Elsie Fisher plays Kayla in Eighth Grade, the feature directorial debut from Bo Burnham, who also wrote the screenplay. Kayla is a pretty average young woman going into the final week of her eighth-grade year, filled with the same sorts of tensions, worries and fears that many of us had when we were on the cusp of such a fundamental change.
Kayla just wants to get through this last week intact, both emotionally and physically, but the push and pull between the known and unknown keeps things on edge. She loves her dad (Josh Hamilton) who loves her, but no one wants their dad to be hanging around all the time at that age. She’s awkward around boys and most everyone else. In other words, like all kids at that stage, she doesn’t know who she’s going to be yet.
Kayla is looking directly at the camera on the poster, something obscuring about half her face. The image conveys that this is a stark look at a teenage girl, which is the main point. The movie’s Sundance appearance is touted at the top while a big quote from Indiewire’s Kate Erbland praises the movie at the bottom.
Kayla is making her own YouTube video in the first trailer, talking about being yourself and not changing things about yourself just to be liked. That’s true for her as most people at school think she’s quiet when she’s really not. Her clueless dad is just one thing that’s making the last week of eighth grade weird, a list that also includes teachers trying to be hip and most everything else in the world. There are boys and friends and strange social dynamics that everyone is trying to figure out and which feel like the end of the world at the time but which really aren’t.
Fisher looks great and this looks like the rare movie (at least lately) about teens that is just about teens and their outsized lives, not adding on revenge plots or other strange stories to try and underline some point or another. If it’s as simple and heartfelt as what’s shown here this could be a really great movie that picks up word of mouth.
Online and Social
For the most part there’s just the trailer on A24’s official website for the movie along with links to its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles. One nice contextual feature is the scroll of pull-quotes from critics are presented as a stream of text-like updates on the right of the page. On the studio’s information page you can also find the poster and a synopsis.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A24 sponsored a presence for the movie at VidCon, the popular gather of video creators and media companies who want to get their attention. There’s also been some advertising done via paid social media ads, but that’s all I’ve been exposed to or can find.
Media and Publicity
The movie was among those debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, where it received pretty decent praise and buzz and where Burnham talked about why he turned to filmmaking after burning out on the life of a standup comic. After that it was also screened at the SXSW Film Festival.
Burnham continued to be the focal point of much of the publicity, with interviews about how his career has evolved and why he decided to tell this story, particularly given his history with YouTube. There were also a few features on Fisher, including how she worked with Burnham to make the story more real, about how she felt it’s a good portrait of life at that age and more.
A24 has put together its usual very solid effort for a movie that has a lot of good word of mouth accompanying it as it finally opens for the public. The trailer and poster both present Fisher as a bright young talent who looks like she captures all the conflicting emotions of her character. Her efforts on the publicity circuit, combined with Burnham’s help to make the movie look pretty attractive, assuming the audience can find it.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.