Those People is premiering tonight as part of SIFF. Director Joey Kuhn and producer Kimberly Parker are scheduled to attend. There are several screening times over the weekend. Get your tickets here.
On Manhattan’s gilded Upper East Side, young painter Charlie finds the man of his dreams in a charming older pianist. If only Charlie weren’t secretly in love with his manipulative best friend, Sebastian, who is embroiled in a financial scandal. World Premiere.
ED: How does it feel to complete your first feature film and be travelling around the country with it?
JK: It is kind of mind-boggling. I started the script about 4 years ago. So it has definitely been a lot of years of hard work. I am very excited to finally share it with audiences. I don’t think it has all really hit me yet. Right now, I am just of a nervous guy getting ready for the premier and wondering how it is going to be in front of all of these. There is a lot to take in. I don’t think I will process it all until maybe after the first screening. I don’t feel that the movie is really complete until you share it with the audience.
ED: Did you actually start this project knowing that you wanted it to be your first feature film?
JK: Yes, I did. I went to film school at NYU. I made a lot of short films there. I have been making short films since I was about 15 or so. I was tired of just making short films and just went for it. I knew I wanted to tell a gay love story for my first feature. That is pretty much how it started.
ED: What was the biggest obstacle in making this film?
JK: There are a couple of obstacles along the way. There are the self-created obstacles and then the actual obstacles in making the film. In the writing process, the huge obstacle was just kind of gaining insight on myself. I was in love with my best friend for like 5 years. That was the inspiration for the film. So, in writing this, I had to look at myself from the outside and sort of play therapist. I had to figure out why I was acting that way and holding on to that unrequited love that would never happen. I think a lot of filmmakers make the main character a version of themselves. That is a great jumping off point but at some point you have to step outside and let it become its own character. Also, finding the right balance between the main character, the two men he is torn between, and his own friends. Writing is a balancing act.
ED: Why do you think we are attracted to and maybe even held back by the “Sebastian’s” of the world?
JK: I think there is something very attractive about this golden boy. They have a special quality that when you are with them you are the only person in the world. They need this attention from you. They thrive on this dynamic. For us, I think it is sort of a security blanket. You don’t have to go explore anything else. I think there is something very comforting in the security blanket and it becomes all wrapped up in your identity. It is hard to let that go after a while.
ED: Are you nervous about the premier of your first feature film?
JK: I am extremely proud of the movie so I am glad that I have the confidence of that. I think the most nerve-wracking thing will be sitting in the audience hoping that people laugh at the right time or even hoping to move them by the end of the film. Showing it to friends and family is one thing. Showing it to strangers and hoping to make them feel something is exciting. You always hope that people will think it is good but you want them to love it as well.
ED: Have you thought about showing this to the best friend that you were in love with?
JK: (Laughter) Funny thing is that this is the second movie I have made about him. I made a short film in grad school about him. That was sort of when I was in the midst of being in love with him, maybe even the beginning part of it all. I went to visit him, taking the short film with me, and basically told him that I had been in love with him for a couple of years. Then we sat and watched it together. That was a very intense experience. He is aware of this new movie. We are in a much different place now. Making this movie was sort of therapy so I was able to get over him. I am going to show him the movie but I don’t know when. I am hoping he can come to one of the festivals.
I should say that the movie is semi-autobiographical. I am the jumping off point for Charlie and my friend is the jumping off point for Sebastian. There are a lot of other influences as well. I am from New York and knew people that lost money in the Bernie Madoff scandal. I was very attracted to the story of his son Mark. About the time I started writing this and tackling my first feature, Mark Madoff killed himself two years after his father went to prison. I was really fascinated with that story. His entire life was ruined by something he didn’t do. I really wanted to explore that character so that became another piece of the puzzle. I love movies and stories that have a love triangle against a bigger socio-political back drop. I like intimate stories but I really like it when there are bigger themes attached as well.
ED: Do you have a message for future or young filmmakers?
JK: Write things that are important to you. Write things you want to say. Don’t write things that you think other people think you should be making. It is really important to find your group of people. Find your crew. Filmmaking can be a lonely endeavor. I am lucky enough to have a group of fellow filmmakers and it makes the process so much fun and more creatively satisfying. Find other people that share your interests and help each other out. It is kind of like having a workout buddy or something. I think it really helps create momentum and pushes you. Finding your people is a big thing.
ED: I also read that you are a huge Mariah Carey fan.
JK: (Laughter) I felt like it was a little thing I had to put in the bio. It is true. I am a huge Lamb, as we are called. I have been a fan since I was eight years old. I was actually in a Mariah Carey music video when I as eight. They ended up re-shooting the whole thing though. I was a competitive gymnast at the time. I guess Sony came to the gym to recruit people to be angels. Ever since then I have been a huge fan. I love her music and everything about her. I would really die for her.
ED: What is your favorite Mariah Carey song right now?
JK: My favorite song is “The Roof” from the Butterfly album. That is probably my favorite album as well. “The Roof” and “Breakdown”, those are my two favorites.