In the year of actor-turned-director debuts (we see you Paul Dano, John Krasinski, and Bradley Cooper), Mid90s is the latest offering from a24 studios both written and directed by Jonah Hill. Shot beautifully on 16mm celluloid by cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt - the 4:3 crop ratio complements the raw, simple moments of Stevie (aka “Sunburn”) growing up.
Here's an excerpt from Jonah’s interview with Kalyn Corrigan:
Corrigan: I’m very curious about what made you want to tell this story. How does skateboarding act as a vehicle to tell a story about youth?
Jonah Hill: I grew up skateboarding in southern California in the mid ‘90s (laughs), but it’s not like bio pic or anything like that. It really provided me with ethic, and a point of view, and family outside of my home, and I guess it made me feel like I have this really unique perspective on growing up through skateboarding. It was just something that I always see kind of butchered onscreen, and it’s notoriously butchered. That felt like a great challenge, to sort of do that correctly, and put it up respectfully onscreen.
Corrigan: How did A24 get involved with the project?
Jonah Hill: Very early, while I was writing. The first person I brought it to was Scott Rudin, and they had just made Ex Machina with A24, and I knew that’s who I wanted to release it. This was about four years ago, so it wasn’t the A24 that it is now, but I just thought that they were a really smart company and it was something that meant so much to me, I couldn’t have it at a big studio or something like that.
Corrigan: Directing is always a feat, but that’s especially the case your first time up at bat. How hard was it to get this movie made?
Jonah Hill: It was amazing. I mean, I miss it everyday, I look at pictures everyday, I took lots of photos on set. I miss it, I miss these guys, that’s why I love experiences like this. Even in Austin, just this experience. Like last night, we just got to all hang out, and we went and got dinner, and ice cream. Then I was going to sleep, and I’m not saying it was specifically anybody in this room, but I definitely heard possibly Gio and Sunny banging on my door and giggling outside the door, and I was like, ‘I’m in heaven’. You know? I’m thirty-four and my next movie is probably not going to be as magical. It might be magical, but it will be a different kind of magical. This is the greatest experience of my life. This is what I wanted my whole life, and I did it with people that I truly love. I love these guys, and now just even doing press, we get to all be together in a cool city and go eat barbeque and it’s amazing. It was a dream come true. To turn L.A. back into 1995 and have to recreate that, and all day every day everyone was just skating around me. For me, I had to keep it all together from a storytelling perspective, so it was definitely really challenging, but every time I’d look up from the war in my head I’d smile at the people I was around.
Corrigan: What did you learn about your voice as a filmmaker over the course of the project?
Jonah Hill: Just to be true to myself. It’s okay to have your own voice and your own opinion. I watched all of these amazing filmmakers have their own voice and it taught me that I was going to get nowhere by just biding by other people’s rules and that I had to have my own voice as a filmmaker. That’s why I waited until I was thirty-four, which seems young, but I’ve been doing this since I was eighteen, so I had a lot of opportunities beforehand and I waited until I had my own voice and wanted to figure that out. I watched a lot of people do it prematurely, and I would’ve just wound up biding someone else off. There was one filmmaker who I would say is a pretty artsy, well respected filmmaker that, there’s some self abuse stuff in Mid90s that’s pretty gnarly, and I remember he read the script, and he gave me some notes, and he said, ‘Good luck with that at the Arclight’. I remember being like, ‘Oh, I kinda don’t respect you anymore’. You know? Not like in a rude way, but that’s what makes this movie interesting to me, and that’s what makes me a filmmaker, is that I’m willing to do that in the middle of our movie, or have a five-minute scene where the kids connect with a homeless person. That’s what makes me a filmmaker, and that’s the kind of stuff I leaned into instead of running away from.