A two-time Oscar nominee, a friend of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kanye West, an ambassador for Palace, a style icon and a huge interest of the Internet, the media and the public - all this is about one and the same person. As you've probably guessed, it’s Jonah Hill. Lately Mr Hill has made a new addition to his already outstanding career, this time acting as the scriptwriter and director for his debut film ‘mid90s’, which saw a lot of hype before its release and later literally stormed through news feeds.
As 2018 was drawing to a close, Jonah Hill spoke of his intention to invest his energy and artistic potential into the fashion industry and anything that comes with it. Frankly, though the actor, formally speaking, has never been a person of the industry before, recently he has directly interacted with it and has already left his mark. This is emphasised by the well detailed images of his characters on screen as well as his own eccentric appearance in everyday life, collaborations with the best stylists and costume designers, loyalty to street wear aesthetics and general passion for fashion. All this momentarily became a source for publications, online shares and discussions and has led to the development of Jonah's own unparalleled vision. The result is the creation of the film ‘mid90s’, which was quickly dubbed an ode to the contemporary street style.
With ‘mid90s’, you can straight off say that the detailed and thoroughly designed looks of the characters aren't there just for the sake of creating an attractive image. The characters' appearance is, in fact, itself ‘mid90s’. Style is definitely at the heart of this work, as we now know it, and is its main element. This makes ‘mid90s’ unique and perhaps even the first film of its kind. The team at ITK has contemplated on the style in the film and the nuances behind its creation.
On the film...
When the movie was released to the public, critics began comparing it to Larry Clark's 1995 film 'Kids' and have shown no signs of stopping. Essentially, there's hardly anything more similar about these two movies than the presence of skateboards in them. Jonah confirms this in his many interviews. An obvious observation is that Hill's work is far more positive and tells the audience a completely different story. According to the director, the only film that he would show his team as a reference point was the 1983 drama 'This is England'.
Jonah Hill's idea was to create a simple and honest film with real emotions. The inspiration from this came from thinking about how (inaccurately) the cultures of skateboarding and hip hop are presented to the wider audience. Meanwhile, they were the main interests of the man himself in his early years. ‘mid90s’ is the story of searching for family outside one’s home. It's about the times when friends take over the family and become a more significant part of life than the closest relatives. When asked about being cut out for writing the script for a skating film, Jonah replies beautifully and his point is more than clear. He suggests that Michael Jordan would never be able to make the epic film about himself, while a geek who is crazy about Jordan's abilities would.
On the clothes...
In the role of costume designer was Heidi Bivens, a fashion stylist known for her works with Spike Jonze as part of campaigns for Kenzo and Opening Company as well as I-D, Purple, Bon Magazine and L'Uomo Vogue. Heidi was faced with a truly tough challenge of creating authentic outfits that would fully represent the looks from very specific geographical locations and a fixed time period. A very meticulous task.
In the early stage of production Bivens carried out a thorough study of her own collection of skate magazines like Thrasher, Slap and Transworld Skateboarding. Namely, issues from the 1994-1996 era. At the same time Heidi turned to those of her friends and acquaintances who were active skaters in the 90s. Above all, she took interest in any clothes that people had kept from those times. As the designer has acknowledged, she had to recreate a lot of T-shirts herself. She asked brands upfront for original graphics that used to be on the items of the times. To her joy, Jonah's project was already becoming a big thing, making her task somewhat easier.
The next obstacle in creating original outfits was the search for jeans that would match the needed silhouette. To overcome this, Bivens addressed Levi's and other companies that still sell wide leg jeans. It might seem that this was all it takes, but things turned out to be more complicated than that. After doing a few test scenes it became apparent that the jeans don't look wide enough on screen. So, each pair of jeans had to be tailored to each of the characters. Who knows what would have been had they known Polar Big Boy Jean... (it would be hard for us not to mention this, so we are).
As the plot unfolds, Stevie (the main character) goes through a journey of personal transformation (coming of age). The same happens to his wardrobe and style, which kind of highlights the whole process. While at the beginning of the movie the guy is wearing overly childish clothes, his style eventually develops towards blank T-shirts and much wider jeans. By the end of the film the journey of the hero has finished. His image is complete too, constituting a hoodie, baggy jeans and a hat. He takes his place in a group that has wholly accepted him, and this is achieved thanks to the costume artist too. It is due to Heidi Bivens's efforts that the viewer realises what is going on in the film better without noticing it themselves.
An important and interesting fact: throughout the film Stevie does not once appear in 'true' skateboard footwear. Now, this is not at all a fault of the team behind the project, for the story takes place over a rather short time span. At any point in the film the main character simply does not have the money to afford new trainers - in fact, he can only just scrape enough for a new skateboard. This conscious decision makes the film all the more realistic.
Another stylist to have joined the team was Aaron Meza the former chief editor of Skateboard Magazine. He constantly made sure that the chosen looks matched the film's time period as well as possible. Actually, Aaron insisted on making the boards and wheels used in the film much smaller than modern models. What's more, Aaron made sure that the older characters never wore more than 3 different clothing items at once. The street fashion was completely different in the good not-too-old days. The style was reserved, had a practical feel to it, catered to specific needs and corresponded to specific conditions and certain lifestyles. There was no place for the all-encompassing modern term 'peacocks' in the streets.
On the cast...
To the average viewer, the names in the final credits won't mean much, but not paying to the attention to the cast would be a big waste of opportunity.
- Lucas Hedges is a Hollywood's rising star. Having been nominated for the Oscars and The Golden Globe, the actor made his debut under the one and only Wes Anderson in 'Moonrise Kingdom'. He later appeared in great dramas of our time like 'Lady Bird' and 'Manchester by the Sea'. In ‘mid90s’, Lucas plays Ian, the main character's older brother.
- Nakel Smith is a pro skater representing team Supreme, who has appeared multiple times in projects by Fucking Awesome. He takes part in collaborations with Adidas and is rapper known for his work together with Tyler the Creator and Odd Future.
On the music...
- The soundtrack was created by Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Their famous soundtrack for 'The Network' once gained them an Oscar. The OST for ‘mid90s’ includes 4 tracks with the overall duration of 12 minutes.
- Music has played an important role in the life of the script writer and director. Jonah had continued to listen to his 90s playlist up until the start of filming. In order for his younger actors to get a complete feel of the atmosphere of the 90s, he downloaded a special playlist on iPods, which he gave out to each of the guys. Part of it later made an appearance on Spotify and was used as promo material for the film.
- Jonah Hill put lots of effort into convincing the producers to film in 4:3 format. Moreover, ‘mid90s’ was filmed on super-16 film. This was very central to Jonah's idea and was key to the visuals of the film, evoking feelings of nostalgia. The only other film in history to have had the same format while being commercially successful was Wes Anderson's 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'.
- During filming, Jonah called Nakel Smith for a private conversation. He asked Smith to talk about what it's like to be an African American skater. Part of the conversation ended up in the final cut, while the film got a real voice of the young generation.
- Olan Prenatt’s hair made such a strong impression on those working at the production studio that they released special material about his haircut and taking care of it on their blog.
- Jonah Hill asked his actors to hand in their mobile phones to him while working on the movie.
- A bonus awaits you at the end of the film. It’s a traditional skate video in ultra-wide mode recorded while working on the main picture.