Q&A with How to Get from Here to There writer-director Kevin James Thornton

Kevin James Thornton—the creator of How to Get From Here To There—is a man of many talents. From writing to directing to even scoring the film, Thornton used his diverse skill set to produce this emotionally visceral amalgam of a movie that seems to fall into the categories of drama, experimental, and sci-fi all at once. As our protagonist—known as Commander—deals with the loss of his mother, he also struggles with his past decisions that have left him alone and defeated. But what if our destinies aren’t set in stone? An encounter with a make-believe time machine from his childhood will allow Commander to explore just that.

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Tell us a little bit about who Kevin James Thornton is:

My life has taken a lot of weird tangents. I moved to Nashville about two decades ago with my band to pursue a record deal. We succeeded and toured for many years. I spent a little while doing comedy in Los Angeles and even wrote for the Huffington Post. Eventually, I started taking portraits and making short films and music videos. Today, I consider myself a full-time filmmaker. It really brings all of my life experiences together into one medium.

What was your main source of inspiration for the events that take place in this film?

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that we create our own destinies. I wanted to make a movie about that. I also wanted to make a film that represented gay people in a way that didn’t just focus on the struggle of being gay. There’s a lot of my life in it, of course. I was in a bad relationship with an alcoholic. My mother is alive and well, though.

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A major theme in this film is time and how you can’t go back to the past but you can change the future. What does this mean to you specifically as a person?

It just resonates with me. Every single day, we all have limitless choices we can make stepping into tomorrow. For me, this theme carries a hopeful message.

The film’s protagonist is a gay man, yet you didn’t seem to waste much time on themes of gay shame or the coming-out experience. Was that a deliberate choice?

Representation is important and necessary. I love all the films about the queer struggle from Brokeback Mountain to Boy Erased to Philadelphia. But I also want myself and other filmmakers to begin to add to the dialogue. There’s so much to explore, and I’m excited that it’s starting to happen and that I get to be a part of it.

This film takes its audience on a roller coaster of emotions to different worlds well beyond that of reality through the lens of a toy that the protagonist made as a boy. Why do you think breaking away from reality into the realm of metaphor was important to telling this story?

I love using childhood imagination to show adult emotion. It makes the film more moving. Toy Story 3 is a great example of that. It reaches into an innocent part of us and resonates in a different way.

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Another unique aspect of the film is its use of actors that don’t fall into the stereotypical “Hollywood twink” category. What do you think queer viewers will gain from seeing these realistic men on screen as opposed to the glamorized, Hollywood versions we’ve all come to expect?

Wait. I’m not a twink? Kidding. That’s SO BORING. In my experience, a lot of gay men like big hairy man bodies and rugged faces. But eye candy is probably pretty clearly not the focus of this film. That said, you have to admit Daniel Mark Collins is pretty stunning.

As a musician, did you have a big part in sonically shaping the film?

I did. I wrote, performed, and recorded it all with the help of my band, Indiana Queen.

What would the Kevin James Thornton from fifteen years ago think after seeing this film?

Considering that I was on tour full-time with my band fifteen years ago, my first question would be, “Wait, does the record-deal thing not work out?” But then I’d get really excited about seeing all of my creativity come together in a film.

If you were given the option to either travel back in time or into the future, which would you pick?

With the way things are in the world right now, I’m a little scared of the future, so I’m going to pick the past. I’d go back to 1950s Manhattan, get a funky apartment in Greenwich Village, and hunt down James Dean to make him love me.

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How does it feel to have How To Get From Here To There on Dekkoo? What do you think the platform will do for your film, and what do you think the film will do for Dekkoo’s viewers?

I am so thrilled to have my film on Dekkoo. Having my first feature on a legitimate platform is such a huge accomplishment for me. I hope the viewers love it. I really tried to make something outside of the box.

What are your future plans?

I’m in pre-production for a series I wrote called Stranger Hearts. It’s about several diverse LGBTQ people whose lives all cross and connect in profound ways. We’re shooting it in July, and it’s going to be really good!

Where can viewers find you online to learn more?

If you want to keep up with me and my various projects, you can visit my website, the Indiana Queen website, and the site for Stranger Hearts.

Available for streaming on Dekkoo’s diverse selection of gay films and series, you can watch How To Get From Here To There right now!

Pride Month Spotlight: Queercore

Started in the 1980s as a fabricated movement intended to ‘punk’ the punk scene, ‘Queercore’ quickly became a real-life cultural community of LGBTQ music and movie-making revolutionaries.

From the start of the pseudo-movement to the widespread rise of pop artists who used queer identity to push back against gay assimilation and homophobic punk culture, the poignant new documentary Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution is just that: a how-to-do-it guide for the next generation of queer radicals.

Directed by Yony Leyser, this doc features an impressively extensive participant list Included are Bruce LaBruce, G.B. Jones, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, John Waters, Justin Vivian Bond, Lynn Breedlove, Silas Howard, Pansy Division, Penny Arcade, Kathleen Hanna, Kim Gordon, Deke Elash, Tom Jennings, Team Dresch, and many, many more.

Watch the trailer for Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution below. One of our Pride Month selections, the film is now available to watch on Dekkoo.

Q&A with the Creator of Faces: Ben Empey

Isn’t it scary how you can date someone, break up, and then realize that you never really knew who they were? Faces is a Dekkoo-original short film that dives into this topic as the protagonist, Ryan, embarks on the emotional journey of dating Nathan. As is the case with many relationships, things start off great. But how well does Ryan really know Frank? I sat down with the writer and director of Faces, Ben Empey, to talk about the making of the film.

Christopher Charles Baker and Matt Pascua in Faces

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Ben Empey. I grew up in Santa Rosa, California, about an hour north of San Francisco. I went to film school at the University of Southern California, graduated in 2011, and have made a couple of short films since graduating. But before Faces, I hadn’t been behind a camera in six years. I was on a journey getting to know myself and my voice.

What was your main source of inspiration for the film?

The name for Faces comes from the 1968 film of the same name directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, John Cassavetes. His movies are all about authenticity, and it was between his third and fourth films that he decided to stop kowtowing to the studios. So, he made the movie with his own money in his own house with a circle of friends as the cast and crew. I am so inspired by his methodology, and I wanted to honor him.

What can you tell us about the narrative of the film?

It was really important to not clearly delineate what is real and what is in Ryan’s mind because it’s all real in terms of Ryan’s emotional journey. It doesn’t matter what his literal experience was because the narrative is honest to Ryan’s perception of how his relationship progressed.

Christopher Charles Baker and Matt Pascua in Faces

What has your personal experience with dating been like and how has that influenced Faces?

I see myself in both characters. I’ve never really been in a relationship for longer than a couple months, and that’s where Ryan is at the beginning of the film. I’m also like Nathan in that I am emotionally stunted, have issues with vulnerability, and push people away. I find that I chase unattainable men because I know I will never have to be vulnerable with them. I think that some gay men tend to project this armor to protect themselves, and everyone does it a different way. I tell jokes rapid-fire and don’t date men who might actually ask me to open up. I also insulate myself so I don’t have to do the real-relationship thing. Nathan does this too by presenting a glossy version of himself in the first half of the movie, and as that facade breaks down, Ryan gets to know the real Nathan. Michael Benjamin (Nathan 2) is a good friend of mine, and I wanted him to play the part because he projects such warmth and honesty. That gives the character an extra dimension and shows that he’s not a villain. He’s trying his best but is maybe just messed up emotionally from a past relationship. And now, he’s hurting Ryan unintentionally. That will probably fundamentally change Ryan which might lead to him unintentionally hurting his next boyfriend.

When working on Faces, did you have specific directions for the actor playing Ryan (Matt Pascua) when acting in a scene with Nathan 1 vs. Nathan 2?

I really just let the casting do the directing for me. I believe you never want to tell an actor to not feel what they’re really feeling. I don’t think it’s my job to dictate what an emotion is supposed to look like. So, I just let them go. There’s nothing better than watching an actor do something that isn’t how you initially imagined it, but it’s totally dead on. That’s why they’re actors, and I’m not!

What do you think the Nathans meant to Ryan?

Nathan is essentially Ryan’s first love. He’s never had a real boyfriend before and is ready to go all in. The relationship is no doubt going to leave an indelible mark on him.

Habits and falling back into old routines seem to be a major theme in this film. If you could scream something at Ryan through the screen—a warning, a piece of advice, a criticism, etc.—what would it be?

I wouldn’t yell anything at Ryan, because if he guards himself, he’d just turn into Nathan. I wanted him to have this experience and be able to move on to his next relationship knowing that there is no perfect relationship, but he should still be open and dive as his true self. It sucks, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way.

Christopher Charles Baker and Matt Pascua in Faces

What do you think queer viewers will gain from this film?

I’m not interested in watching queer stories where the fact that they’re queer is beside the point. Why can’t we have a major superhero movie where there is a solid romance about two same-sex characters? We get a lot of characters that are flawless models or progressive liberal fantasies. But that’s not human. It’s not real, and it doesn’t interest me. We all have parts of our personalities that we wish weren’t on display, and that’s exactly what I think we should be displaying.

What would 15-year-old Ben say about seeing something like Faces on screen?

15-year-old Ben was so deep in the closet, he probably wouldn’t have watched this film! Haha. But maybe at 17, I would have been incredibly excited to see a well-rounded gay story. I was 17 when Brokeback Mountain came out. It was very important to me to have this gay romance exist at the highest level of studio filmmaking. I wasn’t out then, but looking back, I can see it was hitting me on a subconscious level. It validated my existence in the cinematic world. Film has always been a big passion of mine, and seeing queer stories on screen helped me accept that I was gay. I can’t imagine who I would be if I’d had even more stories or the access to queer content that teens today have because of the internet. Now, you can look up listicles of classic queer cinema and find the movies online. I love it.

What’s the main message you’d like your audience to walk away with after seeing your film?

It all comes back to Papa Cassavetes: be authentic. When you aren’t authentic with other people, getting hurt is inevitable. It’s not sustainable. And part of authenticity is vulnerability. So, reveal yourself! It’s gonna hurt sometimes, but it’s worth it.

Christopher Charles Baker and Matt Pascua in Faces

How does it feel to have Faces featured on Dekkoo?

I’m so thrilled to have Faces on such a cool platform. I remember Dekkoo was featured in Film Comment about a year ago, and I thought, “Damn. One of the best film magazines in the world is devoting space to an all LGBT streaming site. That’s so exciting.” This is the first instance of my work being distributed, and to have it be on an LGBT streaming platform is amazing.

What are your future plans?

I’m trying to get my first feature as a director financed which is an uphill battle. It’s probably clear after viewing Faces that what I’m writing isn’t exactly what you’d consider “commercial.” I like to play with form in everything I do. I’m a bit of a tough sell, but that’s okay. I’m also writing a couple of other things as well that I’m really excited about—all queer in some way. The straights have enough.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on twitter @realtoddhaynes. I am also a co-host on a podcast called movies imo where we pick a new release and discuss it in combination with some other films. You can find it on the podcatcher of your choice.

Christopher Charles Baker and Matt Pascua in Faces

You can watch Faces right now, available for streaming on Dekkoo!

Pride Month Spotlight: Real Boy

Real Boy is the coming-of-age story of Bennett Wallace, a transgender teenager finding his voice – as a musician, a friend, a son, and a man.

Directed by Shaleece Haas, the film follows Bennett over the first three and a half years of his transition – as he grapples with issues of identity, sobriety, and connection to the people he loves. And the person he loves most is his mom, Suzy, who struggles to accept and understand his decision to transition.

As Suzy works to overcome her misgivings, Bennett finds support in the people who understand him best – his musical hero Joe Stevens, a celebrated transgender musician fighting his own demons; and his best friend Dylan, another trans teen on a similar path to young manhood.

At its heart, Real Boy is a story about growing up. It’s a story about the meaning of family, given and chosen. And it’s a story about how our search for identity isn’t just personal, but involves those closest to us.

One of our Pride Month selections, Real Boy is now available on Dekkoo. You can watch the trailer below.

We can’t recommend the gorgeous historical romance The Circle more highly

Part documentary, part narrative feature film, The Circle is a moving tribute to a life-long relationship that overcame intense obstacles and an insightful look at an important chapter in gay history.

Sven Schelker and Matthias Hungerbühler in The Circle

Winner of the prestigious Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, The Circle tells the true story of Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, a schoolteacher and a drag entertainer, who met through their participation in a social network of gay men that developed in Zurich in the 1940s and 1950s. The two began romantic relationship. Interviews with them and other survivors and experts on the era are interspersed with documentary film and photographs as well as a scripted dramatic enactment of the story.

Sven Schelker and Matthias Hungerbühler in The Circle

Founded in the early ’40s, the network around the magazine ‘Der Kreis’ (‘The Circle’) was the only gay organisation to survive the Nazi regime. It blossomed during the post-war years into an internationally renowned underground club.

Sven Schelker in The Circle

Legendary masked balls at the Theater am Neumarkt in Zurich provided visitors from all over Europe with a secret and safe space to act out their ‘otherness’ in a self-determined way. It is there that timid teacher Ostertag falls in love with drag star Rapp. Ernst searches for a way to fight for his gayness to be accepted as normal outside the boundaries of ‘The Circle’ network without losing his employment as a teacher. Röbi champions the joint fruition of their love.

Matthias Hungerbühler in The Circle

Following a murder in the gay community, violent repression against gay people also endangers ‘The Circle’ network. Stefan Haupt’s riveting film uncovers the fascinating universe of one of the first gay liberation communities. Enriched by impressive conversational records with Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, the film depicts a decades-long love story – made taboo by society – and reveals the couple’s inspiring self-knowledge and courage.

The real life Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp

Watch the trailer for The Circle below. It’s now available on Dekkoo.

Q&A with Interested In’s Michael Witkes

Created by Michael Witkes, Interested In (now available for streaming on Dekkoo) follows the story of Parker, a recently out young gay man exploring his sexuality and identity through the lens of hookup culture. This queer comedy series portrays Parker in an array of scenarios reminiscent of the shared experiences many gay males encounter after coming out and diving into the murky waters of gay culture.

I sat down with Michael Witkes to discuss what inspired Interested In and what the process of creating the series was like.

First off, what are you interested in? Who is Michael Witkes?

My name is Michael Witkes, and I’m an actor, producer, director, and writer focused on showcasing LGBT stories in an authentic way. I’m originally from Philadelphia where Interested In takes place, and I currently live in New York City. Artistically, I am most interested in works that explore gay shame, LGBT identity, and expands representation. I also love froyo, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and queer history.

What was the inspiration for the title of the series?

I called the show Interested In because of the tumultuous moment when I first changed my Facebook status to “interested in men.” It felt so official that I was announcing to the world that I was gay, and I wanted to explore how labels can both help and hinder someone, how important they are in shaping identity, and how they can mean both everything and nothing at the same time.

Parker finds himself in some pretty sticky situations. What was your main source of inspiration for the events that take place in Interested In?

Some things are based on events that actually happened to me and some are fabricated. I wrote the first draft in 2013 after I came out in college, and I was trying to express those initial personal moments when you finally come out of the closet and how you can feel so uncomfortable in your own body. As a writer, I see the world in vignettes, and I selected moments that were exemplary of one person’s struggle of coming into himself.

Still from the new gay series Interested In - Now Available on Dekkoo!

How did you curate these vignettes for the screen?

The development of Parker’s character was really the driving force behind the storyline. I wanted to show that character’s journey from being someone who is so freshly out and awkward into someone who is more comfortable in his own skin. At the end of this season, he might not be totally there just yet, but I think he’s making significant progress to get to that point.

What was your personal coming out experience like?

The relationship that Parker talks about in the first episode where he said he was with this boy who wasn’t ready to come out yet and then they broke up because of that—all of that was true for me as well. I was so ready to come out for like a year before I actually did. When it finally happened, all of my friends and family were so supportive, but—at the same time—I was dealing with the loss of my first love so it was bittersweet.

In Interested In, Ep. 3, Parker and his Grindr date not only get intimate physically but emotionally as well. However, in the finale with the lawyer character, there’s more of a “no strings attached” vibe. Why did you decide to showcase this broad spectrum of intimacy in the show?

Representation is so important. Growing up, all the movies and series I watched always showed young gay kids either committing suicide or coming out then living happily ever after. I wanted to show what being gay is really like by exploring both the positive and negative aspects of gay dating in a realistic setting. I was interested in showing how in Grindr culture every interaction can be different.

Still from the new gay series Interested In - Now Available on Dekkoo!

Is Parker a no-strings-attached kinda guy or do you think he’s looking for more?

Parker deeply wants a boyfriend, but he’s very ignorant of the gay dating lifestyle. He goes into these situations expecting a true connection and then is really surprised when that doesn’t happen. For Parker, each episode is a learning moment that he takes onto the next interaction. He figures out things he didn’t know before which is very indicative of how LGBTQ people in real life have to learn things the hard way as they go along.

It’s no secret that in regards to gay culture, there’s a “whole animal kingdom out there.” What is your take on the roles LGBTQ people are expected to take on when participating in the culture (i.e. top, bottom, gay, straight, bi, twink, bear, otter, etc.)?

At first, I was so terrified of coming out that it took me a long time to take on the label of “gay.” But then once you’re out, everyone says, “Oh, now you have to be a twink or an otter, and a top or a bottom.” I was so frustrated by all the boxes I was getting put into. On one hand, I do think that labels can be helpful. Now, I’m so proud to be gay despite the fact that the word used to hold such a stigma for me. But at the same time, I think labels can hinder people. In Interested In, Parker’s journey is figuring out which labels he wants to take on and which ones he can say “thank u, next” to.

In the fourth episode, we get to see an interesting side of Parker when he has a sexual encounter with his ex-girlfriend. As far as sexual orientation goes, what does Parker identify as?

Parker is gay, but that moment with his ex-girlfriend is really important in helping him figure that out and that it’s also okay to keep your options open.

Still from the new gay series Interested In - Now Available on Dekkoo!

What do you think modern-day LGBTQ youth will gain from this series seeing Parker experience the nuances that come with the territory of being a gay man?

I hope Interested In will help queer youths by showing them a story that’s about what comes directly after coming out of the closet. My goal with these vignettes is to show sex positivity and openness in regard to real issues so people can feel more comfortable with themselves. I want people watching the show to go out into the world and have their own vignette moments.

What would 15-year-old Michael Witkes say about seeing something like Interested In on screen?

It would have meant everything to him! Seeing someone struggle to take on their identity would have prepared me to do that before I even had to. Watching the show now, I get nostalgic for what it was like when I was a baby gay.

Why do you think it’s important to show these experiences on screen?

Sex is such a taboo subject, but I don’t think we should feel uncomfortable talking about it. After being closeted for so long, unapologetically showcasing intimate moments between queer people is so important to me. I want to change the conversation about sex and make it more open, comfortable, and sex-positive. Also, showing uncomfortable sexual situations is important because that’s a big part of sex, too. It’s not always this beautiful, perfect moment every single time. There’s a lot of awkward things that happen when you’re being intimate with someone, and that’s okay!

Still from the new gay series Interested In - Now Available on Dekkoo!

What is your take on Grindr and other dating apps, especially the “headless torso” phenomenon broached upon in Ep. 2?

There used to be so much stigma surrounding Grindr. It was something you had to hide on your phone and be embarrassed about, but I don’t think that should be the case. Now that straight people are using dating apps, too, there’s definitely less stigma. Unfortunately, Grindr can represent all the problematic things within the LGBTQ community. It can turn into a big cyberbullying moment with the whole “no fats, no fems” thing which is horrible. I think Grindr is doing a lot to try and change that, but, still, it’s hard to police such a big forum where you can write pretty much whatever you want anonymously.

What plans for Interested In do you have for the future? Can Interested In fans be interested in a second season?

Yes, it’s already written! The second season is going to explore Parker developing into a more confident person with some of the previous characters popping up.

What’s it like to have Interested In featured on Dekkoo?

When I wrote the show, I was writing for a very specific, niche audience, and I think that’s exactly what Dekkoo is for. I’m so grateful that they gave me this unique platform and that they’ve chosen to cater to an LGBTQ audience. All I wanted as a gay kid was something like Dekkoo to watch.

Still from the new gay series Interested In - Now Available on Dekkoo!

Aside from the show, what are you interested in for the future?

I’m just really excited to make more work that explores similar themes but also dives into other topics as well. Since Interested In, I’ve written a lot of content, and I hope this show will give me the platform to bring all of those stories to life!

You can keep up with all things Interested In by visiting their website, Facebook page, and Instagram account. Watch Interested In on Dekkoo today, available now!

Sh*t gets radical in Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution

Started in the 1980s as a fabricated movement intended to ‘punk’ the punk scene, ‘Queercore’ quickly became a real-life cultural community of LGBTQ music and movie-making revolutionaries.

From the start of the pseudo-movement to the widespread rise of pop artists who used queer identity to push back against gay assimilation and homophobic punk culture, the poignant new documentary Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution is just that: a how-to-do-it guide for the next generation of queer radicals.

Directed by Yony Leyser, this doc features an impressively extensive participant list Included are Bruce LaBruce, G.B. Jones, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, John Waters, Justin Vivian Bond, Lynn Breedlove, Silas Howard, Pansy Division, Penny Arcade, Kathleen Hanna, Kim Gordon, Deke Elash, Tom Jennings, Team Dresch, and many, many more.

Watch the trailer for Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution below. The film is now available on Dekkoo.