Bloom Blossoms at TIFF – Interview with Kasey Lum

Over in Toronto, TIFF is happening, and I wonder if Shane is out there watching some stuff this year. Well recently, the TIFF Short Cuts Program happened, and one great film actually came from a guy over here: Kasey Lum. The last time he got an interview on here it was with Darren, this time I got a chance to speak to Kasey about his little production. It’s called Bloom and stars a woman (Jodi Balfour) and a plant. They soon become the best of friends thanks to isolation. Erm, sort of. But that’s not all he’s worked on lately, he did some more work helping create a pilot for Sunflower Lemonade, which we should hopefully be seeing soon. Sometime after making music videos and acting in a film about drugs, he’s ready to do bigger and better stuff. I chose to talk to him about this. I wonder if Darren’s chat was just as fun as this?

Now sit back as this interview blossoms into a beautiful flower with petals of information.


HNMAG: Where did you get the inspiration for Bloom?

Kasey Lum: The inspiration sort of sprouted over the course of early pandemic, so sort of when everything shut down and we were stuck to being inside. The more that I ruminate on the reason for the idea, I feel as though it was like being stuck inside at the time made me purchase a bunch of houseplants. Maybe that was a reaction to not being out in nature as much, I wanted to bring the outside in, so that’s sort of why there’s a second talent in the film that is characterized by this plant. Just the feeling of loss and isolation is what the pandemic brought to mind.


HNMAG: You mentioned another character, that being the plant. How is that?

Kasey Lum: It’s essentially just Jodi in the film, but the plant does take this sort of strange surreal persona that is living with her. I call the plant another character even though it’s not really. It was really interesting to play with one character in a space and trying to develop a relationship with her and this non-living thing. 


HNMAG: The film mainly focuses on a woman and a plant. Would it be any different with a male character? Why did you choose a female?

Kasey Lum: I guess it sort of came down to it was always in my head that a female would play a role. When I reached out to look for actors, the majority of candidates were female and so it just sort of felt right. Maybe also to not just have another male-dominated film (laughs) but to provide that role for female artists as well. 


HNMAG: Where exactly did you get the vegetation and plants from?

Kasey Lum: That’s a good question. From the start, we weren’t sure how the plant was going to look and what type of plant we would use. We teamed up with a plant artist, Victoria and she helped bring life and a personality to this thing. I won’t give too much away but the plant changes a lot over the course of the film. She helped create this surreal look for the plant and fathered the bonsai because it has a strong base but could manipulate the top to make it look different. 


HNMAG: With the way the plant changes, is that how to express the change over time as they grow, or how somebody changes when going through something like this?

Kasey Lum: I think it’s a bit of both and the plant was a great metaphor. I’m a new plant owner and have noticed my plants changing quite quickly overtime from day to day. There’s new leaves forming or dropping, or its shape is changing due to wanting to be closer to the light. I think that provided a great base for our characters changing and going through phases during this breakup. I feel like that’s sort of the reason for having a plant have a relationship with the main character during a hard time.


HNMAG: You mentioned you have some plants of your own. Have you had similar experiences with them?

Kasey Lum: Yeah, nothing as dramatic as what happens in the film. But on a lighter level, just sort of being aware of how delicate and communicative the plants are. It’s like living with something you need to take care of and it was very eye opening for me.


HNMAG: How do you think most gardeners and plant owners will feel about it?

Kasey Lum: I think as we got deeper into production and sort of created an entity that wasn’t necessarily real. It’s not supposed to exist, she added flowers and things to the base of the bonsai. In that sense, it’s not a real plant and doesn’t reflect a certain species of plant but I think generally that people who are fond of plants will resonate with the film.

HNMAG: What kind of plant and nature research did you have to do for this short?

Kasey Lum: Most of the research was basically visual research. What visually looked interesting, and could evoke certain emotions was its contorted look and its strong base give a dramatic feeling. Whereas some plants are quite leafy based and maybe a little bit less strong feeling. I think having chosen the bonsai and that sort of like thick stock. It gives you a sense of strength, even when it loses its leaves. I think that’s why we went down that road. 


HNMAG: How does it feel to get a world premiere at TIFF?

Kasey Lum: I was sort of speechless after finding out. It was quite an exciting moment in my career, this is the first festival of this stature that I’ve had the pleasure of being selected at so that is amazing and the rest of the team are very excited. As well as having it be a Canadian World premiere, I don’t think it could’ve been any other way. This is the best case scenario for me.


HNMAG: Where will the film go after this?

Kasey Lum: I’ve had a lot of people ask me what the plans for this film are, and I feel like I just want to continue trying to get it around to as many people as I can. Even if I don’t know who’s watching it relate to it in some way. There currently is no plans to make this into a feature, however I’m not opposed to that. I do think that the film fits in the 10-minute time frame that it is and I don’t know if I would want to stretch it longer just for the sake of making a feature. 


HNMAG: Will we see a sequel to Bloom possibly?

Kasey Lum: Perhaps, perhaps. We’ll have to wait and see (laughs)


HNMAG: And now that you’ve done a pilot and this short, how do you find they differ from the music videos you made?

Kasey Lum: I think the most noticeable difference is that series and narrative, whether it’s short or long they require a lot of prep and dimension and planning. Music videos also require that but I think there’s a bit more freedom in terms of coming up with the concept. You’re allowed a little bit more experimentation on the day, especially if you’re working with collaborators that are open to it. I feel there is less room for error in narrative pieces. 

HNMAG: Do you have plans to shoot a feature in the future or is your focus short films?

Kasey Lum: I’m currently working on a feature-length script, hoping to have it done by early next year. Then I guess that’s when I have to ship it around and consider it getting picked up. Right now, I’m trying to get through the daunting task of writing the feature. 


HNMAG: What are your hopes for Sunflower Lemonade?

Kasey Lum: That was a collaborative project with my friend Pamela Palmer and she’s written that. I think she would probably be a better person to ask the question, but I believe that she’s trying to get more funding for that so that she can continue making the full series. That was a very fun project to work on and I learned a lot of things on it.


HNMAG: Do you hope to have further involvement in it in the future?

Kasey Lum: I hope so, I’ve chatted with her about that, and it depends on what the next steps are for her. That would be something I would consider hopping on if she would have me. 


An amazing work of art, Bloom is sure to grow its way through festivals much like another short film I saw long ago. And just as the film grows like a big strong plant, Kasey Lum’s career is sure to as well. He could be making lots more cool stuff in the future, so just wait

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