Below writer-director Jonathan Lisecki shares his favorite (and raunchy) scene from his winning feature film debut “Gayby,” a long form version of his award-winning short of the same name. The film follows thirty-something friends from college Matt (Wilkas) and Jenn (Harris) as they decide they want to bring a baby into the world the old-fashioned way. The couple continues to navigate the daunting New York dating scene throughout their trials and tribulations at attempting pregnancy, and much interpersonal strife and hilarity ensues. “Gayby” opens October 12 in New York and October 26 in Los Angeles.
There’s something about this clip and what happens after that makes it my favorite part of the film. When we were doing our schedule, we realized we would have to shoot on my birthday. Not that I was opposed to that. On an ultra-low-budget film, you can’t be picky about when you work. Perhaps to make up for it, my producer decided to schedule a day consisting of fun sex scenes. Aside from a scene where my character Nelson got to roll around with his paramour Daniel—played by the talented and handsome Charlie Barnett—we chose to do one of the two major sex scenes of the film. There was already the epic one for Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas’s characters: that had been a part of the “Gayby” short, and so I knew what to expect. This one was between Jenn and Louis Cancelmi, whose character is a super-serious young artist who makes extra money painting houses.
In this part of the movie, Jenn’s character goes on a crazy long day’s journey into evening. It’s kind of an homage to any story that involves someone taking a substance to morph into something else—everything from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Captain America.” Jenn drinks an herbal tea concoction that’s supposed to help her get pregnant, and she becomes increasingly horny as the day goes on. We see her having a dance freakout while teaching yoga, going on a terrible date with Peter (Alex Karpovsky), and then trying to get some attention from Adam (Dulé Hill). Because Louis has been painting her apartment, she’s been staying with Matt, but Matt tells her she has to go to her own place for a few hours while he has a hot date with Scott (Mike Doyle).
Jenn Harris is an unbelievably gifted physical comedienne. I’ve known this from the minute I first worked with her, in a show called “The Dilemma of Drugs” at the Pyramid Club. The show was based on the 1971 drug education filmstrip series of the same name. We interpreted the text, as they showed the original slides, which were meant to “explore the dank, squalid world of drug use.” So Jenn acted out a full-on seventies-style acid trip, screaming and gyrating until the audience doubled over in pain laughing. On nights when the crowd was holding back, she would keep at it until they surrendered to her comic genius. We wound up working together several more times; she’s one of the only people who has ever made me break character and laugh while on stage. She’s wildly funny, and the choices she makes are so unexpected. When I was writing “Gayby,” I knew I had to include as much physical comedy as possible, because of Jenn’s once-in-a-lifetime gift. She’s a Carol Burnett for the new millennium.
I met Louis when he was seventeen. He was visiting his sister, the incredibly talented actress Annie Parisse, a close friend of mine. Annie’s friend Deidre and I tortured her all night by telling her how cute her brother was and what we were going to do to him. Louis was a very serious young man, and in a way this character was written as an extreme version of how he was when I first met him. That said, over the years I’ve seen Louis in many plays, including Soho Rep’s storied production of Sarah Kane’s “Blasted.” He has become such a gifted, intensely watchable, actor and a sweet, lovely man. Two years ago, Louis was at the Maryland Film Festival, supporting a film he’d made with Lawrence Levine and Sophia Takal (who briefly cameo in “Gayby),” called “Gabi on the Roof in July.” They were doing something so smart with that film that not everyone got at the time. And I loved everyone in it. I knew then that when I wrote my first feature Louis would have to have a part.
The day we filmed this scene, Jenn kept saying she was going to “bring it” for my birthday. We had cupcakes during lunch, so we were all a little giddy. And out of all the shoot days this one was the wildest and most hilarious to be on set. I don’t want to say too much more about what happens after this scene, but what follows is some insane acrobatic paint-splattered sex. People often say film sets aren’t fun, but we had a blast making this movie.