In seventh grade, Brandon Shenk began an almost decadelong journey to overcome an eating disorder.
Shortly after moving to Gainesville, Shenk began restricting his food intake and compulsively bingeing and purging. He said he became skeleton-like before he overcame the disorder at 22.
Shenk, now a 34-year-old writer and director, decided to create a film loosely based off his experiences to address what could happen if an eating disorder goes too far.
“Portrait of a Young Man,” a small-budget indie film, began filming in Gainesville Tuesday.
“Everybody’s choosing their own personal battles,” Shenk said. "I wanted it to be very obvious that these characters love each other, but their love is kind of misplaced at times, and they make decisions with good intentions that have rough consequences or ramifications."
While actors continue to flood into Gainesville, Shenk said he’s focusing on logistics such as catering and actor accommodations to make a smooth transition into a full filming schedule. To meet their target end date of Sept. 1, he said the crew needs to work about 14 hours a day.
Shenk said they’re still putting together a list of potential background actors for the film, although the main actors, including Jackson Kelly, who will play the main character, have been hired. Background actors are not being paid.
Most of the filming will take place around an Airbnb house on 43rd Street. Yining Xu, the film’s producer, said the house was chosen based on its accessibility and the team’s vision for a lower-middle-class family home.
“The film is about a high school boy’s struggle with this identity and eating disorder as his family is attempting to heal past wounds and nurture future hope," Xu said.
Although the house mostly fit the family dynamic Shenk pictured, he said the production design team is painting the walls blue and cream, moving around furniture and swapping decorative items. The owner of the house signed a location agreement stating the owner is not responsible for any damages or accidents that may occur during filming.
“It is definitely a lot of work and time,” Xu said. “The production design team needs to wait until the director comes up with a shot list so they know which angles of the house they will be seeing in the film, so they will put their effort and time into those angles.”
In total, the budget for the film is around $100,000 but may change depending on equipment, gas and other necessary costs that come up. Xu said most of the money came from campaigns in the U.S. and China, which each raised about $35,000. Xu and Shenk covered the rest of the funding needed.
Xu joined the project in July 2018. Shenk first mentioned the idea after Xu and Shenk graduated from the same film program at Florida State University.
Once the film is edited and completed in March, it will be submitted to a variety of festivals where Shenk hopes a film distributor will show interest.
“This movie is a slice-of-life film," Shenk said.