Short Film: BALLOON, 17min., USA

Directed by Jeremy Merrifield
Exploring gender through the lens of the superhero myth, BALLOON questions how we raise boys when our concept of masculinity has become narrow.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

For fifteen-year-old Sam, surviving high school means staying below radar. But that becomes impossible after he becomes the target of the school’s next viral video. He’s pressured to “hit back,” but Sam isn’t so sure—even if he does have superpowers.

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Director Biography – Jeremy Merrifield

While at The American Film Institute, Jeremy made four short films, LINE, A TRAVELING SYMPHONY, THE BELL, and, most recently his thesis film, BALLOON (winner, Grand Prix HollyShorts), which explores questions of toxic masculinity in the way we raise our boys. He wrote and directed a spec comedy pilot, FOR REAL, which is the satirical journey exploring American narcissism in the age of the social media star. Prior to AFI, Jeremy worked in New York’s Broadway theater community where he started as an actor and ultimately began producing and directing. He produced the concert and subsequent Broadway workshop for Tony Award-winner Jason Robert Brown’s debut musical SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD. As casting director, he worked on THE BOY FROM OZ starring Hugh Jackman as well as Cameron Mackintosh’s CATS. As a director, he assisted the New York Theatre Workshop production of Houshang Touzie’s OUR SWEET LIFE BY THE PACIFIC OCEAN starring Shoreh Agdashloo and exploring the life of a Persian family living in America. Other credits include YANK! (Off-Broadway, associate producer), MARY POPPINS (Broadway, assistant to the producer), MISS SAIGON (Broadway tour). He lives with his partner in Los Angeles.

Director Statement

Our boys are in crisis. The age-old model of manhood—to be a warrior, a leader, the breadwinner—is disappearing. But nothing is emerging in its place—leaving a void of purpose. From the moment they’re born, our boys are trapped by this outdated construct of masculinity. And, what’s worse, they don’t know how to communicate that they’re trapped because the language they would use has been classified as off limits because its too “girly” or “gay.”
I made BALLOON for my nephew—who at twelve I see already trying to reconcile who he is with what our culture expects of the masculine. I made it for my brothers whom I watched growing up, constrained by the same prison I found myself in. I also made it for the women in my life—some of whom collaborated on this project with me. They have too long had to stomach the toxicity of our culture’s dated concept of masculinity. But it’s also for me—for the boy I was who felt so isolated, unwelcome, and unloved. With BALLOON I give him the super powers he always wanted, and hopefully hint at the kind of hero I hope he still can become.

Jeremy Merrifield
Writer-Director

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