AnderSCENE!
LGBTQ+ Film

By David Anderson

Your favorite unlicensed psychotherapist is back for season 2!  Dr. Jackie: Unlicensed Psychotherapist returns with more laughs than before!

May 22, 2024

Season 2 comes just in time for Pride Month with an eclectic line-up that includes Debbie Harry, Neil Patrick Harris, Trixie Mattel, Bianca Del Rio, and many others.  Jackie Beat gave us the scoop on what to expect from season 2 of Dr. Jackie: Unlicensed Psychotherapist.  

Tell me about Unlicensed Psychotherapist.

Anyone who’s met me knows I am a loving, nurturing person who just wants to help people so sitting down with my famous friends and talking out their problems just makes sense. Just kidding! I’m self-centered and unqualified and that’s why the show is so funny!

How will season two be different from season one?

Season one was 90% improv and 10% scripted, but season 2 is the complete opposite. I think the more scripted and structured, but with the freedom to adlib and have fun, works better. Also, I also have different special guests.

Season two includes Debbie Harry, Neil Patrick Harris, Jane Lynch, Alaska Thunderfuck, to name a few. What was it like working with them?

It was great! I’m friends with most of my special guests so we just have fun. Jane Lynch and I go way back. We were actually in a sketch comedy group together in Los Angeles called For Entertainment Purposes Only in the ‘90s!

What’s your favorite episode of Unlicensed Psychotherapist?

I’ll answer that like a proud mother… I love all of them equally! But I have to say there is one scene with Willam, Alaska Thunderfuck & Bianca Del Rio that was kind of epic. And right when you think it can’t get any better - or feature more star power - Trixie Mattel pops up!

What’s the most memorable moment on set?

Definitely when Nancy Allen from the original Carrie dumped a bucket of blood on me!

How do you juggle between the series and your other endeavors?

The real work is writing the show and then editing it. We shoot it all in only 4 days. It’s brutal but so much fun. Don’t tell anyone, but it’s so much fun I would do it for free!

Season two begins just in time for Pride month. How do you hope this series plays into that time of the year?

Well, many of my guests are LGBTQ+ icons so there’s that. And even though my show is poking fun at therapy, I really do think a big part of being a happy person is about self-acceptance and Pride can certainly help one feel not only that, but a sense of community. Uh oh, I’m getting all serious!

What will you be doing for Pride this year?

Sherry Vine and Kelly Mantle and I are doing The Golden Girlz Live at RedEye in NYC and at the Ice Palace on Fire island to celebrate Pride. I live out and proud so every day is Pride for me. With a splash of Halloween!

Anything else you want to promote or a message to your fans?

Just please watch Dr. Jackie: Unlicensed Psychotherapist because I really want to get a season 3!

Waiting for the Bus will be making its world premiere on June 2 at Parkway Theater!  

May 22, 2024

Waiting for the Bus is part of a project called Thresholds: Art, Science, and Neurodiversity.  The standout of Waiting for the Bus is Michael Wolfe's A+ performance.  Wolfe identifies as living with autism.  I had the pleasure of chatting with him about appearing in front of the screen and living with autism.

Your film is being screened on June 2nd at Parkway Theater as part of Thresholds: Art, Science, and Neurodiversity. In what ways does your character represent the neurodiverse community?

It's a documentary sort. The document is about the real me. Basically, the documentary sort is about different facets of my personality since I'm the primary focus of the video.  I was born with autism, and that right there put me on the mental disability spectrum. So I'd say that me myself, I am living representative of mental disability spectrum.

What attracted you to the film?

I am a member of a theater company called the Interact Center in St. Paul. Back in 2018, Aaron Gabriel who was the music director of Interact at the time invited Beth Graczyk to work with the LGBTQIA+ identified artists and create a new performance work at Interact.  Beth [Graczyk, film director] has her own dance company, Beth Graczyk Productions.  So her dance company and my theater company collaborated and created a project called Hear Them Now. And Beth liked the work that I did in the Hear Them Now dance project that she reached out to me.  She invited me.  She told me about Thresholds.  So Thresholds is another dance project that her dance company is working on and the film is only a part of this dance project.  The documentary film is a part of the Threshold Project. And so Beth contacted me through Aaron Gabriel [composer], and the two of them invited me to create some dance material with them, and they would make a video of the dance material.  Ever since 2020, Beth, Aaron, and myself have been filming even though back then I had no idea that that is what we were doing.

Tell me about the biggest challenge of filming Waiting for the Bus.

So there wasn't really a challenge I just had. I just had to know what to do. 

Beth asked me what is the most regular thing that I have done within my lifetime.  Within recent years I've gotten into the habit of putting on my headphones and listening to music while I'm waiting for the bus because me listening to music actually helps the city bus to show up faster.  Every once in a while I will dance to the music that I'm listening to. Sometimes I kind of don't care if other people see me or not, but I will turn off the music in my headphones and I will just dance at that bus stop, and I'll dance, and I'll dance, and I'll dance, and I'll just keep on dancing until the bus gets there.  So Beth told me; she says, "What are some of the emotions that you get while you're waiting for the bus?"  So Beth told me to take the emotions that I feel when I'm waiting for the bus and turn those emotions into actions. So whenever I'm waiting for the bus and I'm not dancing, these mannerisms begin to happen. So there are certain mannerisms that I would start to do. Like, when I get frustrated about something, there's always certain mannerisms that I would begin to act out. So, and those are the same mannerisms that I would begin to do when I'm waiting for the bus.  I would do these mannerisms while waiting for the city bus. So the next thing that happens is Beth told me to take the mannerisms that I do when I'm waiting for the bus, and she told me to make them bigger. So I did that, and then she told me to make them bigger again, and so I did.  The mannerism is even bigger. We do the same. We keep making my mannerisms bigger and bigger and bigger until they, until those mannerisms eventually become full blown dance moves.

What is the most important thing people should know about autism?

When people hear that someone has autism or when people hear that someone is on the spectrum, they immediately start associating that person with the autism stereotype.  That is one thing that frustrates me.  I don't know how to respond to that.  That's not who I am. I am not a stereotype, I am not stigma, and if there's one thing that I don't like, I don't like being stigmatized. And as far as the autism spectrum is concerned, autism affects everybody in different ways.  Autism affects everybody.  It affects every single person in a different way.  There are some people in the world who are this [mild] autistic and then there are some people in the world who are this [severe] autistic, and there's a whole variety of conditions that are in between.  The way that my autism affects me is completely different from how somebody else's autism affects them.  And I have to keep that in mind, especially when I'm addressing other people. And if I'm being honest, I think we all should keep that in mind.

What are some common misconceptions about autism that you encounter? 

They don't expect us to aspire to be worthwhile or successful for that matter. Most of the world does not expect autistic people to amount to anything. They don't expect us to achieve anything that is worthwhile. They don't expect us to accomplish anything that is worthwhile.  We as autistic people, we can accomplish things, we can accomplish things, and we can achieve things.  So that is what most people think.  Most people think that people with autism can't maintain a successful career, but we can and maintain a successful career. It's just that because of autism, we just need a little bit of help from the right people in order to accomplish our goals.

What's the biggest takeaway that you most hope for from audiences from Waiting for the Bus?

Well, to be perfectly honest with you, I am very nervous. I am very nervous for people to see this film even though the film is only six minutes long.  I'm very nervous for people to see this film because there are people who are from other parts of my life. People from other parts of my life are coming to this premiere, and they are going to see my inner self in this film from other areas of my life.  They're going to see a side of my personality that they usually don't see.

What are some of your favorite movies about autism? And what are some of your favorite LGBT films?

There is a movie that I like a lot.  It's not one of my favorite movies, but I do like it a lot. It's Rainman with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Dustin Hoffman plays a character who is on the spectrum. So, yeah, so Dustin Hoffman's character, because because of his disability, his brain is unable to comprehend certain things.  But Tom Cruise's. Tom Cruise's character takes Dustin Hoffman's character to a casino one night. And they discover that Dustin Hoffman's character is very good at counting cards.  The two of them [Cruise's character and his character's love interest] use Dustin Hoffman's [character's] ability to count numbers in order to make a lot of money.  In this casino, the owner of the casino is gonna have them apprehended. And he's like, I have no idea how you make so much money inside of my casino out of my casino, but you can leave Las Vegas and you can take the money that you won with you. But you're banned from Las Vegas, you've been given a lifelong ban from Las Vegas. 

[Favorite LGBT films: The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar]

What's next in cinema for you?

I don't have any other movies lined up, but the good news is Beth and I are in talks for making even more footage later on this year.  And if we don't get around to making that footage this year, then we'll probably make more footage for this documentary next year. Like I said, the film is only a part of the Thresholds Project.

Tickets for Thresholds: Art, Science, and Neurodiversity, which includes Waiting for the Bus, can be purchased at the link below.

Parkway Theater

Doors open at 6:00 PM.  Show starts at 6:30.

$14 in advance. $17 at the door

All ages

I interviewed Olivier Peyon, the Cesar nominated director of Lie With Me

May 22, 2024

Lie With Me tells an emotional story of a man who reflects on his teenage years and his love from that time.  I interviewed Cesar nominee Olivier Peyon, the director of Lie With Me.  He shared about production on and off set, the importance in LGBT representation in cinema, and his reactions to being nominated for a Cesar award (French equivalent for the Oscar) in 2014.

First off, your documentary Comment j'ai détesté les maths (How I Came to Hate Math) was nominated for a Cesar award (French equivalent to the Oscar) in 2014.  Describe the experience of a movie that you directed having been nominated for such a prestigious award.

It was fun to imagine that all the mathematicians I had filmed for two years would be represented in a glamorous ceremony! I was especially happy because this nomination was the symbol of the public success in theaters, and it was a real recognition for all these women and men scientists who had trusted me by agreeing to be in my film.

You adapted Lie With Me from the autobiographical novel written by Philippe Besson.  What attracted you to the novel?

When I was asked to adapt the book for cinema, I still hadn’t read it. I thought it was simply a coming-of-age love story, and I didn’t see how I could renew the genre, as so many films had already been made about the subject. Once I’d read the book, however, I thought the love story was as magnificent as it was tragic, but what especially caught my attention was the other part of the book which tells the story of Philippe Besson’s encounter with Lucas, his first love’s son. In the end, it is something that Lucas says that convinced me: “You should have seen the look in his eyes. It is at this precise moment that I became certain that it had all existed: my father had been in love with a boy.” I wanted to tell the story of this son who is trying to discover his father’s secrets and to make this encounter the main focus, the center of my film. The book is turned towards the past while I wanted to highlight the present.

Has book author Philippe Besson seen the film adaptation?  If so, what was his reaction?

Yes, of course. I was totally free to adapt as I wished his book Philippe Besson, the novelist, had given me carte blanche: “The greatest betrayals make the best adaptations,” he’d told me.  But because it was an autobiographical story I felt all the more responsible and often asked him questions about wonders I had or things that weren’t in the book. So step by step we became friends, and I let him read the different drafts of the script or also watch the casting tapes, and he came during the shooting to share the experience with me, the actors, and the crew.

He saw the film twice when it was done, and he was very touched, but also very confused because suddenly his lost love, Thomas, was alive again on the screen, and everybody could know him with images and not just words.

I think he was honest when he said he loved the movie because he was a lot with us for the several premiers all over the world, and because he’s really famous in France, he helped us a lot by being really involved during the French release in the media.

What's your favorite part of adapting the novel into a film?

Adapting this novel was fascinating but complex because Phillippe Besson’s writing is very introspective and action is reduced to the bare minimum.  In his book, the encounter between the novelist and the son is practically a pretext for telling the story of what happened in the past. I had to dramatize this encounter and build a narrative for these two characters so that what is happening in the present day would become the main storyline.

What are the most memorable stories on set?

Perhaps the sex scenes. The novel is rather graphic at times, and I didn’t want to water it down. It tells the story of learning and discovery and how sex is part of this journey towards love. While the first scene lacks any kind of tenderness between the two characters, I wanted to follow it up with more sensitivity and joy; that we feel the desire of one body for another, the intoxication of pleasure. When these two boys are together, nothing else exists.

We had a very long casting process. Jérémy Gillet and Julien de Saint Jean were very good in their individual screen tests, as were many others. It was especially when they acted together that this pair stood out from the rest. It was so obvious. I will always remember the moment when they met! And they proved me right because during the shoot, they never stopped expanding their range, and their acting continually evolved in depth and nuance.

This was the first time I’d ever shot sex scenes – in fact, the first time I’ve filmed a love story – but I firmly believed that I would know how to shoot them once the actors were chosen. I felt that I needed to rely upon their energy to construct the scene and stage it. Yet the most important thing was also to include Julien and Jérémy in the staging process, explaining to them what I wanted to do and why, as well as welcoming their suggestions that were often fantastic. The freedom that I hope is felt in these scenes stems directly from this mutual trust.

Lie With Me has been selected to multiple LGBT film festivals, including FilmOut San Diego (winner for Best Narrative Feature), Miami OUTshine Film Festival (winner for Best Feature), and ImageOut: Rochester LGBT Film Festival (winner for Best Narrative Feature).  How does it feel knowing that your film has reached so many people?

I was very happy with the success of the film abroad since we sold it in around twenty countries, although because of the LGBT theme and the love scenes, it was banned in a large part of the world such as China, Russia, Hungary, Africa, the Maghreb. This is the reality of the world, we must never forget it ! It was therefore all the more important for me because it touched the spectators who could see it, at LGBT festivals of course but also outside our community. The story has something universal that goes beyond sexual orientation, which is also what I liked about the novel.

What audience reaction of Lie With Me stands out most?

I showed the film a lot in festivals before its release in France; I mean not LGBT films festivals.  Many spectators came to watch it without knowing the subject. Many of them told me at the end of the screenings how they didn't know any gay people in their circle and how this film made them understand things, especially that love doesn't have sex ¡ So the road is still long…

What do you love most about making movies?

Working with actors.

How important are LGBT films and why?

They’re essential because we need representations of the LGBT community.  Our rights remain fragile, like those of women and minorities. because it‘s a way to make exist and normalize the LGBTQ+ issues in the eyes of the general public.

What's your favorite LGBT film and why?

My Own Private Idaho by Gus Van Sant - Brokeback Mountain by Ang Lee - but my favorite is a british series: It's a Sin by Russel T Davies about friendships and love in the eighties in London with the start of the AIDS epidemic.

What can audiences expect from watching Lie With Me?

Each spectator is different with [their] own background and feelings who‘ll watch my film from his own point of view, so he will find his own message that will talk to him, but if my movie could help to show more empathy and acceptance towards the difference, or simply towards the other, I wouldn’t be unhappy.

Solo is named AnderSCENE number one in MSPIFF43 LGBT show!  

May 8, 2024

During the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival 43, I chatted with Sophie Dupuis, the director of Solo.  She appeared at the festival to introduce the film and to answer audience questions.  She was shortlisted for the Oscar nomination for Best International Feature Film in 2018 for her film Chien de Garde (Family First).  She dished on the production of Solo, being surrounded by fabulousness, and her future in filmmaking.

Tell me about Solo.

Solo is a film about two guys that are drag queens and fell in love and are having a very nice love story.  But the love story is beginning to get a bit toxic and destructive.  And so Simon is navigating to that while keeping performing on in the drag scene, and he's trying to reconnect with his mother, who was away for 15 years now, who is a big opera singer. He's having a hard time to reconnect with her.  It's a story about someone who's having difficulties to navigate relationships with people that don't really love him.

What inspired you to do Solo?

I'm a big fan of the drag art.  I was researching or maybe just being a real fan.  I didn't know I was gonna write a story about the drag queen at one point, and I was really interested in a toxic relationship.  I was doing a lot of research about it too, and I wanted to do a film about that because I thought it was a really interesting psychological thing.  For me as a writer, I wrote too, it was interesting to write dialogue.  So at one point, I decided to combine the two, and I think while I was writing it, I discovered that it was a really good match, and it was interesting to have a character who is a drag queen. So he is discovering himself through his drag character and celebrating himself on a stage while he is in a toxic relationship who's trying to diminish him. So it was a contrary, a very interesting contradiction. So while I was writing it, I thought that the two subjects were a good match.

What are the biggest challenges during the making of Solo?

We had a lot of challenges. I broke my leg, my leg for real a week before we were starting pre production. That was a technicality. But the big challenge for me was to create those six drag queens because there are six drag queens in my film: the two main characters and the four friends.  It was a really interesting collaboration to have with makeup, costumes, hair, and the actors who I wanted to give a lot of space to create their own drag.  And the choreographer with us, we had to work a lot together to create those characters and while the actors were preparing out of drag characters too. 

So, it was a lot and, and it was really interesting, and during the same time, I was looking for the music.  We had to have the right to use the music before the shoot in order to create the choreography too.  So every time I was adding new music, the film was taking a different shape every time, and the character and the drag characters were taking different shapes. So it was very, very interesting, and it was a challenge, but it was mostly a really nice collaboration, all of us.

I'm so glad that you were still able to get your film done despite all those challenges.

Yeah.  I think the fact that I created a real drag group, this chosen family. This chosen family.  The importance of it and the energy inside of a chosen family, which is a very queer concept in some way, was happening in real life too. And we got a real bond together. And we became very, very good friends. We are still very good friends now. And I think that the fact that I broke my leg kind of got my team together.  So all of this together made something very special. I think we really got through that film with a lot of love and with the crew. Yeah.  It was very, very special.

That's great.  What do you love most about filmmaking?

I discovered because it's my third feature that I really like to connect people with realities that they don't know a lot about and by connecting them with the character because they all fall in love with the characters every time and they develop an empathy for them.  I think that's a very good way to open your heart to something to realities that you don't know.  I like to meet the public at the end after a projection. And a lot of people came to me saying, "I thought that wasn't a film for me. I tried it and I'm happy I did because it's not just a film about drag queens or it's not only a queer movie.  It's a love story between two people, and it happens to be drag queens, and they connect with the love story, the toxic relationship."  After that, they say now I want to go to drag shows.  Now I think that I changed my perception of the community with films.  It's not my ultimate goal, but to connect people with a reality they don't know, is something that I can do with my films and that I want to do more and more.

What do you love most about LGBT cinema? And what is something that you don't feel you don't see enough of [in LGBT cinema] that you wish you did?

The thing that I love the most is the freedom, the flamboyance.  I think that queer people are more free than other people because they get through the construction of what society thinks we should be.  I think that queer people don't have a choice than to be free when you're queer in some way.  Because the way you love, the way you live, the way you identify is out of the books.  I think you learn to be free because of all those.  So I think that characters in LGBTQ movies and queer movies always give us this freedom feeling.  That's something that I feel, even if the story is about a queer character that discovers his homosexuality, his trans identity, or anything.  In any story, even if it's something difficult for them, I feel this freedom in some ways. And I think that's my favorite part of the queer movie.  

The thing that I think we miss the most is queer stories that are not about discovering your identity and coming out.  I think that talking about queer people that are just living their lives and maybe are surrounded by accepting and loving people can be very good for representation too in the movie where queerness is celebrated too.  I know that because some people came to me with Solo and told me that it was one of the first times they saw themselves on the screen without their identity or their [sexuality] being a problem in the story.  So I think that's what we miss the most.

What are some of your favorite LGBT films? And what are some of your most influential LGBT figures?

It's an English movie.  I think it is one of my favorite queer movies.  It's two men that met in a club and passed getting to know each other knowing that there's a deadline at the end of the weekend because one of them is going away from town.  It's only in an apartment, and they're just talking together and doing drugs and having sex, and I think it's very beautiful.  That's my favorite movie. [Dupuis didn't say the movie title.] 

And my favorite figure, I have to mention Dominic Jackson from Pose.  I'm in love with her character in Pose.  I really like to follow her because I think she's an activist who uses a lot of positivity to advocate for the community. And I have to say Rupaul for the celebration and all he does for the drag community by bringing it to the mainstream culture.  I really think that if we can see images and videos of drag queens without being offended, it is because of a part of his job that he did.  I'm from Canada and Quebec.  We're mostly accepting of drag queens.  I think that the job Rupaul did is, the way we're living in Quebec, is a result of it, even if it was in America.  I can name a lot.  I can name a lot.  I would have a list of 20 people, but I think I'll save them for the moment.

Your film Chien de Garde (Family First).  That movie was shortlisted for the Oscar in nomination for Best International Film. Tell me about the emotions going through when you found that out.

It was my first feature, so I never thought it was a possibility.  When they called me, I was wearing jogging pants [and] going to the store.  Never thought it was a possibility.  So it got really hot, and it's funny how you get on the train.  You have to be ready at all times to live that kind of emotions and events and go through it.  We don't have to think that much and just go through it.  But it was a confirmation for me that I have interesting things to say and that my way of saying it was good. So it was mostly a good help for my continuation in the cinema field.

Have you started rehearsing your Oscars winning speech? If so, what are you most likely to say, and who are you most likely to thank?

I haven't.  But my actors are always in the center of my work from early on.  I'm always doing a lot of casting and seeing hundreds of people trying to find not only the right talent but the right connection between us, the right person to create with me.  And we're rehearsing a lot, and we change everything just some days before shooting. We write, we question everything.  I give them a lot of space to be creators and to get to know their characters better than me.  I think for me when we're shooting, we're equal in the direction that they're taking. So sometimes they say because they know they can do that with me. They say, "Let me just do my version for this, for this take," and they're always right.  It's always the version that I use in the edit.  They're creators behind the film with me.  I fall in love with every actor, actors I work with.  I think they are a link.  They are a link to me in some way until we die. 

Who would you most want to work with in a film?

Théodore Pellerin is my main lead actor in Solo.  He played in my three features.  I gotta say the person I want to work with more is him.  We kind of grew up together.  I shot my first feature when he was 19, and we follow each other since that day.  I think he's becoming the greatest actor I've seen in my life, and I'm sure he's, he's working everywhere now around the world, in America too. You can see him in some things.  He just finished shooting in LA right now.  I think he's going to be one of our big stars.  He's a delight to work with, and now we have a method together. We know each other very well. He knows the creation space he can take with me, and he's taking it.  I don't think I have a part for him in my next movie, and it's crushing to me.  It's so sad because we really wanna work together again.

My last question, what's...

...next? I'm working on a feature right now. It's going to be a queer movie again, more queer than ever.  Some people will ask how the film can be more queer than Solo, but it will be.  I don't want to talk too much about it.  I think I want to keep it to myself for the moment. But I wish to uplift again the queer coming.

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival hosted their 43rd annual event from April 11-25, 2024 at The Main Cinema.  The festival included 10 LGBT features.

May 8, 2024

These films include related topics such as history, trans, intersex, addiction, drag performance, and culture.  These stories come from various parts of the world including The US, Canada, Thailand, Pakistan, Norway, and Slovakia.  These outstanding filmmakers remind viewers of the importance of LGBT films because of how they help with representation.

Mad About the Boy: The Noel Coward Story 2023/ Documentary/ UK/ English/ 90 min.

Mad About the Boy: The Noel Coward Story chronicles how Coward went from a tough childhood to an acting legend.  Mad About the Boy is narrated by Alan Cumming and Rupert Everett.  The documentary uses visuals from his performances to tell his story.  These visuals give audiences the feeling of living during the silent generation and early golden age of filmmaking.  These video clips don't appear to have been restored, which works on the documentary maker's behalf.  Video clips include pedestrians walking along a city sidewalk and movie clips that were filmed as early as the 1900s.  Stills of Coward, his family, and his friends, and fellow performers enhance the telling the story of his off-screen life, which includes keeping secrets (especially his sexual orientation), struggling with acceptance, and often struggling with finances.  4.5/5 stars

I Am Sirat  2023/ Documentary/ Canada, India/ Punjabi/ 87 min.

I am Sirat shares Sirat's struggles of living a double life, one as a man named Aman that is lived around her family and the other as her true self named Sirat that is lived around her friends, lovers, co-workers, and online.  Sirat records clips of herself dancing to music and posts them on Instagram.  She uses these clips to give the trans community representation.  I Am Sirat uses smartphone vertical shots by Sirat and horizontal shots by the producers.  This technique provides a deeper glimpse of Sirat living as a trans woman in India.  I Am Sirat proves that sometimes, educating viewers about trans culture in India is more poignant when sharing a story of one individual instead of the country as a whole.  I Am Sirat excels at this.  4/5 stars

Solo  2023/ Drama/ Canada/ French/ 101 min.

Solo is a music dramedy about Simon who juggles life as a drag queen, boyfriend, brother, son, and gay man.  By combining these aspects, a viewer will want to dance at times and cry at other times.  Solo gives audiences glitz, glamour, lights, glitter, and doomed love.  If a viewer mixes The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Birdcage, Kinky Boots, Flashdance, and Saturday Night Fever, they'll get Solo.  The most memorable moments of Solo are the colorful shiny drag outfits and the powerhouse performance by Théodore Pellerin (Simon).  5/5 stars

Solids by the Seashore  2023/ Drama/ Thailand/ Thai/ 93 min.

Solids by the Seashore is a drama that explores a love between two women that must be kept secret.  The protagonist Shanti falls in love with Fon.  Shanti feels torn because of her family pressuring her to marry a man.  Solids by the Seashore includes exquisite cinematography of the nearby sea and numerous other nature sights.  The colors and the depth stand out with the camera work.  There are moments in the film when this is enough to tell the story.  The cinematography assists to maintain audience interest successfully.  3/5 stars

Listen Up! 2023/ Comedy/ Norway/ Norwegian & Urdu/ 86 min.

In Listen Up, a Pakistani family immigrated to Norway many years ago in hopes for a better life.  In some ways, they're successful but not in every way.  Family tensions prevent them from feeling successful in Norway.  Eventually, the younger sibling Ali reveals to the family that he is a trans girl.  Not everybody is accepting.  Listen Up is a comedy that is told through the point of view of the older brother Mahmoud.  It successfully incorporates humor to a serious topic while never losing touch with how important acceptance is.  Also, the film breaks the fourth wall, a difficult act, multiple times by Mahmoud.  The performances and the screenplay are the standouts of Listen UpListen Up has potential for the Oscar shortlist for Best International Feature and Best Adapted Screenplay.  5/5 stars

Lady Like  2024/ Documentary/ US/ English/ 87 min.

Lady Like documents drag queen Lady Camden's quest for success on Rupaul's Drag Race Season 14.  Meanwhile, it covers childhood trauma she endured and how she rose to the drag scene.  It uses interviews, archival clips, and docu-fantasy to share Lady Camden's story.  It has the power to inspire viewers to know that success is possible, regardless of one's past.  The standout is the docu-fantasy that includes fashion, lights, glitter, and fantasy.  This allows the filmmakers to give audiences a glimpse of Lady Camden's childhood that words can't reveal.  5/5 stars

The Queen of My Dreams  2023/ Dramedy/ Canada/ English & Urdu/ 96 min.

The Queen of My Dreams shares the point of view between a daughter and her mother, the daughter being more enhanced.  The daughter Azra, a young woman living in Toronto, receives a phone call from her family that her dad died.  She flies to her childhood home Pakistan where her family still lives.  There, Azra faces family drama that remains from having faced non-acceptance after coming out.  The Queen of My Dreams navigates the storyline by traditional independent filmmaking while adding a Bollywood vibe.  The combination adds a touch of lighthearted comedy, music, and colorful outfits.  Meanwhile, the film switches between 1999 and when Azra's mother falls in love with Azra's father in the 1960s.  The two storylines are easy to intertwine.  3/5 stars

We Have Never Been Modern  2023/ Drama/ Slovakia/ Czech & Slovak/ 117 min.

We Have Never Been Modern offers a 1937 lens of living as intersex.  An intersex newborn is found dead in a pile of rubble by a factory.  Pregnant nurse Helena investigates who placed the baby there.  During which, she learns more about the intersex community than she expected.  Little do the characters know is the historic catastrophe that will soon come.  Filmmakers are careful with always acknowledging that societal views haven't yet progressed to where they currently are.  This aspect ranges from terminology to medical knowledge to societal acceptance.  The strongest film detail is subtly reminding audiences what occurs years later.  3.5/5

Days of Happiness  2023/ Drama/ Canada/ French/ 118 min.

Days of Happiness explores Emma's quest to become a successful music conductor.  Emma has the talent, the determination, and the passion for music.  She later learns that she must overcome childhood trauma to flourish in the music scene.  Viewers don't need the ability to recognize a strong vs weak classical music performance.  The film reveals the differences with cinematography and editing.  The film includes a same sex relationship without exploring LGBT issues.  Filmmakers treat the relationship the same as a typical dual sex one.  Sophie Desmarias shines in her role as Emma.  5/5

High & Low: John Galliano  2023/ Documentary/ UK/ English & French/ 116 min

High & Low: John Galliano educates audiences on the rise and fall of Galliano.  It starts with the anti-Semitic and racist remarks he uttered in 2011, which caused his downfall.  It proceeds with Galliano's upbringing, his introduction to fashion, his creative extent, and a rocky childhood.  It includes interviews from Galliano himself, friends, colleagues, and fashion experts.  Every interview offers a unique perspective of Galliano.  Not every interviewee agrees with everything, but this makes the documentary more interesting.  It also includes clips of mostly fashion shows and personal photos.  Besides the 2011 scandal, this is an inspiring documentary for anybody, not just those in the fashion industry. 3.5/5 stars

AnderSCENE top 3 in MSPIFF43 LGBT show are: 3.  Days of Happiness, 2.  Listen Up!, 1.  Solo

The Most Dangerous Gains is a B-Movie comedy horror that tackles heteronormativity. 

April 24, 2024

Think Quentin Tarantino meets Beavis and Butthead!  Add a positive message.  I chatted with director Samuel Studer and two cast members Splash (unidentified drag queen) and Maren Tagney (Pia).  They dished about what a blast they had doing it and how Studer proudly owns the title B-Movie!

The Most Dangerous Gains will be screened at Heights Theater on Sunday, May 5.  Doors open at 6:00 PM.  Showtime starts between 7:30 - 7:45.

Tell me about when you realized you wanted to be a filmmaker (Samuel)/ performer (Splash & Maren).

SS: I suppose I’ve had the inkling for many years, but it was only recently that I finally decided to take it seriously. The fall of 2022 was a dark time for me mentally. I was profoundly depressed, I felt unaccomplished and unfulfilled creatively, and the thought of filmmaking brought me out of that. Why not take the risk? What are you afraid of? Let’s see where this goes, and see if this could get me into film school, and out of this existential rut.

S: I actually grew involved with theater and just performing in general. I had a lot of excess energy. So, my grandma was a really huge, uh, part of my life as a kid.  And she told my parents, "You need, we need to put him in something. This is just a lot."  So I started doing little things like stepping stone eventually, was with an agency for a while, and did little commercials, and things like that.  I've always been interested in performing, and then he [Samuel Studer] had mentioned that he was doing a project, and he wanted me to be in it.  I had been doing drag at that point for almost a year, I think. So. I was like, yeah, sign me up.  

MT: I actually didn’t have much interest in acting before being approached for this film. I'm not a terribly extroverted person, and the idea of performing has always made me anxious. That being said, I decided to take a chance and discovered that I really enjoy acting (although I'm probably not winning any best actor awards in the near future). 

What do you love most about filmmaking (Samuel)/ performer (Splash & Maren)?

SS: I love watching an idea come to life. Prior to this, I found great joy in making music (including on this project, which is composed by me and my friend), but I especially love stories and storytelling. Now, in the case of The Most Dangerous Gains, I get to reflect on the seeds of an idea from 14 months ago and how it came to fruition. I remember all the contributions the cast and crew made, all of their ideas that really made the movie feel collaborative. It’s a really cool, sentimental thing. It’s what I wanted all along.

S: I feel like with acting, it kind of touches that inner child in me of where I get to just play, make believe and pretend, and just have fun.  

MT: I love the idea of being able to transform into someone completely different for a little while. Also, costumes. I love any reason to dress up.

Who and what movies inspire you the most?

SS: Oh, there’s so many. Filmmakers like the Coen Brothers (No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski) and Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, The Banshees of Inisherin) have a way of weaving a sort of dry humor over serious subject matters. I think it’s a good balance; I approach life with a sense of humor and I want that to show in my art. The first movie that got me into movies was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, when I was 15 or so. I love the direction that the horror/thriller genre is going with directors like Ari Aster, Jordan Peele, Rose Glass, and Robert Eggers.

S: I really love Old Hollywood.  I love Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Dandridge.  And then for more modern things, I'm really a big fan of Julianne Moore.  Oh, and Diane Carroll, she was a Broadway actress, and then she was in Dynasty.   Love her.  One of my favorite movies is Eve's Bayou.  It's with Samuel Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, and Diane Carroll. It's about a New Orleans voodoo, and it tells of a family living in the South, and it's really good. 

MT:  Oscar Wilde, David Cronenberg, the Muppets, Harold and Maude, Rushmore, 80s B horror, anything that makes me cry.

What inspired you to do The Most Dangerous Gains, and what made you decide to tackle heteronormativity?

SS: The idea began in the gym, a male dominated environment. I’ve spoken with female friends about the gym and the discomfort that can come with that - feeling the male gaze, particularly in a vulnerable situation like that where you’re working on yourself, you’re sweaty, you may not feel at your best. It got me thinking about the male ego, insecurity, peacocking, things along these lines. I was texting my friend, who I co-wrote the script with, about an idea - a horror movie where bodybuilders go to impress women, and the women kill them. He said, “what about this…the Most Dangerous Gains?” We had a good laugh, and I decided to run with it. Make a movie starting with a title, a little backwards, but it spurred so many ideas. The 70’s aesthetic came from my own appreciation of the aesthetic of Giallo slashers such as Suspiria or Deep Red, as well as the realization that leaning into the low budget aesthetic would be the most attainable. I could have my non-actor friends play one dimensional characters and it would suit the movie. The heteronormative aspects of the movie are intended to be ridiculous, because there are many ways in which rigid gender roles are…goofy. 

What do you love most about how the movie covers heteronormativity?

S: I think it does it in a really funny comical way, and I think the movie, Sam's movie, it doesn't take itself seriously, which I really enjoy because, especially with even me as a draft performer, I just feel like you don't have to be serious all the time. You don't have to take yourself seriously and you can just have fun.  I feel like you need more of that in the world. I feel like if people didn't take themselves so seriously, I feel like this world would be a lot more fun. 

MT: I think there's some great commentary on the ridiculous (and often humorous) machismo culture that many men are consumed with as a result of heteronormative stereotypes. The film also has more than a few homoerotic undertones.

What drew you into The Most Dangerous Gains?

S: Mostly because Sam is my best friend, and I think he's really talented. So I just trusted his vision, and I thought it would be just a really fun experience and also to have some more exposure with my drag character [Splash] as well. 

MT: As a big fan of both horror and satire, I was immediately interested in being involved. Once I read the script, I was sold. The dialogue is clever and laugh out loud funny, and there's no shortage of goofy and shocking moments. 

What people and characters did you channel when creating this movie? 

SS:  The 70’s aesthetic came from my own appreciation of the aesthetic of Giallo slashers such as Suspiria or Deep Red, as well as the realization that leaning into the low budget aesthetic would be the most attainable. I could have my non-actor friends play one dimensional characters and it would suit the movie. The Most Dangerous Gains is a satire of old, sexually driven horror films and the fear-mongering fantasies of traditionalists both old and new. And a homage, as well. This movie is meant to be watched the way I enjoy tacky cinema, movies such as the Death Wish series or Roadhouse, with irony.

S: I kind of danced around in some of the scenes and the stupid little dance I do. I actually got from American Psycho when Christian Bale hires one of the sex workers, and he's like, "Sabrina. Why don't you dance around for us?"  And then she just starts doing this weird awful dance. So, I had to settle that.  

MT: I took inspiration from the Giallo films and moody 70s slashers I'd seen over the years, and Sam and Splash did an amazing job finding inspiration for each character. Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Rose McGowan in Jawbreaker, and Anna Nicole Smith just being, well, Anna Nicole Smith, were some of my favorite characters and people to channel when playing Pia.

Tell me about your characters the unidentified drag queen (Splash) and Pia (Maren).

S: the unidentified drag queen, according to Sam.  She represents danger and death whenever you see her coming on the screen, I don't want to get too much away, but she is, she's definitely a villain, a mysterious villain.

MT: On the surface, Pia is a combination of ditzy and seductive, but there's definitely a character evolution that happens as the story goes on. No one in this film is quite who they seem.

What do you love most about your character?

S: I get to be mysterious, I get to be a villain, and I get to be pretty.  I love the bad girl trope in films as well.  Like, I used to watch a lot of Bond films with my dad when I was a kid and I've always loved the evil Bond girl who always turns on him.

MT: Her boldness and unabashed determination. Nothing but respect for a woman who knows exactly what she wants.

Tell me about the most interesting time on set.

SS:  One of the best days was filming in the graveyard. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and we were running a small crew that day. We had a lot to film, and we were at the mercy of the sun for light, so we were working but we were also having so much fun with it. This culminated in a frantic effort to get one final shot, arguably the most important in the movie. It involved fake blood, and we had about 5 minutes before the sun dipped below the trees, so we had one shot. I had one guy on the ground with the camera, covered in a tarp, and the other two with jars of fake blood, funnels, and lengths of tube, in order to blow the fake blood all over me. I gave everyone instructions and we went for it. I was so worried. What if it was out of focus? What if Bobby forgot to hit record? It ended up being the best shot in the movie. We packed up as the sun went down, I cleaned myself up as best I could, and we found the closest bar to share some laughs over beers. It was a beautiful moment.

S: So the most interesting times on set.  I mean, again, a lot of the people on set and people involved with the movie are all good friends of ours and network of friends.  So it just feels familiar, feels like home, I guess you would say.  And then I also did, like during the filming, a candid experience, a death of a loved one.  Some of the time, I won't lie, it's kind of a blur. But there was one day actually where we got to film.  We filmed at a park and, it was a really hot day, and I was in drag, and as soon as the filming was over, I stripped down to just my drag undergarments and walked to the park back to the car. And that was really funny.

MT: Any time fake blood was involved proved interesting, but specifically while filming a scene where my mouth was full of it. This concoction in particular tasted like toothpaste which was actually pretty refreshing.

Splash, I'm so sorry to hear about the death of your loved one.  I'm so glad that you were still able to pull up the role, despite that.

S: I'm a professional.  I'm a professional.  At the end of the day there's a job to do. I got a job to do and I'm going to do it.  

What's your favorite part of the production of the movie?

S: I love getting into drag in general, doing make up, and getting into costumes, and just seeing all the work that goes into the set design, and I just really love the whole process of it.  It's fun to do things over and over again and try different things. Like being that it's on film rather.  I see the stage.  Theater was my first love but especially like when you're performing in not two rehearsals.  You got to get it right away, and what you get is just what you get when you go on the stage.  But being in film you can actually take more time out, try different things which I really like.

MT: Although it was technically post-production, I loved doing the voice acting work after we'd wrapped up filming.

What do you most hope for from audiences?

SS: I hope they have fun. I hope people are entertained and they laugh and maybe even get a little scared at the horror moments. I guess we’ll see. Come May 5, we’ll definitely find out what the audience thinks.

S: That they just enjoy it. That they have a good time.  That they find it funny like we did.

MT: My hope is that they enjoy the ride. We had a blast working on MDG, and I think the audience will feel that when they see the film.

Do you have any other productions lined up?

SS: I have a lot of story ideas that I’m eager to write, but no immediate project plans. I’m still waiting to hear back from film school in London, so I’m saving some of them for that. 

S: At the moment, no.

MT: Nothing at the moment, but I’d love to be involved in more projects! Film is a huge passion of mine, whether it be in front of or behind the camera.

Is there anything else you wanna add?

S: Can I put my Instagram in there for you to follow me: enterthesplashzone

MT: Come see The Most Dangerous Gains on May 5th at The Heights Theater. You'll laugh, you'll gag, you'll gasp, and you'll be supporting some incredibly talented local creatives.

SS: I hope you enjoyed the movie to some extent, at least. Yeah, I sure did.

I enjoyed it and, and I think this is good.  I think this movie has potential to reach a lot of people, and I do think this has potential to reach LGBT folks.

SS: That's good.  I would hope that anything I make isn't ostracizing anybody or making anyone feel othered.  I know it's a bit of a touchy subject matter to kind of dance around and dance within.  I tried to do it with some humor and some flair and some over the top.  I'm just hoping that that comes through.  I'm really happy to hear you say that.  Yeah, thank you.

Absolutely.  From what I saw of the movie, I think that the message did come through, and I think you handled it sensitively.  You did find some places where people can laugh, and I think you found the right spots to do that.  So kudos to you for that.

SS: Thank you. That's, it's really touching to hear. I appreciate that a lot.

Danny Will Die Alone comes highly recommended by AnderSCENE!  5/5 stars

April 10, 2024

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Tracy, lead actor and creator of Danny Will Die Alone.  He talked about the series, how it was created, and his own dating life. 

This comedy series follows Danny who's in a midlife crisis and is newly single after a long term relationship.  He enters the dating scene to find that it's not as easy as it looks.  Every episode includes a different dating and sex topic that relates to what makes dating difficult for Danny.

Tell me about Danny Will Die Alone.
Danny Will Die Alone was started as a little straight to camera Youtube commentary video that I started to do during the pandemic when I had to figure out things to produce from my own living room.  So I did these Youtube essays on dating topics, and then as things started loosening up, I did a podcast called Dying Alone Together where it was me and a co-host.  We would talk about dating subjects and our adventures and dating.  And then some of those stories all turned into Danny Will Die Alone, which was a nine episode mini series that was meant for only a limited release for just the people that follow and support me.  And when I sent it to Dekkoo, they loved it and asked to turn it into an original series.  So that's the evolution of Danny. The show follows a character that is based off of me. But I became my most jaded twisted self who went through dating as a complete train wreck, and he's [Danny] dating other train wrecks, and it's following his misadventures and trying to find love but not realizing that he's half of the problem. That started as nine episodes.  Each episode is a self contained date.  In season two, we'll move to full half hour episodes that tell an entire storyline, and that will be released in the fall.

The series is loosely based on your dating experiences in a midlife crisis. What inspired you to share your story with the community?
So I am what you would call a serial monogamous.  Ever since college, I've been in long term relationships, usually with a little bit of break between but lived with all of my exes, multi year sort of things.  I found myself single right before the pandemic hit.  And then all through that all up until now, I just found that dating has really changed, the apps are so different, and, dating via the apps, you meet all sorts of people.  I also think from the perspective of someone who started dating in the 2000s.  Dating now; the culture, even our queer culture has changed.  It's one of those things where I am a little out of touch.  Am I really up on the conversations and the trends?  So it's interesting to date in my early forties through these new means of dating, and I just had so many wacky adventures in real life that it was the treasure trail of stories.  I will tell you that every single date is based off of something that happens now for comedy and for entertainment purposes, of course, change and embellish and make it bigger, but they all have a kernel of truth in them.

Danny Will Die Alone, got picked up by Dekkoo.  Describe the emotions going through you because of that.
I just remember hanging up the phone and just saying to myself alone in my apartment like, we did it!  I have worked since probably 2017. I did three seasons of a web series called History. I released music. I've done other web series.  I've done an independent movie.  I've been doing this for a long time, all self funded, all just trying to get my stuff out there trying to get noticed, and this was the first time that a studio looked at me and said, "We like what you're doing.  Here's some money, make something for us."  This felt like the start of an entirely new chapter in this side of my career.  2024 has started. I just feel like I've, I've leveled up, and it's incredible, and I'm very thankful to that group for the opportunity.

I'm so glad that this is happening, and what a wonderful series to have picked up.  I have a good feeling that this is going to go somewhere.
I hope so.  My co-producer Joseph Patrick Conroy and I have worked together for 5-6 years on projects now, and we walked away from this one saying like, you know, you never wanna say this because you never know. But we walked away from this one like this is the one, this is the thing.  This. There's something special about this one.  When we just finished wrapping season two, we started looking at the footage, started cutting, and we're all kind of like this is something; this is a show show. This is a real thing. So we're very excited to show this to the world.

What's your favorite episode of season one and why?
That's a good question.  I'll give you two because one seems to be everyone else's favorite, and the other one's my favorite. So everyone else's favorite is the sex guru [episode] because the actor is so good. Harry plays this intimacy coach, sex guru meditation guy who has these weird theories about consent.  He played it so strangely.  It makes your skin crawl as you watch the episode.  Everyone loves that one. My personal favorite is the doctor one. Danny is trying to teach how to do fun sexy role plays, and the doctor keeps diagnosing him with colon cancer during the role play.  That one makes me laugh the most.

What's the most memorable part of production?
The most memorable part for me, it's actually the pre-production. It's after the scripts are done, and you're ready to go.  It's like the first time that things start to come together.  You're reviewing submissions for actors, you're booking the venues, you're trying to find background actors, you're assembling the crew.  That's just that sort of Avengers assemble kind of period where everybody's the team comes together.  I love telling stories from that, and I love telling the actors when I got their audition tape, I thought for this, but then you did a better job on this.  I love those behind the scenes stories.

Describe the production process of Danny Will Die Alone.
Season one, we recorded three [episodes] at a time. They were only 10 minute episodes so we could film them in a day, day and a half.  We would do them every couple of months because I would release them monthly on The Patreon and OnlyFans.  So we only ever had to have a couple in the queue.  That went over the course of a year and a half of production and then release.  And then season two.  We got the order from Dekkoo in January, and they wanted us to deliver it by June.  So that meant I had to write the episodes in three weeks. So I wrote six half hour episodes in three weeks, did the casting, got the crew, booked the venues.  We rolled cameras March 10th, just wrapped March 21st.  So this was Fast and Furious.  This whole year is flying by because the only thing I'm doing is Danny.  It's Fast and Furious.  It's looking good.

Who and what inspires you?
Creatively, I think that they say write what you know, and the best things I have ever done are things that are born out of my personal life.  I'm a recording artist. My music is about my emotions in my life and my story.  My web series history was about a particular time in my romantic life different from Danny.  It was more dramatic, more sincere. Danny was laced with the dating life in post pandemic, existential dread, midlife crisis period.  So it lent itself more to comedy.  But there are times when I'm out on the town or out on a date or doing something.  I interact with someone in the world, and my brain goes, this is a story; write this down.  This is a thing.  There are many dates that turn into character studies; the date is not going well, and I decided I'm going to make something from it.

 

What's the most valuable thing you've learned during the production process?
Everything works out. Don't stress the small stuff.  I have been doing this far too long.  Venues drop out, actors don't show, equipment breaks, things don't go the way that you plan, but almost every single time, whatever we had to do to fix it, it ended up being better than what was planned in the first place. So I really had a sense of zen that I had never had on another production about this one because things would happen, and it just be like, all right, we got to deal with it.  So let's deal with it.  And I have really learned to just roll with the punches and trust that it'll all work out.
 

There will be a season two.  What do you anticipate that to cover?
So season two.  They are now half hour episodes. There are six episodes.  They're coming in the fall exclusively to Dekkoo.  They carry the heart of season one in that.  Every episode has a new date that tackles a different subject or a different kind of person. But there's a through line story that includes another lead character, which I won't dish on too much.  You get more of a connected story of Danny's progress in romance.  Let's just say sometimes things pop out of nowhere.  Danny is in season one, he's on the hunt, and season two kind of shows you that sometimes the hunt finds you.

Who's your dream guest star? And why?
Dream guest star?  I am a huge fan of stand up comedy, so I think there's a lot of opportunity for Danny's personal life outside of his dating.  And I would like to see him have a Michelle Bau, Nikki Glaser fabulous female comedian be someone to check him and his craziness.  I think that would be a lot of fun.  Yeah, a female comedienne, I think, would add some spice to the show.

What can audiences expect from watching Danny Will Die Alone?
They can expect to be triggered. The show does not pull any punches.  Danny has a very specific point of view.  He is incredibly judgmental.  I would consider him to be the mirror universe, evil version of David Schitt from Schitt's Creek.  He is a bit unhinged.  So you will find yourself being frustrated with him in recognizing some of his dating situations. You will find yourself angry with him for being a jerk.  I expect however you feel about how he deals with things and what his opinions are, they will at least be very familiar.

Is dating in New York City really?  Is it as difficult as non New Yorkers say it is?  Why or why not?
There's a lot of opinions.  I only know my personal story.  I know that it is far more difficult now than it ever was. I don't know if that's because of app culture.  I don't know if that's because of the post pandemic world. I don't know if that's because of the culture. I can't really attribute what it is, but I would say the prevalence of what I'm going to call but what people might not call, sort of non-traditional relationship styles has made people who are interested in traditional relationship styles, especially in New York, very difficult to find like minded people.  If you don't want to date a couple, if you don't want to have three boyfriends at once, if you don't wanna have sex with everybody, if you want to find a monogamous committed partner for something long term, the pickings are slim out here in New York.

What's your most and least favorite thing about dating?
My least favorite thing is just with anything. It's a numbers game. So, just a series of disappointments, I'll go on maybe six dates in a month. Two go well, one goes really well, and then Peter's out.  The amount of people who say that they're really interested in a long term relationship, and then when one presents itself, it's like, oh, wait, never mind.  I don't think I'm ready and say, "well, then why did we, why did we spend two months together?  What are we doing?"  The time wasted in the series of rejections is the most difficult, and it can make you feel like, is there anybody, is there anything, do I have to move?  The best thing is if I would not have had the last five years of dating misadventures, I would not have my first produced show.  It has given me the greatest career boost I've ever had. So I can't complain. 

What do you look for in a potential partner?
I'll tell you what's in my app bio. I like someone. I am an energy chameleon, which means that I will reverse the energy that the person brings.  I will balance.  I'll never fight you.  So if you're a shy, reserved, thoughtful, quiet, introverted person, I'll be a bit more bubbly and fun. If you're a very loud take up space in the room, center of attention person, I'll fade into the background.  I don't like to fade into the background. So I prefer someone kind of an academic type.  I'm a bit more reserved, a bit more introverted, a bit of a homebody. I am an introvert, someone who wants to nest.  As you will learn from Danny, he has a very high libido.  So there's that too.

How close do you think you are to finding the one?
[Laugh]  You know what? I had a really great relationship. It was six months.  It was a wonderful six months.  We parted on great terms.  It just didn't work out for, for reasons that weren't about us.  There are other things in life that happened.  It showed up out of nowhere.  I went on a date, and it was just, I just felt the feeling, and I know what the feeling feels like.  So I don't waste time if it's not there.  I don't go on a second date.  I know what it is.  I know what it is and I felt it with him, and that was a year ago.  It's not a matter of being close.  It's just knowing that it is out there, and you just got to put yourself out there, and I can't control when it shows up, but I'm mature and secure enough now to recognize it when I see it.

Is there anything else you want to add?
 Definitely.  Check out Danny on Dekkoo.  It premieres May 16th.  You can get season two in the fall.  If you would like to support me, everything is in my Instagram bio at Jack Tracy Official, and you can support me on Patreon. You can support me on OnlyFans. I'm a recording artist, and I release music videos and music. You can check me out.  Everything's there.  We're independent artists, and we need your support. So please don't be afraid to come help us out.

Where can we find your music and your podcast?
Music.  My recording artist name is Jack Tracy.  That's available on Spotify, Apple, Tidal, and everywhere you get music.  As far as the podcast, they're no longer ongoing, but you can find them on all major podcast channels.  There's Dying Alone Together.  I'm a huge Star Trek nerd.  So there's Star Trek Durations.  It's a Star Trek podcast I've been doing.  There's an audio drama I did a few years ago called Community that follows a mass shooting at a Queer space.  It's a drama, and there's a disclaimer at the beginning that it's a hard listen. So be prepared if you check into that.

You may know Jeff Hiller from Somebody Somewhere on HBO.  He will be stopping at Minneapolis for his one man comedy show called Middle Age Ingenue on March 29.  I interviewed him about the stage show, Somebody Somewhere, and his career.

March 13, 2024

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be interviewed!  You're touring your one man show Middle Age Ingenue.  Tell me about the show.

The show is about “Jeff’s search for meaning”. I know the phrase is actually “Man’s search for meaning”, but like… come on. We’ll just go with Jeff, amiright? Now, I realize that no one wants to watch a show about how I love believing in stuff, so as a gift to the audience, I will tell them three stories about a**holes. Not metaphorical ones. Literal, human, anatomical buttholes. I have three stories about buttholes and none of them leads to sex which is both impressive and humiliating.

Describe the process of preparing for the show.

I come from an improv background (I started at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre), so I write my show by walking around my apartment and talking into my phone. I just start with a theme and then think of all of the stories I have about that theme. It’s always too long. They say to “kill your darlings” and after I get lots of stuff down on paper, I become a serial killer honey. All those darlings are murdered! I work with my director, Laurie Woolery and she helps me find themes and then tells me when the jokes are lame. I know its hard to believe, but sometimes my jokes aren’t great. Don’t worry though! I have polished it pre-Minneapolis!

What initially inspired writing Middle Age Ingenue?

I am on a TV show called “Somebody Somewhere” and I play a character who is both gay and involved in the church. I read the script and thought – oh yeah totally. I know this character. I’ve been this character. But as I did press for the show, I realized that gay + church is a really difficult concept for people to grasp. So, I thought I would write a show about what it’s like to grow up religious and also… PROFOUNDLY homosexual. Profoundly. So I wrote this show, and then made it real funny, I promise!

Photo and cover photo by: Greg Kramer

What are the most notable challenges you faced during the production?

We didn’t have many challenges in putting up this show other than the challenge of… you know… writing! 

What's your memorable part of the production stage?

When I did the show in Chicago, the audience was so wonderful and when I talked about how I used to work in a bath house, one sweet gay guy clapped so hard, but no one else did. I loved his vulnerability, so I ki-ki’d all night with that queen cause I loved that she put herself out there hunny!

Middle Age Ingenue sold out in some cities.  How does it feel knowing that your show is reaching so many audiences?

I know the audiences are coming out because they have seen the show and like the show, so I am just happy that the tone of my comedy and the tone of the HBO show cross over enough to keep people happy! I just love that people are laughing (and I also love that I have enough people who come out so I can actually do the show and have a great time with each other!).

What's your standout audience reaction?

People have been so nice! I had 6 shows in NYC and a young person came up to me crying. This is not necessarily the reaction I was going for, but I loved that they were moved and liked the show. Most people laugh – I swear! But this one person cried, so they stood out.

What should audiences expect from watching Middle Age Ingenue?

People should expect to laugh! It’s a fun night out where we talk about how life is different than you expect it to be sometimes, but it doesn’t mean we can’t laugh about it. 

Describe how you juggle touring Middle Age Ingenue and filming Somebody Somewhere (HBO)?

The tour is a mini-tour for a reason. We are shooting the third season of Somebody Somewhere right now, but I am taking time out to do a few shows on the way to shooting and on the way home from it as well! Minneapolis was so close to Chicago where we shoot the show, so I had to swing over. I am trying so hard not to say the word “Uffda” right now. Do you admire my restraint?

Middle Age Ingenue and Somebody Somewhere explore the midlife years.  Do you transfer any inspiration from Somebody Somewhere onto Middle Age Ingenue?  If so, how?

When I was cast in Somebody Somewhere, I thought the show was written for me. The character of Joel is very similar to who I am in real life. The writers have repeatedly told me that they did not write the role for me. Repeatedly. So, I guess it’s just fate that the show and my own personal voice cross over. If you like the show, come to “Middle Aged Ingenue”. It’s cutie. 

Both Somebody Somewhere and Middle Age Ingenue are receiving critical acclaim.  Have you started practicing your Emmy and Tony winning speeches?  If so, who will you likely thank, and what will you likely say?

In a word? No. These shows don’t win statues – just hearts! Is that incredibly cheesy? Yes. And yet, I stand by it. 

You have an outstanding resume!  Your resume includes Broadway, TV, and films.  Which show is your most memorable and why? 

Most people know me from Somebody Somewhere, but I also get recognized a lot for playing the serial killer in American Horror Story: NYC. I am a lot like Joel, but I am EXACTLY like Mr. Whitely. Just kidding! Or am I?

On the stage, my favorite role has been playing “The Lamb” in Silence which was a musical version of The Silence of the Lambs. Don’t worry, it was supposed to be funny. I played everyone from the movie that you don’t remember. Oh, I also played the guy who masturbated on Clarice when she first meets Lecter, so you might remember him. Remember when you asked me if I rehearsed a TONY speech? This is the kind of classy theatre I do. 

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The show is about hope and also it is funny. I just want people to have a great time. I think of myself as a hostess and the audience as a really big dinner party. Except I won’t feed you. Hm. Is this metaphor too complicated? I don’t know. It’s funny! Come!

Review: Randy Rainbow for President! 
State Theatre March 1.

March 13, 2024

Emmy and Grammy nominee Randy Rainbow performed his comedy satire Randy Rainbow for President at the State Theater on Friday, March 1.  Randy Rainbow is an online sensation because of his hilarious political satirical videos.

Randy Rainbow for President included singing, videos, news clips, a little bit of dancing, and lots of camp humor.  Rainbow delivered what he's known for doing online, which is providing comedy relief for those who are feeling stressed because of the future being uncertain.  His signature comedy relief included parodying famous Broadway songs that direct towards political figures and acting out a presidential run.  Most of the time, not every time, he added a gay twist to his jokes.  Rainbow pretended to run for president.  During which, he promised to make the country gay.

His visit to Minneapolis was no exception.  He never failed to deliver the comic relief that many audience members appeared to need, which relates to the upcoming election.

 

He channeled this comic relief by parodying show tunes such as ones from Funny Girl, Beauty and the Beast, The Sound of Music, Little Shop of Horrors, Mary Poppins, and Hairspray.  The music aspect included a live band.  He performed these songs in front of background videos, some being his online videos.  His showmanship during these parodies proves that he's influenced by show tunes.  

This show tunes influence was displayed by his Broadway style voice and his minimal choreography.  His choreography was limited to simple walking and hand/ arm gestures.  He didn't need to include more choreography than he did because his vocals alone projected the show tunes theme he sought to deliver.  The background videos acted as the choreography.

His satirical show gave audience members some hope for a brighter future.  Even though the president run a comedy act, Rainbow made the audience wish it was a real one.

I interviewed Dan Shamp, the owner of Eagle | MPLS.  
The Eagle was recently remodeled.  Shamp shared some details about the remodeling and what to expect from it.  

January 31, 2024

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule!  Tell me about the changes made with the remodeling.

There were several intentions of the remodel  one was to get rid of the distinction between Eagle and Bolt.  It is one bar with two great spaces. So, Part of it was rebranding what we have now, just have The Eagle | MPLS: original Eagle side and new Eagle side.  We intentionally didn't rename it because we wanted to eliminate that distinction. The other thing was to make it a more usable space.  The challenges with the original design were the bar being in the middle.  [It] really took up space, made it hard to order drinks, [and] made it hard for people to gain access from the street side of the bar.  At busy events, there was less room for gathering, and now, there is a much better flow to the space to allow for bigger events, better circulation during events, and better drink services.

When did you decide, and what made you decide to do that?

After approximately a year of owning the bar and seeing how it functioned, it seemed important to do prior to the upcoming busy Summer season to provide a better usage or functionality than it had before.  That's how and why I decided to do it.

What's new about The Eagle now that remodeling has been completed?

If you haven't seen it, the bar is completely relocated to one side of the wall allowing for much wider space upon entry.  It allows for three bartenders to work efficiently out the service walls rather than two as had been previously done.  It allows more dance floor space.  It allows more common space for gathering.  We've also made improvements to the lighting, improvements to the sound system, and just overall clearing up of design and decor.

What do you hope to accomplish now that the remodeling has been completed?

I hope that we can continue to provide a safe space for the LGBTQI+ community to serve as a meeting and gathering space for all types of events.

What should customers expect upon walking in there?

Better flow, easier service, and a fresh new look.

One more question I have for you is... Will you please confirm that you still have the iconic license plates, and if you do, where are they displayed now?

So that's a throwback question.  The license plates are still on end of the covered area of the patio.  That's the only place, to my knowledge, they've ever been and I don't see them going anywhere.

Is there anything else you want to add with the remodeling?

Hopefully that the entire queer community and allied community sees the improvement in service time as well as functionality of both spaces as we continue to improve and grow.  I want the community to know that the improvements are to better serve them.

This Summer is going to be an exciting Summer for us with one full year of new ownership under its belt.  We will have some more improved Pride events.  We're sponsoring and hosting some bigger events for the entire Spring, Summer, and Fall seasons that will hopefully be to the liking of all people within the LGBTQI+ spectrum.

And then off to my Oscar questions.  Will you be playing the Oscars at the Eagle?

We sure will.

Excellent.  What events will you be hosting during the Oscars?

We'll be doing a special edition of Sunday Show Tunes in conjunction with the Oscars.

Tell me about the show tunes.

The show tunes for the Oscars will be a specifically curated version of show tunes to accompany the Oscars with some show tunes before the show begins and intermittently throughout the viewing of the Oscars broadcast.

Review: Lie With Me is a film about teenage love and adult reflection. 

January 31, 2024

Lie With Me was directed by Olivier Peyon, who also directed the documentary Comment J'ai Détesté les Maths (2014).  The documentary was nominated for the Cesar award for Best Documentary (French equivalent to the Oscar).  Cinephobia Releasing will be releasing Lie With Me on DVD on February 15, 2024.

Author Stéphane Belcourt returns to his hometown 35 years after moving away.  Initially, he intended to only promote a distillery.  However, he is faced with memories of his first love Thomas. This is thanks to running into a teenager named Lucas, Thomas' son.  While Lucas frequently asks questions about his father, Stéphane mentally relives his moments with Thomas that ranged from romantic to intense to erotic.

Lie With Me successfully reminds viewers that we never forget our first love. This is credited to the strong leadership of the film director Olivier Peyon.  The never forgetting our first love aspect is maintained between the teenage years in 1984 to Stéphane's adulthood in present time.  The switching between the two years is easy to follow, as is the overall storyline.  Guillaume de Tonquédec's performance as Stéphane and the chemistry between the cast and him are the on screen highlights.  Overall, Lie With Me is an outstanding piece with drama, passion, romance, and reflection.

Making the Yuletide Gay is a parody on 60s, 70s, and 80s Christmas variety shows with a gay twist

December 6, 2023

I chat with producer Justin Ross and cast member David Hernandez  about the production of the film.

Justin and David, thank you so much for joining us! Justin, you produced Making the Yuletide Gay. Tell me about the production. 

JR: It was the longest day of 2022...I’m teasing. It started with a “what if” vision from creator/director Scott Rockett. Combine that nostalgic inspiration with writing from the incredible Bruce Vilanch and then bringing on all this talent...how lucky were we?! We all came together and in spite of the technical challenges (getting the teleprompter to work took like 19 elves to wrangle) and the floor (yes, we laid a floor the day of the taping) arriving at the last possible minute and all the other shenanigans behind the scenes, these amazing performers hit it out of the park. They really did. Though it was a holiday miracle that we pulled it off! 

What's your favorite part of the production process?

JR: This might sound trite but I sincerely love the whole process from the
creation to the rehearsals to the actual production itself. I don’t know that I
have a favorite part. You wear a little different hat, see it through a bit of a
different lens at each stage, all the while keeping the theme, the heart, the
“why are we doing this” at the top of my mind. And watching the lovely and
very talented David Hernandez sing, “Fall on Your Knees” (all puns intended,
ha) with our dancers, Jesse and Tomas, beside him...that was a favorite
too.  

David, what was your favorite part of playing your character? 

DH: I think the best part of it was that the role was really a parody based on who he [Sal Mineo] was. So we were able to insert a lot of humor. He was a New Yorker so I enjoyed playing around with the accent a little bit.

Your production includes Liberace numbers. How has Liberace
inspired you?

JR: Growing up, he was not really on my radar so much though I recall
watching some of his performances. Liberace made an impact on me later
in life as a talent who lived his life as he wanted, very openly and bravely.
He’s from the Midwest actually as I am (three cheers for Minnesota!) and
that is quite inspiring to me as an openly gay man...I just didn’t know that
growing up. And David Maiocco, our Liberace, is the embodiment of that
talent, showmanship and courage - he’s so, so good.

What's your favorite routine on Making the Yuletide Gay?

JR: That’s like asking which child is your favorite, for shame! Seriously, I loved
all of it. Two things I will point out: first is that Michael Airington who plays
the legendary Paul Lynde is in almost if not every scene and he was a real
trooper in keeping up the high energy for the hours it took to tape this. You
don’t see any lag in his excellent work in the actual show - what a pro. The
second is our dancers, Jesse, Tomas, Luis and Adam. They worked that
fun and sexy choreography in mere hours and help make the special really
pop.

It follows the style of Christmas themed 60s, 70s, and 80s variety
shows. Are there any variety shows that inspired the production
more than others? If so, which ones and why?

JR: The only “real” Paul Lynde holiday special (the Halloween special Paul did
in 1976) was the biggest inspiration for it I would say. Some of the Sonny
and Cher bits and others wove some of their magic into this as well.
Your production adds a gay twist. 

Besides the characters included in the production, are there any LGBT figures who inspired your production? If so, which ones and why?

JR: I think all of the legendary LGBTQ figures of the past and present and our
allies like Judy Garland and many others sprinkled their magical fairy dust
over this production. Gay and humor have been hand in hand from birth,
really. I think humor is an important...weapon if you will and healing balm
both. Humor pierces ignorance and even hate.

If there is to be a Making the Yuletide Gay Part 2, which LGBT figures
would you include in that one?

JR: Good question! Off the cuff, Charles Nelson Reilly, Rock Hudson and
maybe Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Elaine Stritch...

David, what was it like playing the role of Sal Mineo?

DH: I had a lot of fun with the character. It was great learning the life and career of an incredible actor gone too soon. He was really creating a name for himself and had already done such amazing work. I normally have facial hair, so I had to do a full shave because he had such a baby face. His hair was a lot thicker as well so I wore a wig so that I could come as close as possible to resemble him.

What research did you have to do to prepare for the role?

DH: Well, Wikipedia is obviously a great source to get general information from. But I also did some deeper digging so I could learn more about his life and how he grew up. I learned that his mother enrolled him in acting and dancing classes at a very early age. I was also surprised to notice that his first play was a Tennessee Williams play because I’ve done several Tennessee Williams plays in Acting Class. Obviously, his breakthrough role came with “Rebel Without a Cause”, but he had already done a lot of incredible things. I always find fascinating researching rules that I am to play because you learn so much about who the person was. As a singer, I was also surprised to find out that he too was a singer, and had much success in the pop music world.

What Sal Mineo movies and movie roles inspired your part in Making the Yuletide Gay the most? Why?

DH: Well, definitely “Rebel Without a Cause” because that was his most commercial role. But I also enjoyed researching a lot of his previous work, and the work that came after. He was an artist through and through.

What other inspirational LGBT figures do you hope to play in the future?

DH: Honestly, as a Latin queer man, any role that would shed light on an inspirational figure would be an honor. However, it would be closer to my heart to place somebody that was also Latin and queer.

You got the pleasure of working with inspiring LGBT figures such as Lady Bunny and Jackie Beat. What was it like working with the crew?

JR:  It was like wrangling ornery, horny, feral cats! Totally kidding. It was
honestly a dream come true. Each of them are just phenomenal at what
they do. I wish we had a behind the scenes recording because some of the
things that each of them said to me while setting up a shot or rehearsing...
comedy gold.

DH: It was amazing! I’ve always been a huge fan of Jackie Beat. She is hilarious and has incredible vocals. But she is also very witty and smart. Lady bunny actually, was a DJ at my best friend's wedding in 2014 back in New York City. That was the first time I met her. So working with her on this project was great because I got a better sense of who she was.

What can audiences expect from watching Making the Yuletide Gay?

JR:  A fantastic time with deep belly laughs. They will see top notch talent at the
top of their game, all working together. They may even learn some, well,
new terms shall we say...who knew the holidays could be so sexual! The
audience will walk away happy from a time well spent.  

DH: Loads of laughs and eye candy. Shout out to the dancers, Jesse Rey and Tomas Mata! We had such a fun time learning the choreography.

What do you hope the audiences get out of watching Making the Yuletide Gay?

DH: I hope that whatever everyone is going through, they’re able to watch the show and escape for a little fun and laughs. This time of year is either really happy or really sad for some people, so I think that comedy is a Healthy way of coping.

Unfortunately, the holidays can be a rough time for some. This is particularly true for LGBT people who were rejected from their family after coming out. What message do you hope that your production sends to them?

JR: The horrific Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs happened the night before/day of the taping actually. We took a moment of silence for that, and what I said to the crowd after that moment was that the show represents a beacon of hope and light in spite of that darkness. Like Harvey Milk said, “gotta give ‘em hope” and hope is very much the core message! Know too
that family is not defined only by those persons who surrounded you when you were born. Family is chosen and found in our friends, colleagues and community. Even in the times where it seems you are all alone, you are not. I am reminded too of some courageous wisdom that helped me in my own coming out: “better to be yourself, hard as that may sometimes be,
than to live a life as someone you are not.” We hope that the humor and joy found in our little show transcends doubt, fear, loss, and pain and maybe even inspires a whole generation who are not as familiar with Paul Lynde or Tab Hunter, etc.  

DH: I hope that they can understand that while you can’t control what family you were born into, you do have the control to choose your family. That chosen family can be thicker than blood.

What's your favorite thing about the holidays?

JR:  I like the spirit of giving and receiving, and no, that is not a gay pun! I love
the colors and decorations, the food, the tree, the menorah, all of it. This
holiday season at the end of the year is also a time of reflection and
perhaps an opportunity to look to the year ahead as well.

What are you doing for the holidays this year?

JR: I will be home here in Las Vegas. Probably have several exchanges with
friends and family (I am just so fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful
people who love and support me, honestly). Eat something delicious.
Watch a movie. Listen to a podcast as I walk around the city. Simple and
joyous is the goal.

DH: I will be staying home and relaxing. Growing up in a divorced family, my entire life I’ve always been pulled in two different directions. So now, as an adult, I can make my own choices. This year my choice is to totally relax, stress-free, and prepare for 2024.

Is there anything else you want to add?

DH: My Christmas album “Christmas in California” is available on all streaming platforms and includes an original song I wrote called “ My Winter Wonderland”. That music video is also available on YouTube.

Aaron Joshua Perra performed a reading of his new book of poetry Triggers and Love at Roxy's Cabaret on November 11, 2023. 

November 22, 2023

This was a simple, yet intimate event that included a dedication, his life story, a Q&A, and his poetry about his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction.

A photo of his book cover remained on screen throughout the reading. He wore a formal suit with light green sneakers. A photo of his book remained on the screen throughout the reading. The stage included a long table on the right side, his book, and the author. 

Perra entered the stage with Britney Spears' hit song "Stronger". Only 20 seconds of the song was played, but this was enough time for the intended message to be delivered. During which, he entered the stage from the audience with a casual walk that resembles one walking along a sidewalk.

He dedicated the show to his grandmother, who died a week before the show. He shared how she played a vital role in his life. 

He then proceeded with his life story, which begins with him at age 15 when he tried alcohol for the first time.  At age 21, he tried meth for the first time and immediately got addicted.  He was homeless for many years.  He went into treatment a few times before finding sobriety in 2022.

The reading was unrehearsed and full of imperfections.  The unrehearsed and imperfect approach worked better than rehearsed because they reminded the audience that he's human.  This approach made the event raw and real by speaking from the heart rather than words already in his head.  It felt conversational.  

Perra kept the reading simple.  He sat on a chair behind the table.  He sat casually like he was at home: relaxed, legs stretched out to the side, and slouched.  He read directly from the book while maintaining minimal eye contact with the audience.  The casualness makes his stage presence feel more genuine.

He shared the writing process of a few poems.  These few times were enough for audiences to receive a scope of the book writing process.  For instance, Perra shared when his drug use accelerated in "July 7, 2022", when he felt hopeless in "January 6, 2019", and when a relationship ended in "August 23, 2019".

Perra spoke tenderly.  He never raised his voice.  He never spoke aggressively.  The only harsh language he used was from his poetry.  His voice sounded heartfelt.  Speaking aggressively would have likely backfired.

These poems explored more than just addiction.  They also explored love, relationships, and nature.  The only organization of the poem is based on the date they were written, like in the book.  The order in which he read them ranged from earliest to latest.  This helps acknowledge that, despite the struggles with addiction, there is beauty in this world.

Aaron Joshua Perra gave the audience something that's missing in the book reading world.  That's heart.  The imperfections from Aaron Joshua Perra are largely to credit for making this reading inspiring, powerful, raw, and real.  Overall, this reading is a breath of fresh air.

You can order Triggers and Love on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
 

The First Annual Highly Favored Media Festival

November 8, 2023

Highly Favored Magazine is a local magazine that that was founded in 2023 and shares stories from those who have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. They are now about to embark on their First Annual Highly Favored Media Festival. They are now accepting submissions. Creative Director Jesse Veils discusses how to submit a film to the festival.

This is Highly Favored Magazine's first film festival. Describe how you're feeling about this new venture with Highly Favored Magazine.

I’m very excited about putting on our first film festival as an organization. Anytime we can expand on our mission and showcase how creative the substance-familiar community is, I’m reminded that we are making an impact. It’s a bit like an out-of-body experience, at times, to realize that we get to help shape new possibilities for the way people view and relate to those of us who are most often dehumanized and ostracized for having a profound experience interacting with substances. We get to facilitate opportunities to bring humanity back to how they are seen, understood, and treated. And we do it by sharing what our contributors have shared with us in their art and writing. 

Tell me about the Highly Favored Magazine Film Festival and how the magazine ties in with the film festival.

Well, it has always been our long-term goal to have a space where any and all mediums that substance familiar artists create can be displayed and enjoyed. Having what we hope becomes an ongoing outlet for screenwriting, acting, directing, animation, and video editing is expanding the scope of the magazine’s ability to educate, inspire, and promote the talent of our community.

What film categories will you include in the film festival?

We will be sticking to the classics for our first attempt at a festival. Drama, comedy, documentary, animation, and avant garde.

How will you decide which films will be selected?

We will be selecting based on a similar process we have for choosing which submissions we include in an issue. Things like how well it relates to its intended category, quality of execution for performance, costume and set design, sound and storyboard editing for example. We are also looking for how thought provoking, inspiring, and innovative the content is. We are definitely going to want a lot of variety of films to feature. We probably care most about what we hope the audience will take from the experience and share with the people in their lives.

Where can a filmmaker go to submit a film?  When will you start accepting submissions?  What are the submission deadlines?

Link will be sent shortly to filmfreeway page. Just finishing making it now.

How much does it cost to submit a film?  How many films can a filmmaker submit?

Artists are required to pay an entry fee to submit their films. These fees help cover festival expenses. The fee applies to each entry, and there's up to 3 entries allowed per artist.

Early Bird Entry Fees apply to submissions entered on dates 11/1/2023 - 12/31/2023: Standard early bird entry fee is $5. 
Student early bird entry fee is $5. 
Gold Member early bird entry fee is $3. 

Regular Entry Fees apply to submissions entered on dates 1/1/2024 - 2/19/2024: 
Standard regular entry fee is $8. 
Student regular entry fee is $8. 
Gold Member regular entry fee is $5.

*Deadline is 3/10/2024*  
Late Submissions cut off is 3/10/2024: 
Standard late entry fee is $10. 
Student late entry fee is $10
Gold Member late entry fee is $8.  

Along with the film itself, what other items do you require in a submission?

Films must be original works that the artist has the copyright to, in addition to proper permissions being granted and royalties paid for content that is owned by other creators and used in the production. All entities must be properly credited for their contribution to the film. I also know that it takes considerable creativity to work within a budget in order to produce the work and make it look like the professional quality movie goers (or readers of a magazine) expect. I can’t wait for the magic I find when individual artists find ways to use what is accessible to realize their vision regardless of any hurdles. This is what substance familiar people excel in whether they are in a state of use, abuse, or recovery.  

What range is the required run time for selected films?

We require that submissions are a minimum of 8 minutes and no more than 15 minutes long. 

How old can the film be to qualify?

The most recent work is always going to have a better chance of being relevant and topical for where society is today, but with an artistic renaissance being a symptom of a pandemic we are willing to consider anything made the year 2021 to now. 

If the language in the film is anything other than English, will you require subtitles?

Although it is a requirement for films where 85% of dialogue or more is in a language other than English have subtitles in English for our festival audiences. It is important to note that language is capable of being used as a stylistic device and tool in the context of a film’s story telling, and in that respect, it is a decision that we leave to our individual artists. 

What video formats do you accept?

Universal video formatting, as well as, videos from artist Vimeo, YouTube, and FilmFreeway accounts are acceptable.

Do you accept rough cuts and films in progress?

We are willing to accept rough cuts and films in progress for those who are able to submit them to us during the early bird submission period, but they should be emailed to me at creative@highlyfavoredmagazine.com ATTN: Rough cut/Film in Progress Feedback. And include their name, contact information, and on what specifically they want feedback.  We will only have technical notes on those specifics and content that we see really helps or hinders the progression of the story or point they try to make.  

When will submitters find out whether they've been selected?

We will begin announcing the early bird submissions selected as soon as Jan. 1st, 2024, and likely continue up until the week the festival starts. 

If a filmmaker's project has been selected, what are the next steps?

The next steps will be revealed to the artist whose work has been selected, via direct communication with the Highly Favored Magazine organization. We want to keep some things a surprise for the festival audience.

Approximately how many films do you anticipate selecting?

It will really be based on the level of interest by artists and by how many audience members we can anticipate coming based on our pre-festival ticket sales that will determine final numbers, but ideally I'd love to show 100 films throughout the weekend. 

When is the 1st Annual Highly Favored Magazine Film Festival?  Where?

Tentatively we are working with one of our sponsors, The Aliveness Project, as the location for our festival. We are in talks with a couple of local theaters should we have a larger interest than anticipated (which will be indicated by pre-festival ticket sales). The festival takes place the third weekend in March, on the 15th-17th, 2024.

Interview & Review: Triggers and Love, Poetry by Aaron Joshua Perra

October 11, 2023

Aaron Joshua Perra uses poetry to share his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction in his book Triggers and Love. This book is written in the style of a journal, hence the dates being used as titles. These dates refer to when the poem was written. Triggers and Love is the best book of poetry I’ve read in many years!

Triggers and Love is a raw and personal account of his hardships related to addiction. A reader can connect this rawness to Frida Kahlo’s paintings and Charles Baudelaire’s book of poetry Les Fleurs du Mal. Like Kahlo and Baudelaire, the brutal honesty is largely what makes Perra’s poems magical because the poems feel like Perra is ripping out his chest for the world to see. Perra perfects this art.

Perra’s vulnerability is what gives Triggers and Love the potential to inspire others. Furthermore, this book can potentially save lives because it makes readers who may be struggling with addiction feel less alone. Therefore, a passion for poetry is never required upon reading Triggers and Love. His brutal words are enough to inspire readers. One of many lines that exemplify this finding is when he quotes on July 7, 2022, “I will die; And they will spit on my grave.” This example reminds readers how close he felt to dying.

Along with addiction, Perra expresses his romantic side with his love, intimate, loneliness, and heartbreak poems. Perra proves that beyond the struggles with addiction is a romantic man. His romantic side sways between the typical Jane Austen romance (Emma, Sense and Sensibility) to the typical Edgar Allan Poe haunting heartbreak (Annabel Lee). For example, he yearns for love by quoting, “You knew how much I loved; You walked and never stopped.”

Despite sadness throughout most of the poems, Perra finds space to prove that not everything is depressing. He manages to show his appreciation of the beauty in this world like the sun, nature, earth, and living beings (especially insects). The contrast between this beauty and his overall sadness blend well in Triggers and Love. One way he expresses such elegance is in the line, “I love you, sun –; How I adore you my little bumble bee. Look at your; beauty.” 

Overall, Triggers and Love possesses an aspect that’s missing in many modern works. That is heart. Anyone can tell a story. However, not everyone can pour their heart and soul into their words while telling their life story. Fewer artists can be brutally honest. Aaron Joshua Perra perfects all three: storytelling, pouring his heart and soul, and brutal honesty.

Aaron Joshua Perra released his debut book of poetry called Triggers and Love. Three of his poems have been adapted into film. Perra appeared on WCCO News, Highly Favored Magazine, LGBT Film Festival Poland, and several others. In Triggers and Love, he shares his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction by being brutally honest and vulnerable.

Tell me about Triggers and Love. 
Triggers And Love is a window into my soul. I bare all of myself within the pages of my book. It is a journal of poems that encapsulates and captures my life within the last three to four years. It opens up the door into my life of addiction and perseverance. 
I want people who are in the throes of their addiction to realize that their still is hope, there still is light at the end of the tunnel.

It took you almost four years to write Triggers and Love. Describe the journey of writing this book. 
Sublime! I was in and out of my addiction, so it was quite challenging, particularly because I am bipolar, and the level of emotions I experienced felt like a stick of dynamite continuously growing off.

What was the most challenging part of writing Triggers and Love? 
Revising every poem, to make everything perfect!

How's it feel to know that so many people have read your book? 
It’s so surreal. I’m still pinching myself.

Which reader's reaction is most memorable to you? 
I would have to say when I was in outpatient therapy, and each group member took a poem from my book and read them out loud. They went around in a circle, and I got to sit there and hear each person read one of my poems from their perspective. It was amazing!

You've been interviewed on WCCO news twice about your book. Your book has been advertised on a billboard in Times Square. Your book is selling well. More and more people know who you are. How has your life changed since releasing Triggers and Love? 
My life is still the same as it was, I’m just humbled to share my vulnerability with people. It’s fun exposing all sides of me, and there’s beauty in being able to be relatable to people.

You're performing a book reading at Roxy's Cabaret on November 11. What should we expect from your show? 
A little bit of this, and a little bit of that! I’ll be reading from my book, sharing my story, and doing a Q&A while we all have dinner and drinks together, and of course for me, I’ll be ordering the mock tails!

Describe the emotions you're feeling as you're preparing for your show at Roxy's Cabaret. 
I am absolutely terrified. I’ve never put on a show quite like this before, let alone me being the focus of the show, but I cannot let fear dictate my decisions. I cannot let fear control my life, so go big or go home!

Will there be book number two coming? If so, what will the book be about? 
I have decided that there will be a book number two, but that is a far ways down the road.

What do you anticipate in your future in writing and entertainment? 
It’s best for me to not look too far into the future. I really try to live life one day at a time, but I anticipate the hope of good things to come.

What's the biggest takeaway that you hope for upon reading Triggers and Love? 
The takeaway is strength and hope, and don’t ever give up, be kind to yourself, show yourself love and compassion, and grace. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Be bright and brilliant in all that you do.

You can order Triggers and Love online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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