Funny Boy Films on the forefront of queer cinema with Adam & Steve and Mythgarden

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Funny Boy Films’ raucous romantic comedy Adam & Steve opened last month to rave reviews in cities across America though it has yet to be screened in Nashville. Adam & Steve is an irreverent genre-busting film about a couple of openly gay men finding their way and ultimately each other. If the reviews are to be believed Adam & Steve is just the latest step in what seems to be a series of serious steps by Funny Boy Films to take the vanguard of the Queer Cinema movement to a whole new level.

Despite being banned in Salt Lake City due to threats from radical religious groups, Funny Boy Films first feature Latter Days went on to win multiple awards and become one of the highest grossing independent gay films of 2004. Latter Days is a romantic comedy that tells the heroic story of a closeted gay Mormon missionary’s struggle to overcome religious intolerance for true love.

Funny Boy Films is currently developing Neil Miller’s Sex-Crime Panic, a period piece about the sexual psychopath laws of the 1950s that led to groups of gays being incarcerated and put in mental facilities.

Funny Boy Films and Mythgarden recently announced that producers Kirkland Tibbels and George Bendele will circle up with openly gay veteran actors Chad Allen and Robert Gant (Queer as Folk) and their partner Christopher Racster to produce the Vito Russo Award-winning screenplay Elliot Loves. New York filmmaker Terracino will direct.

Elliot Loves chronicles the coming of age of a Dominican American, both as a 9-year old boy fighting for the attention of his disillusioned mother, and as a 21-year old man who suffers a string of comically bad relationships until he makes peace with his past. In addition to partnership with Funny Boy Films on the upcoming feature production Elliot Loves, Mythgarden is partnered on several other projects. In late 2006, Mythgarden is set to begin production on Save Me, a romance set against the backdrop of a Christian Ex-Gay ministry, produced with Herb Hamsher and Judith Light. Additionally, Mythgarden is partnered with David Duchovny on the project The Way Out taking a look at the dilemma faced by many elder-gays and with David Mixner in the WWII feature Suddenly a Soldier which takes a look at the real life opposition to the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, lead by a group of gay men and women. Recently, Kirkland Tibbels and George Bendele took time out of their busy schedule to chat with O&AN during an exclusive phone interview.

Thus far Funny Boy Films has demonstrated sharp intuition concerning the projects you involve yourselves in. How did you decide that Adam & Steve was the next step in the road you were traveling?

KT: We were midway through the release of Latter Days when George came to me with the script and he really loved it. I took a look at it and loved it so we tracked the movement of the film through normal Hollywood channels, but there were already a few producers with their eyes on it. Luckily all of the other prospects fell through and we ended up getting the film. We were really very fortunate that it landed in our laps but we were very dedicated to making it happen.

GB: It was really a long journey getting hold of Adam & Steve because there were so many obstacles to overcome in making it happen. When we finally got the rights to the film I knew that we would have a hit because we had for the first time I can remember ever in film two openly gay leads in Craig Chester and Malcolm Gets who had a chemistry together that was unprecedented in mainstream gay film because they were performing in roles that they could both know and relate to with a real rapport. Both guys are great actors with incredible comic timing and when we threw in the phenomenal Parker Posey and Chris Kattan it was just like magic.

There has been a tremendous response to Adam & Steve that has surpassed even that of your previous feature Latter Days. Did you ever imagine that the public reaction would be so intense and positive?

KT: After the phenomenal reaction to Latter Days we were a little more prepared for what was to come this time around. We knew we had gold in our hands already because the screenplay was so strong and we had more mainstream actors this time around. We were a little surprised by the amount of staying power that we have managed. These days movies come and go very quickly but with Adam and Steve we have managed to stay the course for the long haul thus far.

GB: This is a really exiting time for gay filmmakers so we were hoping that our instincts were correct and that people were hungry for the kind of stories that we wanted to put out there. When we first started there was a lull out there and noting was really happening. Seeing the explosion of gay themed cinema of late has been very exciting for us because we feel like we had a hand in making it happen.

Robert Gant was recently in Nashville and I got the opportunity to speak with him at length about Elliot Loves, a remarkably relevant film to the times in which we live for a large segment of gay culture that is underserved currently.It was just announced Funny Boy Films will be partnering with Gant, Chad Allen and Christopher Racster in Mythgarden to produce the film. How important is it that FBF involve itself in projects that cover topics no one else will touch?

KT: We are very excited to be able to be a part of Elliot Loves. Chris Racster and I have been friends and colleagues for a long time now and we have been trying to get involved with getting this amazing film done for a long time. It is a beautifully heartfelt coming-of-age story that will appeal to everyone not just those in the Latin American community. It’s very important to us that the projects we do raise the bar and take us to the next level with every feature. Elliot Loves is long overdue because Latin Americans in the Gay community are almost ignored and hopefully we can help bring more attention to them with this film. We didn’t start FBF because there was anything we saw as wrong with queer cinema. I’m a big fan of most queer film and we are certainly standing on the shoulders of queer filmmakers who have gone before us, but as a filmgoer I was missing stories about our heroes. There were too few films with gay protagonists that change the course of their lives by taking their lives into their hands and making change happen. We really need more life affirming stories of queer people who inspire people to leave the world better off than they found it.

GB: It was a natural fit for us because they are great people who want to present true gay cinema with characters who are portrayed in a heroic light that inspires others. There was nothing but positive reasons for us to partner with Mythgarden and it is a partnership that I am certain will prove positive for both of us, but mostly for the filmgoers. We are both dedicated to professionalism and quality with an eye towards furthering the queer community. It’s a chance of a lifetime and we welcome it.

What direction do you see queer cinema taking over the next several years? There has been a sudden explosion of activity after the success of Brokeback Mountain and TransAmerica. Is it possible that we are seeing a trendy fad play itself out or is this and enduring movement in cinema that we can expect great things from in the future?

GB: Brokeback Mountain was certainly a spike on the charts for a number of reasons, but if you take it out of the equation and look at it then we have been on a steady course of growth for a long time. There have been a number of great queer films released in the past ten years that are both imaginative and engaging at the same time they are intelligent quality work. Every three to five years there is a big gay film that comes out of Hollywood, but there has been more and more demand for quality original gay cinema. I expect to see more great gay film as time goes on.

KT: We will definitely be seeing more genre driving work coming out of gay film makers as time goes on. We have a plethora of stories to tell from our history as gay people and the more that people get quality films in their hands by gay film makers the more they will want to see. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. There are still great things yet to come.