A week in the life of a trans boy in his final days of school as he comes to terms with his best friend’s recent passing.

‘Lay Me by the Shore’ explores the raw, potent emotions of youth through the prism of grief. The film lends an empathetic eye on a young person’s very immediate but suppressed emotions. Drenched in the warm light of long June days and with the intimidating spectre of an uncertain future looming, the tale is told from the perspective of the recently deceased — an omniscient and benevolent presence.

Can you tell me a little bit about ‘Lay Me by the Shore’, how did this film come about?

The inspiration for Lay Me by the Shore came during April 2020, the very start of the pandemic. During that month, aside from editing Found Me, which I had wrapped just in time before lockdown, I, like everyone else, wasn’t out in the world intaking, experiencing the world, which is usually how I find inspiration. Inadvertently I ended up looking inward, and at that time I realized that it had been 10 years since I lost a friend to an accident, when I was in high school. The realization just sent me right back to that period. I began remembering things very vividly and found there was perhaps something unresolved for me, but also worthwhile sharing. After about 2 months of very slow writing I found the piece of music Lay Me by the Shore by The White Birch, and that’s where it all clicked. I knew I wanted to tell the story, subtly from the perspective of the recently departed, and the song not only supported that POV but its tone was exactly what I envisioned. From there the music was woven into the film’s DNA and heavily inspired the rest of the writing process…

How did you find your cast for the film?

I met Isla and his partner Kai making a short concept film called Air. We met each other the same day we shot and they were the best part of this vignette-y little film. While I was making Air, I was writing LMBTS, and I knew I wanted to cast strictly non-actors. Isla and Kai were just it, and I leaned into them very heavily to try and tell the story as much as possible from their perspective, enabling them, as much as I could, to tell us and show us what it’s like to be young today.

As a writer/director are you open to changes or suggestions when you start shooting or do you like to stick to what has been written?

Very open. In writing or coming up with a shooting plan you create pretty rigid ideas but I think it’s important to let go of the need to manifest exactly what is in your head. Life happens on set and it’s important to harness whatever vibe is being communicated to you on that day and to channel that into the film, in a way that relates to the purpose of the scene and the film.

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

The most challenging bit was the climactic bicycle scene which we diligently rehearsed and worked on with a stunt coordinator and stunt driver, which was a first for me. It’s not only a stunt but Isla needs to give a performance, the most dramatic of the whole film, during it. It was a matter of shooting that at the very end of our 8 day shoot and building up to it. By that point i had full confidence in Isla and the team to technically nail it.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

I love that question. Every film has a lesson. If I’m being honest, the last few films I had done gave me this incredible feeling just as we wrapped, like a huge high, and a feeling of great confidence. I didn’t quite get that feeling the moment we wrapped this film. And it scared me. I wondered if that was a sign that something was missing and maybe I was just completely exhausted. I found this very feeling when Alexander Farah and I reached our first cut, which took a long time to get to. In that moment I felt like I had achieved what I had set out to make and it was a beautiful moment, after a tricky editing process. But the feeling was the same high and excitement I had felt the minute we wrapped Air and Found Me. It taught me that that feeling can come a little later, and that that’s okay, too. Because now, Lay Me by the Shore certainly stands as the work I am the most proud of.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

Have fun! And to do it with friends! The experience can be grueling and is always, with no exception, an unpredictable rollercoaster – so just embrace the ride, make sure you enjoy it and get rid of any idea of needing for your film to be perfect because that’s impossible – just make it the most “you” it can be.

What do you hope people will take away from ‘Lay Me by the Shore’?

The feeling I set out for viewers to experience when watching this film is that of clarity, and newfound lucidity, as though having been given a new lens through which to view and rediscover their own selves.

What are your favorite films?

I’m currently crazy about Hlynur Pálmason’s work. I watched his latest film Godland on an IMAX screen and it was a truly transformative experience. I cannot wait to watch it again.

What are your favorite short films?

There are many! I love shorts. Anything Matthew Rankin makes fascinates me. Same Old by Lloyd Lee Choi is a perfect short film. Möbius by Sam Kuhn is amazing. I was lucky enough to see a new short film at a festival recently and it will come out soon, it’s called Empty Rooms by Zhenia Kazankina – just one of those hidden pearls, poetic, nuanced, intimate, yet far reaching in its scope. One of those little films that gets you excited about cinema and that everything out there is still left for you to be discovered.