WINNER of the 1st Online New England Film & Video Film Festival - JURY & AUDIENCE Awards 2009
OFFICIAL SELECTION of the 2009 AGLIFF (Austin, Texas)
WINNER - Lacoy Documentary Award 2009 - FSC
Nine young gay men are interviewed in this unconventional documentary short. All nine men come from various areas across the country (Massachusetts, California, Texas, Indiana, Florida, Michigan, & New Jersey). However, none of the men are seen on screen, instead nine straight actors portray and lip-sync their appearances. The majority supports the minority in this film, as topics range from stereotypes to coming out, civil rights, and personal opinions.
Elisabeth Anne Hughes - Orlando, Florida (Daniel Braga)
Andrew Sambuco - Central Michigan (Scott Musial)
Dave Morgan - Central New Jersey (Anonymous)
Meghan Coughlin - Austin, Texas (Christopher Corales)
Jordan R. McCormack - Central Massachusetts (Anonymous)
Paul H. Cushing - Boston, Massachusetts (Ren Blake*)
C.B. Mullen - Northeastern Indiana (Matthew Spielman)
Dominique Bertel - Northshore Massachusetts (Anonymous)
Douglas Jackson - Southern California (Tommy Augustin*)
*has since come out post the film.
Curtis James Salt - Director, Producer, Script Arrangement, Cinematographer, Editor
Robin Heiser - Gaffer
Matthew R. Sinclair - Key Grip / Additional Editing
Soleil Kelley (3 Leaf Studio ) - Composer / Additional Sound Editing
Special Thanks - Robert Harris, Mary Baker, Zachary Lee, Cheryl Salt, DList, Focus Features
Q: "What attracted you to doing this project?"
Jordan: Curtis has been talking about this project to me ever since we met. He had asked me if I wanted to be apart of it and I said "Of course! It sounds very interesting!" It didn't matter if I was acting or if I was apart of the production team; just to say I was a part of this documentary was all I wanted.
Andrew: A chance to break a restraining wall that separates gays from straights. Here I am, a straight guy, trying to understand what life is like for gays, a nearly impossible thing to do. This was an opportunity to put myself in the shoes of someone gay and to try to see life from that perspective.
David: I think what attracted me to this project was that other people weren’t willing to do it. The director was having trouble getting straight guys to be on camera, lip-syncing to gay men, and I just thought that was so absurd. I think the idea of portraying a gay man makes most straight guys uncomfortable. In mainstream culture, the gay identity is often thought of as not being masculine or being more effeminate. I think that gay people are as diverse as straight people when it comes to defining masculinity within their own culture.
Meghan: I was initially interested in becoming involved for the sole reason that I have worked with Curtis before, and I really enjoy him as a director. However, I came to see the project as a very unique point of view that allowed everyone involved to give a voice to many questions that are often left unanswered because of their tendency to be too personal.
Christopher: The seemingly conflicting concept of acting in a documentary appealed to me, but the biggest reason was Curtis's enthusiasm. He seemed passionate about both the subject matter and the presentation. I feel most young filmmakers tend to favor one over the other.
Soleil: When I first watched The Reality Behind Closed Doors I saw both an opportunity and a challenge to create a score that would bolster the raw, emotional energy that Curtis had captured, while keeping the music hopeful and optimistic. The 'unconventional' nature of this documentary also fascinated me, and by doing this, Curtis has created a very smart, dynamic way to get people like myself to see things from a different perspective.
Dominique: My attraction to this project had been the brutal honesty and the undeniable presence of bold truth. Shying away from eyes that only see in one direction; what they consider “right”, “acceptable”, and “true”. I fell in love with the whole idea of having “real” people speak on behalf of “real” people; not those who become the stereotypical norm (the view that commercial media portrays, falsely.) Every essence of this project became another layer of attraction for me. Making my eyes and heart that much more open and longing.
Paul: I was attracted to the project because I wanted to learn more about some of the issues within gay society. It was interesting to learn so many views from one question. Not a single person that was recorded had a similar view about most of the subjects and that was what really intrigued me.
Q: "Cast, can you identify with your characters at all?"
Elisabeth: I can identify with the character in that he is a human being who wants to be accepted for who he is and not have to conform to anyone else's image of what he should be. To me, that's just a fundamental human right that everyone should have.
Jordan: It was very intriguing to hear his perspective and how he lives as a homosexual, including his stance on certain issues. Most of my friends are gay or lesbians so I know how they feel. But it was also good to hear what other people that I haven't met have to say. I have to say that I agreed with him very easily.
Andrew: It's a hostile world for anyone, especially for a young adolescent. I think all young adults search for a way to identify themselves in a world with so many social facets and cultures. I've asked myself, "Who am I really?" When you find out what makes you, "YOU," you know it; it defines you. Turning away from that is not an option. It is undeniable. You deal with the consequences of that life choice and in turn your lifestyle is formed. Michigan recognized that early, as I did. That makes you unique. Some don't see it from that perspective for one reason or another. If I met Michigan I would ask him if he feels that he is finally living on his terms. I would guess he would say, "Absolutely, yes.”
Christopher: My voice, Matthew, seemed to have had real conflict with the authority figures that reared him. Not until studying his words did I realize how much I had taken for granted the support and approval that I got from very similar influences. I can identify with the confidence I heard in his voice; I can only think this comes from his assurance that he is exactly who he thinks he is. In fact, he would know better than I, since his personality was challenged in a way that I will never experience as a straight man.
Doug: Not so much, I can try and understand his situation and his experiences as an actor; but I have never been through that, so I cannot truly identify with my character.
Paul: The only way I could identify with my character is with not being completely understood by the people around you. It is hard when you feel that you are different; it's even harder to connect. It's harder to gain a sense of reality from the world around you. It can be very disconcerting.
Q: "Soleil, how did you approach and develop a score to this particular film?"
Soleil: In our first meeting, both Curtis and I agreed that we wanted to create a piece of music that someone would want to enjoy in its own right. We came up with a few adjectives to describe this future score, including melodic, relaxed, hauntingly beautiful, piano-laden, at times tense, and importantly, downloadable. I started by sketching out several different themes on the piano that I envisioned would work as both the beginning and closing chapters. Curtis picked his favorites and we were off and going.
For the instrumentation we took the 'less is more' approach by only using piano, strings, electric guitar and adding percussion just for the closing credits. This helped define a 'sound' for the film that people could easily associate with and which wouldn't be distracting. For the closing credits we both wanted a very strong piece that the audience could easily grab onto and associate with the film, so I simply married each of the instruments together with some of the melodies from the intro and body. For me, this really glues the score together and subtly reminds you of the film's characters and their stories."
Q: Cast, are there any hesitations into playing a real person, and how was it approaching the project knowing you would lip-sync?
Dominique: If there had been any hesitation into playing a real person, I would not have accepted being involved in such a project. I would not have not played the role truthfully. To lack one-hundred percent truth would mean that this project would be all for show. Knowing that I would have to lip-sync, I knew that I would have to make large adjustments to my previous acting conditioning. Although this was a new approach to acting, I found great positivity in applying it as acting research and something that I could carry with me in any situation."
Doug: No hesitations; just hoped I could portray him accurately, and hoped that I could get the point across that he was trying to make.
Meghan: In approaching the actual task of syncing, all I had to do was slip into their shoes for a moment. This is when you’re truly able to handle the difficulties of conversational pause and emotion, as they are truly unpredictable. Much more so than one would think!
David: I was worried about the lip-syncing. I found it hard to memorize the lines and we had to do a ton of takes for me to get close to what my character was saying. I just tried to think of the mindset of my character, how he might have looked or what he was doing while he was being interviewed.
Elisabeth: There were a lot of hesitations “playing” Daniel, especially because I hadn't met him, and I don't know exactly who he is. I could only gather the information from the few words he expressed in his interview. I was truly intimidated with playing this person whom I didn't know, but I respected (and admired) all he had to say. I just wanted to “get him right!”
Q: "What was your experience like working on this film?"
Elisabeth: Being at the tail-end of finishing up a 5-year college program in less than 3 years, my time was extremely limited. I wish I could have spent more time developing the character and getting the accent and particulars as exact as possible. This was the most difficult project I've worked on, as I couldn't just say the lines the way I interpreted them.
Soleil: Curtis is expressive, detailed, and maintains a clear vision. And he brings it to the table without hesitation, which is especially useful when writing music. Instead of just blankly saying, "Yeah, make some cool music for my film," he was deliberate in choosing what he wanted where, and what sounds he liked. This made the process much more efficient and enjoyable.
Jordan: Usually on film shoots that I have been a part of, the shoots have taken hours just for one shot. With Curtis, it only took two hours, which I thought was fantastic. It's fun to work with Curtis because he makes you feel comfortable. He is also a professional and takes his work very seriously.
Andrew: It was great. The most rewarding thing about the experience was seeing the final cut, and how all the other cast members did. The stories were powerful, and I felt part of something important.
Meghan: I had so much fun working on this project with Curtis. He gives your part an approachable feeling from the beginning. I had no qualms about syncing even though I had never done it before. I did not feel the impact of the project until I viewed it in totality. It really hit me that these were all people who had spent their whole lives experiencing something I spent one day syncing to a camera lens.
Christopher: Very personal. It felt organic and Curtis kept things highly motivated in his friendly way. I was also the last person Curtis had to film, so knowing not only that Curtis was experienced in getting good takes, he also knew how it would look after editing. This filled me with a lot of confidence that I'd be happy with the finished product.
Paul: Well it was awful at first. I had just got out of class and was running a terrible fever. My body was aching and I wanted to go and bed and sleep. The weather was awful. It was maybe 40 degrees and it was raining heavily outside. The shoot was almost canceled. We ended up finding the perfect spot to do the scenes and it was covered so I didn't get soaked. Curtis was very patient with me and lining my voice up for lip-sync. I started to feel better during the shoot and by the end of it my fever had broken and we got some great footage. It turned out to be a great night!
Q: "What are your current view points on the Civil Rights debate?"
Paul: I will try to keep this as simple as possible. If a law or people restricts someone from expressing themselves, it is wrong. We need to understand that everyone should have the same rights despite the color of their skin, gender, or sexual orientation. We need to fight for freedoms not suffocate it.
Soleil: Optimistic. So much progress has been made even in my short lifetime and I think within a few generations acceptance of others' individuality/orientation will be even greater. Unfortunately there will always be haters, just as there are racists/extremists etc, but over time these people will become more isolated and represent a smaller percentage of our population. Also, organized religion is a huge influence in people's life and I believe that when the religious leaders of the world (including presidents/pm's etc.) will recognize and accept people's individuality/orientation then it will trickle down into the minds of their followers.
Dominique: My viewpoint on the current civil rights debate is the same as so many other debates that are ongoing and not subject to positive change. There is always going to be a group of people that are singled out and refused the right to be viewed as those considered worthy of “equal opportunity”. Change will never come overnight, and it has been proven that it will not gain appearance soon enough. There is always going to be a split, although we are ALL a part of a race dubbed “human”.
Doug: Human beings as a species will always be afraid/scared/ignorant of cultures/ideas/religions that they are not apart of. However, if we can learn to see that everyone is different and find value in those differences, not animosity, then I believe this world would be better off.
Christopher: What's the debate? People should live their lives the way that they want to live it, as long as that does not include harming or persecuting others. History has shown that when the conservative right digs in their heels, it just delays the inevitable, and costs more time, money, and lives than if they just left their target minority alone. I've had gay friends, teachers, roommates, and apparently political leaders my whole life. Yet I'm a functional, sound minded heterosexual man. I feel one of the points this movie makes is that nothing else would automatically be different about me if I were gay; that two random gay men are about as alike as two random straight men. In the grand scheme of things, it's all just semantics.
Meghan: Controversy will always exist, and in life we live to love the people who tell us what we want to hear. If we believe we are unworthy, we will love the people who treat us like trash. If we believe we are just and beautiful, we will love the people who treat us so. So long as we have people like this group: actors, director, and voices in any occupation, to give the debate real-world flavor. Hopefully, we will grow to a conclusion that should help all of us to coexist.
David: I believe gays and lesbians should have the right to marry. It’s a legal issue, not a religious one. No one is asking any religion to endorse gay marriage, just our government. If a religious institution has a problem with gay marriage that’s there issue. That’s why we have separation of church and state. There are rights afforded by legal “marriage” that aren’t covered by civil unions. Marriage is a right of Americans and we don’t have second-rate citizens. When our country is ready there will be another vote, and another if there has to be; but eventually--it’s just a matter of when.
Andrew: I have to admit I don't know much about it. But I think like many of these issues of gay rights, the persistence of the gay community is winning the battle.
Jordan: I honestly feel that people should grow up. People should realize by now that you can't help who you love. If it's wrong that two people who love each other want to be married and spend the rest of their lives together, then we should ban marriage altogether. I hope that some day, people will come to their senses and stop being hateful.