SXSW Interview: ‘EIGHTH GRADE’ director Bo Burnham and star Elsie Fisher


Preston Barta // Features Editor

When it comes to crafting an coming of age story, comedian Bo Burnham takes anything but a textbook approach. His tender, true to life EIGHTH GRADE represents today’s age remarkably well. Stacking markers, slipping in a “like” between every other word and gushing over the popular kids – we’re nearly in documentary mode here.

Last week at the South by Southwest Film Festival we sat down with writer-director Burnham and his leading lady, Elsie Fisher, to discuss the authenticity of the film’s dialogue, finding confidence to do things we wouldn’t normally and making the tech world work within a modern lens.

Our summary:

This A24-distributed feature takes us through a teenager’s experience of her last week of middle school. It’s got an inkling of Richard Linklater’s filmmaking technique — how life can steer us in strange directions and how time can affect us — but it isn’t clouded with so much poetry and existential questioning that you’re taken out of the film.

The central teen, Kayla (the naturally gifted Elsie Fisher), taps into many of the moments you may recall from being a middle school student. There are thoughts of wanting to be accepted and valued by your peers and the longing for the good looking boy or girl. It has it all. But it also filters that through a modern-day lens, which many filmmakers have expressed disinterest in because of the difficulty of trying to make the age of the technology and social media appealing. (Read our full SXSW review here.)

Our interview:

A24 will release EIGHTH GRADE during the summer. The official date is to be announced.

Official Trailer:

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.