With ‘Hold Your Peace,’ SMU grad Wade McDonald adds his name to a budding local community of queer filmmakers
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
HOLD YOUR PEACE
Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane. Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. Free (passes at Buli or Skivvies). HoldYourPeaceMovie.com.
When Southern Methodist University alum Wade McDonald set out to make his debut feature film, the one thing he didn’t want to do was make a “typical” gay film: No naked boys as the selling point, no ridiculous gay-angst drama, no coming-out story. McDonald loves romantic comedies and wanted to make his own — just with men.
His plan worked. The result, Hold Your Peace, seems to have resonated with audiences.
“We finished in April 2011 and started applying to film festivals right away,” McDonald says. “We premiered in Philadelphia and it snowballed form there to San Diego and even a non-gay film fest in Rhode Island. We got a distributor before the film even premiered! It was crazy.”
Dallas audiences get their first chance to screen Hold Your Peace at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station on Tuesday — just in time for Pride.
“It hadn’t shown here yet, but a friend of our audio editor, Terry Thompkins, was kind enough to pay for a screening,” he says. “I’m so excited it’ll show at the Angelika because I love it there.”
McDonald describes Peace as a meditation on relationships where shenanigans ensue after Aiden is asked to be the best man at his ex Max’s commitment ceremony. Only Aiden isn’t too keen on going alone, much less going at all.
What McDonald strived for was not a “gay movie” per se, but a film where characters happen to be gay. Anyone gay or straight can identify with the situation of unexpressed love and torch-bearing. At the same time, it was important to create a fun and easy watch that fairly portrayed queer men.
“It’s a very human and very honest film. This is a portrayal of normalcy,” he says. “I’ve had straight people tell me they didn’t think they would like this film. It plays a bit safer and I think more people can relate to it.”
McDonald funded Peace mostly on his own, making it on a $200,000 budget. By Hollywood standards, that’s nothing, but it’s high for indies. But he knew he had to make the production high quality. As a cinematographer by day, he had both the know-how and the equipment to shoot a film that looked polished. But he holds the entire cast and crew responsible for putting out a quality product. Don’t call him the film’s auteur — this was completely a team effort.
McDonald is intent on making his mark in queer cinema. Hollywood can take care of itself, he says, but he feels at home in Dallas. A burgeoning community of local gay filmmakers has left him with the sense there’s something special going on around here. He joins Israel Luna, Shawn Ewert, Robert Camina, Yen Tan and Mehul Shah as current or recent Dallasites forming a budding cinema community, turning Dallas into a Mecca of queer film. Hey, it could happen.
“I think it’s something that’s unique to Dallas,” he says. “We are starting something here and if we begin producing enough content here then we can create an industry. Something that can let people quit their day jobs to work on something they love.”
McDonald has no intention of moving to Los Angeles or New York for his movie career. He grew up here, went to SMU for school and he now lives with his partner in Plano. McDonald is the local boy done good, but who hasn’t moved away. He prefers to keep it that way.
“I’m proof positive you can do it in Dallas,” he says. “I could move to L.A., but my personality doesn’t mesh there and that’s fine. It’s inexpensive to shoot here, we have a great support system and I’d love to continue making films right here.”
For now, McDonald is gearing up for his initial Dallas screening. He showed it to cast and crew already, but now the general public gets to see his finished product. For any filmmaker, putting his work out there is nerve-racking, but McDonald and team already see the film taking on a life of its own.
“It’s your baby in a way and you don’t wanna be told you have an ugly baby,” he says. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished with Hold Your Peace and everyone worked their butt off. We’re not setting out to make great literature, just a film that’s fun to watch. You’re just supposed to enjoy it.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.