The new coming-of-age drama Seeds packs an emotional punch

Young middle-schooler Andy (Emilio Puente) is about to see his world entirely changed. After witnessing the death of his mother during a senseless act of violence, he is sent from Mexico City to Cuernavaca, where he will stay with his paternal grandmother (Carmen Maura).

Diego Alvarez Garcia in Seeds

Tasked with weeding and picking fruit around the property, Andy meets a young, charismatic gardener named Charley (Diego Alvarez Garcia), who seems to be his only source of friendship and camaraderie. As Andy begins getting closer to Charley and searching for information about his absent father (Moises Arizmendi), he finds himself on an increasingly bumpy path through adolescence.

Emilio Puente in Seeds

Seeds, the feature-length debut from award-winning short film and documentary director Alejandro Andrade Pease is gorgeously shot and features arresting performances. This sun-dappled coming-of-age story packs a serious emotional punch.

Emilio Puente and Diego Alvarez Garcia in Seeds

You can watch the trailer for Seeds (originally titled Cuernavaca) below. The film is now available on Dekkoo.

 

Writer-director Yen Tan talks Pit Stop

Pit Stop takes a subtle and eloquent approach in telling the parallel stories of two gay men in a small Texas town. There’s Gabe (Bill Heck): a contractor who’s getting over an ill-fated affair with a married man and finds solace in the relationship he still harbors with his ex-wife, Shannon (Amy Seimetz), and their daughter, Cindy (Bailey Bass); and there’s Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda): a Hispanic lumber yard worker in the midst of splitting up with his live-in boyfriend, Luis (Alfredo Maduro), as he receives news from the hospital that his former love, Martin (Rob Conner), is in a coma. At the end, when Gabe and Ernesto meet for a one-nighter – having endured all the struggles and heartbreaks and wondering if they’ll ever find love again – they face the possibility that they might just be meant for each other.

As a gay Asian-American filmmaker, I always desire to see a broader and more complex range of LGBT characters in cinema. I’m also drawn to stories that delve into the heart of underrepresented communities. Pit Stop is a character-driven drama that revolves around the lives of two gay characters in a red state small town. In today’s climate where there’s so much discourse over gay rights and marriage equality, Pit Stop is my endeavor in diverting that debate into something less political but more emotionally grounded: the meaning of love, the meaning of family, and the meaning of connection. The playwright Adam Bock once said, “In being specific in my work, that’s how universality happens. Everybody is lonely, everybody is afraid. As artists, as we get more specific, the universe appears.” This is precisely what I seek to achieve with Pit Stop.” – Yen Tan

Photo of writer/director Yen Tan

Q&A with Yen Tan

 

How did the story come to you?

The idea for Pit Stop came about in 2002 when I was commuting between Dallas and Houston (where my editor was based) for the post-production of my first film, Happy Birthday. I made “pit stops” for gas and coffee in the small towns in between the cities, and I started to think about what it’d be like to live there as a gay man. My curiosity led to some research online, and I corresponded with several gays and lesbians who live in small towns. They were people who chose to be in places that may not be accepting of their lifestyles. Yet, they managed to blend in seamlessly with the rest of their community, holding jobs as conventional as everyone else’s. They were mechanics, teachers, construction workers, business owners, or law enforcement officers.

Nevertheless, these small towners are not as “out” as the average gay urbanite. Being gay is part of their identity, but it’s not necessarily something they’d talk about openly. A few of their close confidants may know, but for the most part, DADT (“Don’t Ask, Don’t-Tell”) is the prevailing attitude. This all brought back another distant memory I had in college. I was studying at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and used to frequent a gay bar called The Garden. One cold winter night, I met Larry, a farmer who lived near Ames. Since his place was too far away and I had a roommate in my dorm, we ended up spending the night in his truck at a secluded residential area. He was closeted and had an ex-wife who doesn’t know he’s gay, and they had a kid who was about to attend elementary school.

This provided a foundation for me to work off from, and I started to write the script with Larry’s story as a starting point. Little did I know I was gonna be working on the script for close to ten years, and eventually co-wrote it with David Lowery.

 

When did you begin production? How long did it take?

We shot the film in Texas – Austin, Bastrop, Dripping Springs, Lockhart – in the summer of 2012. Production took about a month.

 

Did you face any difficulties in making the film?

It took so long to get the script off the ground, and it was nearly impossible to find financing for the film. I must have shelved the project more than a dozen times. Being accepted by the Outfest Screenwriting Lab in 2009 was certainly a confidence boost, and once we received a production grant from Austin Film Society in 2011, that very quickly led to more grants (i.e. Vilcek Foundation) and funding opportunities.

Casting was occasionally frustrating. There were times where I wondered if I was making the film twenty years ago, where actors would balk at the gay content and gave ridiculous reasons to back out of auditions. There was a nice counterbalance: actors who didn’t care and who responded to the story and characters were incredibly passionate. Production went fairly smoothly, self-inflicted mental torture aside.

 

What do you want the audience to take from the film?

I wasn’t interested in making anything sensational or had a “message.” My intent with Pit Stop is to always focus on the characters’ humanity and their way of life. My hope is that the integrity of this approach enables the audience to fully empathize with their emotional journeys and their plights in finding, losing, and rediscovering love.

Original Poster Art for Pit Stop

Why “OUT on Stage: The Series” is Very Important

It’s no secret that straight, white males have dominated the stand-up comedy scene since its creation. Luckily for members of the LGBTQ community, there’s a new TV series dedicated to changing that. OUT on Stage: the Series showcases LGBT comedians breaking OUT of stand-up comedy’s status quo and presents to the world something groundbreaking that will make a place for queer comics in the stand-up comedy world for years and years to come.

Hosted by Zach Noe Towers, OUT on Stage was filmed in L.A. in front of a live audience and features comics Gloria Bigelow, Janine Brito, Chris Bryant, A.B. Cassidy, Anthony Desamito, Joe Dosch, Jared Goldstein, Eric Hahn, Casey Ley, Julian Michael, Jordan Pease, Raneir Pollard, Jonathan Rowell, Brendan Scannell, Kyle Shire, Irene Tu, and Daniel Webb. The series consists of six episodes that run roughly around 35 minutes, three queer comics performing each episode and sharing their comic routine. You may be asking what’s so revolutionary about that?

After all, LGBTQ comedians aren’t exactly new. I mean, hello? Ellen Degeneres, Tig Notaro, Wanda Sykes, Lea DeLaria, and Jaffe Cohe n are only but a few of the many revered queer comics. The list goes on and on and hopefully will continue to grow as we move forward into the next decade and progress as people. But here’s what really sets OUT on Stage apart from the LGBT comedians before it: it’s queer comedy for queer people.

In the past, LGBTQ comedians performed for primarily straight, cisgender audiences which begs the question: were they truly being accepted or were they just the butt of the joke the whole time? In the world of stand-up comedy, most comedians will take whatever laughs they can get whether it’s at the expense of other people or even themselves, and queer comics are no exception. “I have built a career out of self-deprecating humor, and I don’t want to do that anymore… I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak, and I simply will not do that anymore, not to myself or anybody who identifies with me. If that means that my comedy career is over, then, so be it,” says queer comic, Hannah Gadsby, in her Netflix special, Nanette (2017). But what if this arena where self-deprecation is key to a queer comic’s success is based more on the heteronormative audience than the comic themselves? More to the point, maybe Gadsby’s notion of quitting stand-up comedy isn’t quite the right idea. Maybe all queer comedy needs is the right audience.

With that in mind, what makes OUT on Stage so great is that it doesn’t cater to a straight, cisgender audience, and actually supplies these queer comics with a primarily queer audience. It’s in this uncensored space where LGBTQ stand-up comedians can unabashedly thrive without fear of judgment or persecution, sharing their queer experiences with queer people. In fact, the key to this show’s magic is the experiences that both the audience and the comic share having lived the life of someone who identifies as queer. Whether intentionally or not, this series has given queer stand-up comedy the chance to truly come OUT of the closet and show off its big guns.

While OUT on Stage is a major step for queer-identifying people everywhere, there were also a few drawbacks (that—for the record—could be chalked up to these comics being used to catering to non-inclusive, patriarchal audiences in order to make headway in the stand-up comedy industry). The biggest flaw with the series was that it was incredibly male-centric (although it could also be argued that gay men haven’t had a chance to thrive in the comedy industry because straight men find them threatening to their ideas of manhood and that lesbians created a space because they’re deemed “non-threatening”). Lesbians Irene Tu, Janine Brito, A.B. Cassidy, and Gloria Bigelow showcased their talents on the show, but a more diverse group of LGBTQ comedians would have been even more revolutionary.

In fact, aside from the gays and lesbians, it seemed that the other letters of the acronym were particularly lacking. Seeing as we’re still fighting for trans rights to use the bathroom, maybe comedy isn’t yet quite a safe enough place for transgender people. And bisexuals, I’m sure, are clinging to the low-side of the Kinsey Scale in order to relate to their straight audiences. You can’t exactly blame the oppressed for playing the hand they’re dealt.

Another observation that was less than ideal was the reinforcement of some negative stereotypes amongst the community such as enforced “traditional” gender roles amongst same-sex partners, unsafe sex positivity, and fat shaming. Maybe this analysis is a bit too critical considering it is a stand-up comedy show where political correctness and progressive ideals are put on a slight pause. Regardless, OUT is innovative, and hopefully, we can look forward to the second season of OUT to break down some of these barriers.

At the end of the day, OUT on Stage is a great show for the LGBTQ community to finally get a taste of what comedy aimed at their own experiences is like. If you’re looking for some gut-wrenching laughs, OUT on Stage the series can be streamed on Dekkoo, a gay-centric streaming service. It’s what queer people deserve. One step for gays; a giant step for LGBTQ-kind everywhere.

Very special thanks to Austin for sharing! You can watch OUT on Stage now on Dekkoo.

Two men. A small town. A love that isn’t quite out of reach.

In Pit Stop, a perfectly-crafted American drama, openly gay Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) and closeted Gabe (Bill Heck) grapple with the sad tribulations of being gay in a small, working-class Texas town. This truly uplifting love story, given great critical praise when it first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, delicately examines male intimacy, the heartache of unsuccessful relationships and the transformative power of love.

Marcus DeAnda and Bill Heck in Pit Stop

“I need to get on with my life,” Ernesto pronounces as he kicks out live-in ex-boyfriend Luis. Macho yet sensitive, Ernesto still carries a hopeless torch for his other ex-lover, Martin. Meanwhile, down-to-earth building contractor Gabe seeks solace with his ex-wife and six year-old daughter while pining over the loss of his relationship with Chuck. Trying to find connection amidst formidable loneliness – this is the story of Ernesto and Gabe.

Bill Heck and Amy Seimetz in Pit Stop

Reminiscent of such classic rural gay love stories as Big Eden and Brokeback Mountain – and showcasing equally accomplished performances from its handsome leads – Pit Stop achieves an understated tone of authenticity rarely seen on screen as it shows us a tender, beautiful slice of gay American life.

Marcus DeAnda in Pit Stop

Watch the trailer for Pit Stop below. The film is now available on Dekkoo.

Watch the trailer for the profoundly moving new short film Louder Than Words

Louder Than Words, written and directed by Julio Dowansingh, is an independent short film that follows a young musician named Ansel (Luke Farley), and his unexpected encounter with Niall (Marty Lauter), an endearing, deaf dancer.

Marty Lauter in Louder Than Words

When forced to share a studio space, artists Ansel and Niall find themselves awkwardly beside each other, performing song and dance respectively. They have an underlying connection, and that is a closeted interest and admiration of each other. While Niall can read lips, an obvious language barrier still stands between him and Ansel.

Luke Farley and Marty Lauter in Louder Than Words

In order to communicate, Ansel and Niall must step out of their comfort zones, because even though they share similar passions and quickly inspire each other, the inevitable risk of miscommunication – both in language and emotion – remains, rendering their hidden affection almost impossible to express. 

Luke Farley in Louder Than Words

The film explores the sheer struggle that queer people often face in a culture that is yet to fully foster accepting spaces for courtship and love. At its core, the story portrays how difficult it can be to communicate romantic interest as a queer person, and in this case, an added impediment of being hearing impaired.

Luke Farley and Marty Lauter in Louder Than Words

Louder Than Words is now available to stream on Dekkoo. Check out the trailer below.

Censored Dreams takes an insightful look at filmmaking in the Philippines

Get an in-depth look into the independent film scene in the Philippines with this sexy and thought-provoking feature from director Joselito Altarejos.

Censored Dreams takes us through the process of making a gay-themed feature film by following the lives of an aspiring actor named Samuel (played by Arjay Carreon) and a struggling filmmaker named Wilfredo (Richard Quan).

Samuel has hung all of his hopes and dreams on becoming an actor. He’s hoping Wilfredo, who has also staked his livelihood on finishing their film, can help make his dreams a reality. Their hopes, unfortunately, are dashed when the Board of Censors assigns their new project an X-rating, which means it will be banned from being shown publicly. Their path toward fame and fortune is suddenly littered with even more obstacles.

Censored Dreams is available now on Dekkoo.

Take a trip back to 1992

The new 25-minute short film 1992 follows Martin (Louis Duneton), a seventeen-year-old student who and spends the majority of his time behind a video camera, recording everything everything that catches his eye. One day, he meets an older man named Dominique (Matthieu Dessertine), who works as a watchman at his school. After their first encounter, Martin seems to only have eyes for his new crush.

Louis Duneton and Matthieu Dessertine in 1992

Examining infatuations, the frustrations of adolescence, father-son conflict, first-time sexual experiences and the way being a gay teen has changed from the early ’90s to now, director Anthony Doncque’s period piece 1992 is provocative and brutally honesty. The film depicts a warts-and-all sex scene between a teen and a twenty-something that should ring familiar to any or us who came of age pre-internet.

Louis Duneton and Matthieu Dessertine in 1992

Louis Duneton and Matthieu Dessertine give committed, completely fearless performances and Doncque stands out as a talented director worth keeping an eye on.

You can watch 1992 now on Dekkoo. Just be warned: the film features scenes of graphic sexuality. Viewer discretion is advised.