Stories Changing Lives

A few words from Breaking Jar founder, Hunter Boydell

Since I was about four years old, I have been totally obsessed with stories.

Novels, TV shows, games, toy franchises – and of course, films.

As I absorbed all these stories, it didn’t take long to see the powerful, positive impact they would make in my own life, in a range of different ways.

I would seek out real-world places that resembled the fantasy worlds of the stories, and explore them with delight. I would even choose the types of clothing I wanted to wear based on the outfits worn by my fictional heroes!

I could quote an entire scene from a favourite film, re-enacting it in the school playground during break time. I could remember the most obscure character names and complex plot details from stories, probably a lot more easily than real facts or historical dates at school!

Stories quickly became a huge part of my consciousness, and a major influence in my everyday reality.

But before long, I discovered that some stories could actually have a very negative effect on me, in the form of intense anxiety.

Whenever I went to the shops with my family, I loved to browse the film and video aisles, enthralled by the many new stories I found there, as I would read the backs of DVD cases and look at all the pictures. But every time, once we got home from the shops and I was in bed for the night, I would end up lying awake, unable to sleep, terrified by something I had seen that day.

Among the DVDs on offer, there would always be some dark thrillers, some horror films, some revenge films, some films in which the whole narrative seemed to take a very twisted angle. The way these stories presented such horrific subject matter was deeply disturbing to me. Just reading about it on the DVD cases was enough to send me into a spiral of terror – not just the fact that people might do these things to each other, but that the films were presenting these nightmare scenarios as no big deal. Actions and choices which would have traumatic consequences in real life were playing out in these films as par for the course. It felt like there was no light to be found in these stories, no hope of redemption, and that terrified me.

So it’s safe to say that from an early age, stories have been much more to me than just a pastime or some weekend entertainment. Stories, and particularly films, can affect me profoundly, moving me to joy or overwhelming me with dread, capturing my imagination, and always provoking a powerful response.

For a long time, this high sensitivity to stories felt like a burden to me, as I found myself having to be so selective in choosing what to watch, and frequently getting caught off-guard and leaving film screenings in a hurry! Where others could just sit down and enjoy whatever film or TV show might be popular, my options were limited. I was embarrassed, ashamed, worried that people would laugh at me or think me naive or cowardly for avoiding certain stories. It’s only recently that I’ve started to see how my sensitivity could actually be a unique gift – and may just be what sets me apart as a filmmaker today.

For almost as long as I’ve been watching the work of other storytellers, I’ve also been practising making my own – first of all with drawing, then with writing, and, from the age of about seven, with video. Filmmaking is a medium I keep coming back to. It encompasses so many different elements, from creativity and design, to technical skills and teamwork. It’s immersive, and it’s multi-sensory. Film is a powerful language, communicating straight to the heart.

My major breakthrough came when I discovered that stories can reflect our real-life experiences. Previously, my only focus was on using my imagination to the max, creating fantasy worlds and characters like those I loved seeing on screen, without much connection to my own life. Then I found that by looking at parts of my own personal journey, and those of the people close to me, I could draw out pieces of these real experiences and put them into my stories. I could create something authentic, something meaningful, a human story told in an honest way, while still placing it in a fictional context and genre.

With this kind of honest, human storytelling, I believe we can create films and media that act as mirrors, prompting every viewer to become more self-aware as they watch, inspiring hope in the face of real-life challenges, and perhaps even making space for healing and growth.

Stories are so much more than entertainment. Stories change lives.

In a few words, that is the purpose of my production company, Breaking Jar.

Stories changing lives.

To this end, Breaking Jar produces original films and media for audiences worldwide.

We also provide tools and resources to help fellow storytellers bring their own films to life.

It’s an exciting journey, and I’d love for you to join us! Check out our website to learn more.

Hunter Boydell, Filmmaker, Founder of Breaking Jar Ltd

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