During a summer full of big-budgeted blockbusters, it can be difficult to find those smaller gems at the movie theater that are worth seeing, but in many cases they're even more memorable and fulfilling than the giant, effects-driven stuff. Such is the case with Kings of Summer, a funny and heartwarming tale about three boys who ditch their parents' houses in order to build a new home for themselves in the middle of the woods. It's a film I've described as Stand by Me meets Superbad, but aside from the comparisons, it really is its own beautiful little thing -- a fantastic coming-of-age movie during a time that desperately needs this particular genre to make a comeback, if only to remind kids that it's okay to drop the cell phone and get in touch with what it's really like to be a kid.
Now that Kings of Summer has been in theaters for a few weeks, I caught up with director Jordan Vogt-Roberts to talk about the expectations he had before the film hit theaters versus what actually happened. We also spoke extensively about the future of movies, and what he thinks we need to do to preserve the experience of going to the movie theater.
You can listen to (and download) our entire conversation below, but here are a few highlights:
On Will Smith, Jaden Smith and his Sundance Film Festival premiere: "I'm in the green room with my DP and the next thing that happens, Will Smith walks into the green room. Basically Moises [Arias] who plays Biaggio is really close with Jaden [Smith], and the week before he texts me and asks if Jaden can come. At this point tickets to our premiere are super sold out -- we can't even get our cast in, but we'll find a way to get Jaden in. And then literally on the day of the premiere, he texts me and he's like, 'Hey bro, I know this is last minute but can Jaden's dad come to the premiere.' And I'm like... Jaden's dad. You mean William Smith?Yeah, he can come. I will not sit down if that's what it takes to get him in!"
His advice for a first-time filmmaker at Sundance: "It's always going to be a blur for a first-time filmmaker. The bigger thing to me is only stress about what's directly in front of you. There's a lot of stuff I was stressing out about there -- like when they bought our movie, they bought it contractually so that it had to be a PG-13, not R. I was freaking out saying they're going to ruin the movie. But you can only fight what's right in front of you. Later on down the road and for a bunch of different reasons -- and because CBS Films was willing to take the risk -- we ended up R."
On the importance of the audience: "Audiences don't understand the power that they have with their money and their time. Whether it's my movie or any of these great indie films out now, I think general audiences have no idea that there's a sense of urgency to this. We're not Man of Steel. We're not Fast & Furious. If you don't see movies like this on opening weekend or the second weekend, they're just not going to be around."
On the future of movies and moviegoing: "On one hand, yes, it's super easy. You have VOD, you can put something out there -- all the distribution models are there. But to me, the power of our industry and the future of our industry rests in the power to reengage people in the theatrical experience and reminding people why that's awesome. That's what made me want to be a filmmaker -- going to the movies as a kid was incredible. I loved being transported."
On what he wants to do next: "I want to make a jump into much bigger movies and movies that have a sense of style -- and whether that's a genre thing or an action thing, great -- but I'm not gonna do that unless there's a real core to it. But I would rather go out and fail and try to make a big movie that, like the movies I grew up on can simultaneously engage you in spectacle yet also engage you intellectually and emotionally. I'd rather fail at doing that then go out and take one of these $40 million studio comedies that are being offered to me."
On tonight's special screening of the film in Los Angeles: "Doug Benson is hosting a screening of Kings of Summer and recording a special live edition of his awesome movie podcast Doug Loves Movies at the Landmark Theatre. Some of the cast will be there as well (Nick Robinson, Moises Arias, Marc Evan Jackson and more). We'll be doing a live recording of his podcast Doug Loves Movies afterwards. The link to buy tickets is here http://tinyurl.com/kbv8lkh."
Kings of Summer is now in select theaters. Head over to Fandango to see if it's playing near you, and expect the film to arrive on DVD/Blu-ray this fall.