Social Buttons

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Q&A with Jonathan Lisecki (director of Gayby)

In Jonathan Lisecki's feature debut, Gayby, two old college friends—a straight woman and a gay man—try to alleviate the loneliness of the single life with some cross-orientation baby-making. Laughter ensues, of course, but what makes this a unique take on a now-classic comic scenario are Lisecki's insights into modern family and friendship, his emotional investment in his characters, and the film's lifelike portrait of New York. Adapted from an award-winning short film of the same name, Gayby is filled to the brim with snappy dialogue and witty one-liners (impeccably delivered by a cast of New York theater regulars and Lisecki in a wonderful supporting role), but it also wears its heart on its sleeve. Lisecki spoke with us about the real-life origins of the film's story and the process of getting the film made.

Gayby will screen at BAMcinemaFest on Friday, June 22 at 9:15pm, followed by a Q&A with Jonathan Lisecki and cast members Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas.

What drives you to make films?

Usually, it was the production van driven by someone who had a license, although sometimes I took a cab. See, I can’t help being silly—I come from a family of storytellers. I think we share our viewpoints to help people understand us a little bit better. I’ve been active as an actor and director since my college years. Until around 2007, I had been mostly doing theater in NYC. Then I taught myself some basic filmmaking skills and made two shorts. In the theater, I would experience this sadness when a project was finished, because I couldn’t share it with as many people as I wanted. Film opens up such a vast audience. It also allows me to work in a fast-paced, incredibly fun way with actors. I know some amazing actors from my days in the theater—I love getting to share them with the rest of the world.

What films have served as inspiration in your work?

Matthew Wilkas, Jonathan Lisecki, and Jenn Harris
Photograph by Robin Holland
I’m especially drawn to comedies and dialogue-driven movies. I often go back to His Girl Friday, All About Eve, the early films of Hal Hartley, Laura, Network—movies with amazing, rapid-fire dialogue. Some TV shows nailed that style as well. Particularly Moonlighting, which I have on DVD and which really holds up well. And although it has nothing to do with this film, one should always mention The Comeback as a breakthrough TV comedy.

What are some of the challenges you faced while making Gayby?

Things went wrong in the usual ways, and there was so little time to react. Halfway through the shoot we were thrown out of one location because the neighbors noticed us sneaking in an entire film crew without permission. We tried to claim we were caterers, but then they saw someone walking in with cans of paint. In one evening we managed to find a place that was a visual match for the location we lost. We also had to recast an actress at the same time. I made a bunch of calls in the middle of the night and we went back to filming the following morning. The best thing about our crew was that even though the situation was stressful and serious we all couldn’t stop laughing because it was so absurd. And we just kept going. There was no stopping Gayby.

The gay male-straight female friendship has been a popular subject of comedy (in both sitcoms and films) for at least the past decade. How do you feel about past portrayals of this subject, and do you have any thoughts on where your film fits in that context?

I actually haven’t seen most of the popular movies and shows of this type. I assume you’re referring to the Jennifer Aniston/Madonna rom-com films and Will and Grace. For years I was lucky not to own a TV, and I never saw an episode of Will and Grace. I simply made my version of a story I wanted to tell. I don’t think there are many truly new stories to be told, but the way I tell this one and others will always be unique to my viewpoint.

There’s been much talk about the “gayby boom” in recent years. How much of the film is based on personal experience or friends’ experiences with this phenomenon?

This story is based on a baby who didn’t happen. A friend and I had a vague plan to have a baby together if we didn’t meet someone else by a set time, but she ended up having a baby with someone else. I think I made the short version of Gayby as some sort of art therapy to deal with the sadness of that option going away. The film is my imagining of what it would have been like to go through with that pact, in a farcical mode. But some people do sense that faint sadness underneath.

Kickstarter has become an important part of how many American independent films get funded. Can you speak about about your experience using it (or other online platforms you’ve used to get your films made)?

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Kickstarter is that you can start building an audience for your film even before you shoot it. That was our experience, at least. People who donate on Kickstarter feel a sense of personal involvement in the project: they want to come see it, they post about it on Facebook, they tweet and blog and such. They become a part of the process because they are true contributors. Of course, the money is great too, but we did Kickstarter more so that we could have an excited fanbase out there waiting for us when Gayby was ready to go out into the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.