Dan Steadman and Joseph Kim talk about their new film (now on DVD)
by Gary M. Kramer -
SGN A&E Writer
CIRCA 87 (DVD)
Available now via the website www.circa87.com and on Amazon, writer/director Dan Steadman's film Red Lodge is a funny, sweet, and touching romantic comedy-drama. Jordan (Joseph Kim) proposes to his boyfriend of two years, Dave (Rich Pierre-Louis), who accepts. But Dave returns the engagement cock-ring when the couple heads off to Jordan's Aunt Vanity's (Diane Kylander) home for the Christmas holidays. While the seething Jordan is giving Dave the silent treatment, Dave bonds with Jordan's adopted sister Lisa (Jessica Garibay) and flirts with a young ski instructor. In separate Skype interviews, SGN caught up with (Gay) Dan Steadman and (straight) Joseph Kim to talk about their amusing and poignant Red Lodge.
Gary Kramer: Dan, why did you make a dramedy about Gay marriage set at Christmastime?
Dan Steadman: I wanted to make a Christmas movie with Gay characters at the forefront. I love the holidays. There have been films I like set at Christmastime with Gay supporting characters, such as Home for the Holidays, The Family Stone, and Love, Actually. I like movies with emotional truths. I wanted to walk the line, and show the reality of the holidays, but not make a movie about cynicism. Most of my favorite Christmas stories are the holiday episodes of thirtysomething and My So-Called Life.
Kramer: Joseph, what appealed to you about Jordan's character?
Joseph Kim: Jordan's character doesn't play into the stereotype in the Gay community that the Asian is more effeminate, or less dominant. What I liked about this was that there was no sense of 'Who's the top?' The [lovers] are buddies. Society tends to define people by what they do in the bedroom, not who they love.
Also I don't see [many] leading Asian males. I want to defy every stereotype. I'm not Bruce Lee or good at math. I am who I am. This film broke down the walls of stereotypes. Both leading characters are minorities. Rich [Pierre-Louis, who plays Dave] asked why I wanted to do this. I said I was secure in my sexuality, and it's an opportunity and an honor that someone believes I can realistically play this. Asian men are [rarely] romantic leads. Jackie Chan is not marketed that way. How come I never see Asians kiss on screen? I never get romantic leading roles, and I got one in this movie. The character being Gay matters little to me, but it's a treat. I get to expand my acting repertoire.
Kramer: On that same idea, Joseph, you created a back-story for your character. Do you like to make up back-stories about strangers as Jordan and Dave do?
Kim: As an actor, you create on your own experiences. There are people I've considered 'the one' and you like them so much, you just know. And when you get rejected, it hurts so bad. I projected that same emotional trauma [as Jordan] on Dave. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, and was so devastated. So it helps set up the subtext. The hurt looks are living in the moment - flabbergasted in being rejected. I've experienced unrequited love often. The silent treatment I gave Dave was based on an experience I had before that was so incredibly painful that it's better to pretend it never happened than confront it and fall to pieces.
Kramer: Dan, why did you build all the dramatic tension around these two characters who were pushing each other's buttons?
Steadman: When it comes to the two leads, they are feeling hurt during the time of the year when you are not supposed to feel hurt. It's a huge challenge to do that when you don't have action scenes and car crashes and gunshots. For a character-driven piece, you need great actors who can express hurt and resentment and have them show that unfold. They need to have a fight. Is that fight going to happen during the artifice of 'we're going to have a threesome during Christmas' - that would be the worst time!
Kramer: Speaking of the threesome, Joseph, how was filming that hot tub scene?
Kim: I was turning into a fucking prune! We were in that really hot water for a couple hours. I don't want to get in hot tub anymore.
Kramer: My partner cried at the film's romantic sentiment 'Love grows in the silence shared between two people.' Dan, are you a romantic softy, or more cynical when it comes to relationship?
Steadman: I'm right down the middle. I believe that love is possible, but I'm jaded about it happening to me. I believe it happens to others and I believe it could happen to me. That is my storytelling. I'm not writing that not believing that. I believe that Jordan and Dave could exist. I think when you see the flashback scenes, you can see the guys are absolutely in love with each other. But I wanted to ride the line of what a relationship - a realistic, Gay relationship - could look like without idealizing it.
Kramer: Dave and Jordan are each sympathetic at different times in the film. How did you establish that balance in their relationship?
Steadman: Dave has been honest since the beginning of the relationship. He never lied about what he was looking for. It was important for me for the audience to know that Dave loves Jordan, but that Jordan was trying too hard. The drama in our lives is minutiae - small details that need to be sorted out before you can move on. They are playing a chess match. It's one thing not to discuss how you feel in the café after you've been rejected. There's a certain amount of time you can mope and give silent treatment. But three days into your Christmas vacation, the time is up. You can't keep not having sex and giving each other the cold shoulder. You have a limited amount of time to be pissy.
Kramer: Joseph, do you think you and Rich could have swapped roles?
Kim: I think so. Jordan is more defensive and reactionary, a more insecure person who wants to lock in the relationship - take all the element of discovery out of it. Love is about the tension - you don't know what's going to happen next. Jordan doesn't like that. He wants security. If I were to play Dave, I don't want to lock it in without a schedule and agenda, and live in the moment. Jordan is very past and future oriented, out of regret or fear. Dave is very present. He's spiritual, in the now; no grudges, and not worried about what he's going to do tomorrow. It's not sexual compatibility that they are together, but because one's weakness is the other's strength.
Kramer: Dan, how did you conceive of the narrative structure of the film - the flashbacks and interview segments?
Steadman: I think that I needed people to know why Jordan was feeling what he was feeling. There was always this risk that that audience wouldn't know enough about their history. It's difficult when you start a film in the third scene with a conflict. And you haven't given audiences a chance to even root for a character, and this was always Jordan's story, but without the flashback scenes that tell Dave's story. Without those interview scenes, I don't think you got the heart of Jordan.
Kramer: What is great is that you give the supporting characters as much importance and depth as the leads. Was that deliberate?
Steadman: Yes, I wanted viewers to know Aunt Vanity - not just as the wacky aunt - but how she raised Jordan and Lisa. I want you to understand where Jordan learned that in order to keep the interest of your man, you have to plan things. I liked the unique family structure - Jordan's adopted sister, that Jordan is half-Asian, and that there were no racial issues. I didn't write it with actors in mind, but I wrote the characters based on people I knew. Dave and Jordan are both me.
Kramer: OK, lightning round: Are you more adventurous or more boring?
Steadman: More boring. I'll do everything once, but I want to be in my house five nights a week. It's not that I'm such a homebody I can't leave, but I say 'no' to things so I'm home five nights a week. That makes me sound un-dateable!
Kim: I'm a homebody, but when I got out I'm adventurous. I don't give a shit. Everyone wants to look their best, say the right things, etc., and I don't give a fuck. I am not afraid to be silly, laugh too loud, be inappropriate in public. If the world doesn't like it, we're enemies for life!
Kramer: Do you like board games? Or do they bore you?
Steadman: No card games, but board games are fun. I love going to Gay game night and playing Celebrity with some really funny Gay men.
Kim: Actually, I like Pictionary.
Kramer: Are you a master at blunt flirtation?
Steadman: Oh, no [shakes head]. I'll say this: I'm usually passive and terrible when it comes to flirtation, but I've tried blunt flirtation and it's paid off. I should use it more. People respond when you are bold and aggressive, but it hasn't seeped into my everyday life. It works though, which is why I wrote a scene like that.
Kim: Yes, I'm pretty aggressive. It doesn't work well in Hollywood, though.
Kramer: Do you listen to Amy Grant's Christmas CDs in August?
Steadman: I do. [laughs]. That's the part of Dave that's me. I listen to other things, too. Amy Grant shuffles up against Eminem.
Kramer: The characters talk about their fears of heights and other things. What are you afraid of?
Kim: My dad dying.
Steadman: Teenagers. They seem so unreasonable. That's left over from high school. I only deal with reasonable people now. Initially the Gay community scared me because of all the cattiness and intolerant pack mentality. It reminded me of teenagers with their cliques. So rather than find out where I fit in, I avoided it altogether. It was difficult to find my type of Gay people - guys who are reasonable, fair-minded, and full of ambivalence. Politically down the middle, who can see both sides. You hear outcry for Gay marriage from people who aren't interested in getting married. It's humorous to me. Because they want a law that says that everyone accepts and approves of them and as equal. I'm 100% for the fight for marriage equality.
Kramer: There's a great pair of scenes where Jordan visits a web psychic (played by the hysterical Stephnie Weir). Have you ever been to a psychic?
Kim: I don't believe in psychics. I went to a palm reader who said 2009 was going to be my hot year, and I didn't book shit.
Steadman: No, but I love Stephnie. She makes the most of every scene. She made the scripted dialogue sound improvised.
Kramer: Last question. Dan, your film is all about communication and commitment. What do you think are the most important things about being with a partner?
Steadman: It's so cliché to say, but honesty. The reason I hate dating is the mind games that go into it. Acting like you are only partially interested in them. The underlying theme of this coy game-playing is that there is an element of lying. I would want that in a relationship. I would rather my partner tell me he flirted, or did something inappropriate because he was weak, than for me to play the game of checking his text messages. Because that's not me. I need to trust someone 100%. I can handle someone admitting weakness, but I won't tolerate deceit.
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!