Cam Archer


“My favorite art is the stuff that breaks my heart,” says 27-year-old Santa Cruz, California, resident Cam Archer. “That pushes me to put work out there that does the same.” The young director became a film-festival favorite in 2006 with his winsome feature Wild Tigers I Have Known, about a 13-year-old’s unrequited love for a cool-boy classmate; it expanded on his 2003 short film Bobbycrush. Both projects are unconventional, color-saturated tales of kids with gay inklings. Director Gus Van Sant executive-produced Tigers; they were introduced through the author JT LeRoy after Archer interviewed LeRoy, a.k.a. Laura Albert, in the early ’00s for a magazine. “A lot of my work is about feeling like an outsider, and ultimately realizing it doesn’t matter,” he says. “You feel no better if you’re part of things.” Archer is about to take a huge step out of the indie-teen cul-de-sac with his next film. Called Shit Year (“although that title will probably change,” says Archer), it stars Ellen Barkin as a former Hollywood actress who walks away from the industry and “finds herself just as miserable.” Archer wrote it in a fit of frustration about being unable to get funding for another project. “It started as kind of a joke,” he says. “I just thought, I’m going to write a film called Shit Year. Then people responded to it.” It was also a big jump from directing nonprofessional child actors in Tigers to working with a serious cinema veteran. “I don’t necessarily know how to talk to actors,” says Archer. “I learned how to do it through this experience. Ellen was so brave and definitely no-bullshit.” Relating to the film’s more mature subject matter wasn’t a stretch for him either. “I feel like I’m in my 50s,” he says. “I didn’t think about what I would do if I were actually this age. I just thought, What would I think if I were a little older but still had concerns about my life? I think we definitely worry about the same things.” -MICHAEL MARTIN