Harlan Bosmajian talks Backwards

by Jason Madanjian / Beacon Staff • October 4, 2012

Backwardsdirector jason
Harlan Bosmajian served as the DP on the set of Backwards.
Harlan Bosmajian served as the DP on the set of Backwards.

Arms move vigorously back and forth, up and down. Legs are extended but never fully stretched. The boat glides gently, giving no indication of the amount of effort it takes to move it. The lives of rowers are explored in Sarah Megan Thomas’ film Backwards, whose production was aided by members of Emerson College.

The family-friendly sports drama follows Abigail Brooks, a thirty-year-old rower who has trained for the Olympics her whole life and has learned once again that she did not make the team. A special screening was held at the AMC Loews Boston Common on Friday afternoon. Star, writer, and producer Thomas was present to take questions following the screening. Joining her for the Q-and-A  was Emerson professor and the film’s director of photography (DP) Harlan Bosmajian. 

“There are a million ways to shoot a scene,” said Bosmajian, who said he went through the script every day for three hours during pre-production. “The trick is coming up with the best way to shoot it.”

Bosmajian — who got the job after his DP work with the rowing scenes of the critically acclaimed film The Social Network in 2010 — based his visual interpretations of scenes after watching the actors rehearse. From there, he used colors to define the mood of the particular scenario. After Abigail learns she missed a seat on the rowing team for the second time in her career, Bosmajian employs cold, metallic blues to convey the somberness of the moment. 

However, the film often relied on the use of warmer, more cheerful colors. 

James Van Der Beek, ‘90’s television star of Dawson’s Creek, co-stars as an old flame brought back into Abigail’s life when she returns to teach rowing at her high school after discovering she did not making the Olympic team.

“You can always make something look pretty,” said Bosmajian. “But what distinguishes a good DP from a bad one is how you poetically interpret the film.”

Because the movie was produced with a non-union crew, Bosmajian brought along three Emerson students, now alumni, to intern for the production during the summer of 2011.

Bryan Rogers, a 2012 visual and media arts major graduate, worked as the intern grip on the film set.

Rogers said he used the internship as a learning experience.

“If there was something to do, they had me to do it,” said Rogers. “I didn’t even think of myself as an intern and in the end, wasn’t credited as one.” 

Rogers was titled grip, not intern grip, in the film credits.

Tyler Weinberger, a 2012 visual and media arts major graduate, was a camera intern during film production.Weinberger credits this process for giving him a place in apply his Emerson education to an industry set.

“Working on this film took everything I learned at Emerson and brought it to a professional level,” said Weinberger, who helped the first and second assistant directors, as well as cleaned the lenses and built the cameras.

Bosmajian said he saw the film — now playing in limited release in major cities across the country — as a perfect opportunity for his students to get hands-on experience with a professional film crew.

“It was such a great film for interns,” said Bosmajian. “Low-budget filmmaking means everyone has more responsibility with a faster pace.”