Interviewed by Rohan Bhattacharya
We interview award-winning actor/writer/director, Michael Boston. His latest film SKAT is about a lonely, self-hating narcissist pauses his suicide to fall in love – with a better version of himself. Based on the book by Sara Sepulcri.
Cult Critic – SKAT is the fifth straight short film you’ve written, directed and produced, why this film?
Michael Boston – I wanted to move back into the direction of a more serious, maybe deeper place, as a storyteller and as an actor. I think I’ve avoided this these past couple of years and I wanted to lay my vulnerabilities out there to maybe grow as an artist in some way.
Cult Critic – What attracted you to the book SKAT, so much so that you brought it to life as a motion picture?
MB – It really was right down my alley in a lot of ways. I found things in Skat, the character, at least in my interpretation, that he was putting up a front. He wanted to be all things to all people but was incredibly insecure in a lot of ways. He wanted love but he was too afraid to ask for it.
Cult Critic – Do you think adapting a book is difficult? What is the difference between telling your own story and interpreting someone else’s?
MB – Well, I think it’s a marriage in some ways. I was given some freedom with Sara Sepulcri’s story but really was mindful to keep its core in that it was a clash of two individuals who really found a sense of respect and a love for each other in a short amount of time. That took a lot of trust and giving of themselves from Skat and Lei… a lot of deep emotional bonding actually in an incredibly short amount of time. Did they know each other before this? Well, she certainly knew about him and that he was not going to allow someone to get too close. She arrived obviously at his most crucial moment. It wasn’t difficult in the sense of adapting a piece of literary art. It really could have been a feature film itself, no doubt, so I took what affected me the most and she was trusting of this.
Cult Critic – What challenges did you face while scripting the film and/or while directing?
MB – I really had the story in my head after three reads of the book so it went rather smoothly. I do have some regrets… all writers do… in that I could have had at least a couple of moments that could have been more profound, if you will, that more of an audience could connect with. But beautiful moments happen sometimes on their own, too, and I think we have that as well. I was a mess… exhausted, forgetful, anxious and that was perfect for my character but everybody… I mean everybody on set… pulled together and kept this little boat floating. They were all co-directors.
Cult Critic – Your actors had to play extremely complicated characters, how did you manage to inspire them?
MB – Oh, they inspire me! I’ve worked with Shannan Leigh Yancsurak previously and I love her as a person and an actress. She has this integrity to her that is so admirable and I’ve seen her acting on film, on stage with improv, and her focus is very, very in the moment. I actually wrote that part with her in mind before I told her. Heidi Luo is a dynamo, brave enough to take her original clean comedy stand-up routine on the Los Angeles comedy circuit and kills it. They’re both very brave and an inspiration to me. I was not needed to motivate in any way.
Cult Critic – If you could change something about the story in SKAT, or about the characters, what would it be?
MB – I’d never want to. I saw the world Sara created and saw myself in there. I saw Shannan as Lei. But in the film version, I longed to bring these two characters back together – how could this love be wasted? These souls connected almost as one and I wanted to take it further and if they were brought together, one soul at least would have to change so that was the biggest freedom I took with Sara’s blessing.
Cult Critic – SKAT is also about an artist struggling to accept himself for who he is, seemingly incapable of loving himself. Did you find yourself in a similar situation in the past?
MB – That is me, no way around it. I would venture to say, we – me and SKAT, actually lived parallel lives. I’m so grateful be alive. So grateful.
Cult Critic – Your concept of star-crossed lovers was very intriguing. Do you see yourself as romantic?
MB – That is me, too, no way around it – haha! Nothing compares to love. I’ll bend over backwards to be romantic and I’m quite proud of that, haha.
Cult Critic – Skat was able to find artistic inspiration even in sadness and melancholy, so do you, yourself, believe that our sweetest songs are often those that tell of our saddest thoughts?
MB – Yes, it’s crazy to think about but there is a lot of validity to that. People want to feel and use music to help. Many artists are tortured and come up with their best material during their times of despair – songwriters, singers, painters and even filmmakers to name a few. The listener or viewer may connect and they have to allow this. My mother, in her later years, returned to singing and had this strong personal connection to Patsy Cline and I admired that. She didn’t just sing her songs at karaoke bars, she felt them and her little audience did as well. There was a lot of hurt and my mother sang with her vulnerabilities exposed. She gave you her heart.
Cult Critic – Skat was able to love himself only after he was influenced by another so do you believe humans are programmed to be dependent on others for emotional support?
MB – Yes, for emotional support but it really must be out of love, I think, not with any other motives, and that’s hard to find, I think. I really have always embraced the loner that I truly am but emotional support out of love would be a jackpot.
Cult Critic – The pandemic has made us lonelier than ever. Studies show people of all ages have found themselves going through existential crisis even more than ever. Do you believe that your film could reach out to their hearts, making them capable of finding love in the unlikeliest of places?
MB – My goodness, what a well-thought-out and beautiful question. An artist could only dream such affect from his or her work. It almost makes me cry. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to watching a film I know the ending to just to feel something again. Film is so powerful in that way. What was different in SKAT is that he finally fell in love with himself thru another being. I had a similar moment 13 years ago and still get goosebumps, because I feel I finally came out of myself despite myself, if only for a moment I looked into the mirror and cried my eyes out. I said “Hey, I love you, and we’re going to get through this because you are all I got” and it was so out of the blue, so foreign, I had a hard time believing I said that. It was a revelation. To me, it was profound. I wanted SKAT to be just as profound.
Cult Critic – The fact that you are an independent filmmaker and have produced several films all by yourself is truly inspiring. Any words for inspiring filmmakers who wish to tell their stories who may have hindrances of budgets or other circumstances?
MB – Oh my, it’s starting to get easier and easier everyday for filmmakers with amazing phones and such… not to insinuate everyone can afford even that though. I’m creative and frugal at the same time but my sacrifices are really 24/7 so I’m not out partying, I