During the course of the Tribeca Film Festival, I've tried to sit down with as many filmmakers, actors and writers as I could. In order to bring Charlie Bartlett to life, it took help from a rookie director (who also happened to be a 20-year Hollywood veteran) and a very talented up-and-coming actor. What I was most interested in was finding out was how you go about making a film like Charlie Bartlett; one that deals with some serious topics like teenage drug use, deperession and even attempted suicide -- yet, at the same time, create this charming little comedy. Earlier this week, I sat down with the film's director, Jon Poll, and it's star, Anton Yelchin (Alpha Dog), to discuss some of these things. Check it out:
Cinematical: Who's the target audience for this film? Is it for kids, is it for adults, or is it for both?
Jon Poll: Well, I'll say two things: It's for teenagers, anyone who's ever been a teenager or had a teenager -- anyone who's a human being, really. I mean, I hope it's a movie for humans. I do have to say that it is an R-rated film, and there are kids giving other kids drugs, but ultimately the film is a very hopeful, positive one, but we need to be careful saying that kids should come with their parents if they're too young. But I do think it's for mature kids who come with their parents; I think they'll really like it.
Cinematical: That's one of the interesting things. I didn't know it was R-rated when I first saw it, but I think it's a film that teenagers -- especially young teenagers -- should see. So, was it risky going for the 'R'; were there people trying to pull for a PG-13?
JP: Well it was risky; we initially tried to get studio financing along with SKE. They jumped on pretty early, and I had relationships with a couple of different studios ... but everyone shied away; they were too terrified. But SKE still really wanted to make the movie. And they believed in the movie enough to say yes. There were questions about the 'R' rating, but all along I said you're not going to get away from it. The truth of the matter is the minute you have a kid giving another kid drugs, you're in an 'R' rating. So, we let people swear -- ya know, honestly, in our previews, people were shocked it was an R-rated movie. You'd ask a focus group, and 18 out of 20 people would say it was PG-13. Because, ultimately, it's a very positive film with an incredibly hopeful message and a character who is a hopeful optimist.