Conversations with the latest "iconic" writer/director of queer films- Q. Allan Brocka
An exclusive interview by Oliver Carnay
Writer/Director Q. Allan Brocka during the reading of "Boy Culture" attended by main cast and original author Matthew Rettenmund. (More pics at Photo Gallery)
Writer-Director Q. Allan Brocka made a name for himself in the queer world when he won for his animated Logo-film “Rick and Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in the All the World,” a story about Kirsten and Dana, a lesbian couple who wants to have a baby and decided to get a sperm donor – from Rick -- whose boyfriend Steve is so jealous of the idea. So Steve came up with an alternative idea – with the help of Pussy the cat. Outrageously funny and well written, Brocka’s got the critic’s nod.
When “Eating Out” came out, it was the toast in different gay film festivals around the world. It got mixed reviews, but its popularity soared higher in different continents.
In the new sequel, “Eating Out 2: The Sloppy Seconds,” he shared writing credits with his best friend Dir. Phillip J. Bartell. In “Boy Culture,” Brocka’s latest film, it validated that not only he’s a good writer, but proved he is also a brilliant director. Brocka is becoming to be the “icon” the gay and lesbian communities would love to embrace. Both films (Eating Out 2 Sloppy Seconds and BOY CULTURE) had a sold out screening during the recent OUTFEST 2006.
He was at the Toronto airport waiting for his flight back to Los Angeles when I called him and luckily had time to give this interview. Here are our conversations:
O: You have two entries for OUTFEST 2006. Did you submit them both at the same time?
A: We submitted Boy Culture early on a long time ago. It’s been done before the announcement of submission for this year’s Outfest. “Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds” has just gone into production. We finished shooting last month and very, very quick it made available in time for Outfest. Outfest always keeps a couple of slots for late entries for films premiering, such as EO2. And it was just right on time before the Outfest started. So, it passed as a Special Sneak Preview.
O: Is it true that this is the first gay sequel ever on film? Would there be another sequel?
A: It’s an interesting thought. We can’t think of a gay film that has actually had a sequel, so the producer thought of including the line -- “the first ever sequel gay film.” We were just happy enough to make one fun film. It was really exciting that this is really, really just a small film that we would like to make. The big thing about the world of cinema, thinking about far we’ve come in Eating Out, as a group in the community. It’s kind of a little nice step that we can now have this franchise, like the Porky’s and the Meatballs franchise. It’s fun, nasty kind of film that I grew up with –make me laugh when I was a kid, learning about sexuality.
O: The original EO was shown at the Pink Festival in Manila last year. Do you think this sequel would be able to make it and be shown in the Philippines, with your attendance, as well?
A: Anytime, of course, I would love to! If they have the funding, I’d certainly would accept it. I would definitely love to go back there anytime – and with Boy Culture, too, hopefully!
O: I saw “Boy Culture” and thought it had a great screenplay. How did you go about being involved with Boy Culture?
A: About ten years ago, the novel Boy Culture was very popular. It was a bestseller after it was published by author Matthew Rettenmund. I heard about it when Philip Pierce, the producer, tracked it down and wanted to make and adapt it as a film. Three or four years ago, I met Phillip at OUTfest and he let me take and do the script. I wrote the script for a course of about a few months but over during weekends when I was at the Palm Springs Film Festival. He really liked the adaptation I did. Then, we started shopping around to have it funded. After I wrote Boy Culture, I made Eating Out. When Eating Out did well in the film circuit, that really helped us raise money for Boy Culture. So we went right away and shot that. When Philip asked me to direct Boy Culture, I accepted immediately. I wanted to make a love story that is more true to life than what I’d seen before.
O: Did you enjoy writing the script than directing the film Boy Culture?
A: The process of directing is not really that fun. It’s stressful and a lot of pressure. It’s not really horrible thing but it isn’t fun either. Writing is less of a challenge because you have only one person to control and that is yourself. In directing, there could be a hundred people who all have to be inside of your head and knows directly what you’re thinking, but sometimes everyone thinks in a different way. It’s a lot harder.
The casting took a long time. We went to a few hundred people before we found the presence of character and the voice which fitted Derek Magyar. The presence of his voice really took a major decision. It was so dark and cynical but still likeable. He insults the audience in the first scenes.
O: Tell me, how did you find Jonathoan Trent? I think he’s a fantastic actor!
A: Jonathan Trent came in when we were holding for auditions here in Culver City. When I first saw him, he’s like this surfer look, but now he’s got this Johnny Depp-look type. He was waiting for an audition in another room during our audition and we thought he was waiting for an audition for our film. Our casting director asked, “Who’s that guy?!” So, he asked him if he would like to go for an audition since he thought he might be perfect for the part and he’s there anyway. And he got it! He really studied very well for his part as Joey. He’s very careful and really concern of playing such a flamboyant character without being offensive, without making it such a broad stereotype, and really wanted to bring humanity to that. It’s a kind of character that I see in a lot of films that is written off so easily whether it’s directed by gay or straight men. The character of Joey is someone, who is not me or very close to me during my whole coming-of-age in teenage years. It’s really important for me to see this characters portrayed onscreen. So much in the community, they are terribly offended when they see a flamboyant character, but they exist, and they are people that I love. It is important to me that this character be lied on without being offensive. And just be human, and Jonathon really brought that very well. He takes really a compliment when people think that that’s him in real life because that’s exactly what an actor’s supposed to do because they make you think that’s who they are.
O: Did any of the actors have any problems in nudity after they read the script?
A: No, actually not. Usually, when I cast in a role that has nudity, or stimulated sex or kissing, or something like that, it’s in every single breakdown, and I won’t even see someone who must be howling on everything that’s involved. For me, that’s non-negotiable.
O: How did you find Darryl Stephens? Was he already in “Noah’s Arc” when you found him? Was he your first choice for that role?
A: When I was casting, Darryl wasn’t in Noah’s Arc, yet. Just finding a young gay black man is hard to find because there’s racism and homophobia everywhere, and the acting community is really hard to shake stereotypes when you try to act. I called my friend Patrick-Ian Polk, who created Noah’s Arc. I asked him if he could help me because I know that he is well connected in the black gay acting community. He said Darryl Stephens would be perfect for the part. I actually have seen the test-VTR pilot of the show and I saw Darryl on that and I loved him. He read the part and he did it fantastically and nailed it. He went on to shoot “Boy Culture” in November, then went down to El Rey shoot “Noah’s Arc” after “Boy Culture.” Then, “Noah’s Arc” was aired before we finished. They aired the first season of Noah’s Arc before we premiered “Boy Culture.”
O: Are there any character in the BC resembles in your personal life?
A: There are some aspects in my life -- but not directly, and maybe from friends of mine, but there are some characters in Eating Out that resembles the characters in Boy Culture. Like Andrew’s family in BC and Caleb’s family in EO.
O: Would you consider BC is your best movie so far, this is not to discredit “Rick & Steve: the Happiest Gay Couple in All The Whole World,” the animated film which first brought fame to you?
A: Rick & Steve is still my favorite. Right now, I’m shooting it everyday (the tv series for Logo Network). I’ve never been immersed in a world I’ve made and written. It’s the one I’m most tied up now.
O: With the films you’ve done, you are becoming to be one of those “icons” in the gay and lesbian communities. How do you feel about the attention and the changes it brought you since you’re becoming to be more notable as one of the directors to watch out for?
A: Personally, it’s nice and it’s being helpful. The more it’s been talked about, of course, it helps to make your next movie happen. I get more e-mails around the house. It’s really wonderful how people respond to the film and how it changes the perception on the filmmaker. When something like as simple as a sex-comedy that can make a huge difference in some kids’ life -- they look you up and e-mail you, and tell you what it did for them that day – it’s really powerful! It’s something I really didn’t really think of when I was just making something fun two years ago.
O: Where has the movie been shown so far? Any other film festivals it will be shown after the OUTFEST?
A: The movie premiered in April 2006 in London, at the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, then at the Tribeca in New York, Miami, Toronto, Seattle (which is my hometown), Frameline in San Francisco, then here at OUTFEST in L.A., and we’re still being invited in different festivals around the world. Next weekend, it will be in Philadelphia, then we will be going to Brazil, Montreal, Washington D.C., Paris, Melbourne, Nashville, and other major cities in the world.
Although, I’m really busy on the tv show that I’m working on right now. So, I’m going to be going back and forth L.A. for the “Rick & Steve” television series for Logo Network. It’s an animated series and they’re doing the voices right now and setting constructions. There’s an animation studio in Toronto where I shoot at and I come back to L.A. every week to do voice records.
O: How many episodes are you doing for this “Rick & Steve” pilot?
O: Do you mind seeing yourself writing for a major broadcast network, like a “Wil & Grace” type of sitcom? Did you ever think that you could do writing to win an Emmy?
A: Of course, who wouldn’t want to win an Emmy? But writing a comedy sitcom is where I want to go. I’m more interested in writing in shows like the comedies of HBO or Showtime.
O: I heard that you are also going to be involved in an upcoming comedy show. What is “The Big Gay Show”?
A: “The Big Gay Show” is a sketch-comedy show featuring up-and-coming comics --performing live skits, musical numbers, and political satire, on Logo Network that Rosie O’Donell is one of the major producers of. It’s going to be really, really funny. There are a lot of young good actors in it and some of the actors there are from “Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds.” I’m not sure yet if I’m going to be writing on it, because I’m still totally involved with “Rick & Steve” series.
To learn more about Q. Allan Brocka’s works, log on to his official homepage: www.poshpictures.com