Last spring, George Northy was working at an ad agency and chipping away at a screenplay, “G.B.F.,” about a school with a new trend: All the girls need to have this season’s hottest accessory of a gay best friend.
“G.B.F.” focuses on two closeted gay high school students — one shy but flamboyant, one more reserved. When shy guy Tanner is outed, he is picked up by the cool girls and he begins to surpass still-closeted Brent in popularity.
Northy searched the Internet for LGBT screenwriting competitions and turned up listings for Outfest’s Screenwriting Lab and NewFest’s NewDraft Screenplay Contest (full disclosure: I headed it at the time). By the time both festivals came around last summer, Northy was a finalist for both.
Guinevere Turner, who has been involved with the Outfest Lab for some time, sent the script for “G.B.F.” to Darren Stein (“Jawbreaker”). Stein told Indiewire, “I thought, since it came from Guinevere, that it would be a dark script. I read it and I was laughing out loud. It felt like a classic teen movie. It jumped off the page in a way that most screenplays don’t. It was so snarky and smart, about something close to my heart and culturally relevant. It wasn’t message-y or preachy. I was very, very excited. It’s very rare to laugh out loud reading a script.”
After reading the script, Stein knew he would not only direct the Outfest reading of a scene (which attracted Raven Symoné to the table read), he also knew he wanted to make this film. According to Northy, “He called me immediately after he read it. He said, ‘Let’s do this reading thing, but let’s also make this.’ I was so surprised. I didn’t have to really go out there and really trudge around. Once Darren got it to his manager, who became my manager, she got people on board, including investors.”
The team also gathered producing help quickly from the Outfest Lab in the form of Stephen Israel and Richard Bever. Though Stein told Northy he’d make the film with $100,000 if need be, the team was fairly successful in raising funds for the film.
For Stein, the teen movie genre holds a special place. After describing “G.B.F.” by saying it’s as if “‘Heathers,’ ‘Mean Girls,’ ‘Jawbreaker,’ all the John Hughes movies were put into a blender, masticated and came out the other end,” he continued. “You see all the influences, but it’s also something new and fresh.”
Speaking of his attraction to films about high school, Stein said, “Everyone goes to high school. You can play out bigger dramas in a place where you’re coming of age and feel unformed as a human being. You’re going through puberty, you want to lose your virginity, you’re awkward looking, you’re not one of the cool kids.” He continued, explaining his own experience as a teenager, “I went to an all-boys prep school. All I did was study, I didn’t have an exciting high school experience. I guess my escape were these films, these fantasies of a high school experience where people were hooking up and losing their virginity.”
Stein and Northy are incredibly happy with the 18-day shoot, which just finished in Los Angeles. Michael J. Willett (“United States of Tara”) stars as Tanner; Paul Iacono (“The Hard Times of RJ Berger”) is Brent. A trio of snarky, popular girls is played by Andrea Bowen (“Desparate Housewives”), Xosha Roquemore (whose “fluorescent beige” line in “Precious” was one of that film’s most memorable moments) and Sasha Pieterse (“Pretty Little Liars”). Pop star JoJo stars as the President of the Gay Straight Alliance. “Will and Grace” alum Megan Mullally plays Brent’s mother and Natasha Lyonne and Horatio Sanz play the Gay Straight Alliance advisor and school principal, respectively.
Northy was in awe of how it looked to see his words come to life, thanking the work of costume designer Kit “Pistol” Scarbo (“Project Runway”), production designer Michael Fitzgerald and DP Jonathan Hall (“Teen Wolf” and “Walking Dead”).
The team is hard at work editing the film, which they’re looking to debut at a festival in early 2013. Northy is on leave from his job in advertising, with no immediate plans to return.