Based on the play by Catherine Banks and produced by Melani Wood, Bone Cage, directed by Halifax filmmaker Taylor Olson, had a powerful debut at FIN. Sweeping awards in all of its eligible categories, Taylor took home the Gordon Parsons Award for Best Atlantic Feature, Best Atlantic Director, the Michael Weir Award for Best Atlantic Screenwriting, and Best Atlantic Cinematographer for Kevin A. Fraser.
The Talent Fund had a chance to catch up with Taylor to discuss his journey with the making of this film, while offering advice for new filmmakers, and sharing his thoughts on making lasting impressions on audiences.
1. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
It’s hard to pinpoint the moment I was inspired to be a filmmaker. Like most, as a kid I was a cliche and made little films with my friends on broken camcorders in the woods. I was one of those kids who would watch the same movie 100 times trying to figure out how they ‘did it’. Odd choice in some ways, but I watched The Legends of the Fall almost every night for a year. Pretty obvious clue that I was queer there, ha. Those were probably the first unwitting steps into filmmaking. Coming out of theatre school I worked only as an actor for about the first six months, but every set I was on made me want to make my own film, tell my own story, share something deeply personal. I think I desperately wanted to find my own voice, what I was about as an artist and human, share something secret through the artform. John Dunsworth was incredibly kind and generous to me before he passed and he pushed me to just ‘do it and fail’. That failing was okay. After watching Newfoundland film Cast No Shadow, directed by Christian Sparkes, I was blown away that incredible Canadian films like this existed, right in the Maritimes even. Since then I’ve realized great Canadian films are plentiful. After that there was no turning back.
2. What inspired you to make your film?
In University, I read the play Bone Cage by Catherine Banks and fell in love with it. My family had lived in small logging towns most of my life and worked in the logging industry. I knew the devastation of clear-cutting, and the armour that you have to put on if your job is to tear apart the earth. Stripping the environment strips your soul. A couple years later in 2017, I was lucky enough to play Jamie in Matchstick Theatre’s production of Bone Cage and two days into rehearsal I knew I wanted to adapt it to the screen. It’s a story that feels deeply personal, even though the play was written by Catherine – who is one of my favourite playwrights not just in Canada but worldwide – and I knew I had to explore it through my own lens.
3. What is your advice for emerging Canadian film makers interested in the Talent to Watch program?
Do it. It’s a really wicked way to make a first feature. You’ll need to be budget conscious in your creation of the story, however you will have such freedom in your filmmaking to experiment and take risks, use your voice, see out your vision. Have fun. Tell a story that you’re burning to share. Do it.
4. Why does story telling matter?
Wow. Big question. I don’t know that I remotely have the authority to begin to answer it, even from my own perspective, but I’ll try. Have you ever seen a film, or watched a theatre show, or listened to a piece of music, etc and afterwards your perspective of the world has changed? Or, you felt so deeply you wept, or you laughed so hard it hurt? Maybe you were so deeply disturbed by what it challenged inside of you or societally that at first you resented it, but slowly it ate away at you and you kept thinking about it? How it challenged your thinking, your feelings, your prejudice? I think that is why story telling matters. It has the ability to take us outside of ourselves and empathize with another person’s experience, or to feel seen. Story telling influences culture. So by telling stories we can challenge and promote a Canadian culture of kindness, courage, and inclusion. A theatre director I worked with would say, “we’re not saving lives, we’re changing them”. Sounds pretentious, I guess, but I think it’s true sometimes.
5. What impact do filmmakers have on the world?
Similarly, to my answer above, to see the impact filmmakers have had all you need to do is ask your friends what their favourite films are and why. See how their face lights up. Maybe they even have a story of their own to tell because of that film that moved them.