Yes is available now on all major streaming platforms.
In recent years the pitfalls of fame in childhood have found a new and distinctive voice in cinema. From Honey Boy to documentaries like Showbiz Kids, each has shone a light on the dangers of children entering a world of money and power. However, as the individual enters adulthood, the devastating loss of the fame built-in childhood remains shrouded in darkness. Just as the links between childhood abuse and the potentially destructive behaviour of the victim as they become an adult also remain largely silent.
These topics carry a powerful, uncomfortable, yet crucial social dialogue on long-term pain and trauma, highlighting the need to understand further the long-term effects of manipulation and abuse experienced as a child. While at the same time further uncovering the darker side of a Hollywood system that has often used the innocence of youth as a cash cow, with little regard for the individual at the centre of its business model.
Based on his off-Broadway play of the same name, Tim Realbuto’s Yes follows ex-child star Patrick Nolan (Tim Realbuto), whose career was cut short through trauma and public judgement following an accusation he seduced a young actor. The small apartment he now resides in is a den of prescription drugs, whiskey and memories as he tutors mediocre actors searching for their big break. One evening Patrick begrudgingly agrees to attend his niece’s high school play with his sister Annie (Jenna Leigh Green). While there, Patrick is surprised and enamoured by the engaging performance of 17-year-old Jeremiah (Nolan Gould), the boy’s heartfelt and natural performance shining in an ocean of mediocre talent while igniting a passion in Patrick long since extinguished.
Following the performance, Patrick contacts the school, offering his services as a mentor to the young man, believing Jeremiah to be a star in waiting. The eager teenager duly agrees to attend private lessons, despite his mother’s protestations, who believes that Patrick is a pervert and criminal following the accusations made years ago. However, for Jeremiah, the opportunity to further his career outweighs any doubts he may have about the ex-child star. The subsequent meetings ignite a therapeutic exploration of regret, opportunity and desire. The result is the birth of a bright new star and the final dying glow of another.
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Despite the vast social issues sitting at the heart of Yes, Tim Realbuto’s screenplay is delicate, accessible and nuanced. Here the humour of the first act slowly descends into something far more uncomfortable as the trauma and secrets Patrick holds slowly unravel through performance, discussion and manipulation. Each scene between Tim Realbuto and Nolan Gould emanates electricity that is only found in the best theatre productions, with one man seeking escape and progression while the other revisits a past that continues to haunt his present.
We caught up with Tim Realbuto to discuss the social issues sitting at the heart of Yes, and its journey from stage to screen.
Hi Tim, many thanks for taking the time to talk to me about Yes. I loved the film and the bravery of the story at its heart. Yes started its life as an off-broadway play. Can you tell us about the origins of the story and its characters?
First off, thank you for writing such beautiful words about the piece. It is greatly appreciated.
Yes did start off as a play. However, finding origins is hard. The character of Patrick is very loosely based on many teachers I’ve had in the past, both the good and bad. The other characters were pretty much created from thin air.
I have heard that the transition from play to screen came from an audience member’s suggestion; is that true? And were there any challenges in adapting Yes for its big-screen debut?
Yes, it came from a director who saw the play who also thought it should be a film. I won’t say they were as many challenges as you think. In fact, it was exciting to expand the script to different locations and add characters only talked about in the play. For example, I had been talking about my sister Annie for four years while doing the play. And I feel like she was finally ready to have a voice of her own.
Rob Margolies has done a brilliant job directing Yes. But did you ever consider sitting in the director’s chair for the film?
I was asked if I wanted to, and I thought about it for about three seconds before realising that I didn’t know enough. I wanted the film to be truly beautiful and special.
In Yes, your character is haunted by a traumatic past, managing his anger, pain, and despair through a mixture of drink and drugs. How did you go about researching and building the character?
First, I had to find out what made him that way. When I figured out what had happened to him as a child, it all came into place. I also looked at all of our current Hollywood stars who have had similar situations happen to them and how they cope.
Playing a character like Patrick must take you personally into some dark corners of the human experience. How does that affect you, and how do you leave it behind?
This one was tough. It was hard to leave Patrick behind at the end of the day, but once I got home and unwound with a little comedy on TV or a book, I was finally able to let him go. Luckily, his trauma never happened to me personally, but playing it truthfully (without having a method actor breakdown) was definitely very difficult. Being too method-y can be very dangerous for your health and for your psyche. You have to let someone like Patrick go at the end of the shooting day.
Patrick reflects many of the behaviours men display when trying to block out past trauma and pain, particularly in his use of drink and drugs. His self-destructive behaviour reflects the barriers many men still face in expressing the emotions they seek to oppress. Would you like to see Patrick’s journey in the film act as a catalyst for further discussions on mental health and well-being in men?
Yes, I’m a big advocate for mental health. Let’s talk about it, and let’s figure out better ways to cope.
Patrick’s sexuality is never fully discussed; however, he talks about a career where people paid to watch him hide who he was. I could not help but feel his sexuality was yet another aspect of himself that he had kept locked away for years. But I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
I love that you caught that. Nobody ever has before. Patrick says that people paid to watch him hide, and yes, I do believe that was one of the things he was referring to. I’m sure he was told by many agents and managers to keep quiet about his sexuality, especially as a leading man in Hollywood.
Turning to the character of Jeremiah, played brilliantly by Nolan Gould. How did you come to cast Nolan in the role?
That was my idea. I’m a huge fan of Modern Family, and I had heard that Nolan wanted to do some dramatic work. So we sent it to his agent, and all the powers that be loved the script. We got very lucky.
Jeremiah and Patrick’s mentor/mentee relationship slowly becomes a joint therapy session, with some of the film’s most powerful scenes occurring in their final meeting. How long did you spend with Nolan homing and moulding the relationship between both characters before filming began?
I flew out to LA from New York to meet with Nolan and have dinner, where we talked about the script for hours. Then a few months later, I flew back out to LA to have two rehearsals with him before shooting began, so we didn’t get too much time, but since he’s so smart, he understood my vision immediately. So, the answer to your question is probably about three days. Maybe a little less.
By the end of the film, it’s clear that Jeremiah views his time with Patrick as being instrumental to his success as an actor. Do you think Jeremiah ultimately learns from Patrick’s mistakes in taking his career forward? Or does he learn to hide his true self from the public gaze?
I think he ultimately learns not to walk in Patrick’s footsteps. He learns that you can be really great and also be a great person. Abuse does not have to have a role in your career. I’d like to think he learned quite a bit from Patrick’s many mistakes.
Yes is very much a film about the human experience, our choices, and the pain we lock away. If there were one overriding message you would like audiences to take from the film, what would it be?
Don’t always judge a book by its cover because you don’t know that person’s history. But many people take many different things from the film, which is wonderful and exactly what I wanted. I like to defend Patrick a bit because he is my creation, and I played him. No, I don’t think he’s anywhere near perfect. His flaws are all on display, whereas we try desperately to hide ours. You don’t have to agree with him at the end of the day, but just try to understand him; that’s all I ask.
Theatre has had a rough time during COVID-19, with productions coming to a grinding halt, both big and small. What are your hopes for the year ahead? And do you think theatre will bounce back quickly or require financial support to grow once more?
My hope is that the theatre and movie theatres come back as soon as possible! I think the theatre will bounce back, but it will take longer than we think. We definitely need financial support. And we need our tourists back!
It has been an absolute pleasure talking with you, Tim, and it’s worth pointing out again that Yes is available on digital platforms now. Please feel free to come back and speak with us again soon.
Anytime! What an honour.
Director: Rob Margolies