Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Geller and Humenuk Introduce “The Guys Next Door” Sunday at Doc NYC

Playing at Festivals

Geller and Humenuk Introduce “The Guys Next Door” Sunday at Doc NYC

(from Sag Harbor Express Online  11/6/17)

The Guys Next Door
Sandro holding Eleanora, Rachel, Tony, Erik holding Rachel Maria in a scene from “The Guys Next Door.”
By Danny Peary 
guysnextdoordocnycposter
The Guys Next Door fits my category “Movies That Should Play in Sag Harbor.” Meanwhile you can purchase tickets to see it at noon on Sunday November 13 at the SVA Theatre, when it has its New York premiere as part of Doc NYC. It’s a slice-of-modern-life documentary that’s quite unique, as Boston-based producers/directors Amy Geller and Allie Humenuk, who also did the splendid cinematography, spent several years with a quite uncommon extended family. The guys in the title are the married couple, Erik Mercer and Sandro Sechi, who live in Maine with their young daughters, Rachel Maria and Eleonora. Eleonora was just about to be born when the film begins and like her older sister was carried by a surrogate, Rachel Segall, Erik’s friend from college. In her early forties, Rachel lives in the Boston suburbs with her husband Tony Hurley and their own children, Maddie, Jordie, and Zeke. And, the two families interact, although they probably couldn’t define how they are related. “Told with candor and humor,” as the synopsis in the press notes states, “The Guys Next Door is an inspiring story of family, friendship and gay rights.” Please view the trailer: https://vimeo.com/121082340 Because, full disclosure, Amy Geller is my sister-in-law, I had no trouble securing this interview with her and Allie Humenuk about this heartfelt project they have lived with for nearly half a decade.
Directors Amy Geller (left) and Allie Humenuk.
Directors Amy Geller (left) and Allie Humenuk.
Danny Peary: Where does making this documentary fit into your respective careers?
Amy Geller: As an independent filmmaker I’ve had quite a diverse career, producing other people’s films, doing educational media and corporate work, curating film festivals, and teaching. For many years I’ve wanted to work as a director on my own feature-length project, which is quite different than producing. As a producer you’re the person that puts it all together, hires everybody, manages the budget, handles all of the logistics and the different pieces of production. You advise as a creative person and you have input but it’s not ultimately your vision on screen. So for me The Guys Next Door, as a collaboration with Allie Humenuk, is really a culmination of my long-term mission to direct long-format feature films.
Allie Humenuk: I am a documentary filmmaker and my career has been a mixture of teaching, making my own films, and being a freelance DP and Director. I also do some editing. The Guys Next Door is my second feature film. In terms of it being part of my trajectory, I love the idea of it being just one of several films I will make. I’m not sure that it will happen because these kinds of films cost so much money and require such a massive amount of work that they’re not a way to make a living.
Sandro, Rachel, and Erik.
Sandro, Rachel, and Erik.
DP: When you say “these types of films,” what do you mean?
AH: I mean independent documentaries. People are not commissioning us; they’re not coming to us and paying for us to make films about their topics. We set out as filmmakers to tell stories that are really meaningful and personal to us. They tend not to be mainstream stories that would be on Frontline, like a documentary on Zika or terrorism.
DP: How did you two work together on this?
AH: Typically when you have a small documentary crew, the director works in collaboration with the cinematographer and probably a producer, and, depending on the budget, a sound person and a P.A. The director decides what’s happening creatively while the producer coordinates everything and probably hires the crew. In this case, we had a very small crew because we wanted to get close to our subjects and make an intimate film. Because we were co-directing and co-producing, before we’d shoot each day, Amy and I would talk about what we hoped to capture. I would have the camera and Amy was usually taking sound. As a two-person unit, we followed what was going on in our characters’ everyday lives. Ultimately, the film was made in the editing room in collaboration with our editor, Rachel Clark. It took the three of us a long time to craft the story. Maybe three brains made the process longer, but they also made a better film.
DP: Did you have money to make this film from the beginning?
AH: In order to get the film funded, we had to write grants. We had to include a treatment that said what the film was about.
AG: Even though we didn’t know for sure.
AH: We had found these interesting people to shoot but thought, “We understand that things are about to happen, that a baby is about to be born, but we don’t know where their life will go or what will unfold. We’re curious about what will happen when the baby is born and how they will relate to each other, so we’ll follow them and just see what happens.”
DP: How did you meet Erik, Sandro, and their surrogate Rachel?
AG: I had gone to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and read in my alumni magazine about this amazing gift that another Bates alum, Rachel Segall, was giving to her gay friends. Erik Mercer, one of the dads, had been friends with Rachel and her husband Tony Hurley back in college. The article reported that she already had one baby for Erik and his husband Sandro Sechi. At the very bottom of the print story, I read “she’s doing it a second time.” And I thought that would be amazing to document. I had mutual friends in common with Rachel, so I contacted her. We met over breakfast, and I told her, “I would love to come with a filmmaking partner, Allie Humenuk, and shoot your family, and also Erik and Sandro’s family.” She agreed, as would Erik, Sandro, and Tony. So I called Allie…
DP: You worked together before?
AG: I had seen her previous work and we had worked together on some educational video productions*. She was the best cinéma vérité videographer that I’ve ever worked with and I knew that if I was going to make this film in an intimate, direct-cinema way that she would be the best person to collaborate with. She agreed to come on the first shoot and bring her camera equipment. At that early stage, I just said, “I would love for you to codirect this film, but I don’t know if that is something you want to do.”
AH: Amy came to me with what sounded like a very interesting story but initially I was hesitant to come on as a co-director because I thought she was talking about making a topic-driven film about surrogacy, and what I really love are character-driven stories.
AG: It’s funny, but I don’t have a memory of thinking of it as a film about surrogacy. I do remember feeling very compelled by what would inspire a woman to do this for her friends, not once but twice, and for free. That question drove my initial interest in the story.
AH: I said, “I don’t know if this project is for me, but I’m happy to come with you and start shooting so that you will have enough footage for a trailer or to at least enough so you’ll be able to start fundraising.” So Amy and I went to New York for a couple of days, when Erik, Sandro and their young daughter Rachel Maria were still living in Brooklyn prior to their move to Portland, Maine. Rachel, Tony, and their kids, Maddie, Jordie, and Zeke, were visiting for the weekend. Our first exposure to our subjects was as the extended family all together.
DP: Was it planned that they’d all be together?
AH: Yes, we knew in advance that they would be there and we thought it would be a great way to meet with them. We wanted to see how they felt about our making a movie about them and for us all to make a joint decision about whether to proceed. We got there and turned the camera on, and we literally met them through the camera. After filming that first day, Amy and I looked at each other and it was obvious we both felt these are good characters, there’s a story here.
AG: Once we met Erik and Sandro and everyone together, we really–I know this sounds trite– fell in love with this family. That’s why we committed to doing the film. Allie and I really felt that way.
AH: We were drawn to them, they were very open, we were very open. That appealed to both of us, and we said, ‘Okay, let’s make a film where we follow them and see what unfolds. We won’t determine what unfolds. We’re going to let real life dictate what the film will be.” At that point, we decided that we wanted to co-direct and co-produce the film together. And the extended family agreed to have us in their lives, filming it.
DP: When the film begins, Rachel’s eight-months pregnant. How many months pregnant was she when you agreed to do the film together?
AG: We met them and we were shooting pretty quickly. We met in November and were shooting in December.
DP: At that point, did you think you would stay with them for three or four years or did you assume filming would end soon after the birth of the second baby?
AH: We didn’t know. We had different ideas. One of the ideas was that it would be interesting to follow this extended family over several years but that would have been a huge undertaking. So we decided to shoot a year in their life and see where we were and if we had a story. Most of the film is from this first year, but we filmed on and off for about three years. Partly because we were raising money and when we put our editing on hold, we’d say, “Wow, things are changing in their lives. Let’s take the camera and keep checking in with the family.” I think it organically unfolded that way.
AG: Because I have produced other documentaries that have taken four to five years to make, I was prepared for a long journey, but I didn’t think, “Oh, this is going to take three or four years.” Like Allie said, we had initially conceived it as “a year in the life.” But then as these girls grew and developed, we wanted to make that part of the story. That was another driver for us to continue to check in about every three months and go back and shoot again.
DP: How much access did you have to your subjects over the years? Did you call your subjects up and tell them that you wanted to come over? You even go into the bedroom with the two guys when they’re in bed! Did they ever say No!
AG: I don’t remember hearing resistance. Often they would say, “Why aren’t you coming more? We want to hang out with you more. Can you come for the weekend?” We certainly became friends with them through the making of the movie, part of their extended family. They were really open with their lives in terms of giving us total access, which was a huge gift.
AH: When we filmed with the guys, we stayed with them. It was very intimate; we were around all the time. They were very open to us filming whenever. I don’t think they said, ‘no,’ very often, and the same was true with Rachel and Tony.
DP: Did anyone ask to see footage during filming?
AH: We both agreed that we didn’t want to show them anything because then they might have become more self-conscious.
DP: Was there much debate as to how much you should show the surrogate and how much you should show the two guys on screen? Because I imagine there had to be a balancing act.
AG: In terms of the challenge of editing the film and building a story, we always felt that what made this story unique was Rachel’s involvement. What is her role and what is she getting out of this? That was an important piece of the story and that’s what helped the film stand out in some ways. However, as we were shooting we found that Erik and Sandro being parents was just as fascinating as Rachel being a surrogate. It was really this three-legged table where we had three main characters, and we were trying to balance all three.
AH: That was part of the conversation but also we definitely kept in mind that each scene had to push the movie forward. While balancing was important, and we may have wanted to include more of Rachel, it didn’t work when we did. So as the film progresses you’ll notice that Rachel isn’t in the film as much visually, although what she did continues to be a major presence in the film, in our consciousness. The second half of the film is more the guys than Rachel.
AG: When we started the movie the focus was on Rachel and her pregnancy. Because she was about to give birth. Once Eleonora was born and went off with Erik and Sandro to Maine, Rachel and her family were still around but they were living in Boston and the two families would see each other only intermittently. For the guys, it really was like it is with any parent—they were kind of in this little bubble at the beginning of their baby’s life where everything was intense. We were focusing on that, trying to capture the experience of these two guys developing their relationships with their children and balancing work and family.
AH: When the guys were home with their new baby, we did try to insert a scene of Rachel with her own family, but it seemed to break the momentum. After Eleonora’s birth, the momentum was with the guys and their two daughters. Rachel does come back in, but not in the same way. For us, it was definitely about pacing and where we believed the viewer’s interest would be.
DP: You mentioned that your intention from the outset was to film “everyday things.” But as you progressed with the shoot, did you think that perhaps you wanted more drama and excitement to attract an audience?
AG: At Q&As after screenings, we’ve talked a lot with audiences about how documentaries today are expected to have this incredible drama or conflict that either gets resolved or somehow shakes up the audience. That’s something that as filmmakers in this environment, we were conscious of–but that wasn’t our film. We knew there wasn’t any major external conflict that was happening. Rachel is very healthy. Nothing goes wrong with the pregnancy. These guys are doing a wonderful job parenting. They had interior struggles, mostly to do with internalized homophobia, but there aren’t these major external dramas or conflicts. It is much more subtle. In the edit room, we called it “peeling an onion,” which was our way of getting deeper and deeper into these characters’ psyches. We’ve found that audiences actually like this kind of film. People are refreshed that this is a positive portrait; they don’t need conflict or intense drama.
AH: I don’t think we thought we needed some huge conflict that gets resolved, but I did think we were conscious of needing to tease out whatever moments of conflict there were. In some of our early cuts, things felt just a little too perfect, so we did revisit our footage and some of our interviews and ask, “What are some of those internal conflicts that will make this film more interesting and a little bit more revealing, instead of having it all seem perfect?” Amy called them “cracks,” and we tried to find them in the characters. We had to tease that out, and yes we were conscious of it and yes we did worry that there wasn’t enough conflict, but I don’t think we were ever waiting for something huge and really dramatic.
DP: I think there’s some anxiety among the characters. The two men don’t get along all the time, especially when Erik goes off on work trips and leaves Sandro with the kids. Even Rachel does have a little separation anxiety after her pregnancy.
AH: Yes. With Rachel, we needed to get at the fact that she’s doing something for her friends but it does bring up issues for her. There’s separation anxiety but it also brings up her own insecurities as a woman and feeling alienated growing up, and looking at her children and hoping that they are as they seem, very comfortable in their own skins.
DP: Alienated because she’s Jewish?
AH: She’s Jewish but grew up in a non-Jewish neighborhood. She felt alienated. I also think that if you’re a parent, having children brings up some insecurities and issues that you thought you had resolved but maybe you hadn’t.
DP: Erik says in the movie, “Rachel doesn’t see the significance of her role. It’s no big deal to her.” Do you agree?
AG: Yes. It’s easy for her to get pregnant. It’s something that she can do for her friends that is within her comfort zone; and she’s also putting her body where her politics are. She believes in gay marriage and gay families and this is a way that she can contribute. It is significant what she does, but I don’t think she goes around thinking it’s this big thing because that’s just not her way. To us, her being a surrogate is significant and obviously to Erik and Sandro it’s significant. But to her, it’s just a contribution that she’s making that’s within her power. She believes so deeply in this familial connection, which is something we discovered when making the film. For her, a family is complicated and it does bring up your issues but it also deepens your life and helps you understand yourself better. Here she has this wonderful family of her own but she wants to extend that family and connect to an entirely different family and be a part of that family indefinitely. That is what she has done. She has really extended her family.
DP: What was it like being there with the extended family and filming as Rachel gives birth?
AG: Pretty insane–there were sixteen people in that birthing room! That’s not typical. It was a very special place to be and was an honor to be there. Rachel’s brother-in-law, Todd Shapiro, was actually the doctor; so we were given total access. The space was so tiny and crowded that at times we didn’t know where to go. Allie was trying to shoot and the lights went off at one point, and I was trying to hide behind a chair so I wouldn’t be in the shot. I’ve never had that unique experience of watching people become parents for the first time, and to watch Erik and Sandro’s faces as they saw their child burst into the world was an extraordinary experience! For me, that was mind blowing. And having Tony there supporting Rachel, and their children there looking over Rachel’s shoulder, partly in shock but at the same time filled with pride, was something truly special. This scene is something many, many people respond to and get emotional about.
AH: I’ve shot a lot of births because I spent years making films about maternal child health and early childhood development. Normally when I’m filming the birthing process I’m focusing on the mother and the baby and what’s going on technically. But what was fascinating to me about this birth was that I was focusing on the people who were about to be parents who were not giving birth. It was exciting to me to be watching the faces of Erik and Sandro, then see the baby be born, and then look at how Rachel and Tony were interacting. And I’d never filmed a birth where the children of the woman giving birth were there. It was an incredibly intimate moment to be invited into. I think that speaks to the characters’ comfort with us as filmmakers and friends.
DP: After Rachel has given birth and the guys have gone away with the new baby, you have a scene outside the hospital, when she and Tony hug because she’s sad and needs to be hugged because of separation anxiety. What do you think Erik and Sandro’s reaction would be if they saw Rachel act with that emotion?
AH: When we showed the film to the cast, the responses were very interesting. Ellie, Erik’s mother, commented on the scene when the guys leave the hospital. It was terribly sad to her because she was seeing it as a moment where the guys were going off to start their life with the new baby and Rachel, who had been the center of attention while she was pregnant, was suddenly left behind and feeling alone. I remember Sandro and maybe Erik being sensitive to seeing this. Maybe they had new insight into how Rachel might be feeling.
AG: I remember Sandro in particular was very emotional about that. That was a cool thing as a filmmaker to see your subjects realizing things about each other that they didn’t know before watching the film.
AH: One such thing was that Rachel was unaware of was Erik’s internalized homophobia. They know a lot about each other but that’s not something they ever talked about. That was something that Rachel learned about Erik. One of the wonderful things about making a documentary film is that sometimes you have this license to talk to people on a deeper level than you would if you were just friends–because you’re digging and you’re wanting to tell a story.
DP: Rachel says she’s glad the guys have girls to raise because she’ll be able to fill “a space.” That means, two men raising two girls isn’t enough. They still need a female. How does her words come across to you?
AH: I think that is a very-pregnant comment. That’s why it was intriguing to us. It can be seen as: there are things that I can give the girls as a woman that the guys can’t give them. But the film shows that there doesn’t need to be a female presence because Erik and Sandro are wonderful parents. To me it shows that Rachel feels a connection to them as girls that she might not have felt if they were boys.
DP: You posted a picture of Maddie, Rachel’s oldest child, holding Rachel Maria in a sisterly way, during a Q&A, and I’m sure someone in the audience has asked Maddie, who is talking into a mike, to define her relationship to the girls. Did she respond “sister?”
AH: I don’t think she got that question. What she was most asked was: “What was it like to for you to be part of this movie?” What she was saying into the mike was that her mother being a surrogate for her friends and having an extended family was no big deal, but what became a big deal was that we thought it was worth making a movie about.
AG: Maddie, Jordie, and Zeke have an intense connection to Rachel Maria and Eleonora, the two girls their mother bore for Sandro and Erik. They coined the term “wombmates”— for the girls. Rachel has said that her kids think of Rachel Maria and Eleonora as cousins, not sisters.
DP: Did you see admiration from Maddie and Jordie toward their mother for what she does? Or is it a big deal only because there’s a movie being made about it?
AH: Yes, they respected what their mother was doing. They told us it was a great thing but I don’t think that they thought it was a big deal.
AG: I think Maddie and Jordie are proud of Rachel. Maddie wrote her college admissions essay about her mother being a surrogate. So while they say it’s no big deal, on another level it is. We’ve also heard them say that their mother is happier when she’s pregnant. So on some level, they also benefit when Rachel is pregnant.
DP: Erik talks about how two guys raising two girls is “simultaneously important and meaningless.” How do you perceive what he says in relation to what Rachel says about there being “a space” for her to interact with Rachel Maria and Eleonora?
AH: I think he’s saying it’s important because of the negative way he believes the outside world looks at two guys raising girls, and how it believes a strong feminine presence is needed; but it’s meaningless because he and Sandro are loving parents doing a good job taking care of girls. So there is a tug of how you act and how you believe you are being perceived and judged. That’s my sense of what he is saying.
DP: Both men express that they both want to be dads. Neither wants to be identified as the wife or the mother in their relationship with the girls.
AH: Yes, neither wants to be the woman in the relationship. I don’t think that’s something they think about every day, but it’s deep and I’m sure it comes up from time to time.
DP: Late in the film, all of a sudden we see Sandro, who has come across as maternal throughout the film, in the gym boxing and doing exercises that require real strength. Did you put that scene in so late in the movie to surprise people?
AH: No. I didn’t think it would be a surprise that he was strong. I didn’t equate being maternal with being weak. For me it was about the tension between Sandro being outwardly very physical and aggressive but speaking personally about the vulnerability he felt as a child.
AG: I remember going to the gym with Sandro and seeing that he just happens to be a very, very strong person. It’s in his genes. His father was very physically strong and I think his brothers are, too. It was actually in the edit room that our editor Rachel Clark married this footage of the physically strong Sandro doing pull-ups with weights on his feet with Sandro’s very emotional voiceover about not coming out to his mother when he was growing up in Italy and how she slapped him because he sounded like a girl. We thought that was brilliant editing. It elevated the scene because it showed a combination of vulnerability and strength.
DP: Do you think Erik and Sandro see themselves as a test case or experiment of some kind?
AG: I don’t think that’s how they see it. They’re just living their lives. By making a film about it and putting a frame around it, we maybe put them in that position. But I don’t think they’re uncomfortable with it. I think that they’re proud of the film and feel really good about it, but it’s not easy to be the poster family for anything and to have pressure to be the model for whatever. That goes back to the issue of cracks. The reason we felt we wanted to have cracks is because that’s what make us human. It’s the flaws that make people relatable. If they were the perfect family, they would be like caricatures.
DP: Erik talks about how much is nurture and how much is nature in regard to the development of a child, without coming to any real conclusion.
AH: The nature/nurture idea is complex and there is no conclusion. There are so many factors at play. Life is complicated. Rachel comments on this, saying it’s not just nature or nurture but a complicated mixture of forces, a lot of which we have no control over. The most anyone can do is be there for their kids and love them and life will just take its course.
DP: What role does Erik’s mother Ellie play in their lives? And in your film? She seems to have done a 180-degree turn in terms of viewing gay people.
AG: Ellie has two sons and the other is straight. She assumed that she would have grandchildren through her straight son. That didn’t happen, and instead she has grandchildren through her gay son, which is not something that she could have ever conceived. She came from a very homophobic family herself. We couldn’t fit it into the film but she did a lot of work dealing with this, joining various support groups and really trying to understand how to raise a gay child and to work on herself. I think that both the work she did to support her gay son and then having these unexpected grandchildren through him has brought her full circle. She’s just incredibly grateful.
AH: For her to say, “I grew up in a very homophobic environment,” and for us to see that she’s clearly very accepting of Erik’s children, will, we hope, speak to people who are homophobic or perhaps on the fence. Maybe viewers who aren’t comfortable with homosexuality can see themselves in Ellie.
DP: Allie, I think the film is beautifully shot. Would you call this an example of cinéma vérité, and is it consistent with your style?
AH: That is hard to say. I do try not to intervene when I am shooting. I try to observe without injecting myself. But the idea that you can just be a fly on the wall and not change reality doesn’t seem possible to me. The nature of having a camera present changes what’s going on; that you also can choose what you want to observe and how to frame it is quite subjective, as is the editing. I also tend to be more personal than someone like Frederick Wiseman. Our characters turn and say stuff to us. When Erik’s in the bathroom talking about traveling, he’s saying, “Things are difficult when I get back and we fight more.” In cinéma vérité a character wouldn’t turn and talk to us. I don’t know that my style fits into cinéma vérité or direct cinema but it is consistent with my style of not wanting to interfere too much but also not denying that I’m there with the camera.
DP: How did making this film change the two of you?
AH: I think that making this film enriched my life. It changed me in that now I have these people in my life that I really care about. Going on this journey with them was amazing. Also working with Amy, who I had known as a friend, was so rewarding. We had done some corporate work together but this was personal work. I feel like I learned an enormous amount about filmmaking working with her. Amy and I had to negotiate a lot. When you work with somebody, you have to sometimes articulate stuff that you don’t have to when you work alone. And, because we spent so much time together making a film we were both passionate about, I think our friendship deepened.
AG: I agree. The audience response also has been so rewarding. And thrilling. We won several accolades at film festivals–two audience awards and an LGBT award–and have had so many other remarkable responses to the film. To sit in an audience and have people sighing, sniffling, and have them come away saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much watching a documentary before or related to so much” has been so rewarding. Especially because now working in the independent sphere, is really, really, really difficult–almost impossible. Unless you’re one of ten major documentary filmmakers in this country, trying to get noticed and get attention and get your film out there is so difficult. There’s the expectation now that filmmakers are supposed to not only make their films but also market them, create audiences, and distribute them. That takes an enormous amount of character and commitment. We recommit each time we show it to an audience because we see how much it’s affecting viewers.
DP: And how has making the film affected you personally?
AG: It reinforced for me how significant family is but family isn’t necessarily about children–I feel very much a part of this family. They kind of invited us in. I think we’ve had in some way an impact on the lives of Sandro and Erik’s girls because we’ve known Rachel Maria since she was very young and Eleonora since she was born. That’s a cool thing that I did not anticipate we would get out of this experience. Also, I became a better filmmaker. The process of editing the film and finding my voice among three very strong, very opinionated, artistically-minded people, was extremely difficult. Voicing your opinion when the other two disagree with you at times was hard, but I think it made me a better communicator. I had to really defend my perspective and articulate my creative position. It surprised me, maybe because I hadn’t been in the edit room this way on a feature length film before, how difficult the process of putting a film together and how long it took us to come to a consensus on it. I think that ultimately our conflict lead to a better film.
DP: The poster on the front of the film’s press notes includes this description of your film: “An intimate portrait of family, friendship and gay rights.” You also include a quote by Ross McElwee, the director of the acclaimed documentary Sherman’s March. He described the film this way: “With nuance, verve and humor, this film goes well beyond issues of surrogacy and gay parenthood and explores the humanity that connects us all.” Do you think his description is more accurate than what you wrote yourself?
AG (laughing): It was really special too have someone like Ross give us a quote that illuminates what the film is about and pushes it beyond a niche audience. We’ve always maintained that it’s a film that both highlights a gay family and transcends gay issues. It’s “and” not “or.” What makes it so hard to figure out how our film should be marketed is that while it’s a pro gay rights film, it’s not overtly political. It’s simply a portrait of a beautiful family. Part of what makes Erik and Sandro unique is that they’re gay and they’re raising these girls and have this family in a way that was not technologically possible years ago. At the same time there’s the human connection that transcends everything.
DP: Tell me how you chose the title, The Guys Next Door. Sandro and Erik live in Maine. It’s a conservative state, so are they the guys next door?
AH: Maine is conservative. Portland is not. They’re very welcome in Portland. Literally being the guys next door–what does that mean? They’re gay but they’re also just like everybody else. We never really know who the people are next door. The title almost asks you to think about who your neighbors are and to undo some of your assumptions because you don’t know what people are like until you get to know them.
DP: How can people see your movie?
AG: Since our world premiere in April at the Sarasota Film Festival in Florida, we’ve been showing The Guys Next Door all over the country–from the Maine International Film Festival to screenings in conservative states like Alabama and Indiana. And we are proud to say we have won several audience and LGBT awards at film festivals. At noon on Sunday November 13 at the SVA Theatre on 23rd Street, we’ll have our New York premiere at the largest documentary festival in the country–Doc NYC. Allie and I will be there, along with Erik Sando, Rachel Maria, and Eleonora. After Doc NYC, we plan to start selling DVDs via our website, www.TheGuysNextDoorthemovie.comWe’re also in the process of talking to educational distributors so we can get the film to more colleges and universities, and we’re working on a broadcast/VOD deal.
AH: We’re also partnering with organizations that have established connections to audiences that are hard for us to reach on our own. We’re trying to work with some religious groups. We’re working with Planned Parenthood. People can find out what is going on by joining our mailing list on the website. We send out emails about our screenings. To follow the film, you can visit our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/asquaredfilms/ or our Twitter feed, https://twitter.com/guys_nextdoor, and get the latest updates.
AG: And for the future, we hope to bring the film to states where adoption laws for same sex couples are extremely limited and get the film to Europe and Latin America, where issues of gay adoption and surrogacy are being argued at this very minute.
DP: I also want to call attention to a riveting documentary about drone warfare called National Bird, which opens in New York City at Cinema Village (12th and University) this Friday. The Executive Producers are the esteemed Errol Morris and Wim Wenders! And I will soon be posting an interview with director Sonia Kennebeck. Here is the trailer for this must-see film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9kBDjT6Jr8

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