Please explain what just happened.

I just finished the film and moved to Berlin. I have citizenship because my grandparents were German Jews that fled during WWII.


What is your earliest memory?

Being in the womb. What are all those bubbles mommy?


If you weren’t a filmmaker, what other profession would you choose?

Zoologist. Animals are a lot nicer to deal with than humans. When I was a kid I wanted to be a garbage man or junk man.

Please describe the current contents of your refrigerator.

Spargel (asparagus), ruccola (arugula – Obama style), Lachs  (Salmon).


What verb best describes you?

Fidgety seduction.


What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?

Don’t do it.


What are the steps you take to regain your composure?

Typical “boy” stuff.


Define “success.”

Creatively making a meaningful contribution to our collective consciousness (try saying that three times).


From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

The Beats.


What change do you want to be in the world?

Can this be a ten page essay? The US needs to loosen up and end its puritanical ways.


Are you pro- or anti-emoticon? Please explain.



How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?

Can’t we leave that poor guy alone already?


What makes you feel most guilty?

Being a tool.


Please list three things you never leave home without.

I’ve left home with just about nothing before, and sometimes I don’t even leave home and sometimes I don’t have a home to leave.


What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Be like a duck.


What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?

Enjoy life?


What do you consider the harshest kind of betrayal?

Emotionless conformity.


Of all the game shows that have graced our TV screens throughout history, which one would you want to be a contestant on and why?

Real Sex Germany – Easiest to Score.


What do you want to know?

How to speak German.


What would you like your last words to be?



Please explain what will happen.

Psychic hugs.

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Filmmaker YONY LEYSER has a passion for documenting people who are outside the mainstream of society. He has directed several short films and his photographic series have included Ida: a utopian transgender commune in Tennessee, Christiana: an anarchist village in Copenhagen, Kopi: Berlin’s largest squat, as well as documentations of naked bike rides in the US.

Leyser’s outstanding debut feature, William S. Burroughs: A Man Within brings a personal perspective to Burroughs’ legacy, examining the public versus private persona. “The reason I didn’t go into more depth about his literature is I feel it stands for itself. His literature is so powerful, I want people to go to the source. I was investigating the man behind the literature in the film. As for my favorite books, I think Naked Lunch is amazing but I also like Queer because he exposed the most about himself,” says Leyser.

  After being kicked out of film school in Los Angeles, Leyser moved to Lawrence, Kansas where Burroughs spent the last years of his life, and began investigating and filming. “My curiosity and enthusiasm — along with the help of some friends — allowed me to finish the film on a budget with little financial help. Four years later it has become the actualized project it is now.”

The film features never before seen footage as well as exclusive interviews with his closest friends and colleagues. Born the heir of the Burroughs' adding machine estate, he struggled throughout his life with addiction, control systems, and self. He was forced to deal with the tragedy of killing his wife and the repercussions of neglecting his son. His novel, Naked Lunch, was one of the last books to be banned by the U.S. government. Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer testified on behalf of the book. The courts eventually overturned their decision in 1966, ruling that the book had an important social value. It remains one of the most recognized literary works of the 20th century.

  William Burroughs was one of the first to cross the dangerous boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950s, and write about his experiences. Eventually he was hailed the godfather of the beat generation and influenced artists for generations to come.

  “When I started making a documentary about William S. Burroughs, I had no idea it would turn into THE documentary about him. The support from his friends has been remarkable. Patti Smith and Sonic Youth contributed music for no charge; and many of his friends donated footage, photographs, music and artwork. It became clear that Burroughs' friends really wanted this film made. They introduced me to other artists. I didn’t contact one agency to reach any of the interviewees. They all referred one another... The photographer Marcia Resnick introduced me to John Waters, Beat Poet Charlie Plymell introduced me to Sonic Youth, Peter Weller introduced me to David Cronenberg, etc.  I think people were in part shocked by my passion and drilling questions. They were like, 'It's pretty wild this kid in his early 20s has pulled this all off so far... We might as well help him further.' The public's "will" to spread William S. Burroughs' ideas is incredible—what a force. When I tell other filmmakers how it happened, out of nowhere, they can hardly believe it.  I really think this kind of film-making is the wave of the future. DIY- Do It Yourself—as much as you can,” says Leyser.

Leyser lives and works between Chicago and Berlin.

4 responses to “21 Questions with Yony Leyser”

  1. I’m so glad that someone thought to interview Yony Leyser. I’ve been following the progress of this movie for a long time and it was great to read more about it at my favourite website.

  2. Davis says:

    Yay Yony!

    We are setting up a screening at Lake Forest College for March. A day or so before John Waters appears.

  3. bufffilm says:

    William S. Burroughs: A Man Within is playing at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles this week.

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