Olivia Wilde Told Me To Direct, So I Will—Booksmart Premiere and Q&A

Seated at perhaps the worst seats in the house at the historic Brattle Theatre, my friend Kate and I impatiently waited, finishing our popcorn before the screening even began. After going back to concessions for some mango sorbet, we were greeted with the opening lines of Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart: “Good morning, winner. Take a deep breath. Visualize the mountain of your success and look down at everyone who’s ever doubted you. F*** those losers. F*** them in their stupid f***ing faces.”

It is this raunchy, expletive-filled opener that sets the tone for the entire movie.

Booksmart is redefining what a teenage film can be and should be. No longer are only the boys allowed to play. Best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) care about two things: school and each other. They never partied, never drank, and never did drugs. In fact, they only had fake IDs in order to get into the college library. They did everything right. Upon finding out that the seemingly underachieving cool kids also got into top-tier colleges, they decide it’s time to let loose and finally go to a high school party.

But don’t get me wrong, this is NOT the female version of Superbad. The only similarity is that they both star Feldsteins. Although this film openly deals with teenage sexuality and doesn’t shy away from it, the end goal is not about sex or romance, but rather about friendship.

Following the screening, there was a Q+A featuring director Olivia Wilde, who brought along a couple of special guests: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, and writer Katie Silberman.

Wilde cited iconic teenage films such as The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High as sources of inspiration for their film. Silberman adds that those films “feel like the generations that they’re about,” so they aimed to make a film for this current generation. They made a mainstream film for the young women, for the LGBTQ+ community, for the misjudged, without it seeming forced or letting them become stereotypes.

I had the opportunity to ask a question, which I rehearsed in my head about a million times before actually asking it. And I knew I would regret it if I didn’t.

SK: For Olivia, I know you’ve worked with some amazing female directors like Reed Morano, so how important was it for your career and for this project to have all of these amazing female collaborators and mentors. For Beanie and Kaitlyn, after working with Olivia, are you guys inspired to direct in the future?

OW: My female collaborators and mentors have kind of informed my process here. I’ve been lucky to work with some extraordinary women. Other than technical influences of training me and teaching me a lot about cameras, lenses, and how to run a film crew, she [Reed Morano] also taught me a lot about just being bold and brave and pitching on things you think you have no business pitching on, which is why I pitched on Booksmart. I thought, why not? I’m just going to go in and pitch … And the worst thing that can happen is that they’ll say no, but I’m just going to learn.

Wilde also cited Martin Scorsese and Spike Jonze as important influences in her directorial process. She implemented a no scripts on set rule, which she stole from Scorsese because they only had 26 days to shoot, which is relatively short for a feature film. Jonze was part of the reason that she started directing music videos, where she got her start.

As for the second part of the question, Wilde was adamant that Dever and Feldstein should and will direct in the future. Dever said that she always thought “you had to be a writer in order to be a director,” while Feldstein saw directing as a “singular person doing everything alone”. But after working with Wilde, they are inspired by her creative, collaborative process. They want to be brave and bold like her, so be on the look-out for their directorial debuts.

Me and Olivia Freaking Wilde!!!

And just when I thought the best part of the night had come to an end, it got so much better. A small crowd of people stuck around, and after debating whether we were annoying or not, we decided to follow suit. Not long after, all four women came out to greet friends, colleagues, and fans.

I got to tell Kaitlyn Dever that I have been a fan since her show Last Man Standing premiered in 2011. I got to gal-pal around with Beanie Feldstein and thank her for being in such female-centric films with incredible female friendships (i.e Lady Bird, and now Booksmart). Lastly, I got to be a blubbering mess in front of Olivia Wilde and tell her I want to be a director, just like her. And she gave me a big hug and told me I have to do it—so I will.

I’m jealous of the kids who get to grow up with ‘Booksmart’. It fully embraces their generation for who they are and tells them to embrace themselves and others. I could’ve used this type of film a couple of years ago, but I sure am glad it’s here now.


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