Friday, 21 March 2014

Interview with Darren Stein, Director of G.B.F.

You have no idea how excited I am about today's interview! Thanks to Egmont UK and Peccadillo Pictures, who are working together to promote YA novel Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan and teen comedy G.B.F., I was offered the amazing opportunity to interview Director Darren Stein, and watch an advanced DVD of G.B.F. So awesome! I cannot tell you how chuffed I am to have been able to interview Darren!

Two Boys Kissing is about two teen guys trying to break the world record for the longest kiss to bring attention to gay rights. G.B.F. is about three Queen Bees fighting over Tanner when he's accidentally outed by his best friend, as having a Gay Best Friend is the new "thing".

I can't tell you just how funny G.B.F. is, and so important! It's absolutely incredible! Watch the trailer, then read on for the interview!

Darren SteinHi Darren! Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you about your latest teen movie,G.B.F. G.B.F. is a standout movie; hilarious, but also current and very relevant. I loved it!

Can you tell us a little about your history as a director?

I’ve been making films since I was a kid. I remember when my Dad brought home his first camcorder in 1981 or so. I was 10 and I couldn’t wait to start making films. My father ran a motion picture film lab that his parents started as a camera shop in the 60s. Cinema became my form of story-telling because I was so familiar with it as the family business.

When you were first given the script for G.B.F., what was it that appealed to you? What had you signing up as director?

The script immediately had me laughing which is most important. But even more, it was a teen film that needed to be told. I was a bit frightened by the GBF title at first but then I realized the script was smartly skewering that notion as well as any way we try to commodify or label people. I also loved that it had a language that felt fresh. Part of the magic of Heathers or Clueless was the slang it invented. I still say, “How very.” By the time we got to “fetch” with Mean Girls I was kind of annoyed frankly. I thought that fetch was just silly. I much prefer Quiche.

A “G.B.F.” – Gay Best Friend - is a supporting role, a minion to a Queen Bee, yet the movie takes that very stereotype to put two gay guys front and centre and give them their own voice, let them tell their own story – the first I've seen in a teen movie. G.B.F. is undeniably an important movie for this reason alone. Is this something you think we’ll see more of in teen movies?

There is already a new MTV show called Faking It with Michael Willett from GBF. It’s about two girls who are outed as lesbians even though they’re not. They continue to play the role since it gives them visibility at the school. Michael’s character is the gay who rules the school, an extension of Michael’s character in GBF. So yes, I think we will be seeing more stories where gays have their own voice and their own stories to tell. The outsider is not the sidekick or adversary or strictly comedic relief anymore.

The same can be said for YA as well, with Levithan a prominent name in LGBTQ. With Two Boys Kissing, it's not just the book but the characters as well that say, "We're here and we're going to be seen." 

G.B.F. is a great movie for showing how far we have progressed, with the Gay/Straight Alliance and the alternative prom. The fact that G.B.F. exists shows how much times have changed – and are still changing. Two Boys Kissing also discusses the changes we've seen, with the Greek chorus commenting on the "freedoms" LGBTQ people now have that they didn't. Would you say G.B.F. is a celebration of how far we have come?

GBF is very much a celebration. There’s that spirit of joy and playfulness throughout the film. It’s really optimistic and warm towards it’s characters. It’s more rare to see a film like GBF that the snarky, dark or nihilistic visions. It’s refreshing that a story from a gay perspective doesn't need to be melancholy or painful. John Hughes and Amy Heckerling teen films are celebrations. Why not find joy in the story of a gay lead?

G.B.F.What I love about G.B.F. is that it’s a comedy like most teen movies, rather than a serious "issue" filled drama. The overall feel is that G.B.F. is a teen movie, not a gay movie, showing that stories about LGBTQ characters don’t have to be - shouldn’t be - treated differently – which is the whole theme of G.B.F.; LGBTQ people are just like everyone else.

That’s exactly the reason I signed up to direct the film. If it only appealed to a gay audience it wouldn't have been as intriguing to me. I always knew the gays would love the film. What’s really important is that the film is seen in a universal context – the teen genre, not the gay genre. It’s a high school story, not just a gay story. The world is very much like any American teen film.

Similarly, Two Boys Kissing isn't just a gay story, it's all about taking a stand and making the statement that the LGBTQ community shouldn't be treated diffferently.

Both Two Boys Kissing and G.B.F. highlight important concerns for the LGBTQ community, such as coming out, equal rights, homophobia, and religious views, as well as stereotypes. All are serious topics, but where Two Boys Kissing takes a serious look, G.B.F. uses humour to help hit the point home.

The film has substance and doesn't shirk away from the very real homophobia that exists. For every Caprice who embraces her gay friends, there’s a McKenzie (Evanna Lynch) who thinks gays should burn in hell. We’re still very much living in a polarized world with rampant hatred and ignorance. The film couldn't be blissfully unaware of that reality.

One of the first lines of the movie is "There’s so much pressure to be a trendsetter, a pioneer." Do you feel there is a similar pressure with G.B.F., as it’s paving the way for future teen movies with LGBTQ protagonists? Was there any worry how the movie would be received by the LGBTQ community, and society at large?

Films are such massive undertakings that you do want to feel like you’re telling a new story or doing something new with the medium. We brought GBF to studios first because we wanted the film to be produced and marketed like any other teen comedy. Unfortunately, they all passed and it wasn’t just because it was gay. They just aren’t making teen films at American studios anymore like they were in past decades. It’s all tent pole movies, superhero films and remakes. It’s an even tougher environment financially to tell a new story, which is why we make these films independently, because they are stories that must be told.

Compared to other teen movies I’ve seen, G.B.F. is pretty clean, yet I read that G.B.F. was rated R in America for sexual references. It’s absolutely ridiculous! Why do you think the MPAA would label G.B.F. it as such?

I think GBF was rated R for raunchy humor that has an explicitly gay persperctive. I’m not sure the MPAA was ready for that yet. It’s not just a teen film with a gay hero but the language and slang is very gay-centric. That was the only realistic way to be true to the genre. Also perhaps having a Mormon seduce the gay boys in such an aggressive manner might have been a little much for them. I didn’t want the sexuality to be any less intense simply because it was two guys. I don’t think the MPAA was ready for it. They’re a conservative organization. It’s not going to stop the film from finding it’s audience.

Two Boys Kissing by David LevithanWhat do you hope the audience takes from G.B.F.? The lasting impression you would like them to finish watching the movie with?

I want the audience to leave the film with that same satisfaction they get from any great comedy. I think the film should leave you with a warm feeling, like you got to know some new friends and perhaps you’d like to go back and revisit them. Also, the feeling of knowing that the times, they are a’changin’!

Anything else you would like to add?

That’s it. Thanks so much for the interview. I appreciate it!

Thank you again, Darren, for taking the time to answer some questions for Once Upon a Bookcase! Check out my reviews for both G.B.F. and Two Boys Kissing, and be sure to watch and read both! Details below.

Movie Details                                                   Book Details
G.B.F. Release Dates:                                     Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Cinema Release Date - 21st March 2014             Published: 27th March 2014
On Demand Release Date - 22nd March 2014     Publisher: Egmont UK
DVD Release Date - 7th April 2014                     David Levithan's Website
Director: Darren Stein
Film Distributor: Peccadillo Pictures

Thank you to Egmont UK and Peccadillo Pictures for offering and arranging for me to interview Darren Stein!

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