First-time feature director Olivia Wilde seemed to be in a great mood Monday, the day after her film, “Booksmart,” had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
She has a right to beam. Her R-rated teen comedy — about two high-achieving best friends who decide it’s time to skip studying and cram a lifetime of partying into one night — is getting great reviews.
Variety says, “Not since ‘Superbad’ has a high school comedy so perfectly nailed how exhilarating it feels to act out at that age, capturing the thrill of making a series of potentially irreversible mistakes with the person who’s always been there for you, even as it acknowledges the inevitability that said confidante can’t be your wing-woman forever.”
IndieWire says it’s “a relentless stream of hilarious antics rooted as much in the authentic chemistry of its two leads as their zany misadventures."
And the American-Statesman's own review calls it “a modern comedy classic.”
All of this made for a jam-packed keynote speech at the Austin Convention Center, where Wilde urged women and other minorities to make inroads as directors in a Hollywood industry that has been dominated by white men.
Wilde, who turned 35 the day of her movie’s premiere in Austin, says she spent most of her career as an actress “trying to be someone else’s muse.” And then, she says, she realized that she could be her own muse — that she could tell her own stories.
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She pointed out that “Booksmart” passes the Bechdel Test — with two women talking to each other about something that doesn’t involve a man. And she said she wanted to a part of such a project.
“I enjoyed controlling my own narrative,” she says, while pointing out the great work of her collaborators, especially writer Katie Silberman.
“We need new perspectives and shocking points of view,” she said.
She gave a series of tips for people who are trying to “crack open the system” and make their own movies.
Those tips included hiring people who have something to prove, rather than people with extensive resumes; learn to pivot and adjust to the difficulties; give yourself permission to change your mind; find at least one true partner/collaborator; don’t sit down and don’t take your foot off the gas; and keep asking for advice.
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She described life on a movie set as “hurry up and work” rather than “hurry up and wait,” mainly because you have to cram as much work as you can into your limited shooting schedule.
After her speech, she took questions from the audience and was asked about her definition of success.
She says that question had a two-fold answer. Personally, she said success would come with “creative freedom.” But from an industry perspective, she said success would come when women “are able to stay at the party even when we make a flop.”
"Booksmart" is scheduled for release May 24.