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FilmOut Q&A: “Pit Stop” with writer-director Yen Tan | VIDEO

(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.)

“Pit Stop” is a wonderfully told story about the lonely lives of gay men living mostly in the closet in small town America.

Director Yen Tan masterfully crafts a slice-of-life tale of rural Texas, where gay men are largely invisible and working in blue-collar jobs, yearning for that universal notion of finding true love.

The screenplay, written by Tan and David Lowery, weaves twin stories of an Anglo contractor named Gabe (Bill Heck) and a Latino lumber-yard worker named Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) as they struggle to make ends meet and find their soul mates.

Gabe is mourning the end of his relationship with a married man, and stuck sharing a home with his ex-wife Shannon (Amy Seimetz) and their young daughter.

Ernesto is in the middle of breaking up with his boyfriend named Luis (Alfredo Maduro), and all tore up by the news that his ex-partner was in a terrible accident and in a coma at a nearby hospital. Ernesto spends more time at his ex-partner’s bedside than with his younger, foolish boyfriend with whom he has little in common.

How these two lonely, isolated gay men eventually find each other is the crux of the film, and it is a dandy that audiences will find very appealing when “Pit Stop” shows on Saturday, June 1 during FilmOut San Diego’s 15th annual LGBT Film Festival at the Birch North Park Theatre.

Writer-director Yen Tan, who is a native of Malaysia, tells San Diego Gay & Lesbian News how he brought an authentic piece of Texas to the big screen. “Pit Stop” eloquently illustrates the struggles and heartbreaks of blue-collar gay men struggling to find their way in rural America.

SDGLN: “Pit Stop” tells the parallel stories of two small-town Texans who are largely living a lie and hiding their true identity. Why did this story appeal to you?

As someone who was born and raised in big cities in Malaysia, small town America is very exotic to me. There’s a whole new set of social mores that I find very fascinating, and putting gay people in that context just takes it up a notch.

SDGLN: You were born in Malaysia, and have lived in Austin, Texas for a couple of years now. How were you able to so authentically capture small-town Texas and the often lonely lives of working-class gay men, who are rarely portrayed in LGBT-themed movies?

Loneliness is a universal condition, and as long as the story resonated with me, authenticity will come naturally. I was also greatly assisted by a team of native Texans in my crew, like my co-writer David Lowery, the producers Kelly Williams, Jonathan Duffy, James M. Johnston and Eric Steele, my cinematographer HutcH, and my producer designer Scott Colquitt. Some of them were born and raised in small towns, too, so they were able to inform me if something felt false.

SDGLN: The character of Gabe is divorced, yet living at home with his ex-wife and young daughter. Did you base his story on anybody you know? Did you find this common in the gay community?

Gabe is based on a few gay men I spoke with who lived in small towns. They all had the shared characteristics of being married before and were still raising their kids. Some of them were in good terms with their former spouses; others were still kept in the dark.

SDGLN: As someone who grew up in a very small town and did not meet any gay people until college, I recognize the importance of the local gas station and convenience store as a meeting place. Why did you select a “pit stop” as a key metaphor for the movie?

It’s a transient place where people come and go, as is the nature of relationships. Metaphorically, it described what the characters in the film are going through.

SDGLN: What kind of research did you do in advance of making this movie? What is the genesis of this movie, and what is the buzz on the gay film festival circuit since “Pit Stop” earned rave reviews at Sundance?

I reached out to several gay people online so I could correspond with them about their lives in small towns. I met a few of them in person and what they shared with me was very insightful and identifiable. I immediately knew I’d be able to convey this in the film. FilmOut is one of the first gay festivals “Pit Stop” is screening at, so as of now, the buzz is just starting in the gay circuit.

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

We shot the film in several Texas towns, including Austin, Bastrop, Lockhart, and Dripping Springs. I’ve lived in the state for 15 years, and felt very comfortable in making the film here with people I know very well. It’s also more economical.

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

The film validated your feelings and experiences of love and loss, and perhaps, gave you some solace in knowing that most of us go through the same issues.

SDGLN: Do you prefer the LGBT genre?

Yes, especially when it’s well done!

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

It’s still an evolving genre, and there’s still plenty of room for growth. It definitely is crossing over a lot more now than before, especially for LGBT films that receive positive critical responses.

SDGLN: What’s next for you?

There are several projects I’m looking into, so still figuring that out.

SDGLN: Single or taken?

Taken.

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

I’d always stop and watch “Showgirls” when I channel surf.

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

Sadly, no.

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

No. 1: Top-notch universal healthcare.
No. 2: Everyone has equal rights.
No. 3: No poverty.

SHOWING ON SATURDAY, JUNE 1

Time: 4:30 pm
Sponsored by ABC10/Azteca America
Co-presented by Randall & James/Richard Woods Real Estate

“Pit Stop” (2013), directed by Yen Tan, 80 minutes, USA.
California premiere – official Sundance selection

"Pit Stop" takes a subtle and eloquent approach in telling the parallel stories of two gay men in a small Texas town. Gabe (Bill Heck), a contractor who’s getting over an ill-fated affair with a married man, finds solace in the relationship he still harbors with his ex-wife, Shannon (Amy Seimetz), and their daughter, Cindy. Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda), a Hispanic lumber yard worker in the midst of splitting up with his live-in boyfriend, Luis (Alfredo Maduro), receives news that his former love is in a coma complicating their relationship. Struggles and heartbreaks abound as Gabe and Ernesto meet for a one-night stand and face the possibility they actually might be meant for each other.

PIT STOP (Clip) from Yen Tan on Vimeo.



* Showing with “Prora” (2012), directed by Stephane Riethauser 23 minutes, Switzerland/Germany

Prora, a deserted former Nazi holiday camp and communist military complex on the Baltic Sea, finds teenagers Jan and Matthieu embarking on an adventure that confronts their identities and puts their friendship at risk.

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.