After the recent death of motion picture and television director Tony Scott (Top Gun), I became aware of "Boy and Bicycle," a 27 minute short film his older brother Ridley Scott (Bladerunner, Black Hawk Down)had created as a film student in 1965. It featured Tony as a teen skipping school and riding his bike around his English coastal town. We hear his interior dialogue as Tony's mind wanders from random thoughts on his home life, his school life and his immediate surroundings.
This fictional film honestly captures the mood, sarcasm, frustration and curiosity of a sixteen year-old boy. The deceptively simple plot line shows off the talents of both Scott brothers, who would go on to develop substantial careers in mainstream motion pictures and television.
"Boy and Bicycle" reminded me an experience I had some years ago when I brought a half dozen teens from a filmmaking workshop I was teaching to a film festival in Los Angeles. We attended a screening featuring a collection of short films created by high school students across the city. The films ranged from comedy to drama to animation and documentary, all a few minutes or less in length.
After the screening, I asked the boys which films had the greatest impact. They weren't interested in the action films, or films on current issues impacting teens, or anything that reflected the high production value that some teen videos can have in a company town like L.A. Instead, they were in awe of a series of documentary-style films that, like the fictional "Boy and Bicycle," featured the introspective voice-over thoughts of individual subject/filmmakers about their lives, set to video featuring moments in their lives, often seeming to wander aimlessly, as the Boy in Ridley Scott's film.
The boys, who were residents at a facility for those recently released from juvenile hall, especially valued the simple, honest nature of these short autobiographical films. To them, at that time in their lives, honesty was rare and unusual.
Honesty, after all, is at the core of all great and effective art - whether a painting, music, motion pictures - or even a vlog on YouTube. Learning to create can be a challenge - but the struggle to create truthfully can last a lifetime.
Though it's a forty-seven year old black and white short film, I recommend catching up with "Boy and Bicycle" - hyper-personal and directly engaging, you may discover that it speaks directly to the age of YouTube.
What do you think?