‘Teenage Kicks’ is the gutsy coming of age feature film debut from director Craig Boreham that has earned him the accolade of being a compelling new voice in Australian queer cinema.
The film stars Miles Szanto as Mik, a young man with an explosive burgeoning sexuality as he navigates a minefield of adolescence and his growing attraction to his best friend Dan. Miles received the Best Actor Award for the role at the prestigious Iris Prize in Wales with the festival jury saying “Miles Szanto’s performance was amazing. The juxtaposition between physical strength and emotional vulnerability was mesmerizing.”
‘Teenage Kicks’ is available on Dekkoo so we caught up with Miles who is now based in Los Angeles to hear about making the movie.
You’ve been acting since you were really young. Tell us a bit about your work up to now.
I’ve been doing this thing for a long time. I realized not long ago that my first professional acting gig was 18 years ago this year. I was incredibly timid and shy as a kid and started acting classes as a way to speak up a little. When I was pretending to be somebody else I had a confidence I never felt as myself. I was obsessed with the idea of storytelling and saw that as an actor I got to bring the story to life and be a vehicle for the message of that story. I recognized how powerful it was as a medium quite young.
‘Teenage Kicks’ is a very dark and sexy film. It’s a different direction from your previous work. What drew you to it?
Dark and sexy is a good summary of the film. I first encountered the film in it’s early incarnation as the short film version ‘Drowning’. I think I was 16 at the time, and up to that point I didn’t feel like the work I had been doing or the representations of adolescence on screen generally were really authentic. It mostly seemed to step past the agony and that fear that young people often experience. Every decision you make has this weight that feels like the effects will be permanent when you are figuring out who you are and who you want to be in the world. When I read ‘Drowning’ it felt honest and raw and spoke to a lot of the feelings I couldn’t quite articulate just yet. It felt like an important story to tell. There’s something magical about seeing a film and having that feeling of “me too” and that’s what excited me about ‘Drowning’ and ultimately ‘Teenage Kicks’. The opportunity of telling that story and giving voice to young people who had that feeling and maybe hadn’t felt represented before.
We see an awful lot of you in ‘Teenage Kicks’ and there’s some pretty racy sex scenes? What was it like shooting them?
Honestly, when it comes to the sexy stuff in this film it is treated the same as any other scene. What’s great about the moments of sexual intimacy (or lack there-of) in the film are they all serve a purpose to the narrative. I only really get uncomfortable with those kind of scenes if it feels like the only purpose is to titillate. So long as it’s connected to the story and arc it feels important and organic. Also important to mention that there are moments of full-frontal nudity in this film. Which I would have no problem with, if it wasn’t for the fact that we shot this film in the dead of winter. People don’t realize how cold Sydney get’s in the winter. I didn’t have the luxury of warmth to make sure every inch of me was picture ready… if you know what I mean…
‘Teenage Kicks’ is a pretty dark movie. Were there any lighter moments on set?
There were a few in retrospect. Although at the time because of the seriousness of the film we didn’t realize the hilarity of the moments… We shot a lot of scenes around this gorgeous pool at a mansion on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Which in theory is a fantastic location. But it had sat there unheated, chilled by the ocean breeze all winter. The pool was unimaginably cold. And considering I’d lost almost 20lbs for the role, I was chilled to the bone… We could only really be in the pool for thirty second intervals… Daniel Webber played my best friend and the object of my teen desire, Dan, and he and I would jump in, pulling happy faces trying to look all summery as our bodies were being frozen like ice blocks and then bolt to a warm shower until we had to jump in again. After about the third time of this sadistic torture method by Director Craig Boreham, we were on the floor of the shower, spooning in our underwear for body warmth, tears in our eyes, asking why we’d chosen this career path and if it was really worth it… Haha!