Vancouver writer and director Kasey Lum is in good spirits when he joins a Zoom call with Pancouver. He’s just been on the Toronto International Film Festival website ordering tickets. But more importantly, his short film, “Bloom”, has been selected for the prestigious TIFF Short Cuts lineup.
“It was very surreal because the announcement came at a time when I was actually golfing…with the producers!” Lum tells Pancouver over Zoom.
In fact, Boldly partner and executive producer Kristoff Duxbury shared the good news.
“I didn’t play very well but I was very excited,” Lum recalls. “I started bogeying and double bogeying, but the TIFF thing was unreal. It still is.”
“Bloom”, a haunting psychodrama, stars Jodi Balfour (For All Mankind, Ted Lasso) as Laurel. Sophisticated and urbane, Laurel forms a deep attachment to a house plant after being dumped by her partner. Lum describes her character as a “career-driven professional” who’s exceptionally meticulous.
“You see this cleanliness and the organization—and then you see her breaking apart within that world,” Lum comments.
He’s thrilled that Balfour agreed to take the role. She played Jackie Kennedy in Netflix’s stunningly successful The Crown. In addition, she will be in Freud’s Last Session opposite Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode. Balfour plays child psychoanalyst and Tiffany & Co. heiress Dorothy Burlingham, the lifelong partner of Anna Freud.
The “Bloom” team shot the film over two days in a Gastown loft and a plant shop.
When asked where his career will go from here, Lum says that he hopes to continue creating narratives through writing or directing short and feature films.
“Having a short film in TIFF is a great start,” he notes. “It could be a great launching pad.”
Watch the trailer for “Bloom”, which is part off TIFF Short Cuts Programme 2.
Lum switches from animation to live action
Lum says that his short film was conceived during the pandemic. He wanted to represent what it’s like being alone and confined to a space.
“I had bought a bunch of new house plants,” he reveals. “So that was a bit of a seed.”
Watching plants grow and change reinforced that this greenery was living with him. The idea of creating a relationship between his central character and a house plant came after he included a break-up into the narrative.
So, does Lum have a relationship with his plants?
“I try to take care of plants the best I can,” he replies. “I’m not a very good plant owner, though—I’m pretty new to it all.”
Lum didn’t originally set out to be a live-action filmmaker. He took the animation program in the Vancouver Film School and worked in that field for about five years.
“I slowly began to realize that all my references for animation were live action—film programs,” he says. “I asked myself why I wasn’t in that world.”
Lum went to work for a Gastown company, doing a mixture of animation and live action. There, he became fascinated by the production side, including how films were shot and edited.
Lum builds mood around characters
“If it were really to come down to what inspired me to get into it, I grew up skateboarding and I always had a camera around,” Lum reveals. “We would shoot skateboard videos. I just never thought of that transferring into…a more narrative world. So that kind of happened later.”
Lum is of mixed ancestry, with Chinese and French roots. While his racial background doesn’t directly influence the content, he’s shown that he’s equally at ease filming projects in English and French. Lum even included a fair amount of Romanian in his award-winning short gangster film “Kingspin”.
Moreover, he has directed music videos in English and French.
Lum’s film projects—like his music videos for such artists as Stromae, Felix Cartal, and Hermitude—stand out for creating a distinct mood.
“I like character-driven stories,” Lum explains. “So if I can start with a character, generally the world can build out from that.”
In other words, the character provides powerful insights into how a live-action project will feel. Just like in “Bloom”.
The Toronto International Film Festival will present the world premiere of Kasey Lum’s “Bloom” as part of Short Cuts Programme 2 on September 8 and 12. For tickets, visit the TIFF website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.