Local filmmaker Steven Boatman has been defying the odds all his life.
The 23-year-old Toledoan lost his hearing from bacterial meningitis at age 1 and was deaf for four years before receiving a cochlear implant at age 5.
“I’m an unusual filmmaker in that I am completely deaf, but I use a cochlear implant to artificially hear. It’s like a bionic ear, which makes me a pretty cool cyborg,” Boatman said.
Two years ago, against the advice of family members, Boatman dropped out of Bowling Green State University after three years to pursue filmmaking full time.
The gamble is starting to pay off.
Boatman’s five-minute narrative film “Mowing Through Misery,” a dark comedy about the frustrations of a man trying to mow his lawn, was screened at the Northwest Ohio Independent Film Festival in Lima in July where it caught the attention of actor and producer Russ Russo, who asked Boatman to be director of photography for his upcoming independent feature-length film “Heat Wave.”
Filmmaker Steven Boatman of Toledo. PHOTO COURTESY STEVEN BOATMAN
Russo will direct as well as act. Other actors will include Kiowa Gordon and Bronson Pelletier, who portray werewolves Embry and Jared in “The Twilight Saga”; Natasha Alam of “True Blood” and “Entourage”; Amanda Clayton from “John Carter”; Jessica Andres of “Liberator” and “Gossip Girl”; and more.
Russo, who lives in Los Angeles but often travels to film festivals across the country, said he was impressed by Boatman’s creativity and ingenuity.
“It’s as if one sense gave way to another sense, which was his eye. The camera was always moving, always presenting something and coming into the next scene. What he was doing was something on a studio level. It’s presented in a way that feels very much like a big Hollywood feel film,” Russo said. “I saw Steven’s film right at the end of the festival and I thought, ‘Wow I’m actually in the midst of writing something and that kind of filmmaking is what I picture.’ I was just really impressed with the creativity and ingenuity. To go into a garage and build camera equipment? Usually it takes a studio and thousands and thousands of dollars to decide, ‘I’m going to build a crane today.’”
Russo said he happened to talk to Boatman at the festival before viewing his film.
“I saw this kid just kind of standing to the side. I walked up to him and found out he had a film in the festival,” Russo said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I like to root for the underdog. ‘Rocky’ is one of my favorite movies. I was really rooting for the kid. But the festival had about two hours of technical problems before his film. I didn’t even know if it was going to get shown. Probably 20 to 30 people walked out and didn’t even get to see the best film at the festival in my opinion. I was totally impressed. I had no idea that by coming to Ohio that discovery was going to be made.”
“Heat Wave” is a dark comedy that addresses modern day society, Generation Y friendship, moral decay, narcissism, self-discovery and more as two friends take a cross-country road trip from Los Angeles to New Jersey.
Filming will start in November in Los Angeles if $20,000 is raised through the online fundraiser Kickstarter by Aug. 31. So far more than $19,000 has been pledged. To donate or learn more, visit www.HeatWaveFilm.com.
Boatman writes, directs, films, edits and acts in his films. He also built most of his own equipment, including a dolly platform with metal pipe tracks, an 8-foot aluminum crane and a computer for video-editing. He also designed his own website. Boatman’s father, Glen Boatman, helps with filming when Steven is acting.
“‘Mowing Through Misery’ was originally written as a narrative example of what one can do with my crane,” Boatman said. “Then I saw it could stand alone as its own independent film and showcase not only my filmmaking skills in the technical sense but demonstrate my skills as a filmmaker and storytelling ability all in about five minutes.”
Boatman was homeschooled until enrolling at BGSU to study visual communication technology. His first taste of filmmaking was a “Star Wars” parody he made with his sister growing up, but it was at BGSU that Boatman realized he wanted to make narrative filmmaking his career.
“Filmmaking is one aspect of my life that I derive the most joy from,” Boatman said. “The summer of 2010 was when I knew that I would regret not following my passion, so I quit college. I knew I was more than capable of being an excellent narrative filmmaker. However, the problem was convincing people of how talented I am. I couldn’t just convince them with words; instead I had to show them.”
Filmmaker Steven Boatman of Toledo with his father Glen Boatman. PHOTO COURTESY STEVEN BOATMAN
“Mowing Through Misery” was screened at the International Indie Gathering Film Festival in Hudson, Ohio, in August, where it was awarded third place in the drama category for microfilms (no longer than five minutes).
The film is also part of OneCloudFest, the first film festival held via Facebook. Users can view films through Aug. 31 and “like” their favorites with the top three films in each category moving on to the finals. To view films and vote, visit apps.facebook.com/onecloudfest.
Glen Boatman said he is proud of his son’s opportunity to work on a feature-length film.
“He’s doing very well. Fortunately he has me to bankroll him, but this is going to be big payback,” Glen said, laughing. “He’s getting started now.”
For more information, visit www.stevenboatman.com.
Editor’s note: Updated with comments from Russ Russo and Kickstarter total.
Tags: "Heat Wave", "Mowing Through Misery", Facebook, filmmaker, Glen Boatman, International Indie Gathering Film Festival, Kickstarter, Northwest Ohio Independent Film Festival, OneCloudFest, Russ Russo, Sarah Ottney, Steven Boatman, Will Lamborn