‘Never work with children or animals.’ It’s a lesson repeated so often in the film world it’s cliche. Film schools reiterate it. But all the warnings just made Jeffrey Boos determined to break the rule. And when he met Alexia King, he knew he could get away with it.
Now Boos and Alexia are preparing for a screening of the short film Woodland Dance at the Sarasota Film Festival. And there’s a good bet plenty of filmmakers are going to want to work with this child in the future.
Alexia, a 9-year-old actress living in Venice, had appeared in a number of supporting roles for student films in the region when she first went to an audition in front of Boos, a Ringling College of Art and Design senior. The young actress impressed the budding director and landed her first leading role on screen.
The story of Woodland Dance is about a divorced father trying to connect with his daughter using puppets. That’s a far cry from Alexia’s real-life, where she lives with two supportive (and married) parents who have helped usher a film career for both Alexia and her sister Julia (who also has a film screening at the festival this year).
Alexia, though, loves taking on a different personality. She has become a regular face both in area stage productions (she has played the Ghost of Christmas Past for three years running in the Venice Theatre’s production of The Christmas Carole) and in student films. “It’s fun to have something different in a character and to do something different,” she said.
Boos relished the opportunity to shatter the myth that directors should stay away from working with young children. “It’s a challenge when people say you can’t do it,” Boos says. “I love that.”
Alexia proved a solid subject. She could get mad on command just by imagining her character’s frustration with an absentee father. Crying is harder, she says.
Interestingly, some of the moments when Alexia is frustrated she couldn’t keep in character were so endearing Boos left them in the final cut of Woodland Dance. Those moments when Alexia couldn’t stay mad during a puppet show served the story well as the icy wall between Alexia’s character and her father began to crack.
Alexia, like her sister, splits a great deal of her time between Southwest Florida and Los Angeles, where she goes through training and regularly attends auditions. This film festival is a big opportunity, though, as it will be the first time one of her films screens for a broad audience.
Woodland Dance, part of the Shorts 9: SRQ program, premieres Tuesday, April 9, at 9:30pm at the Regal Hollywood 20. A second screening is scheduled Friday, April 11, at 2pm.