Today, young Dutch filmmaker Vincent Boy Kars will premiere his first long film at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA). Shot over the course of one month, Independent Boy deals with the challenges that his generation faces during the quarter-life crisis while proposing solutions to overcome them. During a somewhat extensive conversation with Glamcult, the 27-year-old talent opened up to talk about the anxieties that his peers struggle with as the result of an overtly idealised—and largely fragile—perception of “success”. And how producing this film, in combination with Vincent’s personal achievements, not only questions the idea of success among his viewers, but also within himself.
Between your first film, My First Porn Film, and Independent Boy, what’s happened?
My First Porn Film won the Wildcard awarded by the Nederlands Filmfonds for the best graduation film of 2015. With that money I made Independent Boy. I think the focus for my first film was put on the construction. When I was 11, I used to watch Big Brother with my father and was always fascinated by the concept of seeing people in a made-up setting while they’re being observed by a camera and further on, by the viewers. Take the example of a zoo but replace animals with people; you see the animal in the people. My First Porn Film was inspired by that fascination for reality shows and their whole construction.
While directing this film, I felt the need for doing fiction but I simply didn’t know how. So I decided to merge fiction and reality, and to set an A and B point so that there’d be a narrative in between. Before Independent Boy, I saw many friends struggling with the so-called “quarter-life crisis”—I hate the term, but it’s real. And instead of making a cliché film that addresses the problem instead of the solution, I looked for a new concept. I had friends who had panic attacks and ever-rising anxieties regarding the future, and since it was confronting me on a daily basis, this was the only theme on my mind: the problem of my generation.
What’s the problem of your generation?
I think we have a lot of chances and if we want something, we can get it. That’s a fact, but also an enormous pressure. At the end it’s a race and it brings many anxieties. I have that anxiety too. I feel anxious the whole day even though I’m currently doing right with my career.
You’ve mentioned you wanted to merge reality and fiction in Independent Boy. What were the techniques you used to blur these boundaries?
Metin, one of my best friends, and I had a very long conversation about his life and I thought I wanted to change somehow his routine, his life. I told HALAL about my idea and we thought of giving tasks to Metin to make him more independent and successful. Here, the documentary part is that it was very real and personal.
The fictional part is that he was placed in a constructed environment: we made him move out of his mum’s house, where he’d been living until then. And also, it was the way it was filmed: it gives you the feeling that during this month his life is a staged film because it’s very much controlled, and there are scenes where he is alone in certain settings and that feels, I think, very fictional. I’m playing with these elements a lot.
So, you and HALAL made these decisions in order to question the social meaning attributed to “success”, right? What does that term mean to you?
That’s so complex. Where do I have to start? To me it has changed during the process of creating this film. Before we shot the film, I was thinking about success more in an ambitious way. Since I won the prize from the Dutch Filmfonds, I thought the world was mine and started wondering why my friends weren’t doing anything about it if being successful was an option. So back then I thought both success and identity were equal to career. That’s also why I thought Metin had to put his music out there, because then he could be successful with his art. He likes to make music but he’s not performing so no one responds to it and therefore, he isn’t making money. In that sense, he wasn’t successful.
But while shooting and editing the film, my view on success changed. The biggest lesson for both Metin and I was that believing that our career is our identity was not okay. I think I judged people because of their jobs within the system—perhaps working as a bartender or a cashier—but why? There is no reason to judge people like that. To be honest, I’m still judging people in a way and I don’t like that about myself. I’m working on that. I needed this film to realize that.
Now, what does success mean to me at the moment? I don’t know. I’m working on it. After all these promising projects I’m pretty exhausted to even enjoy my own success. I’m a happy man but—and it sounds really cliché—I feel empty.
Why this title, Independent Boy, keeping in mind that you made the most substantial daily life decisions for Metin?
It was about growing up, from a little man to a man, and how difficult that is. And here I may be spoiling the film a bit, but at the end of the month he goes back to living with his mum and in that way, the title feels a bit tragic. But I like that. Real life is very complex, and his life is very complex. So, how independent is he? I want people to think about that.
Was Metin cooperative with all the decision you made for him? Was he uncomfortable at times? How did it work?
Sometimes it was too much for him because he was too tired and we had planned a lot of stuff for each day. Sometimes I was standing in front of his apartment knocking on his door, waiting and waiting… We had plenty of things to do but he wanted to sleep everyday so I think that was the most difficult part.
Other than that, he was really willing to do things, and he understood why I made these decisions, what those meant for him, the film, and me. It was hard to get him out of bed because he was tired, but I think he was tired of life too. But then, while he was doing these things he felt better, like, “oh wow, I’m doing something with my day!” and that was great to see.
After all these tasks and decisions, would you say Metin’s become successful to some extent?
I think so. He’s happier. His self-image was very negative and it’s gotten better. He now works on his music everyday. He has something to do and his music is growing; after publicly performing in the last scene of the film he’s booked for shows in different cities in Europe. He’s developing himself and feels better in general. His passion is receiving positive response and that makes him happy. That’s how he’s more successful.
Throughout our conversation, I’ve noticed that you initially referred to success as the equivalent of a progressive career but now, by means of making this film, success has become based on happiness.
It sounds very cliché, but it is! This is why I don’t feel very successful at the moment—and that’s weird. Now I’m in that crisis [laughs]. Maybe I’ll have to make a film about myself.
Would you say this film has made you reflect on yourself?
Yeah, this film was not only a mirror of Metin but also has been a mirror of myself. I’m thinking about that everyday, it’s really changed me and I’m still processing it. Since it’s about growing up and an early-age crisis, it’s difficult not to talk in clichés.