Exploring the possibilities of a hook-up – and the flood of questions that come after
Boys on Film is a continuing collection of short films that explore the LGBTQ experience. Volume 19 in the series is centred around the theme of No Ordinary Boy.
One of the films included in this collection is Michael Joseph Jason John from filmmaker Scott T. Hinson.
We caught up with Scott T. Hinson for a behind-the-scenes look at the film.
What was your inspiration for this story?
I’ve always been rather fascinated by the white-hot emotional residue you’re left with following a great one-night-stand. There are always so many questions afterwards – Did he like me? Is he thinking of me? Did he feel the connection I felt? Will I ever hear from him again?
This is a film about stewing in those often unanswered questions and making peace with the corresponding collateral emotions. I have, at different points in my life, found those feelings and questions to be overwhelming – sometimes unbearable.
Were you drawing on any personal experiences for these characters?
From a writing standpoint, I suppose both of the characters are me on a certain level – I don’t think I could have written them if they weren’t both swimming around in my being somewhere. I will, however, concede that the main character is most like me in real-life, in that he’s pretty easy to read, spends a lot of time lost in his own thoughts, and is super-driven by his emotions. The other character is more a composite of what I’m attracted to – hard to read, emotionally steady on the surface, practised in the art of withholding.
I admire people that you can’t read. I wish I could be more like that. I have zero secrets in the moment. To look at me is to know what I’m thinking and feeling – which is great in the creative world, but not so much on the sidewalk or the workplace.
In the film, the main character is projecting happy-ever-after fantasies onto an encounter that could have turned out quite differently. Is this a cautionary tale?
I didn’t make the film from the perspective of what should be, I made it from the perspective of what could be.
It was quite a while prior to ever having had a one night stand that I saw Paris Is Burning. At the end of the film, you find out that Venus Xtravaganza was murdered and shoved under a bed in a seedy motel room in what was clearly the ultimate case of tricking gone wrong. The thought of that has never, ever left me. Going into every anonymous encounter I’ve ever had, a little voice has whispered – You know this dude could jack you up, right?.
Dahmer was real. Bundy was real. Gacy was real. Their victims were real. Those possibilities, sadly and frighteningly, do exist. It’s hard to really know people that you know, let alone people that don’t know, you know?
I didn’t set out to make a cautionary tale, but, if people are cautioned by the film, I don’t see that as a bad thing.
What was your casting process?
We had to be careful to find an actor who was not only solid in his craft but was also independent and didn’t need a lot of hand-holding, given that my own focus was going to be bifurcated as director and actor when we got on set.
We started by putting an ad in a trade mag, scouring our own lists of actor friends, and asking industry contacts if they knew of anyone. We narrowed down that field to who we thought was appropriate for the role, and then requested self-tapes. From that group we called back about five or six guys for in-person meetings – one of whom bailed because I think he thought we were making a porno! We made them do monologues, and made them read without me so I could put my director’s eye on the performance. We chatted them up to see who they were as people, and then made them do a chemistry read with me to see if there were going to be any cinema sparks.
After all that, there were really only two actors that would have worked, and it ultimately boiled down to the chemistry read. With the one guy there was nothing between us in the space but cold air. With the other guy, there was a fire, so his hiring became a unanimous no-brainer. Also, he has a fantastic set of pecs, which didn’t hurt.
What do you hope that people feel when watching Michael Joseph Jason John?
I hope people feel identification! Out on the festival circuit, I’ve been most touched when guys have come up to me and said – I’ve been that guy! I’ve felt those feelings! I’ve had those thoughts!
It’s terribly easy to feel alone with your thoughts and feelings in this world. I take it as a compliment of the highest order when someone gets where the film came from, and shares with me that they recognise that territory.