Gay Texas filmmaker Rob Williams believes a queer Christmas film can become a holiday staple for the whole family
DON YOUR GAY APPAREL
"Make the Yuletide Gay,"
Four Day Weekend Theater,
312 Houston St., Fort Worth. Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. $8. Qcinema.org.
It’s August, and Rob Williams is discussing Christmas. He’s not one of those people admitting all his gift shopping is done. Nope. He’s getting ready for the holiday season with his newest film — and he wouldn’t mind if it joined the ranks of traditional holiday film- watching.
"I’m happy that everyone can see this. I wanted to create a family film that people watch every year," he says.
"Make the Yuletide Gay" is the Texas native’s fourth film but his first in the holiday oeuvre, an inevitable genre most filmmakers finally hit. As a fan of contemporary holiday movies like "Love, Actually" and "Home for the Holidays," Williams wanted to capture those awkward family situations that arise during the season but with a gay sensibility.
"I always wanted to do a Christmas movie and there aren’t many gay Christmas movies out there. Plus, everyone can relate to visiting your parents at Christmas," he says.
In the film, college boyfriends Olaf and Nathan split their time to spend the holidays with family. A change in plans has the very out Nathan heading over to Olaf’s to discover his boyfriend is not that out of the closet to his, um, "interesting" parents. Shenanigans ensue as Olaf has some figuring to do and Nathan plays along with the ruse.
The movie stars Keith Jordan as Olaf and Adamo Ruggiero, the out star of "Degrassi: The Next Generation," who had the part from the film’s inception.
"I knew I wanted Adamo for lead. When I was writing this he had just come out publicly. He’s such an amazing role model for gay youth and gay actors," Williams says.
Williams grew up in West Texas and graduated from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth with, of all things, a finance degree. After graduate school at the University of Texas for public relations, his creative side was stirred; P.R. writing led to screenwriting, and he took on the role of director with his first film "Long-Term Relationship" in 2006 … all without ever going the film school route.
"Being an avid moviegoer can be the best film school ever. I knew I could write a good gay film. I wasn’t intending to direct. I should have been more scared but I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted to see," he says.
What he wanted to see were gay films that didn’t play the sex card so easily. Williams makes movies that have sort of a mainstream capacity. He says people have a positive response to films that show LGBT people in the same situations they might see Reese Witherspoon or Brad Pitt in. Why can’t there be a gay Benjamin Button or when will the guy get the guy in a "Sweet Home Alabama?" Williams’ tries to fill in that gap.
"I think gay filmmakers have a responsibility. Openly gay characters can have issues everyone else goes through. I want to make a film about gay people, not the gay experience," he says.
In doing so, he creates a balancing act of appealing to gay audiences yet accessible to everyone with each film. Williams knows his fan base is predominantly gay but strives to tell his stories with broader appeal to break the image of tragic gay characters that populate Hollywood movies a la "Brokeback Mountain" and "Milk."
"We love those movies but I can’t wait for the day when a big Hollywood movie gets a wide release in which gay characters don’t die at the end. I’d love to see a happy ending," he says.
For now, Williams is glad to show his movie at home. He’s hoping he can make it to Fort Worth but the life of a Los Angeles filmmaker is a busy one.
"It’s really great to come back home with something you are really proud of. It’s a homecoming. I’m crossing my fingers to be there."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 21, 2009.