Interview with director Boaz Yakin on his new film ‘Boarding School’

The multi-genre writer, producer, director tells us a little about his life and his latest film

Boarding School is the most recent film in the diverse career of Boaz Yakin. Boarding School is a story about a troubled young boy named Jacob who is sent away to boarding school by his parents. This is not a normal school, and Jacob finds himself in the middle of every kid’s worst nightmare; a creepy old mansion, deserted except for six other teenage misfits, along with two menacing and strange teachers. As events become more terrifying, Jacob must conquer his fears to find the strength to survive.

Boaz Yakin is a writer, director and producer of titles like Remember the Titans, The Rookie, Fresh, Uptown Girls, Safe, Max and Now You See Me. In his director’s statement for Boarding School, he shared,

“It’s rare to get to make a movie that uncompromisingly reflects one’s personal perspective: personal, social, political and sexual. One arena in popular moviemaking that has allowed filmmakers to attack these themes in a truly abandoned and almost dreamlike state of consciousness is low-budget horror. It’s the single genre where movie stars are not needed- in fact, the presence of glamourous faces takes away the sense of danger and unpredictability that provide the excitement that these movies have to offer.”

I feel like he accomplished making a truly wonderful genre film, and I was thrilled to talk to him about his career and about Boarding School!

Los Angeles Zombie Girl: I really enjoyed Boarding School! Even if it doesn’t fit 100% in the horror genre (although I would argue that it does) I feel like it truly addresses very important social subjects. There are so many people trying to tear us all down, and I felt like this film was very empowering to anyone that has been treated badly because they are different.

Boaz Yakin: Thank you so much, for saying so.

LAZG: Your film career has been very diverse. Producer, director and writer in many different genres. What can you tell me about your film-making journey so far?

BY: The journey happened pretty quickly, it’s sort of the family business. My parents, they were mimes when I was growing up, my father was a theater director and he has been a teacher for over 50 years at Julliard, where he has taught some of the greatest actors in the world. I grew up exposed to all that, for my entire childhood. When I was 17 years old he got me to study with Stella Adler and I actually studied with her for two years, which was incredible. So being that the family business was my background and how I grew up, the second I got into university I knew I wanted to focus on film. I kinda sold a screenplay when I was a sophomore, (laughs) and I never finished school; I ended up moving out to L.A. and started working professionally right away. Back in the day it was easier to do that, it’s much harder now. I’m sure the screenplay that I sold back then would never have been bought today, because things were a little bit more open at that time. But it’s always been a part of my life, so it was a very natural kind of outgrowth.

LAZG: Where did the idea for Boarding School come from?

BY: Well I’m not really sure anymore! It’s been a while since I wrote it. I feel like these ideas, different fragments of things, sort of come together in your head. I know I really wanted to do something about the need to embrace the feminine within the self, basically, it’s about the need to embrace the things that you feel make you feel weak and by embracing them, it makes you strong. Your sense of ethnicity, your sense of sexuality and femininity, in my case. I always grew up with this really strong awareness that my entire family on my mother’s side had been killed by the Germans in WW2. So, on some level I grew up with a self-loathing, for that side of my family, feeling “How did you let this happen and be killed like that”, which is absurd. But when you’re a kid that’s the kind of thing that engrains itself into you. I also grew up with a very strong feminine side, and for whatever reasons I was associated with hysteria, lack of control, lack of being strong and I grew up feeling frustrated and disconnected from the strong part of myself. In the last 10 years or so a part of what I’ve had to do it, in terms of me being a whole person, was embrace all these things about myself that I had been trying to push away and had been struggling with.

To me, that’s what this movie is about, ultimately. How the details of it came together, to be about a kid at school, the Holocaust… I’m not sure. But I know that those subjects are things that were very much on my mind. I’m dealing with them very strongly in the newest project I’m working on now, too, which is a contemporary dance movie, kind of about relationships, but also deals with the masculine and feminine within the selves. So, I think it’s something that’s on my mind, that I’ve been trying to find a way to explore.

LAZG: You are very personally connected to the story!

BY: I think when you are doing independent films, you don’t have a lot of money to make your movie with, but you have a lot of latitude in exploring subject matter. When you are making a more “Hollywood” type movie, you get more toys to play with, but your subject matter and the way you can approach it is so incredibly limited. I know that has changed in television, but with feature films, you are so limited in what interesting subject matter you can tackle unless you go the very independent film route; which is the route I prefer still. It’s great to be able to be diverse and use influences in a style that are creatively inspiring. The horror genre allows that and gives the ability to be personally connected to a story.

LAZG: What is the main message that you want an audience to get after watching Boarding School?

BY: I hope what they can take away from the film is that we need to embrace the things in ourselves that make us feel ashamed or make us feel weak. It’s only by embracing and owning them that you are going to be a strong and whole human being, it’s the root of our true inner strength. Pushing them aside will just leave you frustrated.

LAZG: Where did you find your cast? Everyone was incredible!

BY: The cast came through the traditional casting process, but it was interesting, in that I knew I wanted someone kind of mysterious, and raw for the lead, not the usual kind of kid. And Luke Prael came in, was really interesting, and raw. And Sterling Jerins, who plays his female counterpart Christine, when she came in I put them together and it turned out that they knew each other. I thought that meant they had met at auditions, but after they were cast, I found out that they were best friends since they were babies. Their parents are best friends, their oldest sisters are best friends, both families had them at the same times. So, because Luke had to do a number of things that were quite challenging emotionally for him, like wearing a dress, the fact that he was best friends with Sterling and that she was a such a solid professional already, (she’s done more movies than I have, probably, ha, ha) really helped create an environment that was safe and made things work better.

LAZG: You’ve done both, but, which would you rather do, the Hollywood blockbuster or an Independent film?

BY: Well I’ve been doing this for so long, but Indie, it’s my first love. I’ve had to make studio films to keep a roof over my head, and that’s actually helped me co-finance movies like this. I put a lot of my own money in Boarding School and I’m paying for the new movie that I’m doing right now. So, making a studio film allows you to sort of have a little money, to then put into an independent film. That’s something I got into back in my 20’s and that’s something that I hope to continue doing.

BOARDING SCHOOL is in theaters today and On Demand/Digital HD, August 31, 2018



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