We love short shorts: this summer, lesbian filmmakers are kicking out their ya-yas in sexy short films where the action is hot and the stories hit home.
Take Everything Good, written by Boston-based Caren Block and produced by Block and Paula Dowd. In 17 minutes, with only the hint of a backstory, we come to understand the deepest needs and fears of Lila (Lea Tolub)--an ordinary, repressed midlife American woman who orders up a female prostitute (Judith Partelow) while visiting Amsterdam.
The sex scene in Good isn't so much hot as real--full of awkwardness, discomfort, and release. And the film, directed by Elizabeth McCarthy, has drawn visceral reactions from viewers. "They want to tell us their individual stories," says Block, who has a day job in the corporate world (as does her producing partner). "People are extracting from our film something that's important to them. And not just lesbians--straight people too."
There's also discomfiture in the sex scenes of Getting to Know You, a 20-minute romance from Los Angeles writer-director Liz Lachman. But here it's played for laughs. Lachman's sweetly mixed-up heroine, cartoonist Tenny Bell (Elizabeth Keener, Catherine's cute little sis), endures a series of sex dates from hell before she finally meets her dream girl, played by Michelle C. Bonilla [see interview on page 92]. "It's loosely based on my wild days," says Lachman, a former musician-composer, with a sly laugh.
Her cast also features Dana Delany, Anne Ramsay, and Megan Cavanagh (the memorably oafish Marla Hooch from A League of Their Own). "The actors road the script and really liked it," explains Lachman. "It wasn't a feature they had to do for free. There wasn't a lot of time commitment." She also coined a Tom Sawyer--esque spiel to lure her crew: "I told them they were going to get the best food they ever had on a set"--propared by celebrity chef Susan Feniger, Lachman's partner of 10 years--"and they would get to watch really pretty women make out. Really, they should be paying me."
Lori Kaye and her girlfriend, Leslie Thomas, had mostly themselves to feed while shooting their hilarious 18-minute film, L.A. Dolls. That's because they're the stars. Or rather, they're the voices of the actual stars--a pair of glamorous lesbian dolls. The project began with Thomas, a Los Angeles-based producer for reality TV shows (as is Kaye, a former stand-up comic and Advocate contributor), suggesting they "make dolls of ourselves and film them." So it was off to Toys "R" Us for knockoff Barbies and fabulous outfits, then to the 99 cents Only Store for the dolls' wide-eyed heads.
The story hinges on the dolls writing a musical about Eleanor Roosevelt--starring a famous male actor--until "Lori" abandons "Les" to work with out composer Marc Shaiman (who couldn't be funnier). Mo Gaffney contributes a delicious bit as a showbiz-fixated therapist, while Kaye's Floridian parents take their own star turn when the dolls go home for a visit.
Then there's the big sex scene. Frankly, doll sex sizzles! The filmmakers even reveal to The Advocate something they hadn't told their friends, in whose backyard they filmed the scene: "They don't know we had sex in their pool, let alone that we came back and filmed the dolls having sex," says Thomas.
All these nouveau filmmakers want to expand to bigger projects. Both Lachman and the Kaye-Thomas duo plan to pitch their shorts for potential TV series. "Queer networks would be an easy fit," says Lachman, "but any network on which you can have two women kiss--I'll be there." Lachman is also pitching feature scripts to direct, and Kaye recently produced a documentary about AIDS LifeCycle for the Logo network. Block and Dowd have formed Smoking Gun Films and have already begun shooting a feature in Texas with lesbian protagonists.
Short films can serve as a Hollywood calling card for lesbian filmmakers (Angela Robinson, whose brilliant short D.E.B.S. led to a gig directing this summer's Disney film Herbie: Fully Loaded), and they're far more budget-friendly to make. But they also provide a unique movie experience. "In a short, you have the highlights of everything," says Thomas. "Character has to happen immediately; there's no unfolding. You just throw it out there, and hopefully it's all highlights."
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|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Date:||Aug 16, 2005|
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