Writer and director Q Allan Brocka received an achievement award at this year’s Fresno Reel Pride Festival. Allan has been contributing to and coming to Fresno’s film festival for years. He’s currently in Toronto, Canada working on a gay themed series, Rick & Steve, The Happiest Gay Couple In All The World, which is scheduled to air on MTV’s LOGO channel next year. I sat down for a phone interview with him during a break in his schedule.
Chris Jarvis: So what’s going on in Toronto?
CJ: I wanted to ask you about the legal problems with LEGO surrounding that project.
AB: The new show doesn’t involve Lego at all. The original shorts that I made, I made out of Legos. I had no funds to build the puppets and the world that I wanted so I built it out of something I did have, which was Lego. So there’s no more images of the original shorts online, but the new show has nothing to do with Lego.
CJ: What’s the concept of the new show?
AB: It’s the same story and the same characters, it’s just not made out of Legos.
CJ: Is it animation, is it live action?
AB: It’s stop motion animation. Little plastic toys in a plastic world. I mean everything looks like toys, but it looks like a place that you would buy houses and cars. Everything’s pre-fabricated.
CJ: Are you able to talk about the Lego thing? Were they upset because of gay content?
AB: I don’t know, all I know is there are thousands of Lego movies online and I’m the one that got shut down. They aggressively pursued me. They threatened to do all kinds of things, and I’m sure that I have some rights, but I just didn’t have the money to fight them.
CJ: What’s the schedule like for an animated show like that?
AB: Well, I’m in Toronto and we’ve been shooting since July and I’m here through January. I wake up at 6am every morning. Then I leave the studio about 7 or 8 and answer emails.
CJ: Are these half hour episodes?
CJ: How long does it take to do a half hour episode?
AB: It happens over a long period of time. We do a number of episodes at the same time. An animator can do 8 seconds of animation in a day, so it takes a while. We have 16 animators going at once on 3 different episodes at a time.
CJ: When can we expect to see Rick & Steve on Logo?
AB: It’ll be on June, 2007.
CJ: Weekly or monthly?
AB: I think they’ll air every week. We’re doing 6 episodes now, and MTV tends to do short seasons to start out with so it’ll be a 6 episode run, then depending on how that goes determines whether they pick up some more.
CJ: Are you writing and directing?
CJ: This Rick & Steve is obviously pretty special to you. Where did it all come from?
AB: The original concept was an assignment for class, in my first semester of film school. I had to make a short video about relationships. I decided to do the stop motion animation sequence for a TV show that I wished was on. I’d always wanted to see a sitcom centered around a gay family. I’d grown up seeing only straight families on TV, and even now we’ve come a long way with the queers on TV but we still don’t have a family, a family sitcom. So that’s kind of where this all came from. The opening credit sequence was what I thought would be a show that would make me laugh, a show that I’d want to watch. Then at the end of the opening credit sequence I put the title of the first episode, Cum & Quiche, which I thought would be funny. People really liked the sequence so I decided to write a script and make the first episode.
CJ: How did you choose the characters and their inclinations? Is that from your life, did you want to form a certain kind of community?
AB: Yeah, I really wanted there to be a good mixture of love and conflict and some very strong personalities. You know, all the characters are, I feel, different shades of myself, either angry and jaded or pissy and bitchy or spineless and kind. They’re all shades of me and people I know. Like the first episode, Rick and Steve are contemplating a 3 way, which is something that comes up in most gay relationships that I’ve been aware of. Whether they decide to or not, it’s something that’s talked about.
CJ: What do you think about gay shows on TV, like Will & Grace, that are very mainstream but maybe not exploring deeper gay relationships, or real gay families with children?
AB: You know I never really watched Will & Grace. I liked Jack & Karen but I didn’t like Will & Grace a lot. I was just always glad it was there, it was a great thing to know that every week on prime time TV it was there. I felt it was a positive representation of gay people. I have no problem with flaming queens, I love them. I have a problem with people who had a problem, thinking that was a horrible stereotype, because that describes a lot of people I know, and me on a lot of occasions.
: I was reading your article
on gay shame in the Advocate and I found your point really interesting, you know, that “straight acting” is not necessarily a compliment and vice versa.
AB: Right, right. I don’t really like sitcoms, so I don’t watch them, but I’m disappointed that it’s gone and that there isn’t another show with such a consistent representation of gay people.
CJ: And you’re making a documentary about your uncle?
: Yeah, I’m doing a documentary about my uncle, Lino Brocka
, who died about 15 years ago, he was a Filipino filmmaker. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a while that will take many years to complete. I’m just doing it very slowly because I’m focusing right now projects that pay my bills until I get in a position where I can make a documentary. Where I can spend more time on, so right now it’s moving pretty slowly.
CJ: Is filmmaking in your family besides the two of you?
AB: Not that I know of. Interestingly I didn’t know about him actually until I’d grown up and started making films myself so that’s part of what the documentary is about.
CJ: Are you looking at more features?
AB: I’m hoping to. I have a number of scripts that I’m always trying to get off the ground. And I’m reading other people’s scripts. Most of filmmaking is trying to get the next project going, so I’m doing a lot of that while I’m making this show. The show is pretty demanding with my time right now.
CJ: How hard is it for people to break into the film business? I saw that you got a lot of attention with your first shorts.
AB: I’ve heard about every single way of people getting into the business. So many different things. There’s a million different ways and it’s hard because a lot of it has to do with just chance. If you’re an actor you’re going to have a really different path than a writer or director. But as a writer or director you have a little more control because you actually create your own material, you create your own work. As an actor you’re kind of waiting for someone else to come along and pick you. For me as a writer/director I’ve always looked at what I had around me, at my disposal, whether it be a video camera or friends who have some acting talent. You know the opportunity to make a small, softcore comedy, like Eating Out, and turn that opportunity into something cinematic that people would hopefully appreciate without being hung up on the limitations of budget and resources.
CJ: Is it true that you wrote and directed Eating Out in 10 days?
AB: I didn’t write in 10 days. I wrote it in a class in school and we shot it in 10 days. 10 very long days in a row, no days off.
CJ: Is that because that’s just how far the money would take you?
AB: Exactly, that’s all we could afford.
CJ: Do you think it’s easier for people to break into film in the independent cinema in TV or some other medium?
AB: Well, yeah, if you’re going to just walk in and start directing something, in Independent film you don’t need to have experience. All you need to have are the resources. So if you have a video camera you can make an independent film. You don’t even have to own one, you can just borrow one from a friend. So it’s pretty easy to start making films, but it’s making films that people want to see and what you do with the money that’s the hard part.
: Porno Valley and Camp Michael Jackson were two documentaries that I’ve done for work, basically. They were both productions done by World Of Wonder
, a great reality/documentary company. I made friends with Randy Barbato & Fenton Bailey
who run that company, through the film festival circuit. They actually followed me in a documentary called Gay Hollywood
for a while and after that they offered me a job directing Porno Valley, which was a 13 episode series following the real lives of adult actresses. They kind of came with the concept and I kind of directed for hire. It was a great way to get a lot of experience and pay bills at the same time. Camp Micael Jackson was a similar thing. It was a story that they wanted to tell but they had so many productions going at the same time that they hire other directors and writers.
CJ: Did you have any experience with Michael Jackson during that?
AB: I did get to go to Neverland Ranch and meet Michael in his home, which was pretty cool, but it was a very brief meeting. I was with about 70 of his fans, but I did get to see his home and I was with the last group of people allowed into Neverland, so it was very exciting.
CJ: Is that a very controlled thing, when someone meets Michael Jackson?
AB: Yeah, actually it was. Getting into Neverland was a very long and arduous process. Once Michael Jackson announced that he was going to let us in, there was about 70 of us, we all had to go through a really hardcore security where they weeded out all the press. I made it through because I’d been making this documentary following 8 Michael Jackson fans who I became really close with and so they all said, “Oh no, he’s a fan, just like us” so they let us in. We went through searches and they made us leave behind any cell phones, cameras, any kind of recording device, then went through metal detectors. Once all that happened we were able to go into his front yard and house. Once we were there, he actually came out with his children and they played with us. So it was kind of cool to be able to go up and talk to them. He kept his bodyguards close because there are some kind of crazy fans. They help him navigate, because people can sometimes be time hogs, but overall it was a really pleasant experience.
CJ: You were at Reel Pride in Fresno this year and won an award.
AB: Yeah, I got an achievement award in Fresno, which is really awesome.
CJ: How long have you been coming to Fresno for Reel Pride?
AB: This is my seventh year of having work at the festival, and my sixth year of being there in person.
CJ: And how did you feel it went this year?
AB: It went really great. It was really nice to be there for the weekend. I had two features this year. It was a great festival.
: I was just reading that Eating Out
was the best selling gay DVD of 2006
AB: Yeah, it did really well on DVD which was quite nice. It was really unexpected when we were making it, that’s for sure.
CJ: And it looks like TLA has picked up Boy Culture
CJ: You visited Déjà vu during the festival? How was that?
AB: They had our screening party there. Yeah, it was nice. Busy and plenty to drink. A lot of people who had just seen the movie, so it was a lot of fun.
CJ: How much time a year do you spend at film festivals?
AB: I probably go to about 10-15 festivals a year. It probably averages to a little over once a month. It’s quite a bit of time, since a festival takes a weekend or longer. It’s more when I have a film out.
CJ: Are you a very political person? Involved in political action?
AB: I don’t know if I’m involved, but I vote and I definitely put politics into all of my work. I’m very opinionated. My political opinions are very strong.
CJ: How is the fame? Does it get overwhelming?
AB: No, as a director, I mean there may be 5 directors in the world that everyone recognizes. I’m not in front of the camera very much. Directing is a very interesting thing. When someone does recognize you, it’s usually because they sought you out or appreciated work of yours, so it’s a nice thing. It’s not like I’m Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton where everyone knows who you are and has an opinion of you one way or the other and they’re willing to tell it to you. You know, even someone like Reichen, who’s very recognizable in our community because he did something on a show and everyone has an opinion one way or the other and are willing to share it with him. So I never get that, but maybe right after a screening people will come up and say something, or sometimes at a club someone will come up and say something.
CJ: It was really nice talking to you and we look forward to the series on Logo, as well as everything else you do.
AB: Thank you for the interview.
Allan Brocka has a blog and website, Posh Pictures He’s also a contributor to The Advocate magazine with his column Hell In A Handbasket