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The Art of the Short Film: ‘Kept Man’

The Art of the Short Film: 'Kept Man'

Short films are hard. They may take less time to edit or film
than feature length movies, but they also have to do all the things a feature
length movie does in, say, twenty minutes or less. Character development, mood
setting, narrative development, all in a compact series of images and

The benefit, of course, is accessibility (many short films find
a home on the internet rather than the big screen), shorter post-production
times, and shoe string budgets that are not quite so reliant on a big financial
return. As we profiled recently with upcoming indie drama Retake, it can be difficult to get queer film made precisely
because of limited funding and (supposedly) limited audiences. It’s no surprise,
then, that queer audiences can find dozens and dozens of short films online.
Made by queer filmmakers, sometimes with queer actors in the roles, these
shorts utilize accessible online sources to tell unique and captivating stories
for a variety of audiences. And some of them are pretty damn good.

Kept Man, a short
thriller directed by Brett Annese is one of the good ones. A moody, mysterious,
and shocking film, this two-hander depicts the intense relationship between
Jake (Wilson Cleveland, who also wrote) and his new boyfriend, Brian (Hartley
Sawyer, of The Young and the Restless). 

We asked Cleveland why it was important to make Kept Man as accessible as possible.

“When I was a freshman at Boston University, I remember riding
the T for 40 minutes just to see Gregg Araki’s The Living End in an actual
movie theater and thinking it was the hugest deal, because in an odd way it
felt like progress,” he said. “The pre-Internet era accessibility of short or
independent films, gay or straight, were limited.  The Internet has
changed the equation entirely.  YouTube allows creators from any community
underserved by its depictions in mainstream media to share their stories with
each other and the world.”

Any sort of story, too. This is no average romance, but an
homage to other genres, horror chief among them. The 9-minute short cleverly
ratchets up the tension between the two men as Brian becomes unhinged. No clear
timeline is established. How long have they been together? Just when did things
go from bliss to the living hell they find themselves in? As the climax
approaches, you’ll probably realize a twist is coming…but you won’t guess it.

Kept Man keeps
audiences on their toes in other ways, too. It is not, Cleveland says, a story
for only one subset of society (i.e. a queer subset). “I think audiences,
regardless of sexuality, have developed certain expectations for what gay
characters or ‘gay’ stories should look like.  Kept Man is a thriller about a gay couple, played by one
gay and one straight actor. It’s a story that could work just as well with two
women or one man and one woman without changing a word in the script.”

Said straight actor, Sawyer, agreed about the universality of
the story. “Relationships are relationships, generally, regardless of sexual
orientation. The themes in Kept Man
were  relatable to me – anyone who has wondered where the line is between
themselves as an individual and their identity as it relates to a romantic
relationship will relate… and sometimes that is a VERY fine line.”

Check out Kept Man on
YouTube now:

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