the relief of agency

Now and again, when looking for dynamic individuals to interview, one realises that the answer may have been under their nose for as long as can be remembered.

Now and again, you come across individuals who you just KNOW are gonna make it big. You realise when you’re stood next to them, that the things they espouse are not valuable because others have validated it, they’re valuable because you KNOW this individual has a grasp on truth that is just so precious.

This is certainly the case in the instance of 19 year old film director, Elias Lederer.

I say film director, because it’s true. For a sub-20, Lederer has produced BIGTIME dropping three short films on his snazzy website Most impressive is the recent release of a tantalising trailer to his new short film ‘Fear of Dogs.’

The reason this guy is of interest is that he represents what at least feels like a very small demographic of people today. In a word, he represents a group of society that I will coin dreamers. They haven’t realised this so-called truth of the world that your passion is to be put in a box and separated from your career. He’s decided that his passion for film is something to take out of the box and be put on a mantlepiece, and stared at every day to continue to realise that this life is a precious one and as such must be used to realise dreams.

I asked him how he came to be a young director and he said this:

“I’ve always done what interests me. I watched a lot of films and listened to a lot of music growing up. I even made a stop motion film about a bank robbery when I was 9 which was pretty good. In secondary school I became interested mostly in film composing – particularly with my friend Brandon Hopkins. I remember watching The Dark Knight with the sound off together and then composing our own soundtrack for certain scenes. As I watched more and more films I started to explore the people who made them and how they did it. I started shooting and editing experimental videos on my phone and it naturally progressed from there. I got an opportunity working with my now good friend Weston James Palmer in Los Angeles on a film he was making. I learnt a lot and after that trip my vision of what I wanted to do was more concrete. I continued to make very short films with my friends which helped me start to figure out what directing is. Then I decided to write a screenplay for my first short film: Fear of Dogs. I hated the idea of turning 20 without a short under my belt. I’ve now just finished that and am entering film festivals soon.”

The key sentence in that block of quote is the first one,

“I’ve always done what interests me.”

Regrettably, this appears to be an exceptional statement. All too often today, when I ask people of their course or of their university experience, I get a message of misery. I hear people say that their course is boring, that it wont take them anywhere and that they hate their lectures and/or seminars. The natural question that then follows is, why are you here? There’s a chance that people just play off the extent to which they enjoy their university life because they don’t want to appear too much of a ‘keen bean.’ On the other hand, there’s a very real chance that in fact people have sleepwalked into university because that’s what seemed right to do.

What’s unique about Elias is that he didn’t sleepwalk, he measured up:

“There wasn’t a decision to reject university, I just never considered it. When my friends were working on their UCAS applications in college, I was planning what I’d do with all my free time once I was out of formal education.”

I think part of what Platform is getting at in everything we do is to try to bring the person out of the caricature and into the individual. So sure, many of us go to uni, but what are we really doing? What are we thinking about in our quiet moments? Where do we think this is all leading? Answering these questions is hard but what’s so special about Mr. Lederer is that he kinda knows the answers.

This is a guy that decided to go completely against the grain of his friendship group. That takes balls and what’s more, that takes a semblance of certainty. It’s not that Elias knows he’s gonna win the Oscar that he’s always dreamt of, no, that would be a damaging and self-destructive certainty to hold. No, Elias knows not that he will succeed, but that he’ll do every damn thing in his power to get there. That’s all anyone can be asked to do.

After all…

Elias wasn’t told he should email a stranger to acquire an internship in LA, he just did it.

Elias wasn’t told that he’d be in a better place to succeed if he somehow managed to concoct a short film worth talking about, before the age of 20, he just did it.

Lederer missed the memo that said one needed a degree in film production before possessing the skills necessary for film making, he just worked it out.

This is summarised nicely in the advice he gives to young creatives considering embarking on a passion-based career:

“Just figure out what you like doing and do it.”

That ‘just do it’ attitude is one that maybe our generation has lost (nike slogans aside). Maybe in the social media age, we move not according to our own impulses but according to the trends that we see others producing.

In a comment on this, Elias said:

Something I do see a lot is people not doing what they want or being who they want to be. That’s a big problem. Very often people do what they think is expected of them. Social media probably plays a part in that, so perhaps it is a generational issue. When you’re constantly following/looking to other people it’s hard not to compare yourself and feel like you should be doing something similar.”

What’s always fascinated me about this guy is that he’s not interested in what direction the wind is blowing, not remotely, he’s more keen to explore who’s making the wind blow that way and how he can replicate them. I think that’s gorgeous.

That’s not to say it’s been a care free ride for Elias, I questioned him on the biggest challenges he’s had to face:

“I struggled a lot at school and in education in general because I didn’t want to be there. I felt like it directly conflicted with what I wanted to do, I didn’t like my teachers, and found it difficult to make friends.

Outside of that, one of the biggest challenges has been learning to only care about impressing myself and a very select group of people. It has been hard at times to not feel answerable to someone.”

Now I’m not arguing that Elias has found a formula that we should all follow, far from it.

I adore university and all the wonderful opportunities it possesses but that’s not the point.

The point is that if you decide to do something, then just go for it and don’t feel restrained by societal pressures and expectations because you’ll come to regret it. Think hard about the life you hold and the potential for greatness that you possess. It’s hard to decide what the future should look like and it’s impossible to know. Elias is worth talking about because he’s giving it his best, he’s held on to his hope of a kind universe that rewards hard work. 

So let’s take that passion out of the box and reposition to be front and centre of our thinking, this is a life that’s got the potential to be fantastic.

By Peter R. Jacobs

If you like what you heard about Elias Lederer then you can find more here:


Instagram: @eliaslederer

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