March 10 2017

A Night with Wunderkind Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Director of 'As You Are'

New York-Film
Remember when you were 24 and your first feature film was premiering in NYC and starring some of the hottest young talents of the day? Same.

If you're unfamiliar with Miles
Joris-Peyrafitte, now's your chance to get up to speed. He's the director of As You Are, a coming-of-age indie film starring Amandla Stenberg and Charlie Heaton and generating a lot of buzz, even earning praise from Lena Dunham. The film's stars came by The Standard, East Village for drinks before the film's premiere a few blocks away, and we got a chance to hear about Miles' inspirations behind the flick. And better yet, Miles took a few disposable cameras along for the ride to capture his first NYC premiere. 
Amandla Stenberg, Charlie Heaton, and Owen Campbell, the stars of "As You Are" at the NYC premiere. 

Amandla Stenberg, Charlie Heaton, and Owen Campbell, the stars of "As You Are" at the NYC premiere. 

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The first thing I notice about Miles Joris-Peyrafitte—aside from the comically out-of-place Finding Dory hat sitting atop his long hair—is that he looks just like Canadian director Xavier Dolan, who gained notoriety as the film world’s enfant terrible after his debut film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 when he was just 20 years old. Not only are they doppelgängers, but like Dolan, Joris-Peyrafitte got his foot in the industry at an enviously young age (he took his debut feature, As You Are, to Sundance at just 23 years old). Now 24 years old and sitting across from me at The Standard, East Village's Café Standard, he's still in disbelief that his movie is playing at an actual theater just a few blocks away. And he’s only just learning how to keep a sane head on his shoulders when critics respond negatively to his project. “This is the first time I've ever had to go through it and it's hard because this is definitely not a movie that's for everyone,” he says in between sips of his beer. “It's been interesting seeing the critics and how they respond to it, because it's very polarizing. The people who like it, love it, and as of now it seems like more people are loving it than hating it, but the people who hate it hate it. Mostly the people who hate it are 60-year-old white men. I'm like, maybe I'll hate it in the future, but as of now that's a pretty cool group of people to have hate your movie, you know what I mean?”

Joris-Peyrafitte’s film is called As You Are, and it’s a feature-length expansion on his short film, As a Friend. Yes, those would be Nirvana references and Kurt Cobain’s death plays an emotionally stirring role in this ’90s-set queer coming of age portrait of three teenagers: Jack (Owen Campbell), Mark (Charlie Heaton), and Sarah (Amandla Stenberg). Joris-Peyrafitte himself was too young to remember Cobain’s death—or much of the ’90s, really—but Cobain's music became important to the director, thanks to an older brother who vividly remembered and mourned the Nirvana frontman. But As You Are doesn’t scream '90s in an overbearing way; the filmmaker is more interested in the timelessness of young people growing up and going through big changes in their lives. 

The Standard
The Standard
The Standard
The Standard
“I wanted to make a movie about these three people navigating and finding each other, and their love and that not really being defined,” he says. “The issues that those kids are going through are obviously issues that kids still go through now. That hasn't changed. But the way we cope with it I think has changed to a certain degree, with the Internet. With social media there's been this opening of communities to people who are feeling lost or feeling confused or feeling whatever. But at the same time the negative parts of that have also risen so it's kind of a balance. What I was interested in seeing was people sit down and talk and feel things and go through that. I think there's definitely a movie to be made about that with technology.” There are other perks to having his film take place during that period, like getting to include a videotape of a Ghostbusters porn parody called Ghostlusters that the kids find and watch together on a VHS player. Joris-Peyrafitte also shoots his scenes with a hazy lens of nostalgia that reflects how we remember things in a much more cinematic way than they actually occurred.

You can see a lot of Gus Van Sant in this film—there’s a crime drama element here that works backwards to figure out what drove these friends apart. There’s also a striking resemblance to the work of Kelly Reichardt—especially in the ennui and idyllic American sadness seen in her 1994 debut River of Grass. Unsurprisingly, Joris-Peyrafitte name-checks Van Sant as an influence, and reveals that his connection to Reichardt is more than just idolizing: He studied under her at Bard College. “She is a massive influence, not just on my filmmaking, but on me as a human being,” he says. “She was the first real director I knew. She was my advisor on my short film. I took like five classes with her and TA'd for her and stuff.” He had a surreal moment last year premiering his movie at Cannes alongside his teacher, who was there for her critically acclaimed Certain Women.

So what’s next for this up-and-comer? “There's a few things cooking right now,” he says, finishing off his beer. “Hopefully in June, I’m shooting this film noir about the heroin epidemic that's going on. I'm working on another project I'm really excited about that I can't talk too much about, but it takes place in the ’30s in Texas—a Bonnie and Clyde type movie.”
 

Writer
Kristen Yoonsoo Kim