Making movies has been completely ruined for newcomer RJ Cyler. His very first feature, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" — he plays Earl — went on to win the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance, where it had its world premiere. But they can't all be like that, right?
This is your first movie, and it won Sundance.
I literally didn't know what Sundance was, I didn't know that movies went to film festivals. I literally thought you shot a movie, it came out in theaters or ended up on Netflix. Or just didn't come out at all. So then when they told me about Sundance and I read up about it, I was like, "Holy crap." And then we made it into Sundance, that was good enough for me. Then all the rest is just the icing on the cake to make it much sweeter, it was so good.
Did they warn you that they don't all do that?
I was like, "Man, we didn't have to set the bar so high." I can't go back to Sundance again with another movie and get the same experience, OK? They have literally ruined Sundance for RJ. How dare you?
What surprised you about making a film for the first time?
A lot of things. [Director] Alfonso [Gomez Rejon]'s camera angles, oh my goodness. To walk into a room and see a camera hanging from the ceiling? Yeah, that took RJ to another place. This is my first film so I don't know what all this dolly work is and contraptions that they're building on set and tracks and stuff. It was just a lot.