers around Rhee, who wakes up from a bicycle accident with a case of retrograde amnesia that ultimately reveals a troubling truth — in the three years omitted by her brain damage, nothing in her life has really changed. She still lives at home, works a dead-end job and is surrounded by the same disenchanted friends who talk about the bright future ahead of them, but are stalled by the fear that their dreams might never come true. Her various exes try to win her back, seizing on the opportunity to start a clean slate with her now that she has forgotten their respective histories. Amidst their contradictory versions of the last three years, Rhee’s amnesia somehow manages to bring her life into focus.
The film suffers from many of the common symptoms of the indie flick produced on a shoestring budget — amateur actors, an increasingly familiar DSLR aesthetic and a thesis that is persistent, if not repetitious, in making its point. At times, the characters and situations feel as if they may have been plucked too literally from their real-world counterparts, but this is also the source of the film’s charm and sincerity. It is successful in channeling or embodying, rather than dramatizing, the reality of a striving artist, and it evokes a feeling many filmmakers are all too familiar with — the anxiety of waiting for that elusive epiphany or lucky break. As one character says of the dreamlike ennui of their lives, “There’s a fine line between recurring and consistent.” Day Of Youth is a story about “being young and feeling old,” the moment when we are faced with the decisions that will define our adulthood and give our younger years meaning.
As it turns out, the filmmakers’ experiences did spawn the film’s milieu of jaded twenty-somethings stuck in the underwhelming reality of urban bohemianism. The hope that the film offers — and that is championed by the film’s maker — is that they are not doomed to a life of endless mediocrity, but can awaken to a new chance to reinvent themselves. I had the chance to talk to the film’s director, Jared Vincenti, about how he sees the new opportunities transpiring for young filmmakers like himself throughout the city. A symbiotic relationship is forming in Boston between the big-budget studio productions and indie bottom-feeders that thrive on the influx of talent, film professionals, and other resources brought to the area by the Massachusetts Film Office tax incentives. As more productions come to the city and a network grows around them, the time may be ripe for many aspiring filmmakers to forget their reasons for hesitation and go out and make a film.
Dave Walker: This film was made on a very small budget and the money you have raised has been funneled right to post-production costs. Many people are perplexed by how this low-budget Indie filmmaking can work. Are you a full-time filmmaker or do you have a ‘day job?’ Is it hard to manage a cast and crew that might be juggling multiple commitments?
Jared Vincenti: I do have a day job, on top of which I am a full-time filmmaker… I just don’t get much rest! When I was in grad school, I was a full-time student and working two jobs. After graduation, I just kept moving at the same speed — I work about 80 hours a week between my job and various film projects. That sounds like a lot until I look at my friends who have kids. At least I can take a day off when I want one!
As for the rest of the cast and crew, scheduling was actually one of the easier things to manage. Everybody has other jobs and other commitments, but we knew that going in. We scheduled our shoots well in advance, and people were committed to the project, so it was a pretty smooth process.
DW: How are you able to rally people around you and get a team together? Were most of you aspiring actors and filmmakers?
Vincenti: I had a project I was in love with, and I shared it with a few friends who agreed to pitch in their time and talents. Before I knew it, they were bringing on their friends and colleagues, and the project really took on a life of its own. Our cast and crew ranged from first-timers to 20-year veterans of the industry. People become actors or set decorators or gaffers because they love what they do — if they believe in the project and you treat them right on set, they can be incredibly generous with their skills.
DW: Can you tell me a little more about the evolution of this project? How and when did you develop the idea? What was involved in rallying a team behind it, getting actors on board, and escalating the idea into production?
Vincenti: The first sketch of the plot came in a screenwriting class a few years ago, but got shelved. A few years later, I was revisiting some notes and it jumped out at me — it was just an outline, but it spoke to what was on my mind. It seemed perfect for a movie about change and inertia and nostalgia. I drafted a full script, and shared it with some friends. They loved it, and it wasn’t long before we had rounded up a full crew. The script was revised a few times as new cast members joined and we secured locations, but the process was really organic. I knew I didn’t have the budget to get everything I wanted, so I found ways to tell the story with what I could get. I think that was the biggest challenge — to remain so adaptable, and to still stay true to the heart of the story.
The film is now nearly complete — I’m done editing and we’re currently working on the sound edit, color grading, and soundtrack. The whole thing should be done this spring, a little more than a year after we started shooting.
DW: This film is about characters who feel that, in some way, they are stuck, unable to get on to the next chapter of their lives. I know this is a feeling that many artists and filmmakers can relate to. Was this something that you were channeling into the script from your own life? How did you transform that feeling into a positive, or creative one?
Vincenti: I was feeling stuck. I had sunk years of my life and thousands of dollars of debt into film school, and then spent even more time and effort to try to land a job in the industry, and had rather little to show for it: a few short films and a non-film day job. I had to face the fact: the majority of film students never become filmmakers, and it is indeed possible, if not downright likely, that I wouldn’t ever amount to much as an artist. It’s terrifying, but that fear woke something up.
I started to write. I wrote a character who was living my worst nightmare: she wakes up to find she’s in the same place she was three years before. Her struggles, while different from my own, are all about facing the same fear. But writing about the fear made it seem less real, so I just kept going. I showed the script to my friends, and they responded to it — I think that fear is something that everybody feels, and artists probably feel very acutely. And the more real the movie felt, the more the fear diminished. So we shot it.
DW: How do you see your future now? Does a career as a filmmaker seem more achievable or at least realistic now that you’ve made this film? Can you envision a future indie community here in Boston where young filmmakers such as yourself can feed off of the infrastructure that has been growing here?
Vincenti: There is an indie film community here today that I’m delighted to be a part of, and I certainly now think of myself as a professional filmmaker. I think the open question is whether I’ll ever make a living as a filmmaker, but I don’t think that’s exclusive to me — I think it’s a problem facing an entire generation of independent filmmakers. So is my worst-case scenario is that I make creatively challenging work with great people in a city I love, but I don’t get money for it? I think I can make peace with that.
DW: Are there any significant drawbacks of shooting in Boston?
Vincenti: Two years ago I was one of thousands of film school grads who wished they could make a feature film. Today, I’ve made a film that I’m really proud of, with nearly no money, with an amazing community of cast and crew, and I’m hard at work on my next project! That kind of good fortune doesn’t really suit itself to objective “benefits and drawbacks” kind of consideration. I love it here.
DW: Would you be interested in working in a smaller capacity, as a gaffer or sound person for example, for some of the bigger films that come to the area? What aspect of filmmaking would you choose to specialize in if you were going to?
Vincenti: I would definitely love to work on the larger films here! I’m the kind of director who loves working with actors, and if I could choose an additional career in film, I would work for a casting office in a heartbeat.
DW: Much has been said in the last few years about DIY filmmaking. With prosumer cameras getting better and better and social media opening up new channels to raise funding and get attention, the quality of one’s work can speak for itself. Do you think it’s easier or harder to distinguish yourself as a filmmaker in this day and age? Do you ever feel the need to align yourself within a particular genre in order gain further exposure?
Vincenti: The advances in technology cut both ways: it’s easier for me to make a good movie on a shoestring, but it’s easier for everybody else, too. So while the quality of my work may speak for itself, the field is crowded. The real challenge, in any genre, is going to be for an audience to first hear of my film, and then decide to watch it instead of any of the million other movies they could watch right then — and only then can my work be judged on its own merits. So it may be easier to make a film, but it may actually be harder to make it as a filmmaker.
DW: What avenues are you pursuing to get it in front of an audience? Do you have any distribution strategy in place?
Vincenti: Right now I’m in the process of applying to film festivals, and waiting to hear how Day of Youth is received there. I’m drafting some contingency plans in case that doesn’t work out, though, because I’ve worked too long on this film to let it go unseen. It’s entertaining and it’s timely, and so many amazing people put their hearts into it. I owe it to them to do everything I can to get it seen.
Day of Youth is currently in post-production and should be finished in a matter of weeks! For more information, check out its website.