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

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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

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.