In the new thriller “Boarding School,” we see a young boy become too obsessed with his grandmother's death and is shipped to a boarding school. The twists and turns from there make for a fun ride and enjoyable experience. We recently got the opportunity to ask writer/director of Boarding School Boaz Yakin some questions regarding his new film, working with young actors, how he wrote the screenplay, and more.
The film mostly deals with children and you worked with some terrific child actors. Can you describe the casting process and the environment on the set for Boarding School?
Casting was the traditional audition process. But what turned out to be really interesting was how the two young leads ended up with the roles. Totally separately, both Luke Prael and Sterling Jerins came in and auditioned, and they were both terrific. Sterling in an all-around skilled way, Luke in a kind of mysterious and raw and untrained fashion. I wanted to try them together to see how they jelled, and when I introduced them they were like— “Yes, we know each other.” I figured that meant from auditions, or school or something. Anyway, we cast them, and as we progressed it became clear that they really knew each other, in that they were best friends since childhood, their older sisters are best friends and their parents are best friends. So that turned out well. They loved being on set together, and given the intense and often challenging nature of the material, especially for Luke, having one another there really provided them with a sense of balance and comradeship.
Many of the children at the school have very well depicted disabilities. Did you do research into the disabilities that were portrayed?
It came mostly from experience and observation. Live long enough on this planet and you see all kinds of things and meet all kinds of people. Phil is a tribute both to my best friend from childhood, who is not physically challenged, but kind of nuts in a Phil sort of way, and some poor burnt guy who gave me the biggest scare of my entire life when I bumped into him in the basement of my parents’ building. I screamed at the top of my lungs for what must have been a full ten seconds, and feel guilty about it till this day.
How did you enjoy working with Will Patton again after directing him in Remember the Titans?
I love Will Patton. He’s such a fantastic and inquisitive actor. He always wants to find something interesting and different. When we landed on the idea of the old school Brooklyn accent for Dr. Sherman, Will was at first anxious about how nutty it was and then quickly embraced and went to town with the quirkiness of it. I love the genuine sense of humor and menace with which he portrays the character. It’s something a lot of actors try to find when playing what we can call “villains”, but it’s not easy to do in interesting ways that don’t pander.
As a fellow screenwriter, I am always looking for that seed of an idea. Where did the seed of Boarding School come from?
Man, it’s been so long since I wrote it, that it’s impossible to remember. Like most things I write (when coming from what, for lack of a better term, I would call a “personal place”, it’s usually a stew of a number of themes, images, influences, that all come together at a certain time.
I noticed the use of sound was a heavy influence in Boarding School. Can you speak to how you use sound design in your films and in Boarding School in particular?
I wanted to use sound in an interesting and modern way while using score (by the brilliant Lesley Barber) in an almost old school (Bernard) Herrmann way to contrast with it. Make the whole movie feel kind of dreamy and off-kilter.
If you had infinite resources and budget, what is a fantasy project you would like to tackle?
I don’t really need infinite resources and budget. I would honestly love it if some kind (and relatively affluent) patron offered to make any movies I would like, for very low budgets. I would be thrilled to make interesting and exploratory independent movies until I am done.
Do you have any projects you are currently working on that you would like our readers to know about?
I just wrapped shooting on a most interesting and exploratory movie, called “Aviva”. In some ways, it picks up on themes of gender and identity that Boarding School explores. It’s a movie about our relationship with both our romantic partners and ourselves, and it’s a dance movie, too, featuring some of the most talented and powerful contemporary dancers around. Just getting into the editing now. Definitely both the most experimental piece I have ever tried.