Billy the Kid Premiere Q&A - Dec. 5, 2007
Jennifer Venditti’s award-winning documentary Billy the Kid opened to the public last night at the IFC Center. Shot verité, Billy the Kid is a poignant character study of a teenage outsider in Maine named Billy. Venditti masterfully captures the essence of this free-spirited youth with a troubled past as he endures adolescence and falls in love for the first time.
Actor John Turturro (Do the Right Thing, Barton Fink) introduced Billy the Kid. He said he was very taken by the film. It reminded him of the stage in life when everyone feels like an outsider. The film, which also really affected him son, is a beautiful portrait of a boy at a young age, he said.
After the screening, Venditti took questions from the audience.
When asked how she found Billy, Venditti replied that she had been in Maine to cast a short film called Bugcrush. She had gone to a high school there to look for extras. In the lunch room, she noticed all the kids segregated into little cliques at each table. At one table, she spoke to some bullies who told her that they’d once asked this kid to sit with them and it didn’t go well. That kid was Billy. She hadn’t initially set out to make a feature documentary about Billy. Originally, the concept was a road trip about a couple of different subjects, another of which was a woman down in West Virginia. She was more interested in the woman from West Virginia and her directory of photography was more interested in Billy. Neither of them had seen first time love captured on screen like this before. Venditti said that when you meet someone different, you’re conditioned to want to qualify them. In the case of Billy, the question was what made him the way he is today. As much as this is Billy’s story, it represents a much bigger story of humanity.
Another audience member asked her if the camera had an impact on how Billy acted in the documentary. Venditti said that some people who have seen the film think Billy performed for the camera, but she said that Billy was always directing his own film. He was the director of his own life. Billy’s stream of consciousness is all his outer monologue. He sometimes became conscious of the camera. Cumming added that Billy was a little subdued when he was on camera, and didn’t always want us following him, such as in the scene where he takes Heather behind a building to ask her to be his girlfriend.
Venditti was also asked about what Billy is doing now. She said he’s currently a senior in high school and taking driver’s education. He plays the drums now, instead of guitar. He wants to go to community college to study child development. He’s both excited and nervous about the next stage in his life.