LGBTQ Cinema And FilmOut At 20
Cinema Junkie / May 25, 2018
Since San Diego’s LGBTQ film festival FilmOut celebrates its 20th anniversary this year I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the state of LGBTQ cinema and what a festival focusing on that community might need to look like moving forward.
Welcome back to another edition of listener supported PBS cinema Junkie podcast. I'm Beth Accomando. Earlier this year. Daniela Vega of a fantastic woman made history as the first openly transgender person to be a presenter at the Academy Awards. The film took home the best foreign Oscar while Yance Ford made Oscar history by being the first trans director to earn a nomination for best documentary for the film Strong Island. The 2018 Oscars pointed to the increased visibility of underrepresented communities. The Academy still has a long way to go to represent the true diversity of the world beyond Hollywood's borders. But it does represent progress. Since San Diego's LGBTQ Film Festival Film out celebrates its 20th anniversary this year I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the state of LGBTQ cinema and what a festival focusing on that community might need to look like moving forward. For this podcast I'll speak with the founder of film out as well as its current programmer. Then I'll speak with filmmakers premiering their works June 7th through the 10th at the observatory Northpark during film out 2018. If you're not in San Diego you can seek some of these films out later when they become available streaming and via D. But all my guests have insights into where LGBTQ cinema has been and where it's going. First I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to speak with my good friend Joe Frehley who's the founder of San Diego's LGBTQ Film Festival. I've known Joe for decades and was in San Diego when he started film out as part of his thesis project at San Diego State University.
Yes it was. I did my thesis project a written part and then this was the actual project part. So my actual thesis was about I was interested in exploring a gay sensibility and not particularly in only gay films so throughout the history of American cinema.
So that's what led to creating this film out because at the time San Diego did not have any kind of gay some fast and 20 years ago.
How common was it for cities to have gay film festivals.
It was pretty common for larger cities. There were there were a number of them. And originally we wanted to try and do this over the weekend which would be October 11th which was National Coming Out Day and it was difficult to get films a lot of times during those those days. So yeah there were a number of gay films already in progress.
And when you started it here in San Diego what was kind of your goal or what was your mission statement what did you want to do with that festival.
My goal was to try and especially at that time to showcase underrepresented minorities within the gay community women's films minority films and the very first year of film out I was there were a few films that were about African-American drag queens. There was the documentary angel on my shoulder about an actress Gwen Wells who was very popular in the early 70s she made some films with Altman and this was a documentary about her made by a lesbian filmmaker. So it was more trying to showcase though those kinds of things.
I know your film takes well we used to go to Telluride together and we saw a lot of films together so I kind of know that you have. You have a unique sensibility when it comes to film and you tend to like things that are out of the mainstream so when you were tackling the festival it also seems to me that unlike some other LGBT festivals you seem to be driven a little less by maybe the politics of it or the the social aspects and more by the art of cinema I mean you seem to really love movies like that seems to be where the core of the festival comes from. Yes and speaking of Telluride one of I think that was the first year at Telluride where I was introduced to Terence Davies and the movie was distant voices still lives memories and the sounds of distant voices. And the echoes of still lives. From. Terence Davies.
Britain's most highly acclaimed director comes a unique and original portrait of an unforgettable family nothing explicitly working either implicitly gay in the film but somehow I knew that this was a gay filmmaker and then when he came up does a Q and A at the end of the film. He started off with as a gay filmmaker. So that kind of interested me to see other films like looking at the films of George huger and how someone who was not really openly gay how could they put these kinds of suggestions and lifestyle into these otherwise straight films.
And over the years you were with the festival very directly for a while for a good number of years and then now you're kind of on the extended board so to speak over this 20 years. How have you seen the film out grow and change and kind of what are your thoughts about it at this point.
No it's just been incredible. Michael Maclagan has done an incredible job with programming with early on it was very difficult to get sponsors you know to try and even even just getting people out to the movies. So the things they have done you know the festival has grown so much and there's all kinds of sponsors and all kinds of community involvement now.
So I think over the years seeing that seeing it blossom has just been thrilling for me and as there is more representation for the LGBT community on television and in film. Do you see the purpose of a festival like this changing and what kind of things do you see for the future of a festival like this in terms of how they might change or adapt to the trends that are going on now.
Well I think it's important to still have this kind of a community event for people especially younger people who might not otherwise be in a community with gay people or even be in social situations. So it gives them originally that was a you know a big intent is to give people a place to go other than the bars other than somewhere to go out and drink. So this the idea was to bring people together to introduce films whether they be you know there were certain films that that I loved and that we showed that didn't please everyone or that weren't necessarily positive images of Elby LGBT people but still important images and you know not everything purports to represent an entire community.
So I think going off on those little tangents is helpful and enlightening for some and how difficult was it to show films early on that might not have shown necessarily a positive depiction of gay or LGBT life because you know that's something that's for festivals like the Asian Film Festival Latino Film Festival women's film festivals. I mean part of the challenge is sometimes if a film wants to go kind of someplace darker kind of show characters that aren't necessarily positive. Sometimes those films feel this weight of like bull there's so little representation of this we have to make sure it presents a good image. So how hard was it like to show films that challenged audiences in some way.
Well in the in the earliest years of the festival the first few years I did one program that I recall very vividly with the movie flaming creatures which was a 60s underground film that was various times confiscated projectionists were arrested. And it's this kind of very avant garde black and white not no sound kind of an orgy of a film for lack of a better word.
I mean but it was part of a program that I wanted to show kind of the progression of gay films.
Also in that program was kind of anger's firework and also the silent Salomé from the 20s with the purported gay cast. So I remember the reaction to flaming creatures was horrible people hated it. People walked out and it's kind of like they said it's maybe 35 40 minutes long but this black and white avant garde film that I thought was very important to show as in the history of gay cinema and especially considering the fact that it was confiscated that it was banned and that people went to jail for showing this film.
So there were there was some of that in the beginning but I try not to let it deter me from showing these kinds of self Have you tried showing that film again and noticed any difference in the reaction.
I have not. I have not since then but like I said I knew there were a few people Fred Salas who was involved with the Latino Film Festival at the time. Absolutely love that he came to me afterwards and said oh my god that was great. And I think he and I might have been two of the only people that really appreciated it at that time.
Now I think maybe considering that there's the Internet you can see so many things and I think people are used to seeing things that are unusual and have maybe a little more of an open mind. Something that's not a traditional narrative.
Well and bringing up the Internet. Do you feel that at this point in time that filmmakers have more at their disposal in terms of the technology they can use and also the means of distributing their own films. And is that changing kind of what's out there for the LGBT community.
Oh absolutely I think so because I mean you know you talk about the need for a song festival and for me like I said it's more about that social space where you can go and you can feel that you or you can meet up with like minded people. And with the internet it has brought a level of exposure to all time highs so people can see that people can just go watch flaming creatures if they want without paying for it. So there there's it's kind of a double edged sword with the fact that this stuff is so readily available and unfortunately a lot of times this doesn't give these filmmakers the opportunity to make back their money because people are so used to being able to just see something on the Internet people post it. So if it's going to be interesting to see where this all goes.
Now you mentioned this sense of community that you get at a film festival and it seems like we are leaning towards more and more people watching things at home by themselves or you know with a couple of friends or something as opposed to getting off their butts and actually going to a cinema or a theater. And it really seems like having just come from the TCM Film Festival it seems like watching films in a group with people makes the film watching experience so much better. Like it's there's something about it that group response to what's going on on the screen that alters the experience a bit and I'm wondering if if that's part of what you really like about festivals it is.
It is. And you know you talk about the TCM festival you've got people that are already film buffs film Cixi and Ottos loving film so that's that's great in and of itself. So you're there again with like minded individuals who people who are not going to necessarily talk and be distracting so they're there because they love film with the gay film festival. I think it's a little less so that people love film. I think it's they want to either see somebody that's in a film or they want to experience that that community aspect of it.
Over these past two decades the festival has been around. Have you noticed any recent trends or anything in terms of the kinds of films that get submitted to LGBT festivals or the kinds of films that are being made.
Well as as an outsider not knowing not seeing a lot of of these films I think that there is a tendency to lean towards comedy towards light light hearted and there's nothing wrong with that. And certainly if we look back at the history of gay so when you see films in the 60s where gay characters or 50s or even were gay characters have to commit suicide. They wind up dead or miserable their lives are ruined. So I think there was kind of a reaction to that. And it's funny because we had just spoken about boys in the band and that's a great example of something that in 1968 when the play came out it was groundbreaking Crawley's hilarious play the boys in the band is not a movie.
It's not a musical. It's. The.
Same your own life for me right. The fun with that hag not to make him her that's your problem with pronouns as the. How do you like to kiss my ass. That's got to it like a poem. Somehow your wife's got lockjaw.
But two years later after the Stonewall riots people started looking into thinking wow these these characters are full of self-hatred. They are very vicious to one another. And I really think having just seen the play on Broadway this past weekend with a completely out gay cast that really maybe it's time has come. The audience roared through the whole thing and were very appreciative. So I think now all these years later having positive reinforcement and positive gay characters that now we are able to say OK this might not represent all gays or lesbians whatever but it certainly represents some people we know some people like us. So I think that we've come a long way in that regard.
Now you mention that there was there's sometimes a tendency towards the lighter or to the rom com types of films. You and Michael both love horror and are constantly looking for those kind of films to highlight and to bring to festivals and I'm just wondering it seems that you know when the festival started there was more of a tendency if not towards rom coms and lighter fare a tendency towards films about identity and about coming out and documentaries and and mainly just about this representation and do you feel that there seems to be kind of a recent surge in not just horror but kind of like genre films by LGBT filmmakers because maybe that way of you know having to represent the entire community is allowing them a little more creative freedom.
Oh absolutely. You know the idea of having a gay horror film is very very new. I mean we can probably think of the last decade or so where these kinds of films have been able to be made. Yes. I don't think that the filmmakers previous to a decade ago they didn't have to make those identity films or they thought they did. And that's what people were looking for coming out films. And now it's rather nice when you don't have I mean you have some come films that still explore those things which again are important especially for younger viewers to see that it is possible to live a happy gay lifestyle. But I do think that it's kind of opened it up for four genre pictures. I mean there are gay musicals as well musical films that even though those are lighter you wouldn't have seen those maybe 15 20 years ago.
And I'm curious about one thing I've interviewed a lot of gay filmmakers who are making horror because Michael has a program last year he program a block of horror shorts. And this year there are some films with some darker tones as well. And one thing that came up in our conversations was I asked these filmmakers you know how do you define kind of the genre you're working in. And most of them preferred the term of calling it queer horror as opposed to gay or LGBT. And when I use that term it's sometimes really puts some people off people both in the gay community and outside and I'm just wondering as someone who because I know that you've talked about queer cinema as part of you know what you're interested in. I'm just wondering about that term and kind of the weight it carries and what it kind of means for people within the gay community.
Well for me as I was writing my thesis too there was this you know this wave of new queer cinema it was it was called. And people like Todd Haynes and Gregor Rockie and filmmakers who didn't make those necessarily those identity films. But to me queer was more in your face. It was more. I'm not going to offer any explanations for who I am or why I am this way. So for me it was kind of like the whole idea of being gay is taken for granted. So a film like Parting Glances.
It was another day in New York. Robert was moving to Africa because he's captors. Michael was hating him for it. Thanks for pointing that Carol. You know Nick was dying of AIDS. And for good.
Reason. To me that was a groundbreaking film because it just it's a night in the life of this gay couple and it's not about them being gay or having to deal with being gay. That's a given. It just puts you into their situation. And this is what happens the night before one of them is supposed to leave to go away and leaving his lover behind. And Steve Buscemi playing the lover his best friend a character with AIDS. So this to me like I said was groundbreaking in that I felt like oh my god this is the first time I've really seen something where there's no explanation of why they're gay or this is angst that goes along with being gay. So that's kind of what this queer meant to me and kind of when you talk about people like like Gregor rocky it's it's very in your face sometimes violent sometimes very out of the out of the ordinary not the norm. So I embrace that term. Especially during that time in the New Queer Cinema which I feel it was was very bored. The films of Todd Haynes again someone like a film like safe's which has no homosexuality nothing about it yet it is imbued with this queer sensibility.
Well do you think that term maybe puts people off because of the fact that you say it has this sense of challenging people and that it makes people more uncomfortable in a certain sense because it's not about I want you to accept me. It's more about like this is a perspective I have that I want you to take a look at or something.
Absolutely. And you look at something you look at a film like law casual fall which came out in the late 70s and a very successful film about two lovers two gay men. Yet there is something disarming about the fact that one is a drag performer. And it's it's very light in a sense.
It's still dealt with some some heavy issues but I feel like audiences they've come a long way. But 70s 80s even 90s it was more difficult for them to see something that wasn't the stereotypical harmless gays. And that's what I think this queer moniker does it kind of if you look at you know the AIDS Act Up we're here we're queer get used to it.
That was kind of this retaking of that term queer what do you think about the fact that there are people within the gay community who also don't. I mean I can see like a straight audience the Arab street community I think is uncomfortable with it because we just don't know how using that term. Sounds like you don't feel like I don't feel entirely comfortable sometimes using it because people may take offense but I'm wondering like within the gay community it seems like there's a split in terms of how they also view the view the term right.
Yes I believe that is true. And again when we talk about different generations the generation maybe right before mine where that word was still used as a vicious tool for people to put people down to perhaps you know beat them up. So again it was those kind of term like Deich like was another term that I feel was taken back you know now the every gay festival has a diked March. So and I'm sure there are certain women within that community that don't like those that term and don't like the expression and have negative feelings associated with it like queer. For some gay men but I feel like more and more as we get more into the 21st century that that kind of falls by the wayside that those people that use that term derogatorily doesn't really matter to the newer and newer LGBT audiences or community.
Well and I found it interesting that it tended to be the horror filmmakers who seemed to be the most comfortable using that term as opposed to to other filmmakers.
Right. And I think that's because we were there. It's new territory. You know queer horror films are a new genre. So to kind of and again when I don't know personally when I think of queer and I think of someone like Ragnarok and I think of the living and for example something about these HIV positive guys that kind of go on this rampage it was it was an angry it was nothing is being done about this disease. So there was this angry reaction. I think that's where the term for me kind of gets a lot of its way.
And for you what are some of the films that you feel like if you were to program your own little festival right now to kind of pick a few titles that you think are really key to gay cinema or queer cinema what are a few films that you would like recommend people to make sure they go check out. Right now you're talking from history if you like over the last 20 years you could pick out a few titles from you know the past couple of decades that you think are really significant for kind of summing it up.
That's tough. I would say I would certainly say Hedwig And The Angry Inch would be one who have a clear answer and I refer to John Cameron Mitchell as as a queer filmmaker definitely. That's basically any of his films too. And Todd Haynes the same with Todd Haynes films. I'm having trouble just pulling titles. It's easier for me to go further back.
Well maybe maybe it's more a list of directors then as opposed to film titles you write.
And if we if we did that it would be it would be taught Haynes it would be Terence Davies again. DAVIES early films his first three short films were all very weak dark black and white about the angst of a character much like Davies not accepting his homosexuality. But then his films from there I would certainly say the long day closes which is Davies as a young boy starting to realize his gay feelings. So Fassbender is the films of Fassbender even something like Korral which is not one of Fassbinder finest. Certainly it's very interesting. Brad Davis being an actor who died of AIDS. There are some some great stuff in there. The bitter tears of Petrovi entente Fox and his friends those all those Fassbinder films. And then I would even say I think boys in the band and parting glances are great bookends. You know you have this 1970 movie and then it seems like a very short period of time. But Parting Glances 16 years later and wow what a difference in these these depictions of gay life and do you see any trends right now moving forward.
Anything that you've noticed that you feel is either promising or troubling.
Well the most troubling thing to me and it's not just with the LGBT cinema is the fact that that film is gone. For me I still go out of my way to see film prints as I know you do and as I know Michael does so at first I had a very difficult time watching things that were video and the technology has come further but it's kind of sad to me that film makers cannot make films anymore for the most part. You know Terence Davies shot his last Soman 70 millimeter. But it really didn't get shown 70 millimeter because nobody can really project that except for a few mediums so that is the most troubling disconcerting sad aspect of it all.
Well I want to thank you very much for taking some time to talk to me and kind of revisit the birth the film out.
Well thank you very much. It's been my pleasure. And as I said I unfortunately could not make it to the festival this year. I wish I could have and I wish them all the success in the world. And I'm happy they have grown as much as they have.
That was Joe Frehley who founded film out 20 years ago. Michael McLagan has been programming films that film out for 14 years and worked with Frehley. I asked him how it felt to be celebrating the festival's 20th anniversary.
I can't believe it's 20. It seems like yesterday that it just took over as program director.
I'm excited. I mean 20 years is a significant milestone. You know who knows what the future lies. As far as LGBT Film Festivals overall in general unless you're in a significant market but I'm hopeful that we'll kind of decide how this festival goes this year to see how we can move forward in future festivals that fall out in those years that you've been programming what kind of changes have you seen in terms of the kinds of submissions you've gotten and the kinds of things that you can program. Well they definitely started out in more of a lighter tone. I think initially when I started out most of the most of the I wouldn't say lighter tone I think they were more socially relevant themes like dealing with AIDS and HIV and homeless and being ostracized. And now it kind of has taken a different spin on it were that were the focus on the films that have been submitted over the last. I was a couple of years have had more dark themes and dark tones and more realistic and unsettling and more experimental filmmaking and there seems to be a lot. I think it's based on kind of what our country's going through are as far as all the political turmoil right now. And I think that's translating into these filmmakers kind of having the context to be kind of maybe it's an underlying issue but it's dealing with that without getting too political an in your face it's kind of subversive in the way that they're presenting the films that at least were submitted to me this year.
I mean a lot of the works are pretty edgy and I would even say to a certain point more of a violent tone overall which is good because I you know I'm not that I'm knocking like rom coms but I think films need to be at least from what I'm seeing they need to kind of step up their game and that's a big part of you know the programming for this year's festival.
So would you say that kind of the themes when the festival started were more kind of these identity coming out films and now you're seeing more shift of dealing with themes LGBT themes but more within a context of maybe Ajanta filmmaking where you're kind of dealing with issues but in a roundabout sort of way instead of like right in your face.
Yeah. You know initially when when I first started taking submissions way back in 2004 most of the submissions were like documentary style films or pretty much severely low budget maybe even family melodramas or comedies. That was what it seemed to be. That was what was in the forefront way back then. Now it's there's more edge and more grit and more independent more of an independence vibe especially now that a lot of these films seem to have decent budgets.
Weather weather weather whether you think or not that they had a significant amount of money to produce the film that's coming across said that they did especially with the wave of you know what you mean you can make a movie on an iPhone now make it look really good when you started programming.
The films were you know kind of dealing with these identity issues you programmed early on a horror film hell bent as I think that was your first year here. Yeah that was 2004 correct. So you were looking for those kind of edgy films from the start.
Yeah and I think there was a big gap like from 2004 until maybe two or three years ago where there wasn't any. There weren't any films that were like. I mean there were a few that I remember I think we we screened socket was and was another one and bite marks and pornography thriller. There were a few that were submitted and but there were. I mean I would actively search every LGBT Film Festival website and there just weren't any films that were being produced there were shorts or a few fun shorts but there weren't any features I think maybe there wasn't a market for it then. But horror is a huge market. So I think whether it's horror or suspense thriller or mystery I think audiences are drawn to that as far as as far as any kind of escape and some kind of catharsis. I mean I think the the way it's going now is that I mean last year I did a whole horror track and I had to turn away dozens of short films that I would have included if we had more time if we were a longer festival for sure and then this year we had the same amount of submissions pretty much. But as far as short films maybe not as many horror genre thriller types but enough where I could put together at least you know seven or so and kind of sprinkled them throughout the festival and having an actual hard track this year.
And what have you found have been some of the particular challenges of putting together a LGBT Film Festival over the past couple of decades.
You know you want to make money. That's the bottom line we need to make money to survive. So you have to include films that appeal to the masses that's just a fact. So usually what I've done in the past for opening night that that tends to be more of a mainstream is you know assessable to all audience type of film. And you know and then as far as centerpieces you want the centerpieces to be films that generate a lot of interest and the same with the clothes and film you need to bookend it and then what you can do is you can kind of sprinkle in throughout the festival the stuff that I really like to program. You just need to it just needs to be even. You have to have. You know I try to represent all genres at the festival but I also like to screen a film or two that other festivals have never screened. So you kind of get something you know. I'd prefer if I had a choice to pick another mainstream film or something that's edgy that no one else has that that has selected I'm going to go with I'm going to go with that.
You've programmed some really great dark gems in the past a couple from Down Under like drown and down river. So you've been able to kind of fair those films over the years.
Yeah I'm proud of. I'm so proud that that I screen those two films. They they actually were really popular. They were they won Film Awards they won a few audience awards so that's the that's the kind of film that I that I want to show. I mean those films did well at other festivals and I think initially because you know we're kind of in the middle of the year as far as festival wise as far as selections go. So usually you know programmers talk and when they see that you've you know selected a certain film and they've never heard of it. It gets them to solicit the filmmaker to see a screener and then they book it and it just goes on and on and on.
It's a domino effect. This year what films do you feel most excited about. I think Scott did you know some sort of our 20th anniversary. I think I wanted to bring back filmmakers that had screened films in the past to film out. And it's interesting to see the films that they initially had screened the film whether it was 10 12 years ago to where there are now and they've all grown tremendously as filmmakers. So I'm glad kind of excited for the audiences to see how they've evolved as filmmakers like nine film will make films that were going to be screening that have screened film on the pass and one is history of gay bars in San Diego San Diego gay bar history directed by Paul Detweiler The Brass Rail San Diego's oldest gay bar since 1958 is just one of over a hundred thirty five gay bars and night spots that have served the San Diego lesbian and gay community since World War II.
One of the ways the LGBT community was really formed in the United States was during World War II. People were able to leave biological families in some ways for the first time in the United States and move away from home towns. After the war. Many people heterosexuals went back to their hometowns. Many homosexuals did not. They stayed when they hit the stage to be able to actualize a life. That would have been virtually impossible for many of them to live in the places they come.
We have deviant and directed by Ben Howard. Saltwater baptism directed by Russell Shaffer and Jared Callahan. That's going to be kind of a Sandigo spotlight. BLOCK And then we have a film that kind of is kind of more of a bisexual film called say yes or act by Stuart Wade. We have a pretty interesting thriller by Matt Montgomery a drama called Golden Boy directed by Stoney Westmoreland and produced by Steven O'Connor. Wild Nights with Emily which is directed by Madeleine Omak. The jealousy directed by Reed waterer and still waiting in the wings directed by Alan Broka.
It's your opening night film is going to be ideal home which is kind of a nice coup for you. It's a mainstream film with some very recognizable stars and Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd.
Hello. Good morning. I've. Never been invited to. Share a breakfast like gay Butch Cassidy.
Except not Butch Oh you old clown. You can't say cock hound on basic cable. You guys do this at home. Oh no we don't get along as well at home. But.
Does this film because your lead actors are not actually gay but they are playing gay characters. Does that raise any issues or concerns for you.
No I could care less. They're actors they're doing their job. I mean they both get really hilarious performances. It's really there's a lot of sardonic wit in this film. You know I think it was actually producing a couple of years ago and it's been kind of sitting on the shelf and it's just it's just now getting distribution. So I'm glad that we kind of were able to present this West Coast premier to San Diego audiences. It's fun. It's the perfect opening night film.
Well I've got to say that anything with Steve Coogan just you see their interaction there are bickering gay couple and what happened basically the plot is that of a sudden the 10 year old shows up at a party that they're giving and he announces that when Steve Coogan whose character is his grandfather. So then it's basically about their relationship with his 10 year old and basically the bottom line is about is about being included and and about family. But it's done really well. And Paul Ryan is hilarious and he looks hot with that beard. And you're closing night film is anything.
Where are you from. Andy Griffith sad brother.
It's just letters from my wife when I was away. You. Married. 26 year. Why. Why. Is Hollywood is filled with criminals.
And this also has a transsexual character who's not played by a trans actor and again so. Do you find that this is something that that reveals that Hollywood is more interested in making stories about this even if they're not casting actors who are trans or gay or is it a concern for you that they're not turning to those kinds of actors to play these roles.
It's not really a concern to me. I mean Matt Bomer plays the trans character and he is amazing and in the film. The bottom line is that you know these films are made but you know like I said earlier that they need to they need to recoup their investment so having a name attached to it is hopefully going to bring people into the theater. I mean there are some people that are already boycotting the film because there wasn't a trans actor playing that role but I think people need to give the film a chance because his performance is brilliant. I mean this goes back to this. I mean I can't even think of a few years ago when people were a little bit upset when Jay Leno played a trans character in Dallas Buyers Club but I mean that was a great performance as well. But then you know there are films that that star trans actors and we actually screen one at our opening night. I think it was a few years ago was boy meets girl and that was amazing. So I just think I think I mean for anything it was kind of a studio film.
So studio film wants to go with a name but I'm not going to minimize his his his portrayal because the bottom line is he's an actor and that's what he does. He did a great job. There is a solution. I mean for people there are kind of disappointed that straight actors are actors that are playing gay characters or trans characters. You know I tell them you know it's it's an easy solution right. Write a screenplay writers start out writing a short film. If you have a more ambitious writer write a feature film and then crowdsource it raise the money hire some people and you could produce your own film and then it could be the film that you want to see with the actors that you want represented. I think that's happening. So that's what I'm telling people you know make your own art. It's not that difficult. I mean initially you know you write a decent screenplay find some people to fund it for you and then you crowdsource it come up with the rest of the money might take you a year or two. But I think the payoff will be what you want to see and that's and that's rewarding. So that's my advice.
Do you feel that a film festival is kind of the place where people should come and just be a little more experimentation. I'll just buy a festival pass and kind of sample a little bit of everything.
Yeah you know I'm still amazed. Here we are at our 20th anniversary and there are still some people in this town in the LGBT community that never that don't even know that there is an LGBT film festival. And I'm always baffled by that. But I think to come to a festival you're supporting are you supporting film as art. You can see films that normally would never screen in San Diego. I think we're screening 45 films this year and I would I would say maybe maybe six to eight of them will eventually at some point play in San Diego over the next year probably more so the mainstream ones so this is your chance to to see some films that you normally wouldn't be exposed to when you get to see them with an audience and enjoy it collectively. And you can drink in the theater and you know there's a lot of we have a lot of good Shwartz this year we have two. There were so many shorts submitted this year that I put in the best of LGBT shorts Vol. 1 and 2.
Well in shorts are really something that if you don't come see them at a festival you probably aren't going to find them anywhere else.
No you won't unless you actively search for them on YouTube somewhere after you know a year or so.
So I just interviewed Joe Frehley who was key to launching this LGBT Film Festival. So what has been your relationship kind of taking over from Joe and building on what he started.
Joe was my mentor back way back in the early 2000s when Joe started a film out I think in the late 90s in the 90s I can't remember the dates but being with Chris Page and Joe Frehley and end up being the volunteer coordinator initially for the first few years and that's how I met and worked with with Joe then Joe decided to move to New York or New Jersey Buffalo and I was like what's going on. What's the future of film out with Kristen I decided to stay and some of the board members so then I just kind of I took over the programming. I just basically remembered what I had what I watch.
Joe do you know Joe and I text each other a few times a week and he's really he's a film geek and you know he like we kind of are on the same page as far as far as what we like is programming choices are pretty similar and so no I owe everything to Joe wouldn't be here without him. No order of the festival for that matter.
And Joe has a unique perspective on film I think. And do you think his personality has colored the way film how it has grown as a festival that makes it in some ways different from other LGBT festivals around the country.
Yeah I mean Joe's Joe's flavor was what initially kind of formed my my flavor.
And so you know of course there are some films that he likes that I hate and some films that I love that he hates and he's like Mike all. Why are you programming him s and vice versa but his flavor is definitely still. I mean he's the essence of film. And we just kind of Caleb and I have pretty much just taken taken that on and you know tried to remain domain with his original vision. I mean it's grown for sure. It's hard to believe that I've been doing this this my fortune to you. 14 years program director and 17 year with film out crazy.
Do you have any kind of final words about what the future might hold or anything about this year.
You know a lot depends on this year. We're hoping to have a kick ass festival but the bottom line is to produce something like film out even though we're a smaller festival this year we've expanded to four days. We usually just a weekend we used to be seven but it was just outrageously expensive its costs about a hundred thousand dollars to produce this festival for four days and it's a full time job with very minimal. Like bottom of the barrel pay. So it's a labor of love for mostly everybody that's involved. So I think you know whether we will continue or we take a break and we'll be back. And it hasn't really we haven't really made a decision yet as far as what the future for famo is going to be but we're going to base it off of this year. And my goal ideally would be to kind of like have a little bit of restructuring to kind of beef up our board to re strategize venue options to maybe expand to more than a few days maybe do a few fundraisers and do some community outreach. It's all just going to depend how the festival plays out this year.
That was film programmer Michael Maclagan my favorite film from this year's upcoming film out is a short horror tale called The Quiet Room from Sam Wineman. I let him describe the film without any spoilers.
Yeah my film is a psych ward horror film. It's about a guy who by not leaving a note when he attempts suicide inadvertently triggers a psych ward urban legend.
So have you heard it yet or not heard what the screams from the quiet room psych ward solitary let's just your PTSD mean it's not having. Who's hopeless.
Here in my psych ward demon because it's his first day. We go easy on him. So you guys think this place is haunted. Yeah. Not a chance.
Did now I'm going to leave a cup of water by your bed.
Just like when you have to kind of find the will to live to overcome this demon as well as his own personal demons.
So your film has a really interesting I don't know if I should call it creature ghosts demon. Where did the idea for this come from.
Yeah I will so I'm totally fascinated by urban legends. Before I was ever old enough for horror movies Bloody Mary scared the crap out of me and so I want to create an urban legend much like that thing that haunted me and my childhood. So I gave Hattie a backstory and kind of ran with it from there. There's a little bit more to it than that. Also had our film addresses issues of mental health and I wanted her to specifically operate like the rule that depression as somebody who has had my own mental health battles. I wanted to accurately portray what it would be like to externalize that battle in the form of a creature. And so that's kind of how Hattie was born.
So the creature we see is something you saw in your nightmares because she's pretty creepy.
Thank you. Actually you know without getting too much into it one sequence with her was literally entirely a nightmare I had. And I took it and made it into a scene. And it's one of my favorite scenes but yet. But also the way that we did the creature design had a lot to do with a super talented artist Leni Santhal. She was a finalist I'm faceoffs she's done makeup for Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie and I came to her with Hattie's backstory which doesn't really appear in the movie because I like to keep saying you know I don't like the overexplain so as long as the backstory exists between me and her and that we kind of share it with the actor and we put it into the makeup and that's how we achieve tabbies creepy look. There's actually a full story and every layer she's got does this mean we're going to get like a prequel at some point. Well you know I'm working on a feature actually and I think that there's a lot more to her and what I'm really excited about as far as this short goes. It tells the complete story. I feel like I can sit down and watch that and leave satisfied but I think there's a lot more to it. And so that's what I've been working on now.
The festival that you're going to be screening your film out here in San Diego is film out. And recently the programmer Michael McCuaig who is a big fan of horror felt that he finally was getting enough submissions to kind of do horror blocks or to kind of put a focus on programming gay horror. Do you feel that there has been some sort of recent surge in in gay filmmakers or are films that deal with gay characters entering into that kind of genre of horror.
I think that there has been such a huge gay following when it comes to horror for so long and a lot of times we've existed behind the scenes we've been you know the screenwriter behind scream or you know a number of like late 90s films that I'm a huge fan of. And so we've been there all along the way and the fandom has been there. But as far as filmmaking goes I think that with kind of technological advancements filmmaking is more accessible now anybody. And so now that the tools are kind of within our reach we can tell more specific stories and have them reach a bigger audience especially with the internet. I mean are we drop our trailer last week and they've got 22000 hits in six days. And I think that prior to that if something like that is kind of unheard of but now we're able to reach one another and share the work that we do. I think it's a really exciting time to be making film especially with the marginalized characters that are beginning to appear in genre. No just because gay and lesbian characters haven't really cracked through January yet. I do think that it is beginning to happen or that it's just that we're just on the verge of it and that's the thing that independent filmmakers like myself are kind of feeling and want to be a part of.
Well the other thing that's happening this year is film that is celebrating its 20th anniversary which of course makes us all a little bit reflective about where the festival started and where it's going. And having covered it for 20 years what I see and I see this also across other festivals like our Asian Film Festival our Latino Film Festival and it seems to be that when these festivals started they kind of started with this sense of wanting to highlight films that dealt with identity because these were kind of underserved groups. And now it seems like there's a bigger influx of kind of genre filmmaking filmmaking where whether you're gay latino asian doesn't matter on a certain level.
Yeah you know it's funny I get a lot of comments about that specifically what the white room because we don't have you know it doesn't deal with the coming out story and none of the conflict has to do with none of the surface level conflict has to do with our being queer. They're just characters who happen to be queer in this space. I'm hoping that you know while I think that there is a place for all kinds of stories especially stories pertaining specifically to identity I think that genre is an opportunity to allow access to a more mainstream audience giving Queer Representation without necessarily pushing people out. Although I do think that specificity is where we all connect.
So let me ask you in terms of defining horror for you. Do you prefer the term queer or gay whore. Because that's something I've come into differences about in terms of defining that whore.
I personally prefer queer whore mainly because for me gay horror is so specific to one aspect of the queer umbrella and I think that when it comes to gay and LGBT it kind of a lot of times to me that movement has to do more with assimilation where something queer has to do with challenging the status quo and really coming for a political or just shake down of what it is that we've seen again and again. So for me what I'm doing I feel like it's very queer.
How difficult was it for you to get this film made.
Good question because I made this film had I made this film as my thesis film at Chapman University. It was something that I had to fundraise almost entirely myself. And there were a lot of choices along the way that maybe weren't so supportive. But I do have to say that once we finished and people could see what it looked like on the other side the support was there. Ultimately as far as the actual filmmaking aspect of it it was it was a nine day shoot and it was super intense and we did all of our effects practically. And we had some really great cast. So we're really busy schedules. So all of that culminated. I mean it was it was really difficult but everybody loved it and wanted to be there for it. So that really helps.
And now you said you're working on a feature. So did this short really help you to kind of jumpstart a feature film.
Oh yeah sure. I've been really fortunate. Sure got a lot of attention before it even hit the festival circuit. So it allowed me to get up and begin taking meetings and kind of kick start. What's next for me career wise. And now I'm excited because you know as a just a couple of months ago we had our world premiere and we're beginning to make its way across the country at different festivals. And I can finally share it with audiences so I get to have that piece of it too.
So is horror genre that you want to stay work. I mean a lot of people will start their careers in horror and kind. Because it's sometimes an easy way to get in. But some people are in horror because they absolutely love the genre. So which kind of are you.
I'm that guy. The second one I'm talking to you in a living room. I'm walking across my shining carpet. I'm kind of my movie posters. This is I live in Bredhauer. I know that a lot of it's a great place to make a start for a lot of filmmakers because horror can be done inexpensively and it's a little bit more forgiving of a low budget. I understand that but for me what's exciting about your is it's always been a space where characters who we see fight impossible forces have to overcome something beyond themselves and that inspires me. So that fight that's built into the genre. It's something that you know inspired me a lot as a kid and growing up and giving me that kind of strength and it really excites me to be able to create that specially in a space where I get to introduce queer characters having a mainstream queer film is 100 percent my goal within the horror community. So yeah I'm going to keep working at it. I don't see myself doing other things but you know I always keep an open mind but I just want to be that. That's it. That's one thing.
Well and also what I like about the film is that the horror is twofold in the sense that there's this kind of supernatural demonic. I don't know how you eventually want to define it but there's this kind of a particular kind of horror but there's also this very real world horror of someone who is in a psych ward.
Yes absolutely. I think that being in a space like that is already terrifying. Whether or not this creature that he's facing is you know in his head or not. It's dealing with elements of life that I think that would terrify us all as is. That's why this story to me was so important to tell.
And what's nice about film and I'm not going to give anything away but I will say that one thing that's interesting about it is there's a lot of very kind of brightly lit scenes and like part of part of the creepiness on a certain level is just being in this psych ward where everything has a certain kind of sterile quality. But you also kind of introduce some of the horror elements within brightly lit shots where you can see everything you're not like hiding stuff in shadows or you know having necessarily having stuff just leap out of the dark at people which are kind of the tropes I love Eve.
I absolutely I mean because I think that it's leaping out of the dark is terrifying. And I think that we've seen a lot of that. I think that what is scary to me about being in a hospital where you're always being watched is what is exposed. And so in these brightly lit scenes are these scenes where a horror is introduced and it's right there in your face and you can see it. If it's done well I think it can have an equally terrifying effect but more importantly be right in there with a theme.
And you mentioned that the elements of the character being gay is not like in the forefront of the story but how do you feel then as a filmmaker having your film shown as part of an LGBT festival is that something that you enjoy being a part of. Or do you kind of want to issue those kind of labels as you move forward.
I love it. I embrace it. I want all the label I want. I see this very much as a queer horror film for me. What I love about it is that the horror comes from the space that he's in and the interactions with people that he has and doesn't necessarily come from something that leans on a trope or the tropes that we're working with happen to be tropes within the horse space. And so I really do embrace that and I love being at both horror festivals and queer festivals. Although I have to say that if I had to pick an audience who watched with they would definitely be an audience within a queer festival just because there are certain jokes that are so specific and just so for our community that I love hearing people laugh at them. I like the way that people lean in and whisper when they see one of our drag queens you know or a recognizable actor because we have a couple of actors who do gay indie films you know and that's something that's going to be unique to our audience so there's definitely there's some I don't want to call them easter eggs but there are some things in the film that are just for this specific community just as there are a few things that are just for the community too.
And what kind of influence did you have in terms of horror. I mean who were the directors or who were the what are the films that kind of influenced you the most.
I think as a director Wes Craven 100 percent especially what he was doing in the late 90s and was Nightmare on Elm Street actually really influenced me that random street is a huge influence. As you might be able to see from some of you just the way she presents herself. But in general I love 80s slashers and although this is a fairly supernatural film we took a lot from the slasher genre in the way that we presented the scares and so I watched a lot of a lot of creepy kind of slow moving films from that era when we were putting this together. But combining it with more modern jump scares so that we have a little bit of both like that sobering element but also when things hit the fan it just really goes and for you what is the importance of being able to showcase your film at festivals.
Is that something it is very helpful to a filmmaker when they're starting out.
I think that showing it at a festival allows me to to share it with the audience and while it may not directly affect you know the feature that I'm working on or something like that what it does do is it allows me to see how things go with people and really just give me the ability to connect with an audience. I think that all of us are making something so that it can be seen and being at a festival is kind of the payoff. You know it's it's it's that opening night and it charges. I know it fills me with the kind of energy that allows me to continue creating. And I definitely know it's the same with my cast because so many of our cast members is shown up to screening after screening and festival of their festival just because this is a film that is so fun to watch with people just out loud in the audience. People gasp. I've heard people scream or laugh at all the jokes. It's just one of those things that is so interactive and it just fills me with an excitement that I can't even I never could have imagined.
I love watching the quiet room with people while I work with a horror film festival and I also program films and I have to say that when you program a horror film and you actually have like a couple of screamers in the audience people who are really susceptible to the jump scares or to the scares that are in the film.
It elevates the level of fun of watching this.
But whenever I have a friend to apologize prematurely like I just want to let you know I don't watch horror movies. It always makes me scream like you're going to sit right next to me. It's like watching a horror film in 3-D.
Well it is also kind of because as someone who watches a lot of horror I get kind of jaded and even though I can appreciate scares in a film. I'm not one who tends to jump and scream and it's so nice to sit next to someone who does feel like that kind of visceral level and I'm like ah I remember what that was like when I was like a teenager.
Yes. And I actually think that might be why I love screening at LGBT festival so much because a lot of those audience there aren't. As you mentioned before there aren't a ton of queer whore pics out there. And while while it is on the rise you know most of the festivals have me and blocks with just you know the standard fare. So yeah somebody will go from crying to a really emotional moment in a film to jumping into the quiet room and I don't think they know what they're getting into when we're halfway to movie and people are screaming and jumping out of their feet because they're not here for horror.
And I love it as I mentioned since the festival is having its 20th anniversary I'm going to ask each of the filmmakers about in looking at 20 years of kind of LGBT cinema. Do you see anything to you that stands out in terms of where it's going or you know how festivals showcase it is they can have some observation you've made something that I'm noticing is is something you brought up earlier which is entry's Tiziana.
I think that we are moving into a space that allows for filmmakers to make things within different genders like I hope to be around to see a gay superhero movie I want to see something in every genre. I was at a screening of love Simon a couple months ago and hearing the audience react in such a big way. Tippett You know rom com essentially it was pretty groundbreaking. I think that we're heading into that territory and it excites me because for me I just want to make more horror specifically horror for my community.
Thank you very much for taking some time to talk to me and I look forward to your film coming out here to San Diego for film out. He has confessed awesome glass and was so fine.
That was filmmaker Sam Weinmann talking about his short The Quiet Room. Matthew Montgomery is having the world premiere of his feature film Devil's path at film out. He explains what it's about.
Yes so it's a really simple film about these two guys who meet on a hiking trail while one of them is looking for is missing brother. And through a series of circumstances they end up getting chased off into the woods and then from there things kind of start to unravel land.
Yeah I don't want to give too much away and that's the problem with some of these films. Where did this story idea for this come from what was kind of the germ of inspiration.
I was working on a short film a few years ago when I was still doing when I was still in my grad school program and I knew that I wanted to sort of kind of investigate character development through a story about two characters primarily. And so I had kind of I knew that I wanted to do it in this particular genre until so I actually developed this story as part of a thesis project. I did it like a producing Packett thesis and then after I graduated I ended up developing it into a feature and then shooting it.
And the film is not overtly a horror film but there's definitely tension and an like thriller elements to it is this a genre that you enjoy working in.
Oh yeah I'm a huge Hitchcock fan. Like he's my go to a filmmaker but I always watch. So for me the thriller genre is definitely resonates more with me creatively than any other genre and I like the show I like the suspense and everything but I also kind of like how information gets doled out throughout the journey of the story.
So for me that's very exciting and very sort of rewarding as a filmmaker Well one thing that Hitchcock also likes to play around with is this notion of kind of like the wrong man or you know when you're figuring out a mystery like who is the real who's the real person that you should be afraid of or worried about. And your film kind of plays with certain elements of that too in and also using kind of a sense of you know who is the is the narrator we have kind of the most reliable person or not.
Yeah exactly. I really wanted to play around with both me and Stephen Tortosa as he was the lead and also the co-writer of the movie with me. We really kind of wanted to explore this kind of back and forth of you know who throughout this throughout the story you start to kind of have this perspective of who is the good guy and who's the bad guy and that changes and we sort of really wanted to play around with that a lot more difficult than you think when you're sort of developing the story and trying to sort of stick to having a protagonist and an antagonist. But yeah we really kind of wanted to play around with that especially because the film really tackled the theme of perspective and how a person's perspective can be you know affect the choices that they make and hence the consequences of those choices. And so on and so forth.
Woods has always been where I felt comfortable say it's society and people that terrify me.
We hurt terrorize and kill each other without a second thought. Who reasons that are meaningless. In nature animals from kill to survive. This place is our chance to leave everything behind. To start the path.
And what is it about the thriller genre that you feel allows you to explore those ideas kind of in the most either effective or interesting way for you as an artist.
I guess the thriller's honor for me. I mean it's it's to me it's an exciting genre. Like It It's NY unlike the or John or which I liked the more genre and a lot of people ask me if this is a horror film. I'd say no and I understand because the title The Devil's path was lot of times people think that it might be a horror film off the you know off the bat. But but with the thriller genre I feel like there's more of a delving into the layers of character and their psychology and that you know Beano out to be able to do that and have that avenue I think is is for me the most effective part of storytelling is having that ability and the film although although it's not really horror but there are some horrific things that characters kind of have in their backgrounds or in their pasts and.
And so layering that kind of thing into a story where it's stuff that we don't necessarily see but are revealed. I mean this is kind of like darker tones. Was that something that also interested you.
Yeah very much so. I mean as the information is sort of slowly kind of comes to the surface where the viewer is kind of work the same way for us as the writers and the and the filmmakers you know we sort of started out with this character and this sort of essence of of who Noah is who is the main character and then we sort of like layered and layered and layered upon that. So you know it's sort of this journey for the it's the journey it's a journey for the writer. I feel like just as much for the viewer. You know what I mean.
And one thing that I find interesting is that in covering film out for the past 20 years and seeing the kinds of films that they showcase and the kinds of films that are submitted it seems like films like yours and they've been some other ones like it too. It seems like the LGBT filmmakers that are submitting stuff. It seems like there are more films that are genre films like that filmmakers feel a little more freedom to kind of explore genre now that they've they've kind of like the festivals have kind of moved past dealing with a lot of the films that are just about LGBT identity or about coming out or you know themes that are very specific to that. And now you know there seems to be a bigger influx of films that are just genre films where a character happens to be gay or a filmmaker happens to be gay.
Yes. Yes. I'm so glad you brought that up actually because for me the movie it's I wanted it to be very kind of secondary what their sexual orientation. You know it's just sort of this background of of who the characters are the stories about something entirely different. And you know I've done a lot of films in the past that were you know very issue based I guess you could say and about you know gay identity and that kind of thing. And those are important important movies and important stories to tell. And I'm glad that we now have a space to be able to tell those stories. But I also think that it really says how far we've come now that we have these stories that are coming out that are no more genre related stories that are sort of a little offbeat now and they aren't so much necessarily about trying to talk about a particular message or or issue but more to sort of entertain and kind of just be compelling and that kind of thing.
Well it also seems that it's kind of freeing for an artist because it allows you to now depict gay characters that don't have to be as positive or as much of role models that you can kind of explore darker aspects to a character who happens to be gay.
Oh absolutely. I mean but to be perfectly honest with you it is something that you know I was very aware of when we were sort of creating the characters because you know they're not exactly you know there are aspects of their characters that one may think of as unlikable or sort of you know find a judgment to get against them for one reason or another. And so that did sort of concern me as a storyteller that like you know how how is this going to be portrayed are people going to feel a certain way about how as a filmmaker put know portraying these characters who are also gay. Because I do feel that I have a responsibility to that as a filmmaker as well.
But you know for me it's more important to to sort of hold closer to the integrity of the project and the characters that I've created and be as true to them as possible well it seems like what what the goal should be is that the characters are believable and well-rounded and complex as opposed to just. Are they positive or negative.
Exactly exactly because that's human nature you know.
And do you feel that kind of this freeing up of filmmakers to be able to cover kind of a broader range of topics and a broader range of genres. Is part of what's allowing you to do that is that technology has made it easier to make films and on a certain level to distribute them.
Yes absolutely. I mean it wasn't like this year you know 10 years ago you know where it was just sort of starting out I guess maybe that time. But like I feel like right now we have the ability and the resources to be able to tell stories that you know with a lower budget than maybe most sort of bigger you know bigger studio pictures and you still have it be not only interesting and compelling and all of that and all of that thing but also feel like you're watching an actual movie. You know what I mean.
Yeah. Well and it also seems like you know if you really have a burning desire to be a filmmaker now that you could literally go out with your cell phone make a movie put it on a YouTube channel and have it available to the public it may not be able to make you know a career out of it or a living off of it. But if you really have that bug that says you know I've got to make a film. It seems like it's you have a lot more options right now.
And I think that's really important which is why I also think that it's a really great thing that there are more programs for youth filmmakers and you know filmmakers who are who are just starting out you know the little young ones that are coming out that are telling their stories because now they have the opportunity to tell their stories in a way that we didn't. When I was younger they had these resources and the technology is now available to them to be able to do that. And I think that's a really great thing we need more storytellers in the world.
And I understand this is going to be a world premiere at film out.
It is. It is which is very very exciting because film out I had I was just talking to my husband about this that one of our earlier one of our first dates was actually at film out I had him come with me to the film festival because I had two movies that were playing there at the time and this was 10 years ago and so here I am now. Yeah. Well since you came to film out ten years ago for you how does the festival seem to have changed in any way or have they well I feel like it's bigger like there are movies that are bigger in scope to me that I that are inclusive of the gay community that are now being shown which I think is know really really really cool.
You know there was a time when you know just like when we were talking about a few minutes ago about representation you know there was a time you know 10 years ago or so that are represented you know gay representation in cinema was not that great. And so you know a lot of the the films that were film out in other gay and lesbian film festivals were you know much smaller sort of not really financially supported films that you know we had to sort of make on our own. And now you're seeing these much sort of bigger projects that are coming in from like studios and stuff for smaller independent production companies. And I think that's that's kind of an interesting trajectory to sort of see that happening.
That was feature filmmaker Matthew Montgomery. His film Devil's path has its world premiere June 8 at film out San Diego. Chris Phillips directed the short film night shift.
This is Luke Anderson and 417. It looks like I mistook someone else's bag for mine. Could you send up the Belman that was at the desk when I checked in. I think his name was Max.
Yes. Thank you.
Mike is about two guys who we see at the very beginning we're not real sure how they know each other and they have a really intense conference physical confrontation and through the course of the shore we start to find out how they know each other what their history is what their connection is. Yes so I'm excited to see how the audience responds to it without giving too much away about it.
How do you feel about your film screening at an LGBT film festival. Do you mind that it gets grouped like that. Or would you prefer also being able to show it at other festivals.
Oh I would love to show it at other festivals but I don't know for some reason there are some filmmakers that I certainly started out in playwriting and there are some playwrights too that I've heard that seem to have a issue they kind of chafe whenever anybody labels their piece a gay player or a gay film or whatever. I have never had that problem. That is sort of the well that up to this point I've sort of swam in and I loved being at the gay theater festivals the gay film festivals. It's always been very community oriented for me and this story in particular it's like I don't. I certainly think that a larger audience or more mainstream audience could get something from it. They can see it. It's not so exotic in terms of the relationship. They can't respond to it. But I've never had a problem with that because for me it's really it's giving back to a community that's given me so imagine that certainly there is a community that inspires a lot of my writing. So I've never had a problem with that.
And where did the idea for the story come from.
Well the idea for NICE's actually came from a few different places as the original inspiration for it is a 1974 film by Lily and Kabbani called the night porter that I'm not sure of a whole lot of people have seen. I think a lot of film aficionados are familiar with it it was a really controversial film and the plot of that is completely different from what nightshifts is doing but what interested me about it was the idea of having two people that have this sort of really challenging history and seeing them come together in a really contained space and sort of negotiating what that history was about and how it impacted them and their lives. From then on and that story has always stuck in my head and I thought well what would what would be the modern day equivalent of that. And this was a heterosexual relationship that was in that particular film. And I thought well what would the dynamics if this were a gay relationship. And when I started thinking about that then I realized that what I wanted to tell a story about was sort of intimacy between men and what that looks like and how that feels and what's the difference between a physical intimacy versus an emotional intimacy feminine power versus masculine power external power versus magnetic power all those dynamics kind of came into this space and I wanted to do it in 12 minutes without a whole lot of dialogue. That was sort of the challenge I set for myself.
So how is it going from the stage where the written word is kind of is literally like the word of God and going into a film where a lot of times I mean when you're making an independent film I think screenplays are much more important. But you know in terms of like Hollywood and kind of this bigger picture screenwriting doesn't tend to be elevated as much as a playwright and I'm just wondering how how was it for you to kind of move from the playwriting world to the screenwriting world and to a medium where it's much more visual in the sense of you have the control of telling the viewer kind of what they're looking at in a scene that you don't have on the stage.
I think that honestly I haven't written a play and while I wrote a play last year for a benefit. But before that I hadn't really written a play about two or three years. I really been focusing on writing television and film scripts and I found it very liberating because I like ambiguity and I like it when an audience leans forward in their seats and is trying to figure out what's going on based on how the characters are moving around each other. And if he notice in night shows that she's seen it there there's a ton of close ups and I really like studying my actors faces to to kind of get the ambiguity of what's going on. And I feel like that really freed me up. I don't have to be so literal as far as what's going on in film. You you can pick and choose what the audience sees you can linger on a moment that that an audience wouldn't necessarily linger on in theater because there's so much to watch and the audience is picking and choosing what they're watching on stage. And so if you want to make a point you've got to say it and the dialogue in a film it's very different. You can say make your point with a visual and you get to guide the audience in that way. And also I think it was a great experience in theater in working with actors that were incredibly expressive with their faces. And so I got to know what an actor would be capable of expressing where they wouldn't need any dialogue to do it. And the more I talked to Billy and dust him before we started
shooting the more I even flashed. I mean the version that you see on film is actually less dialogue and what was in the shooting script. Because I realize we don't need that we don't need him to say that that's coming through in his eyes. We don't need. We don't need it. So that was really liberating I think in a sense and I really got the next short I want to make I want to go even further with the visuals I'm going to I'm going to have more of a stamp on it in terms of what the what it actually looks like you.
So I've really loving it.
I'm loving this side of film out San Diego is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year so it makes everyone a little bit reflective that are working on the festival. And so I'm wondering as a filmmaker and as somebody who just watches films what kind of changes have you seen in the past couple of decades that have either made an impression on you or that you kind of want to point out in terms of LGB cinema.
Sure. Oh wow. I've seen a ton of changes. I think the most substantive change that I've seen and the one that I'm most excited about when I see filmmakers like the reas or Andrew Hague or you know Sean Baker's stuff Andrea Arnold the one of my favorite filmmakers. You know anytime they're working with LGBT characters it's much more about showing LGBT characters as human beings. They don't have to be affirming they don't have to be perfect they don't have to be a voice for the generation. Yeah gay people are still touchy about their images on screen. I think I had a conversation with the other writer friend of mine about how how sensitive we can be about those kinds of actions. But I think that certainly in the last couple of decades since say the American queer as folk out here I think that we've chilled out a little bit and we're much more willing to see our LGBT characters as human beings. They don't have to be perfect they don't have to be positive they don't as the upstanding members of the community they can actually be human. And that to me is such a creatively inspiring change because I don't have to think about. I mean I never really did in the first place any. My character is a kind of you know warts and all but there's a lot less sensitivity about that. Now I think where because we are being so visible and in the culture at large I think as a writer and director I feel a lot more freedom to let them just be messy you know which is always a lot more exciting to watch anyway
That was filmmaker Chris Phillips who directed night shift. Next up is Stan Madre who directed the short film hookup.
Boy Meets Boy not actually Adam who is our lead character is just looking for love in all the places and he's found a hook up and it unravels. So from there.
A number of films that have screened it film out and especially a number of horror films have used that kind of the hookup Grindr meta as the starting point for a story. So it seems like a kind of a rich area because you might be going someplace you've never been. Being with someone you have no idea who they are. It seems like perfect material.
Well you know it's interesting because we're so used to putting our information out there to people whether it's on social media Twitter or Facebook all of that and the same thing with our when we meet someone whether you meet someone online whether you meet someone via your phone with one of these dating apps whether it's you know Tinder or Grindr or all the myriad ones out there. We kind of act impulsively when love or sex is involved. The genesis for this is that suppose that you act impulsively and think maybe there could be more to this and then there is definitely more to it. But it's maybe not the direction you had intended.
So did this story stem from experience. You know the idea for it. Did it stem from something that you had experienced online yourself or somebody talked to about that led you to kind of take it one step further for the story.
Well I will tell you two things as I am I'm in my 50s so my version of dating in my 20s was not social media it was very different because you just met people in and out of places and things that I did in strange places I woke up in my 20s doing strange things strange people was always kind of interesting. So now being is it's all done in social media and done with all the dating apps. I have a variety of friend of mine who said very quickly how impulsively they have acted and that they've just you know chatted with somebody online. Short period of time. Next thing you know they're reading and they're going at it both straight and gay that have told me this. So that's kind of where the genesis came from is that my experience was when I was younger but the experience now certainly is very very quick for for people today to walk into danger without knowing it.
Film out where you're going to be screening your film is now turning 20 years old and so looking back on the kinds of films they've shown the film programmer Michael in only recently programmed a horror block last year because he felt it was the first time that he really got enough submissions where he could make a really solid block of gay films. And I'm just wondering if you feel like that it now seems like a time where LGBT filmmakers can kind of start depicting characters that are not necessarily role models where they're not necessarily making films about identity where they can go into genre filmmaking a little more fully. Do you feel like you have a little more freedom to do that or support to do that.
That's the great part about it because our lives are changed very drastically in the last probably five to seven years. And the type of film he would make four or five years ago or six years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago it was very different when you were dealing with LGBT issues because it was very very very different. It was films as far back as in and out were just about you know being mainstream and normalized the birdcage all of these things 20 years ago. You know there are 20 years old right now and they don't stand out. They're great films but you couldn't make them now because you know with gay marriage now. So what's the purpose of a film about gay marriage because it lessens the relationship were there. You know we're pretty much there. And that's what's changed so dramatically is where do gay and lesbian stories go next. And the one thing I had not seen several things I had not seen on screen was certainly the depiction of the out of the lovemaking between these two gentlemen when they get to that point as we can guess that there is and also the fact that you know what if it's a little more twisted a little more bent storyline.
I'm wondering is horror something you've always been attracted to or is it something that you just thought for this particular story was something you wanted to experiment with.
You know I'm a film fan. I have been I could watch societ but carry a thousand times over horror films I'd love to be scared out of my seat. I love to be jumped. I love when all these things happen. What I really really like is the scariest thing to me isn't the monster that's coming from wherever. To me the scariest thing is the guy down the hall you know the person you know that is a complete different twisted mind inside who you know. That to me is scarier than anything. Scariest thing I remember seeing in my 20s was I watched the film helter skelter which is about Charles Manson and how he manipulated women and then into doing his bidding and killing and all that stuff and that scared me so bad because that's that the guy down the hall that could be the real person you'd come in contact to and how quickly you could go from your normal life to being completely engulfed in someone else's horrific mind.
So were there any directors or films that you felt really influenced you in terms of how you made this particular short.
Oddly enough security was the story until I didn't realize how much info as me but when we were done American Psycho had stepped very heavily in my head and I didn't realize until we had made the film and then I came back and looked and I went oh this is interesting this is interesting because a twisted Mojang which I like. You know I love horror like Hannibal Lecter style horror where it's a twisted mind. And what's going on the spraining and what's going on in his mind. And that's that's really what draws me to them so much. Again the concept of the monster. You know I grew up in the 70s 80s where we'd had before Freddy Krueger even him along. You actually had the killer they got out of the psych ward that was coming in and slashing people up and was killing people and that was all the genre I grew up in.
That was so familiar to me and they were just twisted minds who had an opportunity to vent what they wanted to because our film festival is hitting its 20th anniversary I'm asking filmmakers that I'm interviewing about if they have any particular thoughts about how LGBT cinema has been in the past 20 years are there any kind of landmarks for you in that time or do you see any current trends that you've noticed.
Well the thing that I can tell you is more than anything about filmmaking is that it has changed so dramatically in the last five seven years particularly because access is so much easier. It's so much easier to get access to cameras and equipment and all the things are available to us to be able to edit your own works to be able to create more works to be able to experiment move or to have avenues to get it out beyond just the film for us to be able to have places to get your film seen. I'm a big fan I watch a lot of gay and lesbian short films and I can see that on Netflix or YouTube or any of these and just get lost for hours going one to the next the next because they're all telling a different story. And those weren't available for until just last because in 5 7 years they're all out there and you can see this content now that you couldn't see before we have the great ability now more than ever to seek the content we want to see. And I can remember again back in the blockbuster video days you would go in and there will be a very short gay section of gay style films and there would be maybe five or six. Now there's a plethora of films that fall into the specialty genre and I think that's what's so nice about it. That has what has changed is the access to content and the ability for people to create their original content.
Well I want to thank you very much for taking some time to talk about your film and I look forward to seeing it on the big screen at film out pleasure.
I appreciate and I hope everyone enjoys the opportunity when they see hook up and just squirm a little.
That was Stan Mao drae whose short film hookup screens in June at film out. Neil Molony is the last director I spoke with. He directed the short fishtank no. Yearling. Sorry. About. That.
Sorry. Alex a friend. He said as. Well. CAMON.
Centrally the premise is the short follows a college student who goes to his first took up with the enigmatic older gentleman and as the night begins to play out he sort of need to weigh whether you know what's going on and point to something darker about this guy who's hosting him for the night. Or maybe just happenstance.
So now there are a number of films this year that use this kind of the jumping off point. The this meta idea or a hook up or Grindr Tinder what is it about that kind of premise that kind of opens the doors for a lot of different directions that a story can go into I think the reason why not such a prolific storyline is that it really embodies a communal anxiety that's present in the gay community especially now.
And the aid in the digital age of specially with the presence of all these different apps where you can sort of more readily edition yourself under the terms of anonymity and discretion. And I think it's something that so many people universally experience whether or not on that platform and usually that is sort of a window into you know Nelson Dobry or actually or emotionally and I think it makes for some really potent emotionally strong storytelling. So I think I think that's why you know this is such a common premise but it's really an interesting forum along the festival circuit to see how people have done how people have done that differently or interpret it on their own terms and yours kind of plays with is the interplay between what's really going on and what might be in this guy's head.
Because as you say this you know meeting up with someone you've never met before is both exciting on one hand but then also if you start thinking about it sometimes your mind can start to wander off into territory of like what did I just get into.
Right yeah there's always that really abject and dangerous you know duality to these meet ups where it promises something exciting and you know it invigorating. But at the same time you're also doing that you know putting yourself on the line and for taking a gamble there. So it's a really really interesting fine line between the two. And that's sort of what I really tried to play on in the film is just exploring the ways in which you know I think you know the behavioral cues that come about when you first meet someone or know interesting and just are really my new and subtle psychological ways in which we you know when we first and someone especially with a hose gets to be and how they're weathering they can feel a pain of the way in which you sort of become hyper aware of every single thing and every single one and every action one takes.
And you know what that can mean on a larger scale.
How was Neil Malaney who made the short fishtank. Thanks for listening to another edition of listener supported PBS cinema junkie podcast. If you enjoy the show please recommend it to a friend and leave a review on iTunes. That's the best way for the podcast to find new listeners. Coming up we'll be podcasts on witches and Hollywood musicals. The podcast comes out every other Friday or as close to that schedule as I can possibly manage. Thanks for your patience when I'm delayed till our next film fix on BFI Komando your residence cinema.
Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place