Director Christopher Pickering’s short Jimmy Boden is one of those films that catches you off guard. It begins and you think you’re watching a work that is purely comical and conceptual, a lone figure in a laboratory looking over some food whilst being monitored. But as the short progresses the reality of this character’s existence begins to show itself, and the film reveals a strangely profound texture you weren’t quite expecting. It’s also just remarkable that Jimmy Boden is a student short, not to belittle student shorts at all, but the cinematography and production value on show is incredibly high for a film produced on such a micro-budget. Now, as the short makes its online premiere, Pickering joins DN for a chat about his short, explaining how he achieved such a professional look and reflecting back on the practical lessons learned while shooting that he’ll carry into future projects.
What is the origin story of the wonderfully weird concept for Jimmy Boden?
I came up with the idea for Jimmy Boden as I was eating a bag of chips. I looked at the back and noticed the serving size: seven chips. Who ever just eats seven chips? This specific yet useless number got me thinking. How do they determine these numbers? I began to try to think of the weirdest possible explanation and that’s where Jimmy was born. Once I had this character in mind, I knew exactly who needed to play him.
How do they determine these numbers? I began to try to think of the weirdest possible explanation and that’s where Jimmy was born.
And what did you see in actor Andrew Simmons that made him a lock to play this character?
Andrew Simmons is a good friend of mine and an incredible actor. He is also someone that I knew would be down to shave their head for a student film. Sure enough, nearly two years after the initial conception, my idea started to materialize; Andrew shaved his head, we bought a bunch of snacks and we brought Jimmy to life.
How many shooting days did you have and what kit were you using on set camera-wise?
The film was shot in three days utilizing equipment from the LMU film school and outside rentals. In addition to directing, I also acted as the DP and shot the film on an Arri Amira paired with Super Speeds.
I have to ask about the production design, it’s so impressive and haunting and atmospheric. What was it like to create and design?
A crucial part of the film was creating the environment in which Jimmy was rotting away. Production Designer Annie Becker created a perfectly disgusting world for Jimmy. My favourite set of the film is the shower. Annie and our Set Builder Jeff Scharberg created a flat fitted with a large observation window and beautiful butt flap, a last minute addition but my favourite part of the movie, and also the most expensive aspect of the entire production, ha! We filmed this scene in my garage and nearly flooded the thing while doing it. It turned out a kiddie pool was not a sufficient water receptacle.
Our shots were pretty tight for the most part which allowed us to really focus on perfecting what was in each frame.
What were you looking for sonically when it came to creating the music that would define the ambience of Jimmy’s environment?
The original score was composed by Joe Sanders who used a combination of live guitar recordings and experimental synths to create a haunting yet beautiful set of tracks. Joe’s score really brought the film to another level. His tracks translated what was going on inside Jimmy’s brain to the audience in an extremely compelling way.
It’s so impressive that you made the short as a student, not to diminish student films, but I was taken by how professional the production value is. What do you attribute that to?
Thank you so much! That was definitely a goal of mine, to make the film look like a professional production. And the real incentive behind that was so the audience could be completely immersed in the story and not be distracted by any shortcomings on the production side. I think the key to achieving this quality was keeping the idea quite contained. Nothing in the script required any grandiose location or stunt. We could feasibly accomplish each aspect of the film with our limited budget and crew size. Our shots were pretty tight for the most part which allowed us to really focus on perfecting what was in each frame. The talent of the crew was also essential, everyone who was on board was extremely dedicated to their role and delivered an exceptional result.
The real incentive behind that was so the audience could be completely immersed in the story and not be distracted by any shortcomings on the production side.
If it’s okay for me to say, you made the film on a $7,000 budget, how was it sourcing that money and financing the film?
The financing derived mostly from my own personal savings and generous donations from family and friends. It took a while to get to where we needed and the budget kept going up and production got closer but in the end, we had what we needed to make the film.
What did you learn in making Jimmy Boden that you’ll take into future shorts?
I learned that delegating responsibilities to the right people is huge. Before this film I had often tried to tackle all of the positions myself but I had never made a film of this scale so I needed to let go and thank god I did because it made the film so much better. I also learned that directing and DPing at the same time is very challenging and if I hadn’t had an incredible camera and lighting team I probably would have exploded.
Speaking of, what does the future look like for you filmmaking-wise at the moment?
I’m really excited for the future! I have some short films I’m planning on making this year and in the meantime I’m staying busy shooting projects here in LA. Making Jimmy Boden was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done so I can’t wait to get back to it and make my next film!