FRIEND Interview with Elliot London

Gay-Aussie-Friend-movie-feature

Australian born, Elliot London,  recently released his short film The Wedding Dance about marriage equality but with a unique ending.

 

Gay Aussie caught up with Elliot and his ambitious project to create a full-length feature film completely funded by the community. FRIEND is a movie about anti-gay bulling when gay teen suicide is occurring too often.

The Wedding Dance has over 63 000 hits and its growing day by day. Congratulations! How does this make you and the team behind the The Wedding Dance feel?

I am so proud of the 200 contributors that helped fund this film. I am so proud of the cast and crew that worked so hard. I am finally so proud of the community who has supported the project. Feels fantastic… But I want the world to see the film… So I cannot rest at 63,000… I cannot rest at 1,000,000…

Off the back of The Wedding Dance you have set the bar higher and its your ambitious goal to make a full feature film called FRIEND about teenage bullying in the era of social media. You have not wasted any time?

No time is wasted! Gay independent film is becoming very difficult to make in the US. With the economy the way it is and the lack of any film grants from the government we are seeing less than a handful of films made.

The filmmaker is turning to the community for help through social networking. I spend hours on end emailing thousands of people trying to raise the funds.

One dollar will make a huge difference for this film. I am determined to raise this money if it kills me. I like to use the Elliot London Starbucks Model: It will only take 40,000 Frappucinos to make this film and Divide that by gays in the world. If people give up one coffee then we can make many more films.

Tell us where the idea for FRIEND comes from? Was it an ahh! moment or was there some personal influence?

F*ggot! That word will always resonate with me. 1995 — I remember it clear as day. I was in 8th grade riding the school bus home. Shawn, a school bully, made me his latest target. I was already a bit different so no one would ever ride next to me on the bus. One spring afternoon on the ride home Shawn called over in an incredibly nice voice “Hey Elliot.” Being excited that someone was actually going to have a chat with me, I peered my head over the tall bus seat. “You’re such a F*ggot!” he yells directly to me and hocks a loogie into the center of my face. I was so mortified and de-humanised at that moment that I went into shock. I remember uncontrollably crying. I just could not process what had happened. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I did not want to ever go back to school. I did not want to tell my parents because it would bring up the questions of why did this happen. I could not confront who I was because I still did not understand fully who I was.

The moment I knew that I had to make a feature on this subject.

I will never forget this day. I just arrived in Louisville, KY to shoot a project when we were in the rental car and listening to the radio. I could not believe what I just heard out of the news anchor’s mouth. Teenager Tyler Clementi takes his life after roommate posted images of Tyler making out with another man on twitter. My eyes teared up and I knew at that very moment that change was going to happen. Tyler’s only safe haven being his computer was used against him in the most horrible cyber-bullying act imaginable.  I wish I could look into Tyler’s eyes and tell him that he is loved and that it’s ok to be himself. That you have a huge future ahead of you and that you will inspire, lead and create change. TYLER, your life was not in vain. It just breaks my heart and soul.

The Wedding Dance had a unique twist can we expect the same from FRIEND?

Absolutely. I love a good twist. This one is very positive and hopefully more surprising than all the twists I have done with my films.  I guess it’s my gimmick [he smiles]

You have worked as a VP in branding and social media. How has this influenced the script of FRIEND?

Social Media is part of human culture now. As much as we want to stray away from technology, we need to embrace it. Time is so different now and I want the youth to be able to have common ground with the characters. The script includes aspects from Twitter to Grindr.  I think as an audience we are getting use to seeing iPads in film.

 In your opinion what problems are gay teens facing and how does social media amplify their problems?

I feel that in 2012, that kids that are coming to terms with their sexuality do not have the proper tools to cope with bullying in a time of social networking. When most of us were younger, when people made fun of it, the humiliation was concentrated to the people doing the ridiculing. In present day, when a child is humiliated he can become an instant victim of Cyber Bulling. Within seconds of being ridiculed, a tweet, post, even a youtube clip can be uploaded before the victim has a chance to even process the humiliation. I have yet to see a coming-of-age film that tells this point of view in a socially networked era.

We need to be very clear on something. Bullying will never go away. It is a part of the human life. Yet, we can bring more attention to it through media outlets. The goal I really feel is how do we equip a child with the tools to handle the ridicule and understand their self worth. When you are an adolescent you have complete tunnel vision on the present. If we can expand their capacity to note that there is a whole world outside the school walls, it will save lives and build role models.

As an Aussie growing up and living in the US did you ever feel different from your fellow mates?

Yes, I felt very different. I was made fun of like crazy because I sounded different. People in conservative areas in the US do not like difference. I was forced into speech therapy at a young age to assimilate. I blame the speech therapy for some of my insecurities. When you are heckled because you sound different, it makes it harder to speak up when you need to.

When are coming back down under? Perhaps an opening night for FRIEND down under.

I would be honored to be back in Australia to do an opening night. My heart is Always in Australia.

It’s time to talk it up. Don’t hold back we love shameless self promotion. So how can people support FRIEND and tell us about some of the goodies they will get? 

Just one click and two minutes of your time to www.indiegogo.com/myfriend and you will be part of helping create LGBT cinema. The moment you make a donation, we will list you on the blogsite as a contributor. The site is updated every few days with information. I want everyone to feel that they are part of the project. I post budget, castings and production notes though-out the process.

If you make a donation of $25, you will get a signed poster. My favorite is the $200 which gets you a thank you credit, but most of all a personal note of thanks to a youth group.

Thank you for speaking with us and we wish you and of course FRIEND all the best. Anything you want to say to your fans?

I love you. I honestly mean it. I know how hard everyone works for their dollars… So from the bottom of my heart… Thank You!

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TWD Pitch from Elliot London on Vimeo.