Taylor Toole's Film Will Appear in Boston Festival, Island Theatres


Fourteen months ago, when he was begging and borrowing his way through 12 grueling days of directing his first film on Martha's Vineyard, Taylor Toole had doubts about finishing the project.

Let alone making it onto a selective list of short features premiering at the Boston Film Festival this weekend.

"When we set out to do this, I was told that for a company that had no money, in which no one was getting paid, allow a year of production for every 10 minutes of film," 24-year-old Taylor said by phone from Los Angeles on Friday, just coming off a late night on-set at HBO as the runner's assistant to a yet-to-air show called Deadwood. "I expected to be working [on production] for at least two years."

Less than six weeks after wrapping up editing on his 18-minute film, Standing Up, this Island native is elated.

"I was really surprised to have gotten into the Boston Film Festival," said Taylor, who graduated from Emerson College in Boston in 2001. "For me, it's the hometown festival."

The Island bonus is special viewings of the film next week at the Capawock, the Island and the Strand Theaters - likely to run as a trailer to some feature films running in these theaters.

Standing Up tracks two lovestruck teens through an emotionally volatile three days. He's from the wrong side of the tracks. She lives in an Island trophy home. His father beats his mother. She's starved for attention from her high-powered, often absent mother. All of their loneliness, rage and confusion comes crashing, quite literally, into a first kiss - moments after a climactic bike wreck.

Skimpy on conversation, driven by a half-dozen gripping confrontations, Standing Up draws on a cast of homegrown talent. Jesse Sylvia, a senior at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, captures all of the self-consciousness of a teenage boy enamored of a pretty girl hopelessly out of his league. Jaclyn Lyons, a seasonal resident of the Vineyard, plays the familiar teenager who painfully primps for a party in anticipation of her first kiss.

"The actors really surprised me," said Taylor, who developed the script from two characters in a full-length feature he wrote some time ago. "All of a sudden, we were getting it the way I'd pictured it in my head. We were able to get moments that were really genuine."

Standing Up's cinematography moves it ahead of the pack of amateur short films. The first product of Ocean Park Pictures, a film company launched by Taylor and college friends Edward Bedrosian and Mia Leist, the film's colors, angles and pace push the story along even more than the dialogue. The young company spared no expense on equipment. Admitted "film geeks," the crew from Ocean Park Pictures last summer imported enough equipment for the shoot to fill a five-ton grip truck.

For those who love Island impressions, Standing Up provides a feast of recognizable spots and characters - from the deck of the Seafood Shanty to the jetty at Eastville Beach. But, Taylor admits, those who know every nook and cranny of Martha's Vineyard will sense a little improvisation.

"It will be a little bit like Islanders watching the movie Jaws. Everything's in a different place. The punch at the high school is in the Oak Bluffs school, and Jesse races away from the high school on a road in West Tisbury," Taylor said with a laugh.

But the filmmaker is relieved that the final product escaped with only a few signs of the logistical obstacle course Ocean Park Pictures faced. The 12-day shoot, he said, bordered on a comedy of errors rather than the seamless operation the young professionals envisioned.

"Next time around, I'd definitely try and focus more on logistics. When stuff pops up when you're shooting, it takes away from your creative energy. Nine months later in the production room, you don't remember the logistics, you just wonder why you didn't get it quite right," he said.

The crew was kicked out of the high school - five years after Taylor graduated - because a few classrooms were left in disarray after one day of filming. "Someone at the school gave us permission to film in the school, and though we tried to express the size of our crew, I think they thought we'd be two kids with a video camera," he said.

All told, Standing Up cost $32,000 to make, which is significantly less than it could have been without donations from Island friends and businesses. The company secured $6,000 in donations, another $14,000 in no-interest loans from friends and family, and Taylor fronted the rest.

"The last $3,500 credit card bill came this week, and I actually have the money to pay for it," Taylor said. He'll now begin repaying the pile of loans and start collecting capital for a full-length feature he hopes to begin next year.

"For the first time out, there's a lot to be proud of. But it's the beginning. In this field, you either direct or you don't direct. If I want to make movies, I've just got to direct, and keep directing."

An Island entourage is expected to travel to Boston this weekend for one of the five showings of Standing Up. While a tape of the short film has circulated around Taylor's circle in Los Angeles, none of the actors, crew or Island friends and family on the East coast have yet to see the film.

In the meantime, Taylor's paying his dues in Hollywood - getting as much access as possible on the sets of programs like Project Greenlight and Deadwood, a new Western drama. "It's really great," he said. "Everyday I go to work with cowboys and whores."