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FilmOut Q&A: Opening Night selection “G.B.F.” and director Darren Stein

(Editor's note: SDGLN is featuring Q&A interviews with leading filmmakers from around the world who are participating in FilmOut San Diego's 15th annual LGBT Film Festival, running May 29 to June 2 at the historic Birch North Park Theatre. Follow SDGLN for all the news about one of the top LGBT film festivals in the U.S.)


"G.B.F." -- the Opening Night selection for FilmOut San Diego's 15th annual LGBT Film Festival -- promises to be a real crowd-pleaser with its funny and uplifting tale about a teenage boy who is outed by his classmates but becomes the object of attention by three prom queen candidates who want to gain an edge.

Directed by Darren Stein and written by George Northy, "G.B.F." brings together a cast of fresh faces with a few big-name surprises, including gay icon Megan Mullally as our gay hero's super-cool Mom and Jonathan Silverman as Mr. Daniels. Michael J. Willet plays Tanner, the teen who is outed, and Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen as 'Shley and Xosha Roquemore as Caprice, the three queen wannabes.

Stein, 41, directed, produced and wrote films such as "Aviel" (1988), "Sparkler" (1997), "Jawbreaker" (1999 cult classic), "Put The Camera On Me" (2003 documentary) and "Color Me Olsen" (2007 short). He also was the producer of the horror comedy "All About Evil" (2010) and executive producer of "Wild Tigers I Have Known (2006).

He turned his cult classic into "Jawbreaker The Musical," which premiered June 29, 2010 in Los Angeles as a one-night stand. Since then, he was been working on the musical with plans to take it to New York.

Darren Stein chats with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News about how he discovered the "G.B.F." script and why it was so important for him to turn it into a movie.

SDGLN: What is the genesis of this movie, and what is the buzz on the gay film festival circuit?

I discovered the script through the Outfest Screenwriting Lab. They match the five screenplay finalists with directors to do staged readings at the festival, and I got paired with “G.B.F.” I loved the script so much that I called the writer George Northy in Brooklyn and asked him to option it. So really I have Outfest, a gay and lesbian film festival, to thank for the script.

So far the film has screened at Tribeca, Miami and Boston, and all the screenings have been pretty raucous. The gay audiences, in particular, have really been responding well. There’s so much laughter that they miss half the jokes, which is actually a good thing because there will be more jokes to discover on repeated viewings.

SDGLN: Why was it important to you to make this particular movie?

I loved that it was a big teen comedy that happened to have a gay protagonist. It was nice to see the universe of the teen genre shift to the place where a gay kid could be the hero. It’s his story. He was no longer relegated to the sidekick we’ve seen in movies like “Mean Girls.” I also liked that it was first and foremost a teen comedy. It wasn’t just a gay movie though it does have a gay character in the lead.

SDGLN: Did you pay homage to “Glee” and teen-oriented movies, and which ones?

There are tons of pop culture homages in the film but I think the teen films I referenced most were the films of John Hughes – particularly “Sixteen Candles” and “Pretty And Pink” – and of course I have a special place in my heart for “Clueless.”

SDGLN: How did Megan Mullally get involved? Was the part of the gay teen’s mom written especially for her, or did she audition for the part?

Paul Iacono who plays “Brent” had played Megan’s son in the “Fame” remake a couple years back. He offered to call her and get her the script. She had been on a list of actresses we were interested but it always helps to have a personal relationship on an independent film. I was pretty floored when she said yes.

SDGLN: Similarly, what about Jonathan Silverman?

I loved Jonathan in films like “Weekend At Bernies” and “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” He was an actor I grew up with in teen films in the ‘80s and I wanted to give a nod to those films. He’s also got a lot of heart to go with the comedic chops. It also helped that he looks like he could be Michael J Willett’s Dad.

SDGLN: Where did you shoot the movie, and why did you choose this location?

We shot at a charter school in Encino [Calif.] on weekends and holidays. It was an incredible-looking school, modern and architectural with a smaller scale that made sense for the scope of our film. We also shot in homes in North Hollywood, Santa Monica and Encino. Prom was shot at a nightclub in Hollywood called the Avalon.

SDGLN: What do you want audiences to remember about the film after they leave the theater?

People should be taken on their own terms, as individuals – it’s not about their sexuality, gender or religion. Perhaps people will realize being gay in high school is no different than any other element of their personality they may feel insecure about. It’s really about making the gay high school experience relatable on a more universal level.

SDGLN: Do you prefer the LGBT genre?

I just prefer good movies. If they happen to feature LGBT characters, that’s always of particular interest to me since I’m gay myself. But really films are about the human experience and that includes everybody.

SDGLN: Has LGBT cinema grown up, is it “crossing over” to attract mainstream audiences, or do you sense it will remain a niche product?

I really think its crossing over in cinema just as LGBT acceptance is making headway in society. I think more films that feature gay characters without making gayness an issue or pushing an agenda are being made and that we’re moving in that direction culturally.

SDGLN: What’s next for you?

I’m working on “Jawbreaker The Musical” for the stage in New York as well as a new feature called “The Female Lead” about a movie star and her transsexual son. It’s a script that I’ve been trying to get made for quite some time.

SDGLN: Single or taken?

Taken.

SDGLN: What is something your fans don’t know about you?

I’m interested in making films from every genre, not just teen movies. Though I do have a special appreciation for teen films and am very grateful to have made two of them.

SDGLN: Will you be coming to California for the FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival?

I live in LA so I’ll be driving down to San Diego with several members of the cast. Any excuse for a road trip!

SDGLN: If you were granted three wishes, what would you do with them?

World peace, of course.

And the end of hunger and suffering.

And make a living making movies the rest of my life.

SHOWING ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 29

OPENING NIGHT
Time: 7:30 pm -
Co-presented by CICA

“G.B.F.” (2013), directed by Darren Stein, 94 minutes, U.S.
West Coast premiere

Social warfare erupts in this edgy, outrageous comedy set in a suburban high school when the school’s powerful “Clique Queens” (Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen, Xosha Roquemore) try to turn Tanner (Michael J. Willett) and Brent (Paul Iacono), two closeted gay teenagers, into the must-have social accessory of the year: The Gay Best Friend [“G.B.F.”]. As the girls fight for the edge to make them most popular, the boys deal with dysfunctional parents, down-low jocks and horny Mormons, culminating in a school prom that will blow the top off their town. With Megan Mullally, Natasha Lyonne, Rebecca Gayheart and Jonathan Silverman.



* Shown with “Grotto” (2012), directed by Dave Scala, 7 minutes, U.S.
West Coast premiere

A 20-year-old boy returns to his hometown after a year of big changes away at school.

* Shown with “Coffee & Pie” (2011), directed by Douglas Horn, 15 minutes, U.S.

An anti-romantic comedy about a lesbian couple who must come to terms with the fact that theirs is a love that could never be.

Festival tickets are now on sale at the FilmOut San Diego website HERE.

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.