National Film Festival for Talented Youth | Seattle Youth Film Festival | Student Film Festival


Manhood by Jonathan Gelvan

Film of the Week

Silas lives with his mother and there is no father figure to be found. This causes him to have a distorted view of what it means to be a man. His mother is a prostitute and has customers at home, around the clock. He, unfortunately, sees a lot of things a child his age should not. “Manhood” is the story about Silas’s fight to become a man and win his mother’s heart and attention.

Manhood was an official selection of NFFTY 2013 and won the Audience Award under the category of Powerful Grit.

Film of the Week is presented by Volvo Cars of North America.

About the team:


Jonathan Gelvan was the director of Manhood. He graduated from Station Next as well as high school in 2012. Since then he has been traveling Asia, where his newfound skills at a shaolin monastery in the mountains of china gave him new insights as to how to direct his movies to come. Well returned to his home, he has now started his own edition studio and is currently in pre-production on his latest narrative music-video called ‘Little Wonders’.

Astrid Hedvig Hoder

Astrid Hedvig Hoder was the screen writer and the sunshine of a production leader on Manhood. She graduated from Station Next in 2012 and will finish her high school this summer. She has been working on several film projects during the last couple of years, and she is thereby soon ready to show the world how her positive energy and sharp leading skills will help new films being born.

NFFTY speaks to the Danish team to find out the back story of Manhood, and how the team managed to pull off directing the many sensitive scenes.

Q: How did you come up with this idea?

Astrid: Every student at Station Next was obligated to pitch an idea for the graduation film. Since writing isn’t a passion of mine, I choose to repress the “homework” until the night before the brainstorm. My vague idea, which originally involved an infanticide and a boy keeping dead animals in boxes, changed dramatically trough the day. When I finally pitched the idea in the late afternoon, the story was now about a boy who lived with his prostituted mother and his journey towards finding his farther. To my own surprise, the “story” (if you can call it that) was well received and chosen to become our final film. I was offered to let another student write the manuscript, but suddenly I felt too attached to my main character to just let him go. The plot developed and the script changed countless times, but to me, it was all about telling the story from the main character – a child’s – view. It took three month and 14 drafts for the story to develop into “Manhood”. The script ended up being about the only thing young filmmakers know of: growing up.

Jonathan: Though it’s not my idea, I co-developed it. Originally, it was about neglect and growing up in a world not suitable for children. It still is, but we felt like the character ’Silas’ needed a stronger tool for obtaining his ’want’ of getting his mothers attention. So we came up with a solution that worked in his childish mind – the only way for him to get her attention was by becoming a man.

Q: Was it difficult directing the sensitive scenes, like the sex scenes?

It was definitely a delicate scene to shoot. First of all, it was important to establish a secure bond between the actors and myself. We talked a great deal about how the scene was to unfold. The actual simulations of sex – movements and such – were discussed very mechanically to ensure that the actors knew exactly what to do. Since the scene involves both violence and sex, we didn’t want any surprises or improv. Next we made sure that we had a minimum of people in the room and then we just started of slow. After some takes everyone started to ease up and got comfortable.

Q: And how did you prepare your young actor for what he was going to see/how he should react?

It was hard preparing an 11-year-old kid for scenes like that. You quickly got to a certain point where you realized that he had to see it to understand it. It was important for me to let him ask all the questions he had and then explain why the characters acted the way they did. It was a lot to ask. He had to see an oral sex, a violent messed up intercourse and finally he had to grab a woman’s bosom. Nevertheless, I think he did extremely well and his reactions were real since it was the first time he saw things like these.

Q: How was it like participating in NFFTY 2013?

Astrid: When I went to NFFTY, I knew filmmaking were my future. I knew it was a world I desperately wanted to be a part of. It was something I was good at and something I got credit for. Among my friends, movies were “my thing”, but they never really understood how much it really meant to me. So when I flew to Seattle I had no plans, no expectations, and no idea about what NFFTY would be like. This was the attitude that made the experience unforgettable. If you know filmmaking is your future, NFFTY should be your present. It was a mecca among filmmakers. NFFTY inspired through countless screenings and it motivated and encouraged teenagers to pursue their dream. The young filmmakers really understood each other’s passion and we could exchange knowledge and share response. Not only did NFFTY encourage my dream, but it also helped me define my future.

Jonathan: Sadly, I didn’t participate last year. It would have been my second time but I was in a monastery in the mountains of Northern China, studying kung fu with shaolin monks. I know it sounds like a pretty far-out excuse but it is actually true… But I was thrilled when I got the message saying that we won an audience award. NFFTY is very special to me. My first short was screened on opening night in 2011 so some of my best film-memories are from this festival.

NFFTY partners with SCAN Design Foundation to bring you exclusive masterclass conducted by Danish filmmakers. Come spend your Saturday afternoon with us to learn more about filmmaking. Read more about the masterclass here.

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