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Bo Burnham’s career started on the Internet.
He was catapulted into the entertainment industry after YouTube videos of him performing silly songs in his childhood bedroom went viral. His career took him bounding from comedy albums to stand-up specials, bit parts in sitcoms to starring in his own television series, directing specials for Jerrod Carmichael and Chris Rock, and now, his very first feature film, "Eighth Grade."
Burnham’s directorial debut chronicles a week in the life of a 13-year-old girl as she graduates from middle school. Confessional videos that his main character, Kayla, records on her laptop function as vignettes throughout the film. But this is not a nostalgic story of a teen whose online antics lead to unexpected celebrity. Instead, Burnham focuses on a more anonymous experience of digital life.
“I've always been annoyed that we only talk about the people that go viral on the Internet,” Burnham told VICE News. “And as someone that goes viral, it's actually not that interesting.
The result is a gripping snapshot of anxiety and adolescence in the digital age, but unlike most Hollywood glamorizations of youth, Burnham leans into hyperrealism. He casts real teens, lets hormonal acne have its close-up, and deliberately leaves in every “Um,” “Like,” and “You know.”
“Rather than making a movie that makes fun of a YouTube celebrity with a bunch of subscribers and stuff which everyone has done, why not make a movie about a kid that's watching one of those people? That wants to be them and is sort of drowning in the cultural standards set by all those people?" Burnham explains. "Because that's really what's happening.”
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