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Sex, guys, and videotape: "reality" filmmaker Dustin Lance Black talks about turning the camera on himself--and on five young gay men out for fun--in On the Bus. (video).

Dustin Lance Black, the director and one of the subjects of the documentary On the Bus, will be facing his most feared critic with the DVD release of his film: his mother. "I grew up in a Mormon household, a very Christian conservative family," notes the filmmaker, whose movie documents the sex- and drug-fueled shenanigans of six young gay men on a road trip to the Burning Man festival. "There's nothing in it that she doesn't already know about. Still, it's a different thing between knowing and actually seeing your son put mushrooms on his tongue."

Armed with six cameras, Black, now 28, taped the seven-day road trip to the giant, free-spirited fest in the Nevada desert in 1998. The original plan was to create several 10-minute "Webisodes" for the now-defunct Digital Entertainment Network, a streaming-video Web site. "When we first pitched it, reality TV wasn't booming yet. There was The Real World and Road Rules," Black recalls. "The idea was, How do you include that third person you're supposed to pretend doesn't exist in these reality shows?" Thus Black became both filmmaker and cast member.

But Digital Entertainment Network shelved the project, then went out of business; in 2000, Black got back the 60 hours of raw footage he'd shot and fashioned it into On the Bus. The documentary feature form allowed him to avoid the "sensationalized, high-drama editing" that DEN wanted, he says.

The influence of DEN remains in the casting: Black wanted to videotape a group of friends exploring different places; DEN wanted very sexy, very young men. Thus Black found himself on a bus with one friend, Damon, 24; Iris producer, Billy, 27; and three 19- to 26y-ear-old strangers, including gay-porn star Dean O'Connor (real name: Jason). "I expected for people to be vying for attention and all the sexual tension on the first day," Black says. "But it really kept going day after day after day. People were getting more defensive and opened up less and less."

During the trip, Black notes, the group divided into two camps: the promiscuous and the celibate. "People were vying for sexual attention, and at any given moment Damon was trying to stifle that," he recalls. "At one point you had all those guys in a hot tub, and God knows, if you didn't have those cameras there, it would have turned into an orgy. Damon wasn't going to have it. He's sitting at the computer [beside the hot tub] and he brings up AIDS and HIV." Looking back, Black doesn't mind disappointing viewers who may have hoped to see four 20-something guys making out in a hot tub. "It mate it easier in the editing room if it didn't happen," he says. "I wouldn't want to be a pornographer."

He also didn't much want to be a documentary subject. "It's just hard to watch yourself," Black says of the editing process. "There's nothing more terrifying than watching a week of your life on videotape almost two years later." He laughs. "All your insecurities are right there for you to see and, inevitably, for everyone to see. There's some tough things there. If you want some quick therapy, go film yourself for a week."

Kim is an author and journalist living in Los Angeles.
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Article Details
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Author:Kim, Chuck
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 25, 2002
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