The guys talk about Pose, the new FX series from Ryan Murphy that looks New York City’s ball culture in the late 80s. Netflix original film Alex Strangelove is also discussed. Jeff reviews the first two books in Layla Reyne’s Agents Irish & Whiskey Series, Single Malt and Cask Strength.
Jeff interviews Charlie David about his new anthology TV series Shadowlands, which is based on his short story collection. Charlie talks about adapting his stories for television, what it was like directing scripted television for the first time (including directing himself) and what projects are coming next for him. He’s also got a discount code for listeners to get 25% off of Shadowlands on Vimeo.
Here are the things we talk about in this episode:
- Tracker Hacker by Jeff Adams on Amazon (99 cents through June)
- Schooled by Jeff Adams on Amazon
- Pose on FX.com
- Alex Strangelove on Netflix
- Single Malt by Lalya Reyne on Amazon.com
- Cask Strength by Lalya Reyne on Amazon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Charlie David Interview
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Coming up on this week’s show, Charlie David joins us to talk about his new TV series “Shadowlands.”
Announcer: Welcome to the “Big Gay Fiction Podcast,” the show for readers and writers of gay romance fiction. If you can read it, write it, watch it, or listen to it, these two guys are going to talk about it. Now, here are your hosts, Jeff Adams and Will Knauss.
Will: Welcome everyone to Episode 140 of the “Big Gay Fiction Podcast.”
Jeff: I’m Jeff from jeffadamswrites.com.
Will: And I’m Will from willknauss.com. This week’s episode of the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable group of supporters on Patreon. Big thank you to Layla, she joined us this week. We’ll have more information on how you can join Layla and all the rest of super cool peeps in just a few moments.
Welcome everyone back. Another week, another brand-new episode. We hope everyone had a fantastic… I hope life hasn’t gotten you down. I hope that you had a wonderful seven days since we talked to you last. How about you, sir? How was your last seven days?
Jeff: The last seven days were busy. June’s turning out to be a very busy month. I got some more writing done. I continued to be unbroken in my days of writing at least one sprint. So I think I’m at 20-something days in a row, I think it’s like 21 now.
Will: A million billion words.
Jeff: I wish it wasn’t a million billion words.
Will: I think you’re writing this book forever.
Jeff: It does feel that way. But yeah, the writing continued. I travel a day this week, which means I got to listen to some audio books, which I’m very, very happy about, some of which we’ll talk about this week. Yeah. How’s your week been doing? You’ve been revising.
Will: Yes, I have.
Jeff: You’ve been doing your own thing.
Will: Mm hmm. And just a real quick update on some of the fantastic listeners who have won some of our recent giveaways. Congrats to Katie. She won the Champions of Desire prize package from Christa Tomlinson.
Jeff: Congratulations, Katie.
Announcer: The Codename: Winger Series celebrates Pride Month with a limited-time sale. Throughout the month of June, the first book, “Tracker Hacker” is just 99 cents at all online retailers. It’s the perfect chance to begin the adventures of Theo Reese, high school student, hockey player, computer genius, and covert agent who goes by the code name Winger. The second thrilling installment “Schooled” is also available. And coming this fall, “Audio Assault” continues Theo’s high-tech missions.
Love Bites review says, “Jeff Adams has a brilliant writing style for YA that draws you in.” Add the Codename: Winger Series to your Pride Month reading list before the sale ends on June 30. Get more information at codenamewinger.com
Jeff: So there’s been some super good stuff on TV and Netflix recently. We want to kick off talking about the new show that’s on FX Sundays at 9 which is “Pose.” Tell us all about “Pose.”
Will: Well “Pose” is the newest show from creator Ryan Murphy. It seems like every other week he’s premiering something brand new on FX. Super quickly, there are things that Ryan Murphy has done that I have loved and things of his that I have hated. I don’t think he cares either way because he has taken his success and he has parlayed it into telling lots of stories that he is obviously very passionate about. And like I said, if you encounter something that you don’t like of his, just wait another week or so because something brand new is obviously going to be coming down the pike.
As we mentioned, “Pose” premiered this past week on FX. He also is producing the revival of “Boys in the Band” on Broadway, and that opened recently as well. Busy-busy guy. So quickly about “Pose.”
“Pose” is a scripted series, and it is essentially the classic documentary “Paris Is Burning” brought to life. In the premiere episode, we were introduced to essentially our three main characters. It’s an ensemble drama centering around ballroom life in ’80s New York.
Our first character is Blanca. She is a member of the House of Abundance but doesn’t feel like her voice is being heard. So she essentially quits and gets her own place and starts her own house. She’s gonna be the new house mother, the House of Evangelista.
Her best friend Angel, played by Indya Moore, joins her. She was also… I’m sorry. I had a brain fade for just a second. So Angel joins Blanca, and they sort of formed the basis of the new house.
One afternoon Blanca sees Damon dancing in Washington Square Park, and she says, “Hey, you got some good moves. Why don’t you join my brand-new house that I’m starting?” And Damon has recently been kicked out of his house. And he’s been living on the streets. So he joins Blanca and goes one night to a ball to discover what the life is really like. And so together they form an unconventional family. And that’s sort of the basis for the show.
Jeff: Yeah, I really enjoy that first episode. I like this family that’s being drawn together. The look at ball life is pretty awesome. You’re right, it is very much “Paris Is Burning,” kind of fictionalized in a cool way. And they’re doing an amazing portrayal of ’80s New York, obviously shooting in present New York and keeping their cameras like very tight in certain areas to make sure you don’t see stuff you’re not supposed to, that doesn’t exist.
The part of the show that you didn’t mention is that there’s also a look at the rich folks. And it’s going to be interesting to see how this kind of plays into it. You’ve got a young executive who’s actually working for Donald Trump’s organization, who has fallen for this…
Will: For Angel.
Jeff: …for Angel and finds her on the streets. They’re kind of drawn together, but he’s married. So it’s going to be interesting to see where that kind of goes.
And I was also interested to read this with James Van Der Beek, who is also, he’s a very high-ranking Trump executive on this show, was originally supposed to play Donald Trump. But they rewrote that when the election happened. So, yeah, I love “Pose.” And its eight episodes running on FX Sunday at 9 and also can be picked up online at fx.com
Will: Yeah. I loved everything about this show. The premiere was phenomenal. I highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t done it yet. I want to quickly mention, Blanca is played by MJ Rodriguez. She is everything. I love her to pieces. As a new mother of a brand-new house, I think she’s… As a character, we sympathize and empathize with her as she’s striking out on her own and trying to build something for herself.
Also, I think what was really wonderful about this premiere episode is not only are we introduced to all of the main characters, but we are immediately drawn into their world, and we are immediately empathetic of them because they’re all dealing with incredibly difficult circumstances living in New York in 1987. But they’re all striving something. They’re all working towards something better. So I love all the characters. I love the show to pieces. And I can’t wait for the rest of the season.
Jeff: Yeah. And we should mention too, that this is a landmark series for a couple reasons. It’s got the largest transgender cast ever for a show. And it also got a significant LGBTQ cast in its supporting characters as well. So what you’re seeing here is not just people portraying, these are actual actors who are trans and LGBTQ, which is awesome. Good job, Ryan.
Will: Moving on to something else that premiered this past week. “Alex Strangelove” is a film that was recently premiered on Netflix. Essentially, I think they acquired this film because it was made specifically for…if you liked “Love Simon,” you’ll love “Alex Strangelove.”
Jeff: Yes, indeed.
Will: Because that’s essentially what it is. It is the story of the title character Alex. He’s portrayed by Daniel Doheney. He’s adorable, super cute. He is your nice normal average everyday guy in high school. He’s got adorable girlfriend that he loves very, very much. And the dramatic focus of this thing, coming of age, coming out drama is that Alex has a lot of anxiety about losing his virginity and, specifically, when he and Claire decide to finally hook up.
Jeff: I was gonna go with do the deed but hook up works, too.
Will: So yeah, the dramatic focus is moving towards this one specific moment in the story. Meanwhile, before they get to that moment, Alex meets a guy named Elliot at a party that, you know, only happen in the movies. Yeah, it’s one of those, you know, teenage parties. Anyway, he’s drawn to this enigmatic handsome guy. So he has to kind of wrap his mind around what his feelings for Claire are and what his feelings for Elliot are. And that’s essentially what the movie…
Jeff: Yeah. That’s it in a nutshell. Everybody in this movie is so endearing. Alex has really tight friends, very much in line, as you noted, with “Love Simon.” Simon had his band of friends. Alex has his band of kooky, quirky friends. I thought this film was really well done. It’s actually produced by Ben Stiller, which I think kind of leads you to the idea that maybe it was going to be a bigger release at some point, but now it’s on Netflix.
But definitely, if you liked “Love Simon,” you will also like “Alex Strangelove.” It’s well acted. It’s got a nice script. It is a different story than Simon because, obviously, Alex didn’t force out, but he kind of comes to terms with what he’s always known, but he’s finally open to that being his truth rather than something he needs to kind of put away and tuck away and kind of ignore in his life. So, yeah, I really enjoyed that.
Will: Yeah. So you’ve been busy reading and listening, as you mentioned earlier. You’ve got some books to tell us about this week.
Jeff: I do. I’ve went headfirst into the Layla Reyne’s series that’s Agents Irish…
Jeff: Reyne. Sorry, Layla. Sorry. The Agent Irish & Whiskey Series. I blew right through the first two books, “Single Malt” And “Cask Strength,” which are not easy to say.
These books revolve around two FBI agents. Aiden Talley, as we meet him, lost both his partner and his husband eight months previously in a car accident that doesn’t look to be as a buttoned-up case as it once was. As he comes back to work, he’s partnered with Jameson Walker, who’s a former college basketball star who quit the game after an injury, quit it rather unexpectedly, but is now a top agent working in the cyber division for the FBI in San Francisco.
These two are attracted to each other pretty immediately. Jameson has been behind the scenes kind of lusting after Aidan for the three years that he’s been in the bureau. Aidan, though, isn’t quite ready to perhaps form a new relationship because of losing his husband just not that long ago.
But their first case takes him out of town. And they’re going to Texas because there are people who are trying to break into a bio lab at a university and steal some stuff. And it looks like they’re trying to make a bioweapon. And because all these security breaches are happening through the computers, that’s immediately why Whiskey kind of goes in there to do all of his cyber magic. So of course, I really love this aspect of the book that it has a cyber agent in it already.
There’s a lot more going on in Texas besides somebody who might be trying to get a bioweapon. It turns out that that’s kind of a deflection a little bit from some other stuff that’s going on, that will be a thread that seems to run through this series of books and what actually happened to Aidan’s partner and his husband.
In the second book, Jamie actually goes back to North Carolina. He actually ends up playing an alternate version of himself to go undercover and stop a gambling ring that’s happening. He goes back to coach basketball. And Aidan goes with him undercover as his agent.
I liked this story, in some ways even better because we got more into the computer stuff. Because not only was the gambling program, obviously, illegal betting on an NCAA college basketball game, but it was also stealing people’s personal information off of whatever device they happen to be accessing the program on.
So I love all the agent work. Layla creates such amazing suspense. She gives you tech stuff that I appreciate. But yet if you read it, you wouldn’t go, “Oh, god, technobabble.” You go, “Okay, I get what’s happening here and I can move on in the story.” And it’s written, you know, in that way that it doesn’t put off people.
The romance here is so amazing as these two deal with the fact that Aidan’s not quite ready for something. But he is kind of ready to get on with his life, but also the overriding concept that FBI agents aren’t supposed to fraternize with each other, especially if they’re partners. So there’s that element to it that if they get caught, they’re potentially, you know, at risk for their careers.
But the romance stuff just crackles. I mean, every time that they call each other either Irish or Whiskey, you just feel kind of what’s there between them. And it’s more than just, you know, calling out for somebody by a nickname. Because for Jameson, Whiskey is his actual basketball nickname, because, obviously of his name, Jameson Walker, connects right to that whiskey.
I think there’s at least three other books in the series right now. I think that’s up to five. And I kind of need to read all of them, like, right now. Layla does a great job of pulling you right into that next book without making you feel completely like you’ve gone over a cliff with a cliffhanger too, which I think is a really cool kind of tactic to have for these kinds of books. So I think I’ll end up going back to the other ones pretty soon because I went from one to two just immediately before taking a brief pause.
So Layla is actually going to be on the show in a few weeks, in July, because she’s got a book coming out with the spin-off of this series with a kidnap and recovery agent, who shows up in “Cask Strength.” So I look forward to talking to her about that new book plus these books as well. So yeah, I think you should definitely read these at some point because they’re a ton of fun.
Will: I’ll have to give them a try. Now, if “Single Malt” and “Cask Strength” sound interesting to you, all you have to do is go to the show notes page at biggayfictionpodcast.com We have all the necessary links that you need to find these books. Now whenever you use the links on the show note’s page and purchase said books, a few pennies come our way and that helps keep the lights on at the “Big Gay Fiction Podcast.”
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Charlie David Interview
Jeff: So a couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Charlie David. I reviewed his show “Shadowlands” a couple of episodes back. And it was exciting to get to talk to him about this brand-new show.
I’m thrilled to welcome Charlie David back to the podcast. Charlie is a storyteller who was last year in Episode 33 talking about his book and movie “Mulligans.” His new anthology series “Shadowlands” recently premiered on OUTtv in Canada and on Vimeo worldwide. Charlie, thanks so much for coming back.
Charlie: I’m very excited to be here. Thank you for having me again.
Jeff: Absolutely. “Shadowlands” is, I’ll go with interesting anthology series. You’ve got three very diverse stories going on in here. Tell us what the series is about.
Charlie: Well, in the book, in the anthology of short stories, there’s actually around, I think, probably lucky 13 stories in it. And for me, it was really an exercise in writing and certainly exploring some of the darker recesses of my mind because it was quite a departure from something like my earlier books of “Boy Midflight” or “Mulligans,” which were more straightforward, either family drama or kind of MM romance type of situation.
So with “Shadowlands,” I mean, I’ve always loved Greek and Roman myth, and so I found a lot of inspiration for my stories through mythology. And I wanted to take some of the themes that are explored there and put them in a modern real-world setting. So that was kind of the starting point.
And then now, with the television miniseries, what we did is we chose three of the stories from the original book to bring to the screen. And so looking through, I chose the three that I found kind of the most compelling and that also were somewhat cohesive thematically.
So the three episodes that we look at are “Narcissus,” “Mating Season,” and “Pygmalion Revisited.” And to me, it’s an exploration of love. In “Narcissus,” it’s someone who has never come to grasp love. It’s like everybody around this person has experienced it, is talking about it, and it’s something that he’s never found for himself. And he is an ego maniac and a narcissist, so it kind of has a downward spiral.
The second episode is called “Mating Season.” It’s set in the 1950s with a sailor and his boyfriend who go out hiking into the woods and they’re on a camping trip. On that camping trip, they start to explore the idea of nonmonogamy or opening their relationship, which is a big conversation for anyone. And certainly kind of setting it in this 1950s time, you know, had its own interesting aspects. And so they meet a hiker in the woods, a mysterious man, and things kind of progress from there.
And then the last episode is called “Pygmalion Revisited.” And in a way, it’s a retelling of the myth, “Pygmalion and Galatea,” where a sculptor falls in love with his work, and the goddess Athena takes pity on him and brings it to life.
In our version, it’s modern day where there’s a painter who does work for churches, and he’s commissioned to make a painting of Saint Bacchus. And Saint Bacchus and his partner Sergius were, for a long-time, kind of iconic gay saints, and they were de-canonized in 1969 by the Catholic Church. And so all the altars and churches bearing their name were taken down.
Anyway, in this painter’s… So he goes home with this commission, with this idea, he starts to explore, “How am I going to paint St. Bacchus.” And he ends up working and reworking his deceased boyfriend into the painting. And so that one, it’s kind of more of a star-crossed lovers’ situation.
And so, yeah, for me, I mean, love is the most interesting topic for me to explore and its many nuances and how people approach it, what we learn from it, how we move on from it. So those were things that I was really excited to tackle in the miniseries.
Jeff: What was the process that you had to go through to adapt your book to these short, televised pieces? Because “Narcissus” and “Mating Season” are about 25 minutes. And “Pygmalion Revisited” is a little longer, at about 40.
Charlie: Yeah. I mean, adapting a book for screen, whether it’s a film or television, always has…it’s this beautiful mix of opportunity and constraint. And certainly, you know, when working in kind of independent, certainly queer cinema and television, the constraints are often budgetary, right, because we just have fewer networks and smaller audience to be, you know, kind of marketing these things, too.
But for Pygmalion, actually, there’s two versions. We did a 25-minute cut as well, and then the 40 minute. So the 25 minute fits your standard television, half an hour with commercials. But when looking at that story… I mean the cut that you presumably watched, the 40 minute, man, like when we put that edit together and then I spoke with the network and they said, “This is great, but we really want… Like, we have a timeslot for this show. And if we go ahead and we’re gonna, you know, do more episodes, presumably, it fits in a half an hour slot. It’s Sunday nights at 8pm. It can’t be now this one is 30 minutes, and that one’s 40 minutes or whatever.”
Like I had to go back in and chop that one down to 25 minutes. And that was one of those situations of really killing your darlings, as the saying go, you know, drowning some puppies where you go, “Okay. I don’t want to, but I have to like remove some scenes. I have to tighten this up.” And in some ways, I feel like the 25-minute version of that is equally strong and interesting in different ways. You know, but…
Jeff: That’s interesting because thinking about it like, “Whoa, that’s cutting half the episode nearly.”
Charlie: Right. Yeah, it’s 15 minutes. And when you look at it then, it’s like, “What do you choose to remove?” And what I did… I mean, when I’m writing for screen, I’ll be the first to admit that my dialog is not necessarily, you know, the type of stuff that you would hear people talking on the street. I feel like I construct thoughts just the way that I think, it’s sometimes a little bit different.
And so even working with the actors, you know, some of it, in terms of monologues in the middle of a show, that type of thing, that was the place that I first started to cut and cut. Because I was acting in that episode as well, some of my own lengthy speeches that…
Jeff: You were self-editing.
Charlie: Yeah. I thought that was the best place to start. Yeah. But yeah, I mean, taking a book and a short story and then, you know, making it into television has a lot of inherent challenges. But it was something that I got so much joy from doing. You know, I really enjoyed that process. And as I started to write, and then think about casting and imagine these locations beyond what was explored in the book and then making it real, right?
Because you can write something, and when it’s in a book form, you can really be anywhere. You want to be in a castle. You want there to be a dragon. You want, like, all that’s good to go. When you need to actually produce that, actually, you know, translate that to screen, then, like I said, constraints come into play. What locations can I actually get? What can I actually afford?
And so you start to make decisions based on those things. That’s when the producer hat comes on. You know, so you can tell the story the best way that you can with the resources and assets that you have available.
Jeff: And this isn’t your first time to produce or to write for screen, of course. But it is your first time to direct or, well, scripted material, at least, because you’ve done documentaries. What was it like for you as a creative to now put on this hat you hadn’t worn before?
Charlie: I was so excited. I was like, you know, terrifically excited to do it. Well, at the same time, had bouts of anxiety every night in pre-production, in production. Just that thought of it like, “Can I do this? Can I really pull this off?”
And thankfully, I had, you know, just such an awesome creative team. And I feel like people really… I just, I felt so lucky. Like everybody brought their A-game. Everybody seemed to really care to do a good job to tell the best stories that we can.
You know, truth is, that’s not always the case. Like, oftentimes, in any job, there’s people who are just showing up. And I felt like I didn’t have people who are just showing up. I had people who, you know, were working long hours and, yeah, just wanted to, for whatever reason, make this… It was like it was all of our babies. It was, you know, a village raising a child as opposed to just me.
So after I saw that happening in the first episode, I got to relax a little bit. And everybody was very supportive in doing their jobs fantastically well so that I could focus on the directing, working with the actors, and telling these stories.
Jeff: And you didn’t cut yourself any slack with your director job because the very first episode you did was “Pygmalion Revisited,” in which you also are the lead actor in it as well. Did you plan that from the get-go? Or is that just the way the shooting schedule sorted out?
Charlie: I did decide to do that episode first, I think partly because, at the beginning, it was the one that I was the most scared of. As we progressed, each episode turned out to be the one I was most scared of.
But because each one has, you know, its own little challenges, right? Whether you’re, you know, with “Mating Season” shooting out in the woods, and then, you know, you’re out in the elements. So whether it’s the sound of cars in the distance, whether it’s going to be raining, you only have so much daylight to work with, there’s always challenges, right?
With “Narcissus,” it was a bigger visual production. So making sure that we were prepared and all the props and costuming and all the pieces were tight. But with “Pygmalion Revisited,” you had to be acting and directing. Again, I go back to my team just being so supportive and understanding of what that process for me needed to be when the story is like… Oh, my god, like it’s an emotional roller coaster. And for it to work, I really needed to be present as an actor for it to be believable, for people to open their hearts and empathize with what was going on.
Because if I didn’t deliver, if I wasn’t an open vessel for that story, it was really going to fall flat. And so, in the moments of acting, I needed to put away any thought of, “What time is food, you know, arriving for lunch?” and, “Are the trucks all outside? Are they parked correctly?” And, you know, “Visually, what’s going on in the shot?” and blah, blah, blah, “We need music at this aspect.” and just go, “Okay. All of that is five minutes later. In these five minutes, live the scene.”
Jeff: I think you did a great job. We reviewed this a couple episodes back and the Pygmalion was heartbreaking and yet had joy in it because of the scenes of when the two were together. As I told you before we started recording, I thought “Mating Season” is my favorite just because those two are so… They’re in the ’50s, but they could just be a modern couple as well.
Charlie: Yeah, I think with “Mating Season,” that’s an exploration of open relationships, of nonmonogamy, which is something that I think, you know, it’s a prevalent discussion today certainly among queer people and has been for a while. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its challenges and doesn’t require a lot of communication to create a healthy open relationship, you know, that works.
But yeah, Oscar Moreno, who played Matteo, kind of the biker-looking guy. And then Nicolas James Wilson, who played Will the Sailor. I was just so excited to create these kinds of iconic looks. I wanted to give it a bit of a, you know, a Tom of Finland, like 1950s kind of beefcake magazines in their costuming, which was like super fun.
And then, yeah, those two guys, again, they opened their hearts to the stories. We had the luxury of rehearsing. Because, as a first-time director, I wanted that. I didn’t want to just, you know, have these actors show up on set and say, “Okay. Action. Go.”
I wanted to, you know, to make sure that we had answered any questions that we had, really exercised the scenes, and so that there was a full comprehension of what was going on. Because not everybody has also been in an open relationship or felt the motivation to be in one. Or in Oscar’s character’s case, you know, felt the reticence, the hesitation about what that might mean, how that might translate for the relationship going forward.
And at the same time, you know, all of this packed-in, I think it largely started because I recently done a documentary called “PolyLove,” all about polyamory. And it was a one-hour doc where we explored that. I learned a lot doing that.
And I wanted to, you know, also explore that in a scripted form and not bring any inherent judgment to it or encouragement. I didn’t want to say, “Yes, this is the way that we should be going forward” or, “No, it shouldn’t.” Like, I think in my mind, the best work we can do as creators, whether it’s a book, a TV show, a movie, a painting, is throw ourselves into the work and then let the audience be smart enough to walk away and make decisions for themselves, to incite a conversation.
So, I hope with that episode that we will do that. That people watching will, you know, have a talk with their significant other or friends or whatever, and just consider what these ideas of relationship and love, what do they mean?
Because, for me, like doing the “PolyLove” doc, one of the things that I learned is this term called compersion. And what compersion is, it’s kind of the opposite of jealousy. So normally, if my partner was to go out on a date with somebody else, I would immediately feel jealousy.
And in the Poly world, the idea is that jealousy isn’t a real emotion. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to something. So you need to dig deeper to find out, why am I feeling insecure in this moment? Why might this bother me?
And to work towards compersion, which is the idea that, “I am joyful, I am happy in your happiness.” And just like, you know, we have many friends in our life in the best situation. Maybe there’s one that we like to go to the beach with, one that we play sports with, the person that we go to the movies with, the one that, you know, we just laugh our heads off, and the person that we cry, you know, on their shoulder when needed.
We put so much pressure on monogamy for that other person to be our everything, right? They have to give us amazing sex, be our business partners in life with, you know, purchasing property and paying the bills and stuff together, to make us laugh, to be our Netflix and chill, to be the person to go to family events with, to be our best friend, all these things in one.
And so I think the idea of compersion and nonmonogamy is, what if we allowed room in our hearts to enjoy other people more? Not always sexually, sometimes, for some people that’s part of it. But trying to lose, you know, the ugly green monster inside of jealousy.
Jeff: The book’s been around since about 2010.
Charlie: Mm hmm.
Jeff: What led you to bring this to the screen now? Has it always kind of been on your radar of something to adapt?
Charlie: Yeah. It’s been in my drawer of ideas and scripts for many years. I think I adapted the first, probably “Mating Season” and “Narcissus” 2011, maybe 2012. I had this idea of kind of doing almost like a “Night Gallery” or Twilight Zone or a reimagining of those type of half-an-hour shows where each episode we get to go into a different world, a new world of characters and kind of intrigue and explore that.
And I’d actually had offers from different networks in the states and Canada back around that time. But the offers that were coming forward were just…they would be very challenging budget wise. And things just didn’t line up at the right time.
A very common thing in production is you have an American network and a Canadian network, or often a European one, especially license fees for broadcasters have been shrinking over the past 10 years dramatically because of things like Netflix and, you know, other ways of consuming our entertainment. That it’s becoming more and more necessary to kind of clobber together a budget on a show from many different financial partners.
And so, early on, it was like I’d get an offer here, but the other network wasn’t ready, or tax credits couldn’t be triggered because of X, Y, and Z. And so it just kind of all came together. I guess, I signed the deal in 2016, the end of 2016, I got the greenlight to make the show. And then spent last year, 2017, making it. And now we’re releasing it. And that’s often the reality of any show that it can take years, years in development, years in kind of like putting together the budget and for just all those pieces to come together magically at the right moment.
So I was, yeah, really excited. It did kind of feel like, “Oh, my god, it’s been eight years now, that we’re, you know, finally putting this out.” But yeah, sometimes that is just the nature of the beast as it were.
Jeff: You’re a creator that works in television/movies quite often, do you find it…I don’t know how to go with easier or better landscape to work in now that there is Netflix and Amazon and Hulu, and like, all of these places where you can put your material out? Or is it just as tough as it ever was to pull it all together to actually create it?
Charlie: It’s harder than ever before. That’s the truth. And there’s many factors involved in that. In a nutshell, it’s that we consume entertainment differently. Just like the internet has interrupted so many kinds of business models, including books, including music, and television, travel industry, healthcare, on and on and on. We’re continuing to have to adapt faster and faster. But we live in a world where we now, we have the assumption of free video. We have the assumption of free entertainment. And if not free, then 9.99 a month for as much as we can consume.
So when you split 9.99 amongst the amount of shows on a platform like a Netflix or an Amazon Prime or whatever, what trickles down to the content creator is literally fractions of pennies per view. So compare that to 10 years ago when people were buying DVDs, and it was 19.99 a DVD or 24.99 MSRP.
So we’re having to hustle harder than ever. In one way, we have, yes, more places to put our content, more opportunities for audience in a way. But monetizing that is a totally different story. Even three years ago, people were more apt to use VOD, video on demand, and purchase rentals on iTunes or on Amazon or Vimeo. Now even that market is like rapidly disintegrating, where we just have the assumption of SVODs, subscription video on demand, watch as much as I want for a small fee, or FVOD, free video on demand.
So, as a producer, that’s the new challenge. And it exists for every broadcaster out there, too. People are cutting their cable everywhere and going to the internet. So it’s the Wild West. And it’s, “Okay. How do we protect copyright,” if that’s important, right?
And that’s a huge debate that’s going on. Even like the internet, one side, is that the internet should be the Wild West, and everything should be free, and you know, free speech and blah, blah, blah. And then on the other side is, but how do we protect creators? Because it’s still taboo to go and shoplift at a store. It’s still taboo…I would never, you know, walk into a car sales lot and drive away without paying. But it feels fine to not pay for television, films. It’s a common dinner conversation, right? So that’s…
Jeff: That’s also the case of “Shadowlands” that it does have the connection to OUTtv, that there’s an actual broadcast cable network who is partner?
Charlie: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I couldn’t have done it without OUTtv. It would be impossible to…not impossible… It would be very difficult to make scripted programming, or literally any programming, without a commissioning broadcaster or platform partner. And sometimes that is, you know, could be an Amazon or Netflix. But somebody’s got to pay for it, because the audience has become more hesitant to.
So, yeah, I mean, in the case of “Shadowlands,” it was a mix of a license fee from OUTtv in Canada, some tax credit money, and a personal investment. And those were split by almost one third. You know, a third from me, a third from what will end up being tax credit money, a third from broadcaster. And so now, you know, it’s up to recoup my investment through people hopefully enjoying the show, buying the show. And maybe if we’re lucky, selling to some other networks down the line.
Jeff: Is there any chance for more episodes?
Charlie: Yeah, for sure. Right now, so the show just premiered last night on OUTtv. And so, just like in the old days, we’ll be looking at those Nielsen ratings and seeing how it lands. And even that, that’s a model that’s like, you know, it’s really changed because, yeah, some people get the cable channel. OUTtv also has an SVOD platform. It’s kind of like a gay Netflix, it’s called OUTtv Go. And so, on OUTtv Go, it is that Netflix model of watching as much gay content as you want, right? And it’s 4.99 a month. So it’s a little bit of a sale from Netflix.
So, yeah, you’re combining those numbers, how many people are watching on OUTtv Go, how many people are watching on OUTtv, the channel. And hopefully, there is enough buzz and interest that will help trigger more episodes.
I loved directing and producing scripted. I really want to do more. It challenged me in so many ways that just kind of ignited the fire in me again. You know, after doing a… Documentary is wonderful. I love doc. You know, I’m doing some other reality stuff, a dating show. I have a pilot for a cooking show coming up. And that stuff is fun, but it’s inherently different.
Like when you’re doing documentary, I’m going to do an interview with you, and I show up in what your office or home or what your environment is, I might zhuzh it a little bit. But it still needs to reflect you and be your space. Whereas with scripted, it’s literally everything that’s in that frame, I need to have thought of and planned. And so that to me is exciting. Every little prop, every piece of costuming, the blocking of it, the lighting, it just has, yeah, more challenges but more payoff for me as a creator.
Jeff: And again, I mean the same way that you challenged yourself, first-time director, having to direct yourself, you also gave yourself three massively different stories. They all had a different look, a different emotional feel, a different color palette, a different setting. And yeah, I mean…
Charlie: Yeah, that part… I mean, you know, and that’s why things like sitcoms or, you know, shows that are episodic are easier to do because you have the “Friends” apartment and most things happen either at the coffee shop downstairs at Central Park, or in one of the apartments, right? Your sets are set. They are what they are. You paid for them once and that’s it.
Whereas in a show like this, yeah, moving forward, it’s like, okay, every new episode is a whole new world. So where is that world set? What does it look like? New casting every time.
But for me, the financial kind of offset of doing that is that, you know, it’s super fun to work with new actors every time. It’s super fun to like create a new world, a new location. And also, like, you know, in these first three, to dive into different eras to play in, like, kind of, you know, a fantastical version of what I imagined the 1920s might have felt like in “Narcissus,” versus the 1950s, and then the modern-day episode.
So I think in a way, this first mini season of “Shadowlands” was me stretching my muscles as a producer and director in scripted and just seeing, “Let’s see how different we can make these and play in these different spaces.”
Jeff: How fast did you shoot these three?
Charlie: “Pygmalion Revisited,” I think we had seven shooting days, and the other two episodes were five shooting days each. Which is actually a fairly kind of standard and a healthy amount of time for a half-an-hour television scripted. So, I mean, you know, lots of reality shows will shoot in a day or two days.
And not to say that that was easy because, you know, just even based on how you write, whether it’s night or day, how much is night, how much is day. And then like on “Narcissus,” we had a lot of night stuff. So then, you know, we’re shooting in the summer, that means we can’t start shooting until it’s like 8:30, 9:00, until we have like dark dark. And you’re shooting through until, you know, 5:30 in the morning, which makes for a tired crew.
Jeff: With “Mating Season,” you’re outdoors the whole time. And you got to hope you matched your continuity from, you know, if the clouds suddenly showed up.
Charlie: Yeah, and that’s it. Like, there’s the one scene where there’s the three guys. They’re kind of perched up on a cliff. And they’re looking out. And one of the guys is telling the story of how he got his blue ticket, which was something that happened to military people in the past where, you know, if your sexuality was found out, you’d be given a blue ticket, which was a dishonorable discharge.
And that scene, it was like rain, shine, sprinkle, rain, shine. We actually had to go back three days in a row to try and match because we had, you know, kind of a three shot of the three of them. Everybody has a close-up, none of it was matching. And then, finally, on the third day, we got it. But that’s something that, you know, when you’re on a tight schedule and a tight budget, that’s really challenging, because then you need to, like, make pickups, make room in the schedule on another day to go back to something.
And there was another day, that was like a total rain out was forecast. And so, I was back at the crew houses, because most of us are from Toronto, but we’re shooting about two and a half hours from here, and so rented a bunch of houses in this little town. And I was like, “Can I make a tent in the living room of one of these and shoot the things that happen in the tent? Can we recreate that indoors?”
Because otherwise, what are we going to do? We can’t, you know…it’s not going to make sense to walk around in the rain just in terms of protection of the gear, you know, for the actors. So luckily, I was probably up till 2am that night, rescheduling everything, trying to figure out, “Okay, we’re building this tent, but not that much happens in the tent. So what else can we do indoors?” Not a lot in that episode.
Jeff: Not a lot in that episode.
Charlie: No. When you choose to do something outdoors, you’re really at the whim of mother nature, and you just got to cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Jeff: Makes the writing things seem really easy in some ways.
Charlie: I think, you know, it all starts with story, right? And if you don’t have a good story, it’s definitely not worth, you know, going to the trouble of putting it on screen. And we know those stories, both when we’re a writer as well as when we’re reading, the ones that kind of move us and touch us and that you come back to and you think about, you know, a day after or a week after. As opposed to, you know, film, TV, or books where you walk away, and you feel nothing. I think that’s the worst thing that could happen.
You know, like, even if somebody hates a show that I’ve done, or they were grossed out or something makes them angry about it. If this open-relationship conversation makes them angry for some reason, I feel like I’ve done my job. You know, that to me is almost like equal to a compliment because I provoked you to think. I moved you in some way.
Jeff: Yeah, the worst thing would be the, “Eh.”
Charlie: Yeah, nobody wants, “Uh,” “Eh.”
Jeff: No. You got a very generous discount you’re offering our listeners, tell us a little bit about that.
Charlie: Yeah. So on Vimeo, because I know a lot of your listeners are going to be U.S.-based as well as, you know, worldwide, not all Canadians, unfortunately. And so, yeah, I wanted to make the show available on Vimeo worldwide. And so if people rent or buy it there, using the promo code border2border, they’ll get a 25% discount. The name of my company, border2border, for that discount.
And beyond that, if people are interested to take a watch, and I hope that they will, I mean, it’s super helpful if you review and rate it, you know, on Amazon, on Vimeo. Do you have a blog? Do you have a podcast, you know? Because that’s the best…that’s marketing that we can have is word of mouth.
And again, even if you hate it, that’s fine. Tell me why. You know, I’d love to get into those conversations. And they’re already starting, which is really fun. People who have started to check it out and who are tweeting and Facebooking now and saying what they liked, what they didn’t like. And it’s interesting.
Like for you, you really gravitated to the “Mating Season” episode. Other people loved “Narcissus.” I’ve had other emails where people said, “I didn’t stop crying for half an hour in Pygmalion.”
So, yeah, it’s good. I think this is the super exciting point as a show creator, where you finally get to share with the audience and find out what you’ve been creating in kind of a cocoon for, you know, well over a year, eight years if we want to go all the way back to the book release, and start to hear, yeah, other people’s takes on your work.
Jeff: You’ve mentioned a little bit through the interviews things you’ve been working on, like the dating show and a cooking show. What do fans get to look forward to like in the very near future from you?
Charlie: Well, in the very near future, we have the “PolyLove” documentary about polyamory and nonmonogamy. That’s going to be dropping on Amazon and Vimeo and other platforms in probably in the next couple months.
The dating show is called “Dating Unlocked.” And that will also be launching probably in July.
And I have a one-hour documentary called “Drawn This Way,” which is two hilarious comedians kind of roasting and also exploring queer representation in comic books, superhero movies, and animation, historically. So that was really fun to shoot.
And then, a second season of my scandalous series, “Popporn,” which we’ve done a first season of 6 episodes, and we’re prepping right now to do an additional 10 episodes. And “Popporn” is comedians roasting gay porn scenes. So not so much the adult action, but all the setups, the ridiculous setups. And as a lot of adult companies are doing parodies nowadays, there is so much material to work with. And I think we do it in a pretty, you know, jocular, light-hearted way. We don’t hit too hard.
But yeah, “Popporn” is available now, the first season, on Amazon and Vimeo, and OUTtv, and some other places. So that’s another one. I’d love to, you know, for people to check out and review and write. Let me know your thoughts. Did we go too far? Should we go further?
Jeff: I would have to check that out. I had not heard of that previously. And that sounds like a lot of fun.
Charlie: It was so much fun to shoot. We shot for just over a week. The first season, basically, one episode a day in green screen studio. And yeah, we just laughed. We laughed our butts off and we laughed till we were, you know, crying at these comedians. So yeah, I’m excited to go back and have that laughing exercise again for a new 10 episodes coming up.
Jeff: Fantastic. We’ll put links to all that stuff in the show notes for what’s currently available so folks can go find it.
Charlie: Thank you so much.
Jeff: What’s the best way for people to keep up with everything that you’re doing?
Charlie: I think probably, I’m fairly active on my blog, which is on border2border.ca or charliedavid.com, either one of those. So I’m regularly blogging. I’m also on Twitter and Facebook. So those are probably the most active. If you like video, then you can check out my YouTube channel, which is Mr. Charlie David.
Jeff: Cool. We’ll link up to those as well. Charlie, thank you so much for coming back and talking to us. It’s been awesome.
Charlie: Thank you. I really appreciate the time and your interest in what I’m creating.
Will: I’m so glad that Charlie was able to come back on the show and talk about this new project. That boy is so busy. He’s got so much stuff going on.
Jeff: He really is. It’s amazing to listen to him rattle off everything that he’s got, kind of happening right now and that he wants to, you know, get going in the future. Quickly, to remind everybody, he does have a discount code for our listeners. You can get 25% off when you use the promo code border2border. That’s border2border for a rental or purchase of the “Shadowlands” miniseries on Vimeo.
Will: I think that’ll do it for this week’s episode. Coming up next week, in Episode 141, Seth King joins us to discuss his latest book, “Who’s your Daddy?”
Jeff: Ooh, nicely done. Yeah, looking forward to talking to him this week about that book.
Will: Okay. Guys, remember, no matter where life takes you, the journey will always be sweeter when you have a book. Until next time, guys, please keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Announcer: For detailed show notes, and the complete episode backlist, go to biggayfictionpodcast.com. New episodes are available every Monday on all major podcast distributors and YouTube. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.