Growing up gay in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, it was hard to find characters to relate to in T.V. or film, but with horror, there was always someone. Whether it was the final girl or quick-to-die gay friend, I was always able to see pieces of myself in these characters. This is a genre where anyone who might feel a little lost can find representation, and that made me feel a little less lonely. It helped give me the confidence I needed to go out and face the world. As I got older, I started to recognize it wasn’t necessarily representation, rather we were the comic relief. Accepting that stereotype has hurt a lot of gay men from my generation. If we feel threatened, we immediately make a joke at our own expense hoping they acknowledge we are ‘weaker’ and leave us alone out of pity. I think we can do better, that is why I am inspired to tell stories that show strong, real, and layered gay characters. And I believe that horror is the perfect platform. This genre roots for the underdog. A strong, smart, and capable gay character has the potential to resonate with audiences the same way final girls do. Horror fans have come to expect nothing and everything all at once. ‘HIDE!’ will satisfy that craving by using a familiar format with an untold story. My goal with ‘HIDE!’ is to create a short film that will sit with the audience long after they see it — where the biggest critique is that they would have wanted it to be longer. ‘HIDE!’ has the ability to reach a wide audience, we are not limited to the LGBTQ+ community. Our story is one that any person who has dealt with this sort of trauma can relate to. It’s not abnormal for the audience to root for the killer, but I want people to empathize with our killer. To recognize that he’s human and while he did not choose the right outlet, that his pain and hurt are valid and all too common amongst the older generation of gay men.
‘HIDE!’ is rooted in a skewed view of my childhood. The characters, Lindsay and Stephen, are versions of my brother Ricky and myself. Like Lindsay and Stephen, Ricky and I grew up with an abusive father. Not only physically, but I remember him taunting me, trying to make me a ‘man.’ One day, I had a conversation with my father and I told him all of the things that really hurt me as a kid. He apologized for some and then told me the same stories from his perspective. I am not sure if I believe him, but I do believe that when parents split at a young age, the things the children hold onto end up getting molded and shaped by the scorned parents. I came out when I was still a child and my generation wasn’t lucky enough to grow up with open celebrity or athlete influences. We didn’t have anyone who understood what we were going through to show us the ropes. So, when I started talking with older gay men, I noticed the generational differences within the community. I took the time to listen and heard stories that made me feel like I was listening to a Grandparent reminisce about their youth. At times, their stories were gut-wrenching. When an acquaintance talks about a loved one who was a victim of a hate crime or AIDS, it reveals that this pain has become apart of them and they are determined to keep that person’s memory alive. This is history that will get lost if no one listens. I feel compelled to tell this story and shine a light on the contrast between those who grew up having to hide, and those who were lucky enough to come out after the formers’ battle was won. There is a dynamic between those who lived through the AIDS epidemic and those who heard about it from their homophobic parents and/or media that should be shared. I believe we should have films that tell our stories so they don’t die with those who lived them. We hope that ‘HIDE!’ will highlight the damage that this disconnect and lack of appreciation has caused by showcasing how years of societal abuse can affect gay men. We will tap into the rage the older generation might feel against the younger, happy, and carefree one.
These are two themes that may not sound like they mesh, but they are prevalent in the gay community. Children of divorce can have a parent who overcompensates for the troubled childhood and in return, the child now has an undeserved sense of entitlement. If that child happens to be gay, the self-discovery period can be one that is so self-involved they ignore the fact they are joining a community that has a rich history. There is no urge to learn about our struggles and triumphs or to find out what those before us have fought for. That can create tension. My intent is to bring this story to life in a chilling, fast-paced, cinematic and honest way. Some of my influences are Pascal Laugier (Martyrs, The Tall Man), Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury (Inside), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003). Each of these directors was able to successfully capture fear, tension, and desperation with precision. They created worlds that should have been comfortable, but everything that was right was also wrong. I am going to create a similar atmosphere for ‘HIDE!,’ one that provides the illusion of safety.
For pacing and location, I was inspired by films such as Jeepers Creepers, Wolf Creek and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The audience is introduced to the characters during a car ride and I never got the feeling of ‘God, this is a long drive.’ In my opinion, the desert is comparable to the ocean, which is often referred to as one of the scariest places on earth. Like the ocean, it’s beautiful and deceitfully inviting. You’re okay if you can still see the mainland, but if you go out too far you’re putting yourself at risk. ‘HIDE!’ will be filmed in Joshua Tree, CA. This will create a feeling of isolation while providing visual comfort. Our car sequence is going to be shot against the beautiful desert backdrop and we’re going to insert VHS style flashbacks that help narrate our character’s story. I want the audience to feel like they get the characters, and once that bond has been created, the horror begins. We are going to shoot the entire film using an anamorphic lens and will use lighting, managed by our Production Designer Bryant Berry, to create beautiful, intense, and unique shots. Our goal is to make the audience feel this could happen at their home or to people they know. Music is a huge part of any horror film’s success. ‘HIDE!’ is going to pull reference from films like Blade Runner, TRON and Drive. The 80s’ synth-aesthetic is the perfect framework for a terrifying, yet memorable theme. We will work with UK-based composer ‘Cœur’ to create an electronic-heavy soundtrack that sounds like it should fit on any gay man’s playlist. Gay men use music as an escape and strong female artists, like Diana Ross, Madonna, and Azealia Banks (who has given me permission to use ‘SODA,’ from the critically acclaimed album ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’), have been helping gay men find representation in music for decades. It creates a world where we feel safe, seen and protected. Our soundtrack is going to tap into that emotion and replace it with an unsettling and unfamiliar experience. This is going to reinforce our illusion of safety.