April 9, 2019
SXSW 2019

How to Make a Coming of Age Movie that Doesn't Suck: Ninian Doff on 'Boyz in the Wood'

Think of your film as a love letter from youthhood rather than a love letter to youthhood

Making a coming of age film can be a tricky thing. There's a delicate line between teenagers keepin' it real and overly nostalgic reminiscing. Even though it's his first feature, it's clear that Ninnian Doff will never have a problem toeing that line and is truly a master of keepin' it real.

SXSW Midnight standout Boyz in the Wood follows a group of kids as they set off deep in the Scottish Highlands, as part of a camping program for troubled youth. As they push through the wilderness they encounter everything from rap-loving farmers to hallucinogenic rabbit shits. What really sets the film apart from the traditional coming of age story, however, is its strong influence from hip hop culture.

This might be obvious from a film whose title so closely resembles John Singleton's 1991 classic, but Ninnian Doff's film is about as contemporary in tone as you can possibly get. While it's his debut film, the director made a name for himself in his music video collaborations with acts like Run the Jewels, and his past work is clearly seen in the frenetic graphics, pulsating soundtrack and blitzkrieg action that pervade through the feature.

We sat down with Doff and his cast of boyz soon after their opening night premiere at SXSW to talk about shooting a film that's 95 percent exteriors, building trust with young actors and how to make a coming of age film that doesn't suck.


For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival is sponsored by Blackmagic Design.     

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