By Neil Woulfe - Radar Senior News Director
Filmmaker Elliot London is one to watch in Hollywood.
The charismatic director/producer calls himself a dreamer, and now he’s offering you the opportunity to share his dream of making a movie that’s very close to his heart.
The 30-year-old London, born in Australia, but raised in America, says growing up gay was not always easy, especially in Rockford, Illinois. With that in mind, his latest short film, The Wedding Dance, tells the story of marriage equality -- but he promises, with a twist.
London plans to start shooting in Los Angeles in a few weeks, but like so many small independent filmmakers, he needs additional funding to complete the project, so he’s taken the unusual and highly creative step of using social media to entice investors who can actually receive a credit on the film.
RadarOnline.com chatted with London about his journey from America’s Heartland to Hollywood -- and what it was like to intern for Jerry Springer along the way!
Radar: Tell me about your new short film, The Wedding Dance. What is it about and why were you inspired to do it?
Elliot: The Wedding Dance is a short film that is going to show you a different prospective of equality. I really want to give you a full synopsis, but I can’t only because of the reason that I like a surprise ending. It’s becoming my trait. (Laughs) ... I can promise you though that it won’t be your average wedding that you dread to go to.
I am just inspired because the timing is right. We are in a in culture where this topic is being talked about by the masses.
It will be powerful, yet light-hearted. I have a gut feeling that this short really will hit the straight audience and show the gay community differently. It’s all about the twist, boy do I like a twist!
Radar: You plan to start shooting the first week of February. As an independent filmmaker in Los Angeles, what are some of the challenges in mounting a production?
Elliot: OMG. Doing anything in L.A. that involves a camera is a challenge. First and foremost is the funding. Second is getting a great group of actors. A lot of time actors will pass on working on a independent because they don't know the real outcome of the project. Lastly, is finding that perfect location that you can get for cheap or donated. I, of course, have a grand vision that always need to be bought back to earth by my producer.
Radar: Your budget for The Wedding Dance is a modest $10,000 and while you’re financing half of the film out of your own pocket, you’re hoping to raise the other half online. It may surprise people to hear that they can be part of the filmmaking process by donating as $10 or, as you say on your Facebook page, “It’s 2 coffees and a cake pop at Starbucks ...”
Elliot: As a mass, we get such joy out of watching amazing shorts on YouTube. What many people don’t know is how much can go into that two minutes they just watched. Usually a few months of prep and some really long 14-hour days over the weekend. (It’s the cheapest to rent equipment). You must all think that I am crazy to personally finance my projects, but for me it’s well worth it. Yes, the money could be used for a good vacation. But honestly, I did not have the grades to get into a good film school in Los Angeles. So this is my education.
Radar: People who donate more can actually get an associate producer, producer, or executive producer credit, and they can visit the set. Tell me about that.
Elliot: I really want people to feel like they are a part of something by involving them. If you are willing to part with your hard earn dollars than you should have every right to be involved with a project.
I look at it two ways -- first, you are supporting a community. Second, you are supporting the arts. A lot of people have jobs that do not let them leave an office. What is more exciting than coming to a set and seeing live art being put together with passion and hard work? Plus one of the greatest things about visiting the set is the craft service table. I always make sure there is plenty of food and coffee. So after you donated you can at least get some food to fill your stomach.
Radar: This is not your first film gay-themed film. Tell me about your short, 306.
Elliot: 306 was a piece that I had to get out of my system. I have been really inspired by foreign films over the past -- Won Ka Wai’s In the Mood For Love and Lou Ye’s Spring Fever that I was so fortunate to see at Cannes Film Festival. These movies really pushed boundaries in cinematic and storytelling. I thought to myself, "How can I take all my experiences in life and tell a story that can invoke emotion on a deeper level?"
I think of when I was in my early 20s -- bartending, being crazy and sleeping around. I look at gay culture, and how young dates older, and vice versa. One chases stability and another chases youth. Now I take pen to paper and I create a story, where a confused kid uses the number one currency in the world -- SEX. What most surprised me of this script when I finished my first draft was “What happens if I take all the dialogue out, can it be powerful?” So I did. It took me a whole six months working a second job at Starbucks to pay for this project and it was worth every cent.
Radar: It is difficult attracting a broad audience, meaning both gay and straight, for a film that’s gay-themed -- or is that changing?
Elliot: Difficult. It is easy for me to see content that is for a broad audience because it is available everywhere. How do you get that broad audience to see gay content? It is introduction though complex characters written in broad audience shows. This will relate to my answer in the next question. All I can say is television is our key to bringing interests into our gay-themed projects. But being completely honest, it’s about relating to characters. This is why I feel that gay cinema is so important. It is more important for me to have a kid with his mother see a gay-themed film -- to help overcome the internal homophobia of being gay -- than a theater filled with housewives.
Radar: As an out-and-proud filmmaker, how do you see the power of film in changing people’s attitudes toward the LGBT community?
Elliot: I am incredibly lucky to be alive and see such amazing changes in acceptance with media over the past fifteen years. I remember when I was 16-years-old, trying to secretly checkout gay films from blockbuster to now being able to see Tom Ford's Single Man on the big screen. It’s all about exposure. The more we are out there, the more we will be seen. You really have to give the credit to the TV industry over the past few years. They have changed and bought attention the community. They have paved the way and help closed the gap.
Radar: Is that part of your inspiration for being a filmmaker? To open people’s minds while telling interesting stories?
Elliot: If you look at 306, it can be a double-edged sword for me. It shows a really vivid, realistic side of someone’s life. This was a really risky script I put together that I knew was going to invoke conversation. I have to look at it as positive though, if I offend people and they talk about how could someone have unsafe sex. I know that this person is aware. Hopefully that one person will have that conversation with their partner. There are many hidden closets and people wrestling with demons.
There are many slices of sub-culture life in the LGBT population. So many stories to tell and so many people to inspire. I would rather work at two jobs putting funds together to tell stories than anything else in this world.
Radar: In 2005, while you were attending the Columbia Film School in Chicago, you also interned at the Jerry Springer Show, which tapes at the NBC studios there. What were some of the craziest shows you worked on?
Elliot: My interning at Jerry Springer was short-lived. I have nothing to say bad about Jerry Springer himself as I was fortunate to live in the same building as him in Chicago. Yet, It was really hard for me to see the show’s guests use a TV show as their only hope to bringing joy to their life. My worst experience was when a female producer belittled me in front of people because I had asked her a question without knowing my place on the hierarchy. Ever since that yelling incident, I have always made it a point as a director to learn the intern's name and treat them with respect. The day I moved out of my apartment to go to Los Angeles, I shared the elevator with Mr. Springer. As we descended 48 stories, I told him that I had interned for him. He answered: “You survived, and good luck in Hollywood.”
Radar: Finally, where do you see yourself professionally in the next ten years?
Elliot: I just want to be working. In this economy, anyone my age just wants to be working. I see myself creating a new gay film label that will keep telling our stories and bring new young filmmakers to light. An Oscar wouldn't be bad, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
To make a donation to The Wedding Dance, check out Elliot’s website.