When Taylor Olson discovered Catherine Banks’ play Bone Cage while still a drama student at Dalhousie University, the BC-born actor knew he would make an ideal candidate to turn the Governor General’s Award-winning drama into a film.
“My dad worked in the forestry industry as a mechanic for years, and before that, my grandfather on one side ran a tree processor much like Jamie in the film,” says Olson of the story about a forestry labourer at odds with clear-cutting trees in his rural homeland.
“I saw a lot of these sort of practices early in my life especially affect people like my dad who was against clear-cutting but sometimes had to take a job and work it,” adds Olson. “His attitude would change, he would be in a different mood because of it.”
That upbringing clearly manifested itself upon Olson who, soon after performing in a 10th Anniversary remount of the 2007 play, wrote the film adaptation which he would star in and direct himself.
Bone Cage follows Jamie, the conflicted aforementioned protagonist, as he grasps desperately for an escape from his dead-end life slicing and dicing trees and wandering the barren landscape following each work shift in search of injured animals to rescue.
“One of the things that really struck me when I first read it in university is this line where Jamie is basically saying that there won’t be trees here in 10 years so I won’t have a job in 10 years,” says Olson. “I always thought that was interesting because my dad used to say things that were similar.”
Today, those issues are relatable in all job sectors, with Olson recognizing the limitations of forestry has eery similarities specifically to Alberta. After all, a report published by the Parkland Institute in 2020 notes that Alberta’s Oil Sands have reached a mature phase and that the majority of the 53,000 jobs lost between 2014 and 2019 aren’t likely to come back to the Canadian oil and gas industry.
“It’s funny because the same issues that we have with forestry are the same issues that are happening all across the country,” says Olson, who adds during Bone Cage’s festival circuit-run, the film struck a chord in every region of Canada.
“I think what people are relating to is that sort of rural, small-town struggle of having these dreams that are bigger than the tools you have to overcome them. You don’t have the money or the education to escape your situation or honestly, the environment that you are trying to escape is the same thing that’s keeping you back.”
It isn’t just blue-collar labourers who have been relating to Bone Cage, either. Olson’s movie has been winning the love of critics. It swept all of the prizes it was eligible to win during its premiere at the FIN Atlantic Film Festival last fall including Best Atlantic Feature Film. Bone Cage has also gone on to earn Canadian Screen Award nominations including Best Screenplay as well as picking up awards in other film festivals.
Now being released on July 6, audiences everywhere will get the opportunity to witness the acclaimed drama. While Olson realizes that won’t necessarily translate into instant cinematic success for his microbudget movie, he does anticipate people will continue to relate to the story.
“Hopefully any piece of art can just connect with someone and help them not feel alone in whatever they’re dealing with,” says Olson, who is already at work on a sophomore feature about eating disorders called Look at Me. “With Bone Cage, I think there are people who have been in these situations and, in a sense, the film is saying you don’t have to be alone in this, look what happens when you isolate from these sort of things and feelings and when you try to shut everyone out and try to go it alone.”
Bone Cage will be available on VOD and digital beginning July 6.