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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Dear Evan Hansen

by director Stephen Chbosky

I’ve spent the past 10 years of my career making thoughtful movies to empower young people and the families who love them. When I wrote the novel, and then adapted the film version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I saw first-hand the impact that a film or book that speaks directly to the experience of young people can have. All of us need to feel seen and heard—it is an integral part of how we feel understood, loved, and valued as human beings. This fundamental need knows no age, but these days, after the pandemic, it feels especially true for teenagers and young adults.

Young people today are living through an era of performative adolescence that I never could have imagined. They are navigating the most awkward, anxious, and emotional period in any person’s life. But unlike any generation before them, they have been encouraged to do so in public. Tens of millions of young people have grown up displaying a version of themselves on social media, often measuring their worth by how many likes, views, retweets, follows and friend requests they receive from both peers and strangers. Often, this public-facing persona is separate from their real selves. Because of this, they are simultaneously the most “seen” generation in global history, and the least known, hiding their private fears and flaws, struggles and insecurities from each other. They may have hundreds of “friends” online, but still suffer from isolation, loneliness and depression. And because their parents did not grow up this way, they often find themselves on the outside looking in—willing to do anything to help, but so often, not knowing how.

Dear Evan Hansen is a story that speaks directly and empathetically to these issues. I wanted to make this film because I knew it had the potential to help both young people and their parents. Although Evan is the central character of the film, all the characters are grappling with their own pain, anger, grief and regret, and I related deeply to all of them.

The Broadway show had a profound effect on me as it has for the millions of people lucky enough to live in a place where they could see it live on stage. Over the years, the various cast members of the show have consistently received letters from people detailing how Evan’s journey helped or saved them or someone they knew. I experienced something similar with The Perks of Being a Wallflower. So my motivation for making this film, and my greatest hope for it, is that it will serve as a lifeline and a beacon to those who need it most, not just now but in the years and decades to come.

As a director, you only get to make so many movies in your life. For this reason, it has always been important to me that the stories I choose to tell speak to a deep emotional truth of what it means to be human. Whether you’re a teenager or not, whether you grew up in the era of letters or emails, rotary phones or emojis, each of us has, at some point, had to grapple with a universal and existential question that rests at the heart of this film: If I reveal who I am, who I really am, will I still be loved?

It has been an unparalleled gift to be able to make this film alongside some of the most talented, authentic artists working in film today. On behalf of them and myself, I’d like to thank Landmark Theatres for creating this opportunity for audiences to experience it together, as it was meant to be seen. Thank you for taking this journey with us.

Posted September 8, 2021

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