It’s late at night, and 17-year-old Saunder Boyle was supposed to be home three hours ago. But her parents aren’t worried. She isn’t out partying with friends; she’s making a movie.
“My parents get the whole long-hour shooting days,” says Boyle, a rising senior at Tandem Friends School. “Things invariably go three hours late. I guess they’re glad it’s film and not something else.”
Film has been “it” for Boyle since she was 13, when she took her first class at Light House Studio, a local nonprofit youth filmmaking center.
“It was filled with juniors and seniors in high school, and I was this little 13-year-old just kind of there, and I was so intimidated,” says Boyle. “But I was just so interested in film itself. I knew that whatever I was going to learn from the class was going to be better than how nervous I felt.” Boyle went on to take at least 15 more workshops at Light House, “more than any other student I’ve met,” says Lead Mentor Amanda Patterson. Each workshop focuses on a different aspect of filmmaking: narrative, screen-writing, music video, documentary, cinematography, animation, visual effects or commercial production. All students at Light House finish with a completed portfolio of work, which can give them an advantage when applying to film schools, says Zoe Cohen, Light House program director. In eighth grade, Boyle made her first film, The Pillow, about a walking and talking pillow looking for its purpose in life (the pillow, played by Boyle, is repeatedly rejected but finally finds its calling when it catches someone’s fall). Since then, she has made six more films, several of which have gone on to film festivals. Her most recent, The Lemonade Standoff, which she directed, has been shown at film festivals across the U.S. and was the runner-up for the ACTION! High School Director Competition at the 2014 Virginia Film Festival.
Boyle says she feels “most connected” to The Lemonade Standoff, about two siblings with competing lemonade stands, because it was the first film in which she was the lead director. “I was heavily involved in all aspects of that one—from story to script to production to editing,” she says. “I really put all of myself in it.”
It was also her most challenging film.
“On-set conditions were insane,” she says. “It was about 95 degrees in the middle of the summer and all of the scenes were outside. We all got terrible sunburns; the team was lobster-red for days.”
Another film, Breaking Character, which Boyle describes as “a mixture of a dark comedy, psychological horror and thriller,” has been shown at multiple film festivals, and in 2014, her film The Collector received the Golden Clapper Award at the Reel Riot Film Festival in Atlanta.
Patterson describes Boyle’s filmmaking style as bold. “Every step of the way, she always has her eye on the finished product, paying special attention to the important details that make her films stand out. She’s a risk-taker.” Patterson also praises Boyle’s ability to lead, an important skill since “a film cannot be made with just one person,” she says.
Boyle says she owes a lot to her mentors at Light House, many of whom are former Light House Studio students themselves. According to Cohen, the mentors’ job is to allow students to be as hands- on as possible in filmmaking. “We want to really let them take over and learn from the process of exploring,” she says.
Boyle says she finds inspiration for her films in real life. “I often just take weird things that happen to me and put them into other characters lives,” she explains. “I just wrote a script about a family who finds an urn in their vacation home, which actually happened to me last summer—it was the weirdest thing.”
Writing is Boyle’s favorite aspect of the filmmaking process. She hopes to study film after she graduates and eventually become a screenwriter and director. “I want to do the sort of movies that people like and can go back to, that they relate to.”
Her advice for aspiring young filmmakers: “Take whatever class interests you, but diving in is the best thing. There’s no time to be meek. If you’re really interested in something, you just have to go ahead and do it.”
Saunder’s flick picks
Dead Poets Society
This movie has meant a lot to me for a long time. It explores so many themes—the pur-
pose of art, the battle between tradition and innovation, trust in one’s self—through a cast of characters that are all well-rounded and developed into human beings with their fair share of very human flaws.
Birdman is one of those movies that actually lives up to its hype. It’s incredible as far as the cinematography goes, but the quality of the story is really what made me get attached to this one.
I don’t think Wes Anderson’s style always works to his movies’ benefit, but Moonrise Kingdom is an exception. The film’s visual quirks definitely work in favor of the story. I first saw this movie when I was just beginning to take film seriously, and the sheer beauty of nearly every shot made quite the impression on eighth grade me.
Good Bye, Lenin!
I actually saw this movie for the first time in my European history class last year, and I was immediately impressed. It has a fantastic mix of history, comedy and drama that struck me as being very honest—a balance I hope my future work can display.
The Blues Brothers
Apart from being funny on its own, this movie pulls off some crazy stuff while remaining cohesive. I imagine it’s not easy to weave elements like choreographed dances, ridiculous car crashes and a giant list of celebrity cameos into one movie, but somehow they did—and the movie is all the better for it.