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MWM: Sex, Lies, and Craigslist

BY Daria Radlinski | Wed. December 31, 1969 | 7:00 PM | Culture Club

MWM - teaser trailer from MWM Project on Vimeo.

Greg Luna is an all-star sales associate on the Opening Ceremony at Ace team, and, unbeknownst to many of us until quite recently, a great young filmmaker too. When a mass of OCers huddled in to the screening room at NYU’s Cantor Film Center to watch "MWM," Greg’s senior thesis at the First Run Film Festival, we were blown away by his adapted docudrama that follows a married white male's (MWM) perils of seeking discrete gay relationships via Craigslist. Since the film kept us talking all the way to Greg’s after party across town, I knew I had to ask Greg some questions.

Check out the trailer above and see what we had to chat about.

“MWM” will next be screening at NewFest 2010 - The New York LGBT Film Festival, June 3 - 13 at the SVA Theatre.

DR: Describe the film in your own words.

GL: The film is my senior thesis. It’s based on an article by David Amsden from New York Magazine called, “Married Man Seeks Same For Discreet Play.” It’s about a man in New York who is married but seeks gay sex through Craigslist. In the film, the man is being interviewed and he presents an oral history about his experiences.

DR: What made you think it would be a good movie, and furthermore work in the docudrama format you used?
GL:
 The character, really. The man himself was really fascinating in the way that he understood himself–– the ways in which he rationalizes his lifestyle and actions. It’s always interesting in film to see characters that are lying to themselves. It creates a really compelling personal dynamic. I found this article years ago when I was an intern at Killer Films. It caught me right away and stuck with me – months later I started adapting it. His point of view needed to be heard. It’s the most effective part of the article and I didn’t want to lose that because his perspective is so unique. As with any documentary, when you have a strong subject, then that’s what keeps you interested.

DR: Do you agree with the protagonist when he says that, “most people aren't living the life they're supposed to live” or do you think that he’s just rationalizing his own life?
GL:
I think it’s a little of both. There was a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez that I remember looking at when I first started writing the script. Marquez said that, "Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life." I think everyone can relate to that: people choose how they portray themselves to other. In “MWM,” the protagonist is very skilled at self-conviction. The distinction that may be unique to his situation is that his secret life is inhibiting every other facet of his life: private and public.

DR: If the protagonist didn’t have the Internet as a medium to reach out to, do you think that he would still persist and try to find a gay relationship through another vehicle? Besides the obvious anonymity and mass- readership that comes with posting an ad on Craigslist, how else is the Internet proving to be the best vehicle for the protagonist’s behavior?
GL:
 The whole “hidden life” dynamic has always been a part of gay culture. Whether it was phone ads in the 90’s or newspaper ads before that, or highway bathroom interactions, or whatever. Gay men have historically always found ways to express themselves, even when it wasn’t overt. The Internet is different because it really facilitates desires that were previously hidden. It’s democratic, but it’s also anonymous and very specific. Men can post exactly what they want in their city, or neighborhood, and find someone who meets that demand. It isolates the needs and fulfills them in very particular ways.

DR: Does your fascination this story, and with repression in general, perhaps exist because you yourself are not repressed as a homosexual?
GL: 
Yeah, for a lot of guys like me in cities like New York it’s shocking to read about men who are so repressed, and that was the initial appeal to it. When I read Amsden’s article I was 19 or 20, and it was describing such a different life experience than mine. I knew that the way queer kids in New York or LA perceived their gay experience wasn’t an honest reflection of the country or the world’s perception. However, this story made me realize that even within an environment like New York – where I assumed that if you want to be gay, then you can just go out and be gay – people still have a totally different comfort level than my own.

DR: Then do you think his unease had to do with the perceived pressures for normalcy in an archetypical white middle class setting that occur regardless of location? The film is deliberately titled “Married White Male”, after all.
GL: 
Yes, definitely. I intentionally chose to keep it a Caucasian story for that reason – the race element of it was definitely referential to the archetype of a Caucasian white male: the middle class white guy who wears a suit, works in finance, and comes home to his
wife and kids. The heterosexual construct was a big part of it because it’s an inhibiting factor for anyone who feels different, and it’s definitely what most challenged the protagonist in this story.

DR: When he describes not being happy in his marriage, he says, “I’m not always happy, but we’re happy.”  That’s the personal understanding that the film chooses to follow. It’s kind of the closest he gets to a breakthrough. He seems kind of stuck, which maybe mirrors more real-life situations. He is willingly trapped–– which is part of the tragedy.
GL: 
The racial element was important for this particular story, though it would definitely be interesting to explore this theme without the lens of race, or on the flip side, with different races involved.

DR: Did you browse Craigslist personals to find crazy posts?
GL: 
Totally! I did it for like, 2 years. I copied and pasted a ton of them into this one crazy word document I have that’s just filled with men looking to fulfill their needs. Actually, a lot of the script is directly from Craigslist posts that I found. A lot are very honest, some very sad, and some are empowering in how direct they are – the way they can clearly say “this is what I want and I want it now.”

I wasn’t familiar with the vernacular beforehand, but I became very accustomed to it. There is one character in the film called the “bottom jock” – which is a term that came from a Craigslist ad that I thought was great. We found a few ads that were similar to the main character – men who were in committed relationships and were honest about their situation, saying that a gay, non-committed relationship or random act is what they needed. There were also a lot of weird old men looking for young guys with pretty feet, and a surprising amount of businessmen, which kept the search interesting.

DR: Did you respond to any ads?
GL:
 I considered it, but I was too nervous. My producer and I posted some very cryptic ads too, to gather responses. We got a mix of responses – a lot of “this is hot when can we meet”, and some “ you’re crazy what is this,” too. 

DR: Care to share some of the more interesting Craisglist terminology?
GL:
 Most are so obvious that I felt kind of dumb for not getting them right away, like “VGL” – Very Good Looking. “DDF” – Drug and Disease Free. “J/O” – Jack off. And “MWM,” of course!

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