Chris introduced me to his friend Jason Bushman. During my conversation with Jason, I found out that he had written and produced the 2009 independent film Hollywood, Je T’aime starring Eric Debets, Michael Airington, Diarra Kilpatrick and Chad Allen. I had heard of it and a friend of mine had told me he loved it when he saw it, but I had yet to see it myself.
So I netflixed it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then asked Jason if he’d similarly participate in a Q&A about the film – which he was so similarly kind and gracious to do.
1) I was going to start by asking what "Je T'aime" means. Instead, I decided to just look it up. Now that I have, is the film a love story to Hollywood?
Yeah, I would say it is. When I wrote the script I was spending a lot of time in Paris -- and I completely love Paris. But I kept coming back to LA, my home since 1995, and my wonderful partner here. The film was a way for me to integrate French consciousness through my muse at the time, Eric Debets, with the gritty reality of my LA.
2) When did you write the script?
I wrote the first draft in early 2008, in a Paris cafe called L'étoile Manquante. It happened really quickly -- by October of that year we were in pre-production.
3) What was the inspiration for the story?
I made a short film in 2006 called Serene Hunter (embedded below). It starred my dear friend Eric Debets in the lead role and I also act in it. Eric had never pursued acting before as I had, but I just found him to be a real natural onscreen. Eric came to LA for Outfest in 2007 and completely loved it.
Disclaimer: Some sexual content may be objectionable to some viewers, but not to me.
He started talking about how he wanted to move to LA to be an actor full-time. I thought this was a REALLY bad idea considering his intense French accent and just generally how hard it is to pursue that career -- even for Americans. But then I thought about it some more and decided it would be really funny. What if someone like Eric came from France on a whim to pursue a latent desire to become a movie star?
4) There are elements of the industry in the film but the film is not about the industry. The film is also set in Silver Lake, a far cry from the Beach and glamor most people see in films about LA. What was behind this shift in how LA is portrayed?
All my film work has been very personal. Though I've lived all over town, it's Silver Lake where I feel most at home. This was the LA I wanted to make a movie about. And yeah, we were definitely contrasting the global image of Los Angeles with what is reality for myself and all the folks I know here.
5) One of the more recognizable faces in the cast is Chad Allen. How did he get involved in the project?
He was our first choice to play Ross. Our fantastic Casting Director, Jeremy Gordon, contacted his people. Chad read the script and he signed on. He was such a joy to work with. I hope we can collaborate again.
6) Allen's character Ross became a friend to the lead character Jerome (played by Eric Debets). It seems that Ross has taken a fancy to Jerome. As a cynical romantic, I wanted them to get together or at least have a hook-up. Why didn't they?
You're cynical and you wanted them to hook up?! In the movie Jerome is recently out of a breakup and definitely on the hunt for action. But in my experience this never really works - especially when you can tell the other person is really into you. I wanted him to be into Ross and Ross to be into Jerome but it just never happens. That's life, for me at least.
7) There's an interesting scene where Ross meets Jerome's drag queen friend Norma and lady of the night friend Kaleesha. Ross exchanges pleasantries with them but won't offer them the same ride he had just offered Jerome. How prevalent do know/think/find this discomfort/prejudice to be in gay culture? Was it your intent to bring some attention to that discomfort/prejudice?
Definitely. I have found a lot of gay guys to be very intolerant of transgendered people. It's such a shame and it's all about divide-and-conquer. As long as all the minorities don't like one another, then we can continue to be dominated by wealthy white hetero Christian men! It's also internalized homophobia and misogyny and racism - the list goes on. We gay guys spend all this time processing for the purpose of accepting ourselves, but it's a very narrow vision of self and it's easy to get freaked out by someone else in the 'queer' community who doesn't look like what we imagine queer to be.
8) I love the caretaker aspect of Norma's character. Who is that type of figure in your life or how have you been that type of figure in someone else's life?
I've definitely taken in my share of strays and I guess I've been taken in myself. Some older people like Norma are really jaded - based largely on the time and place they grew up - so they don't really have the capacity to love someone full-time. But temporary stays work and who doesn't want a hunky French guy walking around the house?
9) There’s an open ending to the film. Was that in the original script or was there more to the story that wound up being cut or edited for time?
The script was written with that ending. I prefer films that leave the audience with something to think about, multiple possibilities of ending. What is ending, anyway? Life keeps going on.
10) There's a featurette on the DVD about one of the 720 buses breaking down and causing a production delay. What other such wrenches were thrown into the production during filming?
That was the major one. It was a FULL day of shooting on the bus and about 3/4 of the way through our day the bus broke down! The MTA eventually delivered us a new bus, but we were delayed quite a bit and had to change one scene entirely to reflect this reality.
11) What was the greatest feedback you received about the film?
It won best picture at several gay film festivals, so that was nice. I also remember a gentleman at a festival in Philadelphia imploring me to make more films like this. I haven't been able to deliver on that promise yet, but I'm working on it.
12) What was the greatest thing to have come out of making the film?
It has to do with my relationship. My partner of 14 years, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, produced the film. Though we love each other very much, we're both pretty strong-willed and we'd never really collaborated before -- creatively speaking. I feel like we've entered a new era since the film was completed. There's a lot more peace in our home. That's the greatest thing I could ask for, and a totally unexpected outcome.
13) If there were to be a sequel to the film, what would happen?
Well, we talked for a while about making Hollywood, Te Amo with some gay guy coming from Latin America to LA to be a movie star, but that project stalled.
I guess if these characters continued, maybe it would be about Jerome pursuing an acting path in France and maybe his friends from LA coming to visit. Kaleesha Takes Paris anyone?
14) What did/do you want people to take away from the film?
It's pretty simple. Home is where the heart is. That was my process in writing it. I love Paris, but my heart is in Los Angeles. This was the reverse situation. Jerome totally digs LA and he has a lot of professional luck for his short time here, but ultimately he loves someone back in Paris and that's what matters most.
15) With three years hindsight, what, if anything, would have done differently with the film?
I personally still love the title, but people commonly ask, "Oh, is it like Paris, Je T'aime and New York, I Love You?"
It's not. It has nothing to do with those movies, which are basically compilations of short films. To ease up on confusion, I probably would've chosen a different title in hindsight.
16) With three years hindsight, how do you feel about the film?
The film creatively achieved everything I wanted it to. I'm very happy with the final product.
That said, I had a lot of misconceptions about the business, including how easy it would be to continue making films on that level. The indie film business has changed a lot in recent years, with the recession and the growth of streaming. So, like the film, my feelings overall are bittersweet.
17) What other projects have you worked on since Hollywood je T'aime?
I've written two complete screenplays since then, and I'm currently on a third. Any investors out there who wanna work together, please be in touch! I also acted in a film that's playing Outfest this summer. I'd love to be in production again soon.
18) You wrote and directed "Hollywood Je T'aime". Do you prefer writing and directing, just writing or just directing?
I was an actor not getting enough work, which led me to writing. Then after I'd written a few scripts but none of them were getting any traction in town, I decided I might as well start directing, too. Honestly, I like it all. Writing is awesome, because it's such a private experience. I can really thrive in that zone. But I also really like the collaborative aspect of directing, and I'd be glad to direct something I didn't write one day. I'm open and willing.
Hollywood Je T’aime is available for rent on Netflix and for purchase on Amazon.
Original Fiction from a Sitcom Mind > The Halls of Shambala > The Non-Fiction Archives: 2012-2014 >