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