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FUTURES: 'Gayby' Triple Threat Jonathan Lisecki

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire June 21, 2012 at 10:24AM

Why He's On Our Radar: Director Jonathan Lisecki has had great success on the festival circuit with his shorts "Woman in Burka" and "Gayby." His feature debut, a longform version of "Gayby," in which he also plays a supporting role as a catty best friend, made its debut earlier this year at SXSW, and has gone on to play Provincetown, Frameline, and the Los Angeles Film Festival. 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.
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Matthew Wilkas and Jonathan Lisecki in "Gayby."
The Film Collaborative Matthew Wilkas and Jonathan Lisecki in "Gayby."
Why He's On Our Radar:  Director Jonathan Lisecki has had great success on the festival circuit with his shorts "Woman in Burka" and "Gayby."  His feature debut, a longform version of "Gayby," in which he also plays a supporting role as a catty best friend, made its debut earlier this year at SXSW, and has gone on to play Provincetown, Frameline, and the Los Angeles Film Festival.  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.

This LGBT Pride weekend in New York, the film will play at Rooftop Films and BAMcinemaFest.  His films and his mere presence in a room inspire belly laughs.  Lisecki is the rare indie director who will brave the comedy genre -- and he's here to stay.

How have people been responding to the film?

People respond to the film really well.  In a number of audiences, people burst into applause.  You never really think that's going to happen when you're making the film.  On the festival circuit, it's getting great reactions from people all over.  At the Castro [Theater in San Francisco], the audience was primarily LGBT; in Seattle in the day, it was mostly people who were retired.  It's interesting to see it was being enjoyed by a variety of people, which is what my intention was, but you never know if that's going to happen.

I don't care, I like all the audiences.  It's super fun to see it with a gay audience, because they get the stuff in a different way than a straight audience.  I loved when a befuddled straight man admitted he liked my movie without knowing why.  I just like to make things that I think I will enjoy and I hope other people will like them too.

[When I called Jonathan for the interview, he had just Tweeted the following:  "dear straight people, it's ok for gay people to act REALLY GAY! we have earned that right. not all of us want to be butch/pretend straight."]  I just saw your tweet.  It seems like there's a certain response that some people have when gay men in television and film are feminine.  It's become controversial to defend Jack on "Will & Grace."

"Gay film in general now is not just gay film, it's just film, so that's good."

It's a specific kind of person that criticizes it.  They're usually heterosexual. People have the right to nitpick: "Those characters are gay."  They say it like it's bad to be gay.  I'm sorry, it's fine to be gay.  I have a certain set of friends that I hang out with and we get really queeny.  I'm not ashamed I'm not acting like a butch straight-acting guy.  My sense of humor developed as a defense mechanism.  Being funny protected me and many others from getting beat up.  Jack Ferver and I can sometimes be like that.  We play queeny characters in the film.  We're not playing ourselves but we're playing people that exist.  Gay people who act over the top exist, I hate to break it to you.  I don't think people realize that this is how we protected ourself.   I never watched "Will & Grace," but there's something in film criticism where, for some critics, if your film is funny, you get accused of being too sitcom, like it's a bad thing.  To me, being funny is great as long as you're not dumbing it down.  I don't feel like the script dumbs anything down. A gay person says what Matt and Jenn try to do is ludicrous -- because I want that voice to be heard too.

So how does "Gayby" fit in with what's going on in LGBT film right now?

I get this kind of question a lot.  Gay film in general now is not just gay film, it's just film, so that's good.  There are certainly people who are making films more or less for a gay audience.  I titled it "Gayby" so that we would keep away people who wouldn't be into that to begin with.  But this film is half about Jenn and half about Matt, told in my voice, the voice of a gay men.  There's a lot of quality gay cinema being made that is being seen by a wide audience, and that's a good thing.

This article is related to: Interviews, Gayby, Jonathan Lisecki, Futures





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