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Film Captures the Spirit in BOY

  • December 07, 2015

The short film Boy follows the ghost of a boy who is killed in a bicycle accident, and then follows a classmate home after school. The film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), was written, produced and directed by Connor Jessup. Best known as an actor for his roles in Falling Skies, American Crime and Closet Monster, the film is Jessup’s second turn at the helm.

“I kind of fell backward into acting before I knew what it was,” notes Jessup. “I have come to love it on its own terms, but as soon as I was old enough to be taken even mildly seriously, I knew I had to start making (movies).”

For Boy, Jessup enlisted cinematographer Bobby Shore, CSC – an American Film Institute graduate and Montreal native. He and Jessup had worked together on director Stephen Dunn’s Closet Monster, a coming-of-age drama that won the 2015 Best Canadian Feature at TIFF. Shore was so adamant about shooting certain segments of that feature on film that he bought his own stock and borrowed an ARRIFLEX 435.

Given the supernatural elements of Boy, the two filmmakers wanted a natural palate, subdued and restrained.

“We spoke a lot about the films of Hirokazu Koreeda and Edward Yang,” explained Shore. “Connor has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Asian cinema. I had tested (KODAK) VISION3 500T (Color Negative Film 5219) and tended toward the additional texture I got with the 5219 when it’s underexposed by two or three stops. The image becomes slightly lifted and almost creamy, but with a lot of texture as the inherently tighter grain structure of the VISION3 stock starts to degrade a bit.”

They used a set of Ultra Speeds and a Panaflex Millennium XL from Panavision Toronto. They shot entirely on (KODAK VISION3) 5219 with an ND 6 filter in front of the camera the whole time, but metered as if Shore was rating the film at 500. “It was a bit nerve-wracking sometimes when the light levels were already so low that they’d barely register on the meter,” he said. “But understanding the latitude of the stock with prior testing, I knew it would result in the looks we were going for.”

Kyle Hentschel as Daniel in BOY. Photo by Calvin Thomas

Both Jessup and Shore lauded the workflow on set, where spending time to rehearse, finesse, refine, and discuss shots even before rolling was par for the course. “Film’s a living medium,” offered Jessup. “You can feel film going through the camera. It’s something with texture and breath that has a heartbeat to it.”

“It felt like true filmmaking again, where we trusted and respected the process,” added Shore. “Because a lot of the scenes play out as static singles or with just a few shots, we really took the time to scrutinize every frame and make sure it was exactly to taste.”

Jessup adds that he feels there’s a difference in the richness in film compared to digital that is key to storytelling. “I was kind of raised a purist. All the movies that I love and I grew up on, that have changed me and are a part of me, were shot on film.”

“You can feel film going through the camera. It’s something with texture and breath that has a heartbeat to it.”