HORSE WHISPERER | Audrey Dean Leighton gives air kisses to this horse adding to his eccentricity in ‘Rainbows End.’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Perhaps the last place you’d find a gay guy who makes your movie work is Nacogdoches, Texas. But Austin-based filmmaker Eric Hueber did just that in his first film, Rainbows End. And it was all sort of by accident.

This documentary track quirky individuals on separate quests to get to California, each for their own reasons: Birdman wants to audition his cocks for an animal casting agency; musicians Country Willie and the Cosmic Debris have a date with the Stardust Cowboy.

But Audrey Dean Leighton is the most colorful of all, with sparkly pink shorts and a vest to match. He just wants to make it to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center to learn about the Internet. And Hueber just happened upon him.

“Yeah, he was walking down the street and I went and started talking to him,” Hueber says. Leighton joined the others in a big green schoolbus that hardly works, making a tour out of their road trip, encountering the colorful characters and engaging in an array of shenanigans. Leighton proudly touts his purchases from Jasper.

His ZZ Top beard is accented with his Easter hats and throughout the movie, he acts as the sage character spewing out wisdom in his own fashion.

“He definitely was the elder statesman of the cast,” Hueber says.

You might call Leighton crazy with his long-trailed monologues, but maybe “eccentric” is a better term. So how did Leighton end up in the film? You have to go back a bit.

“When we started talking, he would mail me all these letters,” Hueber says. “So I told him about email and got him his own Hotmail account and then he became obsessed with the Internet. He would tell me about all the things he was discovering and then he learned that the gay and lesbian center was offering classes on the Internet to people over 55.”

Hueber talks about Leighton as “this guy who showed up at all the small-town parades.” As the valedictorian of his high school class, Leighton went on to brighter and smaller things. A fixture in the small-town circuit of East Texas, his shorts and batons were the random highlights of each parade earning him the nickname “Twirler Man.”

With Hueber’s storytelling, it’s hard to define the film. It plays with a wink in its eye. In the age of Bruno and Borat, cynicism lingers from those films that these are put-on scenarios.

“The thing is I used the B-level of crazy from Nacogdoches,” he laughs. “But these are my good friends, their stories and these events built into this nice narrative arc.”

Rainbows End screens at the Dallas International Film Festival, and will compete in the Texas Film category — that’s a triumph in its own small way.

“Oh, this is the most appropriate category,” Hueber says. “We’re so excited.”

Screens as part of the Dallas International Film Festival. at the Magnolia Theater on April 1 at 10 p.m. and April 3 at noon.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.