Babysitter, which premiered at SXSW last year and was just released on iTunes and Amazon, is an exposé on the chaos of middle-class life alongside an unusual sexual awakening — Ray (Max Burkholder), a confused kid in high school, falls in love with his babysitter. 

No Film School interviewed writer/director Morgan Krantz twice: once just after his SXSW 2015 premiere and once a couple weeks before his May 3rd VOD release. Below, we juxtapose some of Krantz's answers to get a sense of the perceptions and lessons that have calcified over time. Krantz also talks about how he learned to embrace the personal nature of his storytelling.

NFS: This feels like a very personal story. How do you approach that subject matter without it feeling overly diaristic?

Krantz (2015): The characters are combinations of real people, versus based on any one person. The hardest character to write was the protagonist, the kid. One of my biggest fears is that I would make some kind of self-indulgent diary entry.

I was in the middle of another script that I had spent a year on and I finally realized that it was really bad. It was too much of an intellectual approach. I was really disappointed with this script and I had abandoned it, and I went on this really depressed hike. I realized that I just wanted to do something that was simple and honest and emotionally engaging.

Krantz (2016): It's weird; when I made the movie, I didn't know that it was about me. I was really hiding that fact, even from myself. I would imagine that in the interview we did at SXSW I was not very upfront about it. It took several months and until we played at the Deauville Film Festival, watching it with a bunch of foreigners, that I saw that this was about an experience [I had]. My mom was going through a crazy divorce, I was 13, and we had an orphan babysitter living with us. It was a crazy time.

"It takes strength to withstand the backlash and the questions of the cast and crew when you want to do something subversive or disgusting or divisive​."

NFS: First films are interesting because you're seeing people work through their ability to balance idealism and pragmatism in real-time.

Krantz (2015): I love first movies. I feel like that's a genre of its own; the messiness of it is what makes a first film interesting. I love the blemishes. The mistakes are all a part of it and I tried—maybe too much—to embrace that. You only make a first film once.

Morgan Krantz interviewed on No Film School for his debut feature 'Babysitter'

NFS: Now that you've had time to absorb your own first film, what are some of the "blemishes" you see?

Krantz (2016): If I could make this film again, I would probably shoot a lot more fucking. I would make it much more explicit. I would give less of a fuck about pissing people off or being politically incorrect.

It’s rough, making the first film, all the pressure that mounts and mounts as you get closer to shooting. It can wear you down and scare you and you become afraid—not to mention all the people asking you questions about it in prep. These things all tempt you to tame it, to cool it off, to make it more palatable or less offensive or “clearer”—it takes strength to withstand the backlash and the questions of the cast and crew when you want to do something subversive or disgusting or divisive. I didn’t crumble too much, but there are a few places where I wish I went further.

"An audience is just a bunch of individuals, so it’s better to write for people you know intimately—including yourself."

If you believe in the authenticity of what you’re doing and it’s true to what you’re saying—not just being subversive to be subversive, 'cause that’s whack—that's a good thing. Next time, I just want to go farther and deeper and darker. Next time I make a film, I will make it for only one special person. I find that it’s easier to conceive of one special person or even a group of your close friends than it is to imagine an audience. An audience is just a bunch of individuals, so it’s better to write for people you know intimately—including yourself, I suppose. 

Babysitter Morgan Krantz No Film School'Babysitter'

NFS: What have you learned about casting, doing rehearsal, and directing actors?

Krantz (2015): Sometimes the less dimensional characters are easier to come up with dialogue for. We did a lot of rehearsal, a lot of takes. The rehearsal was for me more than anything. It's calmer to work shit out. I was messing with the script like crazy right up until shooting. The night before our first day of shooting I sent the final script out and I called it "Final Final." 

"I’ve learned to be more flexible, to look at what’s happening in front of me with the actors as opposed to trying to squeeze them into my idea of the scene."

For casting, I heard about Daniéle [Watts] while I was writing the script and I knew immediately that she was the person. She came into to audition even after we had read a bunch of other people—even though I kinda knew it was her, it was good to make sure. She just blew everybody out of the water. That casting was very synchronistic. I think she's probably the only one that could've done that role.

Krantz (2016): There are a lot of good actors; they're all just different. Once you find the good ones, it's just about picking your flavor. We read about 100 kids for the role of Ray, and it was down to two kids, Max [Burkholder] being one of them. I was freaking out trying to figure out which one to go with and I realized they both have the same birthday, which was my birthday! But I took it as a really good sign and I think you really have to believe in the casting gods. There's so much out of your control that you have to develop these crazy superstitions. If somebody becomes unavailable, then you have to believe the gods are moving you towards the movie it's supposed to be.

I’ve learned to be more flexible, to look at what’s happening in front of me with the actors as opposed to trying to squeeze them into my idea of the scene. After Babysitter premiered at SXSW, I felt a bit dried up with the techniques I had available to me—in the year or so it took to make Babysitter, I employed every little trick and tool I knew and wanted to kind of burn down the structure and start fresh.

Max Burkholder in 'Babysitter''Babysitter'

NFS: How did you approach the sexual scenes, in terms of making your actors feel comfortable going to those places?

Krantz (2015): My approach was to be very overt and transparent about it. You just have to jump in. It was like, "time to make out!" I tried to be super pragmatic and emotionless about it, as if it [were] a camera move. "Okay, so put your hand right up that dress now." I also make fun of them, too, keeping it light and ridiculous, because when you're filming any sex scene it feels ridiculous.

Krantz (2016): Daniele is very open sexually, and you have Max, who's this genius kid. I just treated it like it wasn't a big deal, just being clinically cold about it.

"We had a list of businessmen from my producer and we cold-called them boiler-room style from my bedroom."

NFS: What was something that you didn't expect to learn while making this film?

Krantz (2015): One major blind spot I had that I feel like I want to share for other filmmakers was wardrobespecifically, the quantity of wardrobe. Everything I had directed before this was one outfit. I never got any bruises from wardrobe; it was always very easy. We did a lot of prep, but I don't think anything prepared me for the amount of clothes that were needed, and then continuity. We'd be shooting a scene and I would think, "Okay, maybe this scene goes here—but fuck, the shirt!" So I just started throwing "evergreen outfits" into the mix in case I wanted to put a scene somewhere. 


NFS: How did you finance this film?

Krantz (2015): Just private financing. We had a list of businessmen from my producer, Luke [Baybak], and we cold-called them boiler-room style from my bedroom. We didn't even have the all the money before we started shooting; we had an awesome crew working way below their day rate because of someone's relationship to them. We were running out of money as we were shooting, and they didn't know we didn't have money to pay them, but Luke was in the trailers calling people in the Bermuda triangle.

Everybody was a first-time film investor except for Galo LeBron, who invested some money in my short film before this, and he loved the experience. We actually sold that short film all over the world, so he saw a little bit of action on that.

NFS: Did you get offers immediately after SXSW?

Krantz (2016): We had a number of offers and then we waited it out to hear from certain people. MarVista came through with the biggest offer, so we took it. They're doing Latin America and North America.

"I was ashamed to tell such a personal story.... but I believe that every movie should be about you."

NFS: What's the biggest lesson you learned on this film?

Krantz (2015): I didn't go to film school or anything. I think the style needs to follow the function, so next time I'm really looking for even more of a robust fusion of content informing the style. The biggest things I learned were about trust: I learned to trust myself more, my taste in people. I learned to trust other people. There were enough instances where I didn't take someone's suggestion and then I realized that they were right. So I learned to trust.

Krantz (2016): Realizing that this movie was about me, but also realizing that I only went part of the way on that. I wish I had I made it and knowingly, openly admitted that this was my shit, and really dug into that reality. I had to always excuse it to myself as something else because I was kind of ashamed to tell a story that was so personal.

Max Burkholder has the same birthday as me. Danielle Watts is the spitting image of my real-life babysitter; her voice is exactly the same. So I did a lot of things right, but it just took the confidence to get one done so that next time I make a personal film I will really get in there. I don't want to be closed off or protective of the story. I think you finish a film, you premiere at SXSW, and you get distribution, it gives you a little confidence. So I want to do that again but 100x more, really open my heart and bleed and not be ashamed of how real it is. I believe that every movie should be about you.