Just Celebrity Magazine was lucky enough to talk to Eyal Resh about his short film Boys, cinematography, LGBTQ-films and his future plans.
JC: The topic of your short film Boys can be seen as controversial, this creates the risk of your film being received ‘negatively’, why did you decide to create this film anyway?
For me filmmaking is about taking risks. Reacting “negatively” is also an emotional reaction I never tried to shy away from. My mission, my responsibility in this world is to reflect, create, and comment, not to be loved by everyone.
The theme of Boys is human. We all went through a sexual awakening- and the reality of this experience is what led me in the creation of the film. It is a moment to be condensed with a huge variety of emotion: shame, guilt, desire, excitement, longing, fear and so on and so forth. I stayed completely loyal to this experience, including the age of which it usually takes place, regardless of the possible responses from the audience. Perhaps this loyalty to truth is one of the reasons I have yet to encounter not even one “bad” response to the film.
JC: As the cinematography for your film is amazingly beautiful, was it hard to make the film seem so life like?
Initially Darrell Brett (cinematographer) and I were asking ourselves how to visualize a memory without it feeling distant and cliché? Most of the creative work was derived from this core question. Portrayal of memory in film is a big idea that is hard to specify and could turn quickly into a trope. If done correctly, it is a fine line between dream and realism that cinemahas the power to depict. We therefore kept looking for organic visual decisions that support the story and that would lead us in creating a distinct yet identifiable visual language.
I see my childhood in those photos posted on my mother’s fridge; most of them taken by a disposable, Kodak camera. We immediately knew that would be our compass for the cinematography of BOYS. We embraced anything that divulged two-dimensionality; to make the image palpable. Texture was added by putting special filters in front of the lens. Flares would flood the frame. We added grain to the image to make it more realistic. Also, the camera was never on a tripod, it was always moving, even if only slightly. Our hope was that the audience would feel as if they could hold our images, could feel them in their hands and perhaps recall their own childhood.
In the bedroom scene, a lot was improvised, even the camera work. The camera had to act as if it was apart of this sleepover, a third guest attending it. Darrell wasn’t only thinking of framing and focus, but really had to try and be present with those kids.
As a rule of thumb in all my pieces- the first shot encapsulates the essence of the piece. Boys opens with a close up of a lady bug trying to find its way in the “grass jungle”. For us human beings, blades of grass are something we step on easily, but for a ladybug it’s a whole different experience. So right from the get go we’ve establish the ideas of scale and size. Also, in a film about finding your way in the world and being different- both Darrell and myself found this realistic metaphor appropriate for the opening. This visual decision is a good example for the reason the film feels life like.
JC: In the film the friendship between the boys come across as so real, how did you make sure that this would stay natural on camera?
I have invited them to be themselves. I crafted around them a light, fun and supportive environment and allowed them to play within the limitations of our story. This permission allowed the boys to feel welcome and trusted. Also, Stephanie O’Neill, the producer of the project, did an amazing job with leading this ship and communicating with the children and the parents.
Pearce Joza (plays Jake) and Wyatt Griswold (Brian) are two amazing children and actors. They were the first two boys to step into the audition room (and I’ve seen around 40 boys after) and it was immediately clear to me they are the ones.
Most of the rehearsal process was focused on creating the friendship between them and in getting them familiar with the reality of these characters. We went to the park and played hide and seek, was recreating sleepovers, games, jokes etc. You know, stuff that children do. Once this base was sturdy – it gave them the ability to truly live in our story.
The most difficult moment to create was the one when both boys experience the sexual awakening with each other. This of course required a lot of thought. In order to figure out how to do it right I brought in consultants to the process -children psychologists and very experienced filmmakers who have dealt with similar challenges.
The most important thing for me, more than the film and the way it comes out, was not to harm the children in any way. Since it’s such a delicate moment in growing up I didn’t want to ask them to do something they do not understand, even if it’s what happens to the characters in the story.
I therefore decided to take the moment they roll on top of each other on the bed and choreograph it in rehearsal.
I turned it into a dance. I made it about physicality. We had counts and movements. The video from this movement workshop is on our Facebook page if you like to check it out @boys- short film. [https://www.facebook.com/theshortfilmboys/]
Since children are very connected to their bodies, it was very easy to make this experience fun and light for the actors. It was effortlessly becoming something they could understand and relate to. A completely different experience from the one the characters go through in the story
JC: You leave the ending open to interpretation, was this always your intention?
It was my intention from the very first moment I thought of telling this story.
The story structure of the film is very linear. There is a feeling of one movement forward throughout the film that was important for me to create. It comes into fruition in the plot points, performance, camera and even in the music.
It was my way to comment on life- how it unfolds and the fact it constantly keeps moving. I wanted to leave the audience the room to continue this suggested line in their imaginations.
But perhaps most importantly, the story could be understood as gay – and it is to an extent- but not necessarily. I believe sexuality is fluid and has more than one definite answer. I therefore decided to end the film with a walk home where most of the drama is internal. There is no answer to give at this point; there is only a discovery that is too overwhelming to become a decision. It is not the point if Brian or Jake will grow up to be gay or not, the emphasis is on this loaded, rounded, human moment we are all familiar with regardless of our preference.
JC: What has the overall reaction been to Boys, was it what you expected?
It is amazing to see so many people reacting to it so positively. They have such different things to say and different ways to express what they’ve felt but they all respond to how relatable this experience is for them. Both women and men. With that regards- I see this as my biggest success with this film. I keep hearing the same comment about the courage needed to make this piece, its importance in our world and how tender it is.
JC: Can you tell us something about your previous work and how you got into film?
As a child back in Israel I was mostly acting in big theatre plays around the country. I knew I wanted to find an outlet to express myself, and as child acting was the most convenient way to do so for me. I kept experimenting with film as a hobby. Later on I was accepted to a prestigious high school for the Arts in Tel Aviv. It was then that I was mature enough to start making films. This led me to serve in the IDF as the main film director of the Cinema Unit of the Air Force. I directed every day for three years and gained loads of on set experience. But its really when I left Israel and arrived in the US that I have discovered my deep love for cinema. I was accepted to the graduate program at CalArts without having a bachelor, based on previous experience. This allowed me to really create in the level I knew I’m in. It was a life-changing journey.
Throughout the program, I’ve created five short films that are now also in the festival circuit. One of them, ARRIVAL, was shot in Berlin and is about an encounter on a train between an old German lady and an Israeli mother with her son. On a deeper level it is about collective memory and trauma and the way we carry it with us.
All the projects are very different from each other but all dance around human themes of intimacy, transformation and growth. Like Boys.
JC: Your film is specified as LGBTQ, do you have any LGBTQ films you could call your favorite?
There are so many amazing LGBTQ films out there. I would mention a few of my favorites :
Poison 1991 (Todd Haynes who also directed Carol)
Mysterious Skin 2004 (Gregg Araki)
Happy Together 1997 (Wong Kar-Wai)
Weekend 2011 (Andrew Haigh)
Bent 1997 (Sean Mathias)
Stranger By The Lake 2013 (Alain Guiradie)
Bad Education 2004 (Pedro Almodovar)x
Brokeback Mountain 2005 (Ang Lee)
Spa Night 2016 (Andrew Ahn)
I can go on and on as for the why each of these films are my favourites, but at the core I loved them simply because they are all telling a human story that happened to be gay and not a gay story that is also human. It is our responsibility as artists to foreground messages through compelling stories, but not to make the messages what the film is about.
JC: What would be next on the agenda for you as a director?
My agenda is to keep doing. I’m currently developing two feature films, a web show and a short.
We are going to shoot the short in NYC next month. It’s about a Deaf couple that discover they are pregnant. The feature is about the idea of legacy and leadership and the show about our new dating reality.
My next step is also the one after – to keep doing. To keep mastering my ability to tell stories, sharpen my cinematic skills and have loads of fun along the way.
Thank you so much for your time and insight Eyal!
You can find everything about ‘Boys’ on:
And to keep up with Eyal visit: http://www.eyalresh.com/