A Real-Life Youth

The Youths was inspired by my will to create teenage characters that fall outside of a teenage setting. It seems as though every time I turn on the TV, there is always the same young girl, wearing the same outfit, saying the same things, and that girl doesn't ever seem to be representative of how most young ladies actually look and feel. With The Youths, I aimed to follow two kids most people might not have known existed if they had only been exposed to mainstream media. Albert and Ida are serious individuals who have spent their lives unaffected by school and their peers. It isn't until their paths cross that they even begin to believe another person of the same age might have something important to say.

As someone who has always felt too old, too early, creating characters that showcased that perspective was extremely important. Albert and Ida have skipped years in so many ways -- in their intelligence, in their style, their mannerisms -- but not in their experiences. They are what most would consider to be behind for their age: They've never been in love, never had sex and never even been kissed.

Up until the shooting of the film, I myself had been in the same position as my character Ida. I went through everything she went through at the same time she did, I lived it. It was surprising and exhilarating to make something scripted that was so undeniably real. At the same time, it was so unbelievably anxiety-inducing to put myself in a position where my first sexual experience would appear on film. The entire situation made me terrified to the point that I became physically ill.

The day before we were supposed to shoot our "romantic" scene, I woke up in the middle of the night shaking and sick. I ran to the bathroom to unleash my anxieties, and, boy, was I successful. The next morning I texted the crew and told them we'd have to postpone; I had the flu. Everyone was very sweet about my "illness," but about half of them were unable to reschedule. So a chair would have to take their place.

We shot a few more days, but never had time to get to the "the big scene" (as the other actor and I referred to it). The more time that passed without getting it done, the more it built up in my mind. When the day finally came, he arrived at my house, unaffected yet rushed. I was thinner than I had been at the beginning of shooting, and so nervous I was unable to converse. We sat at the table waiting for the guy with the camera to show; when he did, we didn't get up. We sat, hoping the scene would shoot itself... It didn't.

I threw up before the scene, but then I felt good. Like a boxer before a fight, I was ready. For the first many takes we were unable to touch, just like we had been before. We were in the room for about five hours; each hour grew hotter than the next, from the lights. In between takes he'd tell me he absolutely had to leave because his mother had made him chicken and he was hungry. You expect that you may be compared to other girls, but never to chicken. After tons and tons of takes, we forced ourselves on each other, for the sake of the film. When it was over, we both felt like we had given a pint of blood. We hadn't, but we had given some firsts.

Albert and Ida remain the sole members of the entirety of my sexual experiences. I'm still unsure of where they stop and I begin. Had Ida been in my position I think she would have been more zen, but then again she is on Paxil, and she isn't real. She's just a girl on TV.