Jeffrey Bloom made his way about the crowded apartment, finding a path through boxes, balloons, and hanging streamers. He spotted Laura across the room and watched her independently mingling. He knew now that she would eventually go her own way.
This scene is from the bachelor of fine arts student film Inside Boxes, co-written by seniors Paul Lazo and Brad Cryan. Lazo, who is also the director, said that it has been rewarding to see the concept for the film grow into what it is today. Lazo and the film’s cast and crew spent the summer bringing the duo’s script to life.
“It’s come a long way from being this silly little idea involving cardboard,” he said. “So it’s been fun to see that idea turn into this bigger one. It was like a little baby—now it’s in college.”
The dramatic comedy centers around Jeff and his girlfriend Laura. The two decide to move in together—a step that Jeff considers similar to marriage. The film follows their relationship as they individually change and ultimately grow apart.
Lazo, a visual and media arts major, said he drew upon personal experience to make the film feel relatable, lifting from his frustrations with work relationships to provide the problematic differences between the characters in the on-screen relationship.
“This whole story is a personal story without necessarily being personal,” Lazo said. “I wanted to keep myself out of it, and at the same time, write about my personal struggles with relationships and anxiety.”
Last semester, Lazo focused on casting the actors and writing and editing the script via suggestions from his workshop class.
Coming up with the perfect ending was a process for the writing duo, said Lazo. According to Cryan, the pair wrote five different options before Cryan came up with one that felt appropriate and allowed Jeff to have space to grow as a character.
“We realized that Jeff can’t be in a functional relationship until he learns how to be with himself,” Cryan said. “Though Jeff and Laura break up, I think the ending is actually quite uplifting.”
Lazo said that he loves and hates auditions due to the difficulty of choosing the perfect actor. However, he said that when senior Matt Fagerber auditioned for the part of Jeff, he knew Fagerber was meant for the role.
“Right then and there,” Lazo said, “I was like, ‘This guy is Jeff.’ You can stretch it out until you find the fit [with an actor], but things just click sometimes, and those are the moments I love in auditions.”
From there came the rehearsals, meant to work out any kinks before the cast was on set with a time limit.
“I’m the kind of person where I’ll have five or six rehearsals before I film in order to feel comfortable when I get on set,” Lazo said. “That’s where the film really came to life.”
Then came summer.
Both Lazo and senior visual and media arts major Michelle Kwong, the director of photography, found that the break was an ideal time to film this project.
“This was our main priority in the summer, whereas in the school year we would have been pulled in different directions with schoolwork and other productions,” Kwong said.
But the process was not entirely a breeze. Lazo said he felt thankful for the flexibility of summer due to the setbacks they had that required much rescheduling.
During the first weekend of filming, Kwong said that their original apartment location, where half of the film takes place, fell through. Luckily, Lazo’s friend offered her place, but Kwong said the reorganizing of actors’ and crew members’ schedules was not easy.
Still, the Inside Boxes crew pulled together, and were able to bring Lazo’s and Cryan’s story to life. All realms of filmmaking came together in the party scene, Kwong’s favorite, where Jeff is watching Laura and realizing they will go their seperate ways.
According to Kwong, this scene was one of the most challenging cinematically. The camera follows Jeff as though the audience is walking and observing with him, and senior Laura Brincat’s production design of blues and yellows added to the somber mood. Coupled with Lazo and Cryan’s script and the actors’ performances, the scene culminates in what Kwong calls the major turning point in the story.
Now that the set has wrapped and summer has come to a close, Kwong said this semester will consist of post-production—adding a soundtrack, color-grading, and listening to criticism from fellow students.
Ultimately, Lazo said that this was a valuable lesson in being honest in a script, without being too on-the-nose.
“It was very cathartic,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll write a movie this personal for a very long time.”