Check out our interviews with Elsie Fisher, Bo Burnham and Ari Aster from The 2018 IFP Gotham Awards this week at Cipriani Wall Street.
In the “breakthrough” categories, Eighth Grade scored two wins. Elsie Fisher won the Breakthrough Actor award. Fisher’s director – former teen YouTuber, comedian, and musician Bo Burnham – was voted the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director award his debut feature film.
The Knockturnal: What does it mean to be here at the Gothams?
Elsie Fisher: It means everything. This is an incredible honor and I’m very thankful to be here, among so many great artists.
Bo Burnham: It’s incredible. Just to be considered in the same conversation as these other filmmakers and actors and films is just very flattering and way beyond what we ever thought was going to happen for us. This is just insane. We’re trying not to smell the roses because we might pass out.
The Knockturnal: How was collaborating with each other?
Elsie Fisher: It was the best. This is my favorite project I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing, and Bo is just a great person.
Bo Burnham: Yeah, and she’s the best. The best collaboration of my creative life by a factor of 12.
We also spoke with them after they won their awards.
The Knockturnal: What does it mean to be receiving this award in New York.
Bo Burnham: We shot the film about an hour outside of the city in Rockland County, so pre-production everything was based here. all of our crew was out of New York so this is a huge honor. This is where the film was made and edited and I’m an east coast kid from Boston.
The Knockturnal: How did you find your star Elsie?
Bo Burnham: I found her online. I saw a video of her online, giving some interview somewhere. And, I was just immediately captivated by her, and was hoping that she could act and then I found out very quickly that she really, really could act.
The Knockturnal: She’s an actress though, right?
Bo Burnham: Yes, yes, but she’d been a voice actor. She’d acted in the Despicable Me films, voice acting for a while. She hadn’t acted for a bit, so I had yet to meet the 13 year-old, 14 year-old actor, I’d seen the 6 and 7 year-old actor. Those are very different, as you’d imagine.
The Knockturnal: What’s next 10th grade?
Bo Burnham: 5th Grade, I wanted to do a Lord of the Flies … (laughter)
The Knockturnal: And what do you love about independent filming?
Bo Burnham: I mean, everything. I’m just a huge fan of just the creative freedom and the risks that are taken. I think you’re just able to make stranger, weirder, more compelling things in that space. I don’t know, to be here, it’s just an honor to consider any of these people peers. I’ve admired them for so long.
The Knockturnal: The movie connected in a really big way, did that surprise you?
Bo Burnham: Yeah, I mean, we just made it for ourselves, we just thought it was for us. I didn’t really know if anyone wanted to see an R-rated movie called Eighth Grade. I didn’t know if we were isolating all of our possible demos, but it seems to have resonated.
The Knockturnal: Did any of your 8th grade teachers see the movie?
Bo Burnham: Yes, yes, Mrs. Rantahaz, who was my English teacher.
The Knockturnal: How has your life changed since making this movie?
Bo Burnham: Oh, it’s just crazy … But, yeah, it’s just all been wonderful. I mean this is all surreal.
The Knockturnal: You must have been some amazing project in mind next.
Bo Burnham: Yeah, I mean, I’m not a great multi-tasker, so it’ll take a while to figure out what the next thing is.
The Knockturnal: Did you have any idea the film would take off the way it has?
Elsie Fisher: No, I mean … when we were first making it I was just so happy to be acting and to be working on this. Yeah and I didn’t know it would be this great. I’m very thankful.
The Knockturnal: You almost gave up acting?
Elsie Fisher: Yeah I was going through a rough patch, especially my eighth grade year. Just cause I wasn’t giving it my all, I think. And I’d been acting for like ten years so it was just kind of part of the grind. And I’ve had a lot of bad acne and that wasn’t great for acting and then I met Bo in the audition and I fell in love with the script.
The Knockturnal; What was your point of entry into the character?
Elsie Fisher: First I really connected with the way she spoke and the way she stumbled over her words… like a real person. And that was the first thing that drew me in and her anxiety. I suffer from anxiety.
The Knockturnal: So what’s next?
Elsie Fisher: I have a very exciting project next. I’m doing a musical about a real life family band that was kind of famous for being terrible. But I’m very excited for it.
The Knockturnal: Are you a singer?
Elsie Fisher: I wouldn’t consider myself a singer, I like singing and maybe I will be after the movie. I really appreciate music and I love musicals.
Ari Aster was nominated for Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award for Hereditary. His star Toni Collette was voted Best Actress for her impressive performance.
The Knockturnal: What does being here at the Gothams mean to you?
Ari Aster: It’s a huge honor. I think it’s the first award I’ve ever been nominated for, so I’m just excited to be here.
The Knockturnal: What inspired the film?
Ari Aster: I wanted to make a film about suffering and about grief and a family trying to navigate and failing to navigate grief, and the best way to do that was through the horror genre, and that’s sort of where it started.
The Knockturnal: The film has been a pretty big hit. Was that surprising to you?
Ari Aster: It came as something of a surprise because it’s such a dark film, and it doesn’t have a happy ending, it’s very bleak, so it was exciting to see it be as widely embraced as it was. And it wasn’t a surprise to see that it was divisive, and I was happy to see that it was still divisive.
The Knockturnal: Tell me a little bit about your casting.
Ari Aster: We auditioned kids for the younger roles, and that’s how we found Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro, who are both incredible in the film, and they gave amazing auditions, it was pretty undeniable. And then, Toni Collette was somebody that we went out to and prayed would get it, and thank God she did, and I owe her the movie, because that’s what made it real, when she came onboard. And Ann Dowd and Gabriel Byrne … it was beyond the beyond to work with them.
The Knockturnal: What’s coming up next for you?
Ari Aster: I just directed a film that we shot in Hungary, and I’m editing it right now. It’s Hungary doubling for Sweden.
The Premier Sponsor of the 2018 IFP Gotham Awards was The New York Times, and the Platinum Sponsor was GreenSlate. The Official Water Partner was FIJI Water, the Official Chocolate Partner was Lindt Chocolate and the Official Wine Partner was Robert Hall Winery.