In the streaming era, Indie film fans can rejoice in the fact that there’s a glut of such offerings available at any hour of the day. This holds especially true for audiences seeking LGBT titles; an impressive new array of these appears almost monthly.
With so many of these movies being made, it’s easy to take them for granted – but as Indie filmmakers can tell you, it’s no easy accomplishment to take one from the idea stage to being available on your laptop with just a click of your finger.
To trace one such journey, the Blade talked to Mark Elias, the actor and writer behind a recent addition to the catalogue of Indie movies available on demand. His film, “Golden Boy,” is the chronicle of a young man’s descent into the seamy underbelly of Hollywood culture, depicting a treacherous network of manipulative social relationships and quid-pro-quo sexuality.
Elias stars in the film, which he also co-wrote with Jonathan Browning. Their script won Best Screenplay at last year’s San Diego’s FilmOut festival; the film’s director, Stoney Westmoreland, took home the Jury Award for Best Direction at the California Independent Film Festival. It’s now available through Amazon, iTunes, and Google – a fact that still seems unbelievable to the young filmmaker, who has been struggling to bring it into the world for the last four years while also working to build a growing career for himself as an actor, through his roles on TV shows like “Lone Star,” “Teen Wolf,” “Justified,” “Lucifer,” and “9-1-1.”
In our conversation, we talked about the process of getting his project made, along with why he was willing to put in that much work to make it happen and why the story is about more than the sexuality of its characters.
Los Angeles Blade: How did “Golden Boy” get started?
Mark Elias: I had this script for a couple of years, and I liked it a lot and I didn’t know how it was going to get made – until we did an incredibly aggressive crowd funding campaign and raised about $50,000 off of it. That’s how we did it. Crowd funding is an amazing thing because without it, you can’t make these little Indie films.
Blade: That sounds like a lot of money, but in Hollywood terms it’s small change. Did you have to scale down your vision for the movie?
Elias: This story could be simply told – I wanted it, as a writer, to rest on the performances, not on big production values. I mean, you need locations that make sense and all that, obviously, but you didn’t need a big car chase for the story to be told effectively, you just needed to be invested in the characters. And also, we were lucky in the sense that we would lose a location and then we would end up getting a better one, or like when we had to replace an actor and then their replacement had even better chemistry – at one point, someone on the set said, ‘You usually only get one miracle during production,’ and this one felt like we got three or four.
But we were really all about the acting, and because that was great, it all turned out great.
Blade: After you got it made, you hit the festival circuit. What was that like?
Elias: Part of the festival circuit is getting eyes on the film, you’re getting laurels, which in a way can be just like a filmmaker’s tip of the hat – but it also shows distributors can look at that and say, “this film has played festivals, it’s won awards, there’s something to it.” If you do independent films, you kind of have to bank on stuff like that.
Blade: Did you get distribution that way?
Elias: We talked to a distributor, and we didn’t think the numbers made sense, so we decided to bank on ourselves even more, and do it independently. Now, it’s all about doing outreach – we need to encourage people to watch it, and to give us a good review because that helps our algorithm, and add it to their watchlist, because that helps, too. We’re trying to get people to see it through social media, also, getting people to write and talk about it there.
Blade: In a way, you’re still working on the film.
Elias: Yes, but the response has been so positive, and that’s the thing that’s great. People are finding value in this story that we’ve struggled to tell for four years, and they reach out to you to say that it’s made an impact on them and they’re blown away, and you say, “this is what we struggled for.”
Blade: Why did you want to tell this story in the first place?
Elias: They always say to write what you know. It was something I wrote that has an autobiographical element, about a world I had lived in, and that I live in now.
L.A. has these social tiers, where there are people who can take advantage of other people who want something – there are plenty of examples, you can equate it to people like Kevin Spacey or Harvey Weinstein. This story is somewhere on the fringe of that, but 80% of the entertainment industry lives on the fringe. It felt timely, like something that can and should be told now.
Also, there are a lot of LGBT coming-out stories out there, and I thought it would be interesting to see someone coming into the world of Hollywood, where there is all this sexual fluidity, but it’s not a big coming-out story. This is something that I walked into when I came into LA, and I didn’t realize it even existed because I’m from Philadelphia. That was something that you never saw. These people are all partying together, and nobody makes a big deal about sexuality. The problem is that a lot of these people are on cocaine, and nobody’s living the life they want to live.
Blade: Were you concerned about the representation of LGBT characters within this environment?
Elias: You see the good and the bad, you have these characters representing the community who are giving and open-hearted and have totally redeeming qualities; but also, this is a movie where we took out every label that we could. You have these characters that have lived on all sides of the fence – there’s such an undertone of fluidity that I don’t think you could say there’s a finger pointing at anyone in judgment.
In the end it’s not about any of that at all, it’s about this kind of LA lifestyle, this underbelly where there are definitely some bad elements – but the problems have to do with behaviors and drug addiction, not with anyone’s sexual preferences, and we try to show that these characters have dimensions. You see why someone might take advantage of someone else, or make bad choices, out of their own desperation, and hopefully you can feel for them.
It’s more than just, “this is the good guy, this is the bad guy.” It’s deeper than that.