A rare public appearance: Trans filmmaker Lana Warchowski

Even though they became internationally famous after The Matrix films, the so-called Warchowski Brothers — Andy and Larry — were notoriously camera-shy. They had “no interviews” written into their contracts. They were rarely photographed.

Then several years ago, we learned what may have been part of the motivation for their privacy: Larry was transitioning into becoming Lana.

Until 2008′s Speed Racer, they were still credited at “The Warchowski Brothers;” now, it’s just “The Warchowskis.” And their new project is not only long-awaited for itself, but for the emergence of Lana. And in a big way.

Their new film — co-directed with Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) — is an adaptation of David Mitchell’s sweeping 2004 novel Cloud Atlas. The novel cuts across characters (including some gay ones) and time in a complex tapestry of interrelated tales. It’s a complex movie to summarize and get people excited about (even with a cast that includes Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry and Susan Sarandon). So, to generate interest, the directors — all three — did a promotional video. Tykwer is on the far left; Andy W. is on the far right; and front and center? That’s Lana … the first time I’ve ever seen her. The movie looks fascinating (it comes out in October). I hope they took the “no interviews” clause out of this contract, because I for one would welcome the chance to interview Lana.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Project pinklight

For his upcoming ‘Pit Stop,’ Texas filmmaker Yen Tan tackles another gay romance

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THE BUSINESS OF SHOW Yen Tan hopes to raise money for a spring start date to shoot ‘Pit Stop,’ about small town gay life in Texas. (Arnold Wayne Jones/ Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Writing coaches often tell authors, “Write what you know.” But for Yen Tan, the more interesting assignment is, “Write what you can’t get out of your head.”
Back in 2004 — when he was still living in Dallas, Tan wrote a draft screenplay called Pit Stop, about two gay men in small-town Texas who begin a romance. It wasn’t anything he knew about from personal experience.

“It’s hard to pinpoint what drew me to the story,” he says. “I have a tendency to pick up on things that don’t register with others. Being gay and middle class in small-town America is very foreign to me — it’s odd there are gay people who choose to live in small towns. What’s the decision behind that?”

He liked the script, but he couldn’t seem to get it off the ground financially or creatively. Instead, he made Ciao, which became his biggest hit as a filmmaker (it scored an honorable mention at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival in 2008). But Pit Stop drifted around in the back of his head until 2009, when he submitted it to the OutFest L.A. screenwriting lab.

“Hearing the comments by other filmmakers, I knew I had something and had underestimated its potential,” he says. Tan immediately started in on rewrites, including making the cast more diversified.

“The big change in the script is that two major characters are Latino now. It was all-white originally, but that was not entirely accurate of the Texas landscape,” Tan says. He also consulted with colleagues to make sure he got the feel of Podunk, Texas right.

“Thankfully I’m a bit paranoid about those things,” he laughs. “I would verify and re-verify [what I wrote about small-town Texas and gay Latinos]. I’d ask my friends who know, ‘Is this right or just totally made up?’ And I usually rely on my actors to put it right — is this what an American would say or is it totally ESL [English as a Second Language]? But I am also trying to make these elements work within the framework of my ideas.”

The issue now isn’t the script — it’s getting the film made. He hopes to begin filming in the spring, either around Austin or in the DFW area, but needs to raise money first. Tan was lucky enough to snag a grant targeted to Texas filmmakers, but he also wants to raise money from individual investors. That’s why this week, he’s teaming with OutTakes Dallas and the Texas Theatre to showcase his movie and allow people to contribute via United States Artists, a high-prestige donation site that allows people to make tax-deductible contributions and comes with matching grants.

“We’ll be showing clips from Ciao and do a staged reading of some scenes from Pit Stop,” he explains. “We’re also trying to set up Internet stations so people can donate on the spot. But to me it’s not about raising all the money at one time — just to kick it off.” He’s still trying to set up his goals for the fundraising, but Tan estimates something less than $20,000 would make a huge difference. In fact, he’s learned how to do more with less ever since moving to Austin last year.

“People are doing stuff with very little resources there — they just make do. You kinda have to put less emphasis on monetary stuff because someone right next to you is doing the same for $10.”

He’s looking forward to finally getting the cameras rolling.

“After making films all these years, the most gratifying part is production itself,” he says.” Once a film is finished and you’re going to the festivals… it’s fun but it gets old quickly. I know enough by now that that’s really the part that makes me not want to make another film.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Fears For Queers 2 Film Festival announces date and is now open to submissions


Today we received the press release announcing the second Fears for Queers film fest. Last year, the event kind of took us by surprise, but we’re on it now. Local filmmaker Shawn Ewert and his production company Right Left Turn Productions have been keeping us in the loop as the event nears.

But first, they need more films and the call for submissions has officially been placed. Any budding or established LGBT filmmakers are encouraged to submit their short and feature films for inclusion. And there’s no cost to submit. Score!

Click the thumbnail to read the official press release. Fears for Queers is also presented by DOA Blood Bath Entertainment and is scheduled for June 25 at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff. Proceeds from the event will benefit Youth First Texas.

 

—  Rich Lopez

Movie Monday: ‘The Mechanic’ with Jason Statham in wide release

Statham sizzles, but The Mechanic fizzles

It’s hard to know whether to be angry at the filmmakers or frustrated with the audience about the gay content in The Mechanic. I suppose we should be glad that gays figure anywhere in this quickie actioner, even though the portrayal is hardly flattering.

Bishop (Jason Statham, above right), an experienced hitman, is training his protege Steve (Ben Foster, above left) how to take out a rival assassin. Bishop says the bad guy is gay, so Steve — a twinkie who looks to weigh 95 pounds dripping in paving tar —seduces him. As they begin to undress each other, straight men in the preview audience emitted audible, horrified chants of “Dude!” and “Gross!” and “Ah, shit, man!” (If they were smarter, they’d be quiet and let their girlfriends get turned on.)

Two stars (out of five). Read the entire review here.

DEETS: The Mechanic starring Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland. Directed by Simon West. In wide release.

—  Rich Lopez

QUEER CLIP: ‘The Mechanic’

It’s hard to know whether to be angry at the filmmakers or frustrated with the audience about the gay content in The Mechanic. I suppose we should be glad that gays figure anywhere in this quickie actioner, even though the portrayal is hardly flattering.

Bishop (Jason Statham, above right), an experienced hitman, is training his protege Steve (Ben Foster, above left) how to take out a rival assassin. Bishop says the bad guy is gay, so Steve — a twinkie who looks to weigh 95 pounds dripping in paving tar —seduces him. As they begin to undress each other, straight men in the preview audience emitted audible, horrified chants of “Dude!” and “Gross!” and “Ah, shit, man!” (If they were smarter, they’d be quiet and let their girlfriends get turned on.)

It’s always a tough call: Do we respect director Simon West for introducing a queer character with a sexual appetite at all, or chastise him for using it like a club, eliciting cheers from the hetero hominids to kill the faggot? Alas, West — director of such detritus as Con Air and The General’s Daughter — is probably not someone worthy of much respect.

The film itself is a breezy 90-minute escapade that doesn’t develop much momentum; the climax is planned, executed and concluded is less time than most films would spend setting up the motive of the character. But it does have hottie Statham, star of

The Transporter movies, shirtless for a bit (alas, his sex scene is with a girl). And of course his Transporter character is gay, according to the director. It’s not much to hang your hat on, but we’ll take the fantasies as we find them.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Two stars.
Opens today in wide release.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright

‘Matrix’ Filmmakers Begin Casting Gay Iraqi War Romance

The Wachowskis, the siblings who directed The Matrix, have begun casting their latest project, CN9. There's still plenty of mystery surrounding it, as Cinematical notes:

Wachowskis  "Production Weekly took to Twitter to report that casting on the film has begun. There's not a wealth of information out there about CN9 — in fact, all we really know for sure at this point is that it's going to be a "hard-R war picture about a homosexual American soldier who falls in love with an Iraqi." But, before you assume it's just Brokeback Mountain set in the Middle East, consider that CN9 could stand for the ninth cranial nerve (it does in medical terminology), which is the nerve responsible for receiving information from the tongue, middle ear, and tonsils according to website Playlist. When you do that, the site suggests that it doesn't seem like a stretch to picture the filmmaking duo once again venturing into the world of strange alternate realities and sci-fi. Of course, people could be reading this totally wrong — CN9 might stand for something entirely different. That's the thing, at this point no one really knows."

On another note, can anybody fill us in on whether Larry Wachowski did indeed complete a male-to-female gender transition? The general info out there appears to still be unclear.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright