What does queer stand for? To me, it’s just a title of one of my short films. To others, it incites emotions that apparently I don’t understand. Or do I?
In 2014, I received a short film script from a local filmmaker, Richard Kodai. At the time, I was producing a lot of original content at a pretty consistent basis, so I had to put it off. Toward the end of 2015, I announced my ‘creative hiatus’ from the film-making scene, because I’d experienced a creative drought and a lack of cooperation from others. Although this hiatus was technically still on, I decided to go ahead and produce this script before I totally quit for the year. I hadn’t really collaborated outside of my own group, so I wanted to try something different.
The original script was titled, ‘The Crazy Guy.’ It was a working title and the script was written with improvisation in mind, so I contacted Richard to make sure I had the green light to modify things. I liked the script, but in order to be on frequency with what we generally produce at UDCM, I needed to add some funk to it. Once I started rewriting it, I started thinking about the title and right away, I thought “Queer” would fit it perfectly. With the help of great improvisation from Rob, I felt we had a good shot to make this something everyone involved would love.
Obviously, I’m not a dummy. I’m not doing this to offend people. I know the word was reclaimed in the 80’s as a derogatory term towards homosexuals, but this film doesn’t touch on homosexuality at all. It’s just queer, in the 16th century meaning of the word. It’s strange; it’s odd. I knew using this word as the title was a risk, but I knew that it fit it perfectly. Needless to say, it put me in a queer situation.
The Literal Definition of Queer
You Can’t Please Everyone
We produced it all in one muggy afternoon. It was hard work, filled with tons of queer situations. My day started at 7am. I had to clean out my car, convert it to where the back seats were down, load up all the equipment, go to Target to buy batteries and another SD Card, pick up some lunch for everyone, and then drive to the beaches to pick up Rob, before heading back to downtown to shoot. On my way to the shoot location (an apartment downtown), I was using GPS on my phone to get there. As soon as I pulled up at the apartment, my phone died. This apartment was an old hotel, converted into an apartment. It was the kind where you have to buzz yourself using a 3 digit code given to you by the tenant. Anyway, I didn’t have any of that and I had no charger on me. So, I sat there… with the fried chicken and all my equipment… contemplating my next move. At this point, it was 2pm. I wanted to get started at noon, so we were 2 hours behind. Not to mention, the help that I had the day before, canceled on me last minute. As you can see, the situation was queer. At one point, we were questioning if we should even shoot it, but I had already invested too much time into it, so I had to do it. We ended up shooting it in about 3 hours at 3 separate locations and before 10pm, I had it almost 90% rough edited.
At this point, I started working on the movie poster for promotions. It was scheduled to come out on July 15th at the Sun Ray Cinema Short Film Showcase, so I wanted to get something out there well ahead of that to get it noticed. I found the perfect shot to represent the film and produced the poster in about half an hour. The next day, I started distributing the poster via social media. I never put much thought at this point how the title would be received, but soon after, I started realizing it might be a bit more controversial than I thought. The first suggestion to change it came the day I released the poster. At first, I didn’t back down. I felt passionate about my choice to use this word. My basis for choosing it was that I was confident it would be received well after people saw it. Also, I firmly believe that words don’t hurt. Some might say that I’m at an ‘advantage’ because I’m a Caucasian, heterosexual male and I ‘have it easy’, but whenever someone calls me a name, it doesn’t create any sort of feeling about myself. I don’t think that maturity and sense of self has anything to do with me being a straight white dude. It’s because I’m an adult that knows who I am and at 33, I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks of me. The only image I’m trying maintain is the true person I am and if people don’t like it, then that’s just the way it is.
Really, a large part of my reasoning for using the word queer in this short film is to prove a point. Society is becoming weak and oversensitive, to the point where we are losing our rights to speak freely, in order protect the feelings of some people. Instead of parents raising their children to have thick skin, we’re being forced to live in a world full of eggshells, constantly walking on them because so many have been raised to allow words to hurt them. We are unwillingly and unknowingly being forced into tribalism, by classification and division, be it by race, gender, sexuality, etc. I hate this and I hate how weak we are becoming as we get spread further and further apart by the powers that be. Instead of being seen as human, we’re seen as black, white, asian, gay, transgender, rich, poor, etc. This is not good for the human race. I mean, I shouldn’t be forced to live in fear of hurting someone’s feelings, because I want to use a word that traditionally means exactly what I’m trying to say. In all fairness, a one word, one syllable title is more effective and powerful than a three word, four syllable title. However, in my position, I have to think about the others involved in the project and how the title affects them. With the resistance I experienced after releasing it, needless to say, I ended up pulling the poster distribution. I slept on it for a night and decided to change the title to ‘The Oddball.’ It was weak. It suddenly turned this, once well thought out package, into a slapstick comedy. I wasn’t pleased, nor was Rob, but I guess, you can’t please everyone.
Feeling defeated, a few days passed. The more I looked at the poster, the more un-excited I became about the project. The title was weak. It was too politically correct, but it seemed to make some involved happy. I released the poster ‘The Oddball’ and that was that. Or was it? As Rob and I were conducting his ADR session and shooting “Skate Life: Downtown Edition” he brought the title up again. Rob has been my partner since day one of UDCM and we’ve both been on the same page about what our intentions are. Hearing him say he didn’t want to be behind this project anymore made me think hard about it.
I suggested changing the title to ‘Weird’ and he still wasn’t too thrilled about it. I couldn’t make everyone happy, so I decided at that point that I didn’t want to release it. We still had more audio to work on and the final scene had a lot of masking to do, so I decided to just enter in Painting with Pat in place of Queer. For a whole year, I sat on that film. Lots of change happened in my life since shooting this a year ago: my second child was born, I lost my job at Fanatics, I moved my family twice… and so much more. All the change really put things into perspective for me.
Recently, as Rob and I started picking up on old projects, I decided to go ahead and whip out Weird to finish editing it. As I was going through editing and polishing up the loose ends, I made several decisions that weren’t part of the original release. I decided to leave out the ADR sessions and instead, insert subtitles. Also, I realized that the title ‘Weird’ was just not going to cut it.
So here you go. After a year of sitting in line, I present to you our short film: Queer.