Directing your first feature film is, of course, always a dream come true. More often than not, the road someone takes to get to that place, is a story almost as, if not more interesting, than the actual film.
The same could be said of Elijah Bynum, even if one could argue his path has been way easier than most.
Let me set the stage: Bynum, young, ambitious and full of ideas, finishes his second script ever. The script ends up on the Black List (which is basically Hollywood execs favorite screenplays of the year that have yet to be produced), and then, of course, it gets produced. But wait – Bynum also gets to direct the film. And, did I forget … Timothée Chalamet is playing the main character.
Doesn’t sound so complicated, does it?
Well, according to Bynum, it was, at times “really exciting,” and, of course “really terrifying,” and though he “thought he had an idea of how it was going to be, but nothing could have really prepared” him “for what it was like,” which pretty much sounds on par for the course. And there were, of course, unexpected challenges, like the fact that the topic and the rating made the script interesting, but the movie hard to actually produce.
That’s Hollywood for you.
Plus, the fact that planning is one thing, but actually getting things done is completely different. To this extent, Bynum consulted with other filmmakers, but tried to keep true to himself and the way he wanted to do things and not depend too much on what others were saying. That is, after all, the only way to make a movie your own.
Especially one that is, at the end of the day, so personal, as it’s based on a “mostly true story” of people Bynum actually knew.
And by mostly true, of course, he means he fictionalized the details of something that actually happened to people he once knew, because that’s what screenwriters do, all the time. If you’re friends with one, you’ve been warned.
In a way, he wanted to capture – and he did – a story that “we’re all smart enough to know where it’s probably headed,” but it’s still worth examining “how innocently it all started” and how people sometimes take the roads they’re not supposed to, even when they know that’s not where they should be going.
The movie Hot Summer Nights might not feel like a groundbreaking movie, in fact, it feels more like good old summer fun than anything else, but there’s something very raw about the treatment of a story that nonetheless takes a lot of the expected turns, and there’s something different about the tone of the whole movie that speaks to what Bynum was able to do, not just as a screenwriter, but as a director.
And that might just be what makes this tale exceptional, and different. It’s, after all, not about your first or second screenplay, in Hollywood, it’s about permanence. It’s about what you can do next.
We don’t expect this is the last we’ll be hearing of Bynum, and that’s a good thing.
Hot Summer Nights opens this Friday.