U Film MFA student Jordan Boge on finishing his short film "Turtle"

April 23 2020
Still from "Turtle" | courtesy Jordan Boge Still from "Turtle" | courtesy Jordan Boge

By Emeri Fetzer 

Despite classes and collaborative work moving online, Jordan Boge is triumphantly reaching the finish line for his short subject documentary film, “Turtle.”

For Boge, a graduate student in the University of Utah Department of Film & Media, the project has been a main focus throughout the academic year, beginning in August with pre-planning. Boge’s team wrapped up filming for the documentary in February, right before a global pandemic changed our daily lives. “ I feel extremely fortunate because nothing of the film has been compromised,” Boge explained.

“For post-production in particular, it is entirely common to work digitally,” Boge continued. “I used to work at CNN in Atlanta, and we would regularly overnight hard drives of the physical footage to our editors in New York. It is standard in the production world to make it work remotely.”

Of course, Boge and his collaborators have missed being together to fine-tune a project in which they are all deeply invested. These shared moments are often the most enjoyable of a team’s process. But they have kept close contact over phone and video chat, finalizing color grading and score adjustments,  and have reflected together about what made the documentary unique. Pamela InterviewBehind the scenes of "Turtle" | Courtesy Jordan Boge

“Turtle” follows the daily life of Pamela Cornejo, a PhD student at the U in counseling psychology, and a close friend of Boge’s, whom he finds particularly inspiring. “I knew I wanted to make a documentary for Sonia and Miriam (Sobrino’s) class. Right before I left last summer to work for a film company in LA, I was spending time with Pamela and she shared a bit of her background and story. I spent the whole summer thinking about it.”

Cornejo is a child of Mexican immigrants and Boge wanted to make a film about who her family is and how it continually impacts who she is as a person. “I was expecting a ‘no’ from her,” Boge said. “Who agrees to have someone just make a documentary about them? I don’t think most people see the interest in their own story.” Luckily, Cornejo agreed right away and showed immense vulnerability and openness while filming.

For Boge, this was the best part. “We did an on-site interview the second day of filming, after following her at work with her middle school students. She was having a hard day and began to bare her feelings. It was a two-hour interview, but I ended up using bits of all of it for the six-minute film,” he said.

“I really wanted to make sure that the story I was telling was as true to her view as possible. She was great about recognizing that I was the filmmaker and she was holding the story. We had a great push and pull between knowing what was best for the film and what was best for her story.”

Boge collaborated with several other students in the Department of Film & Media Arts. The film’s cinematographer, JJ Houghton, is an undergraduate senior. In reflecting, Houghton pointed out that the most rewarding piece of the project was Cornejo's authenticity on and off-screen. “In the B-roll of her day to day activities, to see her interacting with the people around her as if there was no camera there -- it’s what a documentarian is always hoping for, to present an idea in the least biased way possible.”

Both Boge and Houghton shared that the mutual care shown by all of their teammates was imperative to making their project worthwhile. “It’s a unique thing as a graduate student -- this is going to be part of my thesis portfolio that I defend, so it’s not just some project for a class, it’s a means to get my degree,” Boge said. It was important to him that all involved faced the film with intention and not just like any other gig. Turtle Crew for Interview"Turtle" crew poses after wrapping an interview | Courtesy Jordan Boge

“The joy is that this piece is an expression of who I am. It’s a film made for people of color. I took care with nuance and I want those people to see it and have themselves reflected in it in some shape or form.” 

Boge is looking forward to sharing “Turtle” with the community at the first possible opportunity for a screening in the Department. Stay tuned for updates!

"Turtle" Credits: 
Director: Jordan Boge
Documentary Subject & Producer: Pamela A. Cornejo
Cinematographer: JJ Houghton
Graphic Artist: Kait E. Gollmer