Over the course of the past three years, I have profiled several gay men who are excelling in the industry that they are in and becoming a big deal based on their own hard work and determination. The respect level I have for them just because of that is leaps and bounds higher than people who rely on others to get to where they need. Hence the inspiration for this article. [Read more…] about Five Gay Men You Should Get To Know in 2016 and Beyond…
As the bear culture continues to rise and be more prevalent as time goes by, we are consistently flooded with images, videos and more of guys who we consider to be handsome, hot and any other adjective to describe how attracted we are to them in the media world today. Whether they are melting our hearts on the big and small screen, producing some sweet jams for us to enjoy, or doing big things in the LGBT community that is strengthening our presence there as well, they are all doing something right to keep our heart rates going. [Read more…] about Who is our Favorite Bear “Celebrity” of the Moment?
The “everyone is connected” trope isn’t new cinematic territory, but a new indie effort approaches it from a distinctly LGBT perspective, while also spending more time developing a smaller group of characters than earlier films like Nashville (1975), Magnolia (1999), and Crash (2004). Proxy (2015) works best as a series of short one-act plays focusing (mostly) on two characters apiece, cutting back and forth between them until everyone collides in a twist ending that mostly works. The film suffers from melodramatic moments of pretension (chapter breaks, the opening voice-over), but they’re not frequent enough to distract from what is more often than not an engrossing character-driven debut from writer-director Brandon Deyette.
Josh (Deyette) reconnects with his estranged ex-fiancee Tess (Stephanie Jean Davis) to retrieve his engagement ring, but she has a condition for its return. Tristan (adult video star Charlie Harding in his non-explicit film debut) confronts Steve (Barry Brandon) when he reveals he knows a bit more about the trick their friend Price (Brandon Majors) is en route to meet. Kari (Anna Kohn) rushes to connect with her college buddy Becca (Sadako Pointer) after a piece of particularly devastating family news only to find Becca is experiencing a crisis of her own.
At face value, none of these individual tales sounds particularly provocative, but woven together in a narrative tapestry it’s very difficult not to become invested in at least a few of these characters’ trials and tribulations. The film relies on long single takes, shot with a handheld camera, which contributes a sense of intimate urgency to the often dramatically charged dialogue scenes, but during quieter moments can be a jarring distraction. Most importantly, the often uninterrupted takes allow the ensemble cast to come so much more alive in their characters. Not all of the stories are equally effective, however, and much of it depends on the performances and writing. We open with Josh and Tess’ reunion, awkward from the get-go and progressively tense and uncomfortable, aided immeasurably by Deyette and Davis’ very natural performances; they play off each other beautifully. Tess initially seems like a spider luring Josh back into her web of deceit, especially as Josh’s demands for the truth grow more fevered. The pair eventually reach an emotional stand-off that almost levels their playing field, revealing the sensitive nature of both characters and letting an audience develop sympathy for their unique positions. An ambiguous conclusion is mildly frustrating, but then messes like theirs don’t get cleaned up in an hour and change.
The story most likely to get attention from its target festival audience is that of Tristan and Steve, revealed to be exes who’ve remained friends, but tension remains between the two because of Steve’s self-destructive and borderline sociopathic behavior as a gay man living with HIV in New York. Very few films or television shows tackle this topic these days, perhaps out of fatigue over the multitude of media making up the vast majority of gay culture in the 1990s and well into the 2000s. The film never actually uses any of the hot button words to indicate that the conversation is about HIV, which is rather refreshing. It doesn’t need to. The challenging nature of Steve’s character is that he feels zero responsibility for having to share his status with anyone, including his sexual partners; if someone doesn’t ask, it’s that person’s fault if they become infected, a philosophy he imposed on himself after confronting the trick who infected him. This way, his shame can continue to hurt him and those around him. It comes as no surprise then why he’s bitter and unpleasant from his very introduction. Brandon should be given credit for making him such an ultimately tragic figure. Harding has come a long way from MEN.com and does a fine job with his character, and Majors is given an amusing exit speech that makes you wish he’d stuck around longer.
The strongest story for my money is that of Becca and Kari, anchored by two solid turns from Pointer and Kohn, who I hope to see much more of in future projects. It’s not even that the story here is as strong as the other two segments (in fact, it’s arguably the least developed). But both women almost effortlessly develop a chemistry that leads the audience to believe they have been friends for years. These are two women I’d like to spend time with, and more focus on them in the film would have been very welcome. Becca is introduced in a soft-lit afterglow scenario before we see her taking a pregnancy test on the toilet. There’s nothing titillating about it, but I mention both sequences because they indicate a larger sense of striking bravery in Pointer as an actress, embracing her character in two potentially unflattering moments and drawing us into connection with Becca as a flesh-and-blood person. Kari, stuttering out the shattering news that her father is a bigamist, is funny, charming, and sympathetic. She chugs back a swig of Grey Goose, straight, and almost immediately rushes to the bathroom to throw up. Her vomiting does not distract from her from noticing Becca’s pregnancy test on the bathroom sink. Again, here is an actress who’s dedicated to embodying the role, embracing human moments like confronting your best friend about her pregnancy test with fresh puke on your face. Of a uniformly strong cast, Kohn and Pointer emerge as the MVP’s, and their story offers the most vividly felt dramatic moments.
When all is said and done, Proxy isn’t a slam dunk. Certain sequences feel under-cooked and the more subtle moments of character interaction that work splendidly clash with some excessively dramatic sequences. But this is a very promising debut from a writer-director to watch, and certainly one to look for as it circulates around the film festival circuit.
Charlie Harding is someone who has truly made a name for himself and his brand over the past couple of years. Dominating the gay adult world, he is loved by thousands of his fans for his stunning looks and great performances, in many different ways than one. On top of being a great performer in the adult world, he is also a fabulous writer and an all around smart guy who knows how to take lemons and turn them into lemonade.
Now that he has made his mark on the adult world, he is transitioning himself into the mainstream world with his first big role in the Brandon Deyette directed “Proxy”, which is set to be released later on this year. As a fan of Charlie Harding’s, I couldn’t wait to sit down with him and discuss the vital things that are going on in his life. He discusses everything from transitioning out of the gay porn world, his influences, how nervous he was when doing a role like this and why his future seems to have no limit in terms of his amazing abilities. Check it out.
So, your first mainstream role, that’s really exciting! What made you want to transition out of porn and go mainstream?
Let’s go back to the beginning. I always knew I wanted to be a performer, and the adult industry gave the quickest and easiest route to get started. I was able to create a loyal fan base, become a celebrity of sorts and then use that fame to springboard to other projects. It just feels like a natural progression as I grow as an entertainer and actor to transition from adult roles that are mostly physical acting to adding the depth of emotion and soul that mainstream projects call for.
Well I have to say Julie Andrews has always been a huge icon to me. She takes performance to such an amazingly high level and always has such confidence in her roles. Sean Connery is another. Again, totally captivating in his efforts on screen, and has just an amazing persona. Of course others from more modern fare include Anne Hathaway, Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana and Peter Dinklage all are amazing performers I enjoy watching and hopefully can learn from as well.
Well, I am very active on social media, and my fans and friends are always chatting me up about things. I made a Facebook post about starting to look into mainstream opportunities, and one friend passed me to another who happened to be Brandon Deyette the director and writer for PROXY (www.proxyonfilm.com). We chatted about roles, personalities and such, and it all just fell into place.
Tell me about your character in the movie and what challenges he faces.
Well Tristan is a very frustrating guy. He cares immensely about his friends, and stinks at communicating effectively with them. He has his own demons and insecurities and drinks to much, but is a genuinely good guy inside. There are significant parallels to my own life that I pulled from when Brandon and I created Tristan’s back story. I developed the character all the way back to high school in Tristan’s life to piece together moments that would have been motivating factors in decisions he makes and reactions he has.
From my previous article, it looks like Brandon really has a lot of love and faith in you. How did it make you feel when you read that?
I cried. Literally. Brandon has an amazing talent for making you want to do great work. And going into this process, I was scared shitless. “Was I good enough?” and “Will anyone take me seriously?” are questions that kept me up at night. I worked hard to get into this role and truly become Tristan, and I’m so proud that Brandon is so excited about what I gave on film.
You recently uprooted yourself and your lovely partner from Atlanta to San Diego. How has that been going?
Amazing. San Diego is such a great fit for us. It’s the perfect mix of beaches, gorgeous weather, friendly people and relaxed attitude that we needed. We both feel revitalized and energized being here, and now that I’m only a short drive from LA, I can pursue this crazy acting dream more whole heartedly and without so many geographic boundaries.
Very few porn actors have been able to successfully transition themselves outside of porn and into the mainstream (Colton Ford is a shining exception in the gay world, its mainly ones in the straight porn world like Ron Jeremy, James Deen & Tracy Lords). How do you plan on following suit and making a name for yourself outside of the world you have been in for years now?
Well, hopefully my fan base will follow me over! Plus now I get to try and win over an even bigger number of folks to my team. I’m just a genuine guy, trying to make a dream come true, and I think people appreciate that. I keep getting told that I’m very relatable and easy to understand. I hope to do many more movie roles, super excited about the television show Brandon has in development, and look forward to being an entertaining addition to tons of creative projects.
Looking back on it, was your experience in porn more positive or negative?
It had both positives and negatives. The negatives: I get stereotyped constantly as trashy or of less value as a person because I did porn. The industry takes a toll on you and is not overall a healthy environment. It’s hard to overcome the stigma attached to porn actors and be taken seriously. Some people are put off as to how comfortable I am with my body and openly talking about sex.
And that’s just the stuff I can officially talk about!
It’s always good to be green and eager about something, which is the vibe and feel that I got when I recently sat down with director Brandon Deyette about his upcoming indie movie “Proxy”. The movie is set in three different locations, one being right here in the heart of Brooklyn, and talks about multiple stories from different characters manifesting in a small part of who Brandon really is. This project fell into my lap because one of the actors in the movie is my good friend Charlie Harding, who is taking on his first mainstream role (super proud FYI). I talked with Brandon about the “Proxy” movie as well as why casting Charlie was a blessing more than a controversy as well as what his biggest hopes are for this movie. Check it out.
Tell me about the movie “Proxy”. What inspired you to make it?
Without going into too much detail there were two phases to this script. I initially started writing it in 2005. I penned about 10 pages (and yes I mean penned) and left it alone. I was a young buck and impressionable. The version today is completely different than what was written 9 years ago.
About a year ago I came across the story while going through boxes after I ended a two year relationship. At that point in time I sat down at a computer and pretty much typed out 102 pages of a script. It was honestly a very cathartic moment in my life. It’s really a reflection of all the turmoil that was going on inside my head poured out onto the keyboard and somehow turned into “Proxy.” Each character, each story is truly a manifestation of a small part of me.
The film is more thematically driven and a character study rather than centered on a central plot. We, as an audience, observe these 3 stories through 8 lives and how they are intertwined by one man’s indiscretion. The point isn’t how they are connected but the mere fact that all of our choices ultimately influence so many other people’s decisions, actions, and lives in general.
Did you draw influence from other movies out there when making this?
Of course. I got an amazing compliment while looking at the rehearsal footage. Someone said, “That looks a lot like Lars Von Trier.” I almost cried since it is primarily based upon his and Thomas Vinterburg’s Dogme 95. Here is a link about Dogme 95 to spare you all the details about it but it’s fascinating: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_95While in graduate film school at Georgia State University we watched “The Celebration” (aka Festen) by Vinterburg, which won the 1998 Jury Prize at Cannes, and I was deeply moved by the narration of the story. The simplicity of the direction, cinematography, and lighting juxtaposed to the complexity of the acting and storyline really made me think twice about my approach to filmmaking and screenwriting overall.
There are also influences from Sofia Coppola, Woody Allen, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham, David Fincher, Lena Dunham, Vincent Gallo and, of course, Andrew Haigh. Here is a link to our pinterest boards we used for inspiration and such while choosing lighting, locations, looks, etc… It was a very fascinating process.http://www.pinterest.com/brandizza1/
In terms of filming where has this mainly been shot and why those locations?
The script is based in 3 locations: North Florida, Atlanta Suburbs and Brooklyn. We scouted all three places and were originally going to shoot the whole thing in Atlanta. But then we saw an apartment in Harlem that was PERFECT for the NYC scene that we had to change the story up just to fit the location.
The same happened with the North Florida location. We found the perfect house in Athens, GA. As an homage to my alma mater (University of Georgia where I did both my undergrad degrees) I changed the setting to Athens. I suppose that’s a benefit of being the writer, I can make those decisions on the spot.
The Atlanta suburb location stayed the same. We contemplated moving to Detroit but it made more sense in the storyline to keep it in Atlanta. You’ll understand more when you see the film. I’d hate to give too much away.
Charlie Harding is a good friend of mine and a well known actor in the porn world who is transitioning into the mainstream world. Was there hesitation in choosing him for this film?
I’d be a liar if I said there wasn’t any hesitation. But I knew what I was getting myself into before we even started. For the role of Tristan I had auditioned many people in NYC, Atlanta and Miami as well as took video auditions from people around the world. There was a very specific look I was going for with this role and attitude that someone couldn’t just pretend to act like. It is this raw sense of confidence that I wasn’t able to find anywhere. When discussing with my boss about the casting process I said, “I had this dream last night and in the dream someone told me I should cast a pornstar for this role.” He said, “Interesting choice but it makes sense.”
Tristan really bares himself emotionally, which is almost like being completely naked on screen. So I put out a request on Facebook to my friends to see if anyone knew of any porn actors that may be interested in the role. I had several people approach me but none so much like Charlie.
When he came to audition he was so well prepared, more so than anyone else to be honest. It wasn’t his confidence that sold me, it was his willingness to adapt and take direction as well as his vulnerability that really got me. There is one scene where he breaks down and talks about love for the first time. This was that moment that he really captured my attention and I said, “we have our Tristan.”
In regards to the transition from porn to mainstream film, I think if you allow the negative stigma to be attached then that’s all you’re going to get. I believe Charlie sees beyond that and has such an eagerness to try new things I believe his audience, and the masses, are going to embrace this transition with open arms.
What does he bring to his role that will make people who know him from porn forget that image and truthfully see him as a mainstream actor?
MAN! The worst thing about this script is that there are so many twists and reveals that if I say too much then it’ll ruin the film. I’m going to be as vague as possible without completely alienating the audience.
There are two moments we see a different side of Charlie. I think due to his ability to get naked on set in front of so many people and expose himself that being as vulnerable as he was in this film became almost second nature. Actors typically struggle with removing the “self” and really diving into a character. Especially tapping into the parts of yourself that you may fear exist. Charlie did this effortlessly.
The first being when he hears, for the first time, one of the initial plot twists. While in rehearsal he always showed great restraint in fighting back his sorrow and building rage. But when we shot, it became such a multi-layered, complex range of emotions. I couldn’t pinpoint just one emotion but rather a great array. The entire cast and crew had to take a moment after that scene to acknowledge our own emotions and what came up. It was a very powerful moment for us all. You’ll know it when you see the film.
The second is when he discusses being in love. That tender moment we saw in the auditions went beyond our expectations. It’s so disarming to see this gorgeous, ripped, muscle man really show his softer side. After each take we’d all look at each other on set and say, “Awe… he’s so in love (with a fictional character).”
Would you consider casting him for future roles?
Absolutely. In fact, without giving too much away (I’m not that secretive, I promise) I am in the midst of developing a tv series this summer. One of the roles is written for Charlie. I mean, specifically for him. I think that’s all I’m going to say about that one. I don’t want to lead the cart before the horse.
What are you hoping your audience takes away from this movie after they see it?
My main drive in doing film is to entertain, inspire and educate. I want, no matter what I produce, for each project to generate discourse about the subject matter within the piece. In regards to this film, there are so many themes and seemingly taboo subjects that I would love for people to leave the cinema engaging in dialogue about the film. It discusses fidelity, monogamy, betrayal, lying, deception, love, dreams, expectations, fear, diseases, guilt, and most importantly hope.
The film doesn’t force any of my own beliefs upon people. In fact, for the most part, I sometimes disagree with what the characters say. Which was very odd writing something you truly don’t agree with. But that’s just it, the point is to not force a thought, belief, or idea down someone’s throat but to help facilitate discussion about the issues at hand.
I also hope they see a beautiful film that inspires them creatively. That the performances touch them and really cause a viscerally emotional reaction. Everyone can identify with at least one of the characters or at least knows someone with similar characteristics or in a similar situation. The identification can help connect the audience to the story and it becomes a personal experience.
Best case scenario in terms of this movies success… Go!
Well we plan on first submitting to Sundance at the end of August. Which is quite an aggressive timeline considering we just wrapped production. But it’s pretty straight forward so I can’t imagine it will take more than 3 months to complete editing, sound mixing and getting all of our ducks in a row.
THE IDEA is to submit to Sundance, get accepted and then be picked up for distribution. I’d love to have a theatrical release and then on multi-varied-media platforms (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Digital Download, DVD, a medium that hasn’t been discovered yet, etc…). I feel all of the performances are so strong that they are definitely contenders for some acting awards. People are really going to be blown away by this, especially Charlie’s performance.
I want to see “Proxy” as a profitable and award-winning feature film. And it will be.
Final thoughts for my readers?
We are doing an IndieGoGo fundraiser to help raise extra funds for sound mixing and festival submissions. For anyone that donates $100 or more and emails us at [email protected] to notify us that the donation was made on behalf of Charlie Harding, we will honor all perks specified on the site as well as have Charlie personally sign an “adult” photo of himself and send it to you. You can go to this direct link http://igg.me/at/proxythefilm/x or go to our website at http://www.proxythefilm.com Please like us on Facebook at proxythefilm2014, Instagram and Twitter @proxythefilm
And just so you know, this film features the acting debut of Sadako Pointer of the Pointer Sisters. She is original member Ruth Pointer’s granddaughter. She joined the group some years ago after her Aunt June passed away. She’ll knock your socks off. She’s incredible.