(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.)
“I Do” is truly a movie for our time, with topical themes relating to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and LGBT immigration issues.
Already the winner of numerous awards on the gay film festival circuit, “I Do” will be screened at 7 pm Thursday, May 30 at Birch North Park Theatre as part of FilmOut San Diego’s 15th annual LGBT Film Festival.
David W. Ross ("Quinceañera") plays Jack, a gay Brit who has lived in the U.S. since he was a teenager. But when deportation demands are made, Jack in desperation marries lesbian co-worker Alison (Jamie-Lynn Sigler of "Sopranos" fame) in an attempt to avoid being sent back to England. Then he meets and falls in love with a Spanish architect named Mano (Maurice Compte), further complicating his tenuous situation.
Director Glenn Gaylord tells San Diego Gay & Lesbian News that his movie, “I Do,” really connects with audiences. “I'd love it if audiences didn't just think of this as the gay marriage/immigration movie. It's definitely covering that, but an issue is nothing unless you have characters you would die for,” he says.
SDGLN: Did you have an inkling when you started working on the film in 2006 that the theme of “I Do,” about binational gay couples being split apart by DOMA and U.S. immigration policy, would be so timely in 2013?
It’s true that our writer/lead actor/producer, David W. Ross, has been working on “I Do” for many years, but I don’t think he imagined in a million years that the issues covered in the film would progress so quickly to the Supreme Court level. When I hopped on board as the director in 2011, I was well aware that things were heating up, but to see such a huge political shift is immensely gratifying. I’m glad that we¹re able to be a part of the discussion with our film.
SDGLN: What is the genesis of this movie, and what is the buzz on the gay film festival circuit?
David was in a relationship with someone whose work visa had expired and had to leave the country. It raised his awareness levels on the issue and he fashioned a romantic comedy about gay marriage and immigration. When he started researching his own role as a photographer and met many same-sex couples protesting Prop 8 and binational same-sex couples affected by the Defense of Marriage Act, the issue became much more serious. He then set about rewriting his script to make the tone more representative of what he was seeing.
I had been hearing about the script for years through our producer Stephen Israel, who has been a dear collaborator of mine on past projects. Through him, I had met David, and I had dismissed “I Do” in my mind, because I envisioned some wacky farce where two grooms were throwing icing at each other. Hilarity ensues. When I heard that it was not like that anymore, I asked David if I could read it, and I was so deeply moved by it. So one night at one of Stephen’s famous dinner parties, David very appropriately got down on one knee and “proposed” to me that I direct his script! The rest is history.
The film festival circuit has been very good to “I Do!” We’ve collected eight festival awards so far, and that means the world to us. It means it raises the awareness of our film that much more. We’ve played to sold out, loving audiences all over the world. It’s rare that a filmmaker gets to sit in a packed theater and show their work.
We’ve witnessed people lining up for our film hours in advance. We’re hearing laughter and tears, and truly getting a communal sense that our film is a call to action. We’re hoping this carries on through our theatrical release on May 31 in select cities and on demand everywhere that same day.
SDGLN: Why was it important to you to make this particular movie?
My step-sister married her Israeli-born wife in California during the short window period when it was legal. They lived here, had careers, and were raising their son. When her wife’s work visa expired, they were left with little choice but to move to Israel. Since immigration is a federal right and federal laws do not recognize same-sex marriages, her wife could not become a U.S. citizen.
DOMA has personally separated my family. This means something to me. If we can play any part, no matter how big or small, in giving DOMA and Prop 8 the proper burial they deserve, and if we can give people like my own family the choice of where they want to live as a married couple, then this whole experience has meant something deeply personal to me.
SDGLN: Where did you shoot the movie, and why did you choose this location?
Although “I Do” is set in New York City, we shot for 16 days in Los Angeles and only two days in NYC. We also shot the final sequence on a separate day, but I won’t say where, as it would spoil the ending. We chose to shoot in LA, because our cast is based here and it would have been way too expensive to travel and house everyone in NYC. Also, LA interior spaces tend to be bigger, so you can really move the camera around with greater ease. I’m really proud of the fact that our crew, especially cinematographer David M. Gil, and production designer, Michael Fitzgerald, were able to fool even the
most discerning viewer and make you believe it was all done back East.
SDGLN: What do you want audiences to remember about the film after they leave the theater?
I'd love it if audiences didn't just think of this as the gay marriage/immigration movie. It's definitely covering that, but an issue is nothing unless you have characters you would die for. I want them to think about how it made them feel, how rich those characters are, and what an emotional rollercoaster they’ve been put through. When I see a memorable film, I'm always struck by those tiny moments - a little bit of chemistry between two characters, a striking image, a haunting melody. Audiences seem to be truly taken by our film, and that gives us so much gratification.
SDGLN: Do you prefer the LGBT genre?
I prefer great films, period, regardless of the genre. I’m proud to say that so much of my work has been primarily in the LGBT genre, but I have so many other stories I want to tell. Not all of them are sexual orientation oriented (see what I did there?!). I love how the LGBT genre has evolved in the past several years. We’re in a very fertile period where filmmakers are taking chances and not giving us the same old, same old. Audiences have also become much more demanding for quality filmmaking, as well they should. For some time now, many refer to this genre as “bad gay films.” I know what is meant by that, and it has put the fear of God in me to never make one of those. So every time I sit in front of my computer to write or sit behind the camera to direct, I'm thinking about that extremely discriminating audience who want nothing more than to be swept away by a great story.
SDGLN: Has LGBT cinema grown up, is it “crossing over” to attract mainstream audiences, or do you sense it will remain a niche product?
Everything in entertainment has become niche, not just gay films. Having said that, I think there¹s still so much potential for crossover success. I personally want to make great films, not just great “gay” films. When passion and talent are combined with a story that has the ability to move or excite people, there’s no limit.
SDGLN: What¹s next for you?
I¹m always juggling about six to seven projects to see which one will stick next. I’m in heavy writing mode on three different features and hope to be directing one of those next. I’m also in pre-production on a hilarious short film that is a wonderful collaboration with Dennis Hensley and Nadya Ginsburg. Google them. You’ll be glad you did!
SDGLN: Single or taken?
I'm ridiculously single and want to change that very much, thank you!
Personally, there’s so much fuss about gay marriage, when my hopes are more modest. Stephen Israel told me that he just wants to meet someone who is kind. To that I responded, “I’ll settle for someone who shows up!”
SDGLN: What is something your fans don¹t know about you?
I have fans? Hilarious! Let’s say for the purposes of this interview that I have readers, OK? :-) I guess my big, deep, dark secret is that I was a child genius up to the age of 4 in the area of art. I could walk through a museum and identify the work of every artist, even before I could read. My parents didn¹t quite know what to make of it, and I remember my early childhood vividly. I just knew that this information was at my fingertips. At 4, I remember the information just floating out of my body, and I’ve been a nincompoop ever since! Weird and random, huh?
Oh! Another fun fact is that my set nickname is GayLo. If Jennifer Lopez can have her JLo, then I can have mine! It’s actually intentional, because I ask on set that people use it, which guarantees that somebody will smile at a crazy call time like 6 am.
SDGLN: Will you be coming to California for the FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival?
I can’t wait to come to San Diego to screen at FilmOut San Diego! Are you kidding. I came down there for my last film, “Leave It On The Floor,” and loved it. Who knows? Maybe my next boyfriend will be some sweet San Diegan!
SDGLN: If you were granted three wishes, what would you do with them?
I only get three?!! I’m kidding. OK, this one is easy. I would wish for world peace, an end to hunger and suffering, and freedom for all, because then I KNOW I would win the pageant and get to sashay down the runway with my tiara firmly placed on my head!
SHOWING ON THURSDAY, MAY 30
Thursday, May 30 – 7 pm
Sponsored by Stella Artois
Co-presented by Roberts Electric Service
“I Do” (2012), directed by Glenn Gaylord, 91 minutes, U.S.
A romantic drama about a complicated love triangle. To stay in the U.S., gay Brit Jack (David W. Ross, who also wrote the screenplay) convinces his lesbian best friend Ali (Jamie Lynn-Sigler) to marry him. Things get messy when he falls for a sexy Spanish architect (Maurice Compte) while his commitment to his brother's widow (Alicia Witt) complicates his decision either to stay or to follow his lover.
* Showing with “Sabbatical” (2012), directed by Glenn Kiser, 12 minutes, U.S.
Phillip and Sam grapple with the concept of taking time apart from each other and dealing with the consequences of coming back together after a mutually agreed-upon separation.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.