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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Honey Boy

by director Alma Har’el


Trust me, Honey Boy… I’m your father.

In 2011 I received an email to my small website. I checked a few times to make sure I wasn’t tripping but there he was in my inbox... Shia LaBeouf?

Focus Features had just released my first film Bombay Beach, a documentary I shot by myself with a $600 consumer camera and two small mics. It had dance sequences and music by Bob Dylan. An employee at Amoeba Records mistakenly put it in the Bob Dylan documentary section and it ended in the hands of Mr. LaBeouf.

Already, not a bad chain of events but only the beginning.

We met and within ten minutes it was clear we already knew each other in some ways. What is it about growing up with an alcoholic parent (or any other dysfunctional situation) that makes you feel forever connected to those who shared a similar childhood? Is it the need for the approval of others that threatens your identity to the point you become rigidly self-sufficient or isolated? The confusion between love and pity? The loyalty to pain? Or perhaps our addiction to excitement, work or anything that will help us avoid feeling our feelings? In any case, we met more than each other. We met each other’s complicated love for our singular fathers.

Two weeks later we were making a music video I was directing and shortly after that, Shia came on as an Executive Producer on my second film LoveTrue, financing it when no one else would.

I have known him over the years as painfully self-aware and passionate about art in the same way other people are passionate about love and god.

When reports would show up about his alcoholism or public run-ins with the law things started to escalate and led to a court ordered rehab in a mental health clinic. There was a sense of doom around him like never before but it was there that he was finally diagnosed with severe PTSD. I have never known much about PTSD and the way it can trigger hyper-vigilance, self-destructive behavior and social isolation. While he was committed Shia was treated with exposure therapy and instructed to go back to a certain period in his life and write about his father.

His father, who he hasn’t spoken to in seven years but once upon a time worked as his chaperone on the set of “Even Stevens.”

Shia was twelve years old when he paid his father to take care of him. They lived in a small motel room and drove to set every day on the back of his father’s bike. Those bike rides were the only time he got to hug his father.

And so seven years after that first email I received a new email from Shia.

It was the pages from his therapy sessions that later on became the script we filmed, and two photos I’ve never posted anywhere.

I share them here with you and hope you come to see Shia play his own father in our film Honey Boy.

HoneyBoy_unnamed1.jpg  HoneyBoy_ShiaPic1.jpg

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