'The Ultimate Coming of Age Story'



Article Published: Oct. 3, 2013 | Modified: Oct. 3, 2013
'The Ultimate Coming of Age Story'

Andy, played by Johnny Simmons (left), learns how to read from his fellow diaper-clad friend, Bunky, played by Ethan Suplee, on his quest to win back his girlfriend in the short film, ‘Grow Up Already.’
Photos courtesy of Richard Keith



Richard Keith has made what he calls the “ultimate coming of age story.”

The former Boone resident turned Los Angeles filmmaker wrote and directed “Grow Up Already,” the story of a young couple in love, one of who is still in diapers.

“I was trying to think of a fun hook for a romantic comedy short film that was high concept but still had a realistic, relatable storyline underneath it … and I just kept seeing this recurring man-child motif, and that’s where it started; me wondering just how unsuitable a guy could be for a girl for her to actually break up with him,” he said. “Then I went five steps past that.”

The short film, which premiered in 2011, has been screened in 10 film festivals across North America. The cast features some familiar faces, including Johnny Simmons (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) in the role of Andy, the boyish beau; Francis Fisher (“Titanic,” “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “House of Sand and Fog”) as Andy’s mom; and Ethan Suplee (TV’s “My Name Is Earl” and “American History X”) as Andy’s buddy, Bunky.

Keith, a former Watauga High School student, left Boone in 1999 and moved to New York City for three years where he got his feet wet by studying with different acting coaches and attending casting director and agent workshops.

“I finally got my first speaking role, and my SAG card, on the TV show, ‘ED,’ which used to be on NBC,” he said. “I leaned over and whispered the word, ‘bingo,’ to a fellow classmate.”

By the time Keith made the transition from East Coast to West Coast, he already had an agent and a manager.

“Apparently, they heard about my one word on television and said, ‘We must work with him!’ So I rode my two syllables of success all the way to L.A., and when I got here was lucky enough to start auditioning right away,” Keith said. “I moved out over Thanksgiving and booked my first role, on David E. Kelly’s ‘Boston Public,’ right before Christmas.”

Not one to stick with just acting, Keith started making short films with his sketch comedy troupe and learned by doing. “Grow Up Already” is his first short film to run longer than about three minutes.
“Given the nature of the film, I was really unsure what to expect, but I have to say that I’m happy that most people got what I was trying to do and seemed to enjoy it,” Keith said of the reaction of audiences to the film.

Although the 10-minute short received “overwhelmingly positive” attention on the film festival circuit, he said, Keith is not planning to turn it into a feature-length movie.

“If this character existed in a feature, he’d be totally unbelievable,” he noted. “You’d have to try to explain a bit more about why he is the way he is, and that’s not really the point. The whole ‘diaper thing’ is simply a satire, a storytelling device, and if you … had to explain it, it would lose (its) effectiveness.”

However, he does have some other projects in the works, including a feature-length dramedy, titled “Fall…”. Written by Keith, he describes it as “‘(500) Days of Summer’ meets ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’”
Keith, a fan of punctuation in titles, decided to use the ellipses in “Fall…”.

“Because what the fall is is up to you,” he said. “Is it about falling off a bridge, falling behind in life or falling in love? I know which one it is for me, but hopefully, the idea is, it would be different for different people.”

Though Keith refers to “Grow Up Already” as the ultimate coming of age story, his own coming of age as a filmmaker is still in the works. Just as his favorite punctuation indicates there’s more to come, Keith isn’t anywhere near a stopping point. He hopes to one day make films like director/producer Jason Reitman.

“Funny and heartfelt,” he said, “ but you leave the film not being told what to think, but instead being asked, ‘What do you think?’ It sounds easy, but it’s a really, really hard thing to do well.”
The film, “Grow Up Already,” is available online at http://www.indieflix.com; viewers may register for a free two-week trial. DirecTV, AT&T U-VERSE and Dish Network viewers may catch the short on the ShortsHD Network this fall. To follow the film, go to http://www.facebook.com/growupalreadyfilm.

Additional Images

Andy, played by Johnny Simmons (left), learns how to read from his fellow diaper-clad friend, Bunky, played by Ethan Suplee, on his quest to win back his girlfriend in the short film, ‘Grow Up Already.’
Photos courtesy of Richard Keith

Mom, played by Frances Fisher, bounces son Andy, played by Johnny Simmons, on her lap in the short film, ‘Grow Up Already.’

Richard Keith, a former Watauga High School student, left Boone in 1999 to pursue a career in acting.

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