Teenage prodigy: Billie Eilish up close in new documentary | Music | DW | 25.02.2021
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Teenage prodigy: Billie Eilish up close in new documentary

"The World's a Little Blurry" contrasts Billie Eilish's everyday life as a teenager with the creation process of her record-breaking debut studio album.

A file photo of Billie Eilish at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, February 2020

"The World is Blurry" covers three years of Eilish's life

"This is my parents' bed and I sleep in here because I am scared of monsters in my bedroom," says Billie Eilish, as the camera focuses on her face. The trailer for The World's a Little Blurry is interspersed with images of the young woman, with blue hair, sometimes green, playing with her brother, recording a song or speaking about love.

Then there are shots of the young singer telling her audience how important it is to live in the moment: "Are you guys okay? You guys need to be okay because you're all the reason I'm okay."

The young superstar shows how juggling exuberance and angst in a world of uncertainty is part of her everyday experience — something many young people can relate to as well: "It is a horrible time to be a teenager, kids are depressed," says Eilish's mother in the film, which premieres on streaming platform Apple TV+ on February 26.

An almost completely documented life

Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry is directed by American filmmaker, documentarian, theater director and producer R.J. Cutler, who has made films including The War Room and The Perfect Candidate. The documentary on Billie Eilish focuses on the creation of the singer's debut studio album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

The album was released in 2019 and featured songs like "Bad Guy," which became a global hit, "You Should See Me in a Crown" and "Bury A Friend." 

Altogether, Eilish and her brother Finneas won seven Grammys in 2020, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year for "Bad Guy."  Finneas won a Grammy for best producer, while his sister bagged the Grammys for Best New Artist, Album of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. The siblings, who were homeschooled, famously co-wrote the songs in Finneas' bedroom at their parents' house in Highland Park, Los Angeles.

Billie Eilish performing

Billie Eilish was suddenly everywhere in 2019

According to Los Angeles Magazine, director Cutler and his team began filming for The World's a Little Blurry in 2019 and proposed an "observational lens, storytelling with no filter, filming performances as intimately as possible." Cutler himself called the setting "a rich opportunity for us filmmakers," as he recounted that like most people born in 2001, Eilish's life was almost completely documented.

"There was a GoPro on a tripod in a bedroom and if the kids felt inspired, they turned it on… If there was a meeting or a conversation or a song, their mother would turn on her iPhone and film. She's seeing things only a mother can see and you're getting this remarkable mother's perspective," Cutler told the magazine.

A record-breaking artist

Eilish had already begun creating waves in the music scene in 2015, when as a 13-year-old, she recorded some songs, including "Ocean Eyes," which was written and produced by her brother, Finneas. The two uploaded it on SoundCloud so her dance teacher could access it, Eilish told the magazine TeenVogue in 2017. A website called HillDilly found and reposted it, making it a big success.

For Eilish, there's been no looking back since then.

Along with becoming the youngest person and first woman to win the four main Grammy categories, Eilish has also since become the youngest artist to write and perform a James Bond theme song for the upcoming film.

She will shortly release a much-awaited follow-up to her first album. On Tuesday's The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Eilish said she had spent the first weeks of COVID lockdown creating her new songs.

'A sliver of my life'

Speaking about filming for The World's a Little Blurry, Eilish told Colbert that having a camera around all the time was "very invasive... but it's also fun because… as human beings, I think we all tend to feel pretty irrelevant all the time… and sometimes I just was like, 'You gotta go,' it was fun! It was fun to have people who are literally there to watch you live your life."

She acknowledged that the film was "pretty much me," which made it all the more difficult for her to watch it, because in her own words, "she was super-annoying then."

But while the film was shot over a period of three years, she said that viewers should not assume that the movie told them everything about her: "You're seeing a sliver of my life at that time… and I say that because I grew up watching documentaries about artists and whatever and in my head immediately, when I was younger, I was like, 'Oh now I know every single thing about them.'"

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