Two boys let their imagination run wild in a barren desert, but the fun and games come to a shocking halt.
Hey Luke, it's great to talk with you, how have you been keeping during these strange times?
Great talking to you too! I am holding up well. It's been a hard couple years with everything shutting down, but very happy that we are able to ramp it all up again.
Has this time offered you the chance to find some new inspiration or opportunities to take up any long-dormant hobbies?
It afforded me a lot of down time - ha! I picked up golf over quarantine - I'd say that is probably my main pandemic hobby. It also allowed me to spend a lot of time preparing for things to open up again. I was able to write and produce and, as you know, direct as well. It was great to really be able to focus my efforts behind the camera.
Congratulations on your festival run for your debut short BOYS, what has it meant to you to be able to share this with audiences?
Thank you so much. I have so enjoyed it. What's really been incredible is that everyone receives something different from the film. I have had so many people pick out certain aspects that spoke to them - for instance the fly, or the final line, or the physical differences between the boys - and I love that, because that was the goal. Everything was done intentionally, and it all works towards building as many layers as was possible. When people specify what spoke to them, in addition to the film's plot, it really thrills me as a filmmaker.
You won Best Short Film at the Hill Country Film Festival, did you imagine you would get this type of recognition for your film?
That was such an honour. Honestly, I came into this whole experience with no expectations. I just wanted to enjoy the ride. I have so enjoyed the conversations with fellow artists who love film as much as I do. I'm just glad the art is being seen - and affecting people.
Can you tell me a little bit about how BOYS came about?
I met the writer David Mandell a few years ago. I was attached as the lead of a pilot he wrote - and we went around town pitching to all the streaming platforms and such. We maintained that relationship and knew we wanted to work together again, since it was so great the first time around. We actively sought something we could make during the pandemic, and then made it happen. An unexpected benefit of the shut down was that the creative drought we were all experiencing in our daily life really led to an amazing energy once we were on set.
What was it about David Mandell's screenplay that interested you so much?
I responded to so much of his screenplay. He's such a talented writer. The dynamic between young boys was one that struck a chord for me both as a former troublemaker and as a former child actor. The aesthetic of the desert was incredible. Originally it was set in a ghost town - and it was just captivating off the bat for these young innocent boys to be playing in such a desolate landscape. It was such a powerful script and I knew that with some time and energy it could really be something special on screen.
How much has your background as an actor prepared you for directing BOYS?
I was always so fascinated by directors, and always paid attention to the small differences between average directors and amazing directors. I was always studying them in the hopes thatI could be in that position one day. I also was able to draw on my past experiences to make sure we got the best performances possible. Acting is a very fragile skill - it takes a lot of focus and so I wanted to make sure the boys had a safe and respected space for their craft, especially during the emotional scenes.
What was the most challenging scene for you to film?
I'd say the most challenging scene was when Roland comes home. It's a hard one to sell from both perspectives and we didn't really have the luxury of time to spend all day on it. We rehearsed and I wanted the actors to make it personal - and then we just went for it. We played with levels of responses and I remained focused on getting strong emotion.
How important is the collaborative partnership between writer and director when working on a short like Enjoy?
Extremely important. David is a phenomenal collaborator. I knew that going into it this - but it was confirmed through the process. He is such a hard worker and a brilliant creative.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I've been doing it for as long as I can remember! It feels like it's just a part of me. But I remember the first movie that really affected me internally - Primal Fear. I watched that movie and it wouldn't leave my mind. Edward Norton's performance - the way it worked in conjunction with the story - just blew me away. It was the first movie that really made me think - and gave me that rush. Requiem for a Dream also blew me away. The use of metaphor mixed with the reality of the events. I think that was when I discovered the power of a film's style.
"The goal was to tell an honest story that forces you to feel something - to lower one's emotional barriers in an effort to spark conversation and, ultimately, change."
Coming from a family of singers do you think music or musicals might be a film genre you'll look at with future films?
Absolutely. Actually I am currently writing a musical. Outside of that, I obviously believe score in film is vitally important.
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've taken away from directing BOYS?
To enjoy the process. I came into this really open and wanting to figure it out. As a result, it really was fun. Hard work can be enjoyable, and a lot of times yields the best product.
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer fellow first-time directors?
PREPARE! Prep was so key for me. Shotlisting and planning. You plan - so that on the day - you can play.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away BOYS?
I hope that they walk away emotionally raw. The goal was to tell an honest story that forces you to feel something - to lower one's emotional barriers in an effort to spark conversation and, ultimately, change. I hope that it makes people really think.