As most of you should know, I recently reviewed the film The Stranger in Us. Now, I was lucky enough to ask writer/director Scott Boswell some questions about the movie, his next projects, and even the possibility of writing a novel. The Stranger in Us was one of those films I could see as a book and would definitely enjoy reading...so I think it would be great if Scott ever wrote and published a novel, especially if it geared toward a YA audience on some level.
1. As the writer and director of The Stranger in Us, what was the overall process of bringing this film to life?
That's a big question, so I'll try to be succinct. I started the project in May 2008 after several years of making short films and writing feature screenplays. I had decided it was time to make my first feature film, which is a really important step for any independent filmmaker. You can spend years and years trying to find the funds to make a film, or you can pick up a camera and make one. I opted for picking up a camera, which of course also meant a very tight budget and going into debt. But I have noregrets. We kept the production very small and local and culled as many favors as possible. Now I've made my film and it's even found a distribution pathway around the world.
2. I'm a huge fan of titles, so I was wondering...what were your own personal thoughts when naming The Stranger in Us?
I actually had a hard time naming this film; I didn't settle on a title until way into the editing phase. When "The Stranger in Us" came to me, that seemed right because it captures a major theme in the film -- that of on discovering a part of yourself you never thought was there. For Anthony, it was about finding himself in an abusive relationship.
3. One of the things we focus on a lot here are novels. Do you think you'd ever turn your writing to the page?
Absolutely! In fact, I have. I've written quite a few short stories, and I've even worked on a novel version of one of my screenplays, A Good Kid. I still think this particular story would work well as a novel, and one
day I hope to finish it. I'm thinking about NaNoWriMo this year.
4. According to your website, you are working on the concept for a television series. Can you share anything concerning that?
Sure, it's a dual-character narrative, meaning it focuses equally on the lives of two characters. But we also see these two character at three different points in their lives, so there are actually six narratives happening. One is a gay kid / young man; the other is a middle class black girl / woman. They progress from rivals as pre-teens to best friends in high school to near strangers as adults.
5. As people can see from my review, I really enjoyed the character of Gavin. Any thoughts on writing something that surrounds just teens?
Yes, in fact, I've always been drawn to stories of youth in my writing. At the moment I'm working on two scripts about teens -- one is a high school comedy set in the 1980s (but very different from a John Hughes film); the other is dramatic story about a Latino youth in the U.S. who learns at the age of 16 that he's undocumented. My plan is to make one of these films next.
6. Everybody's character in The Stranger in Us has an open-ended story. What made you decide to go that route?
Good question. It was mostly an aesthetic or stylistic choice. I strove for realism with this story, and resolution doesn't always come with realism. And I think the choice of open-endedness compliments the genre, a character-driven drama; wrapping things up likely would have felt forced.
7. The editing is different from most films in The Stranger in Us. How did that idea come about? Was it a choice intended to add mystery?
I think you're probably talking about the story structure, specifically the "shuttling around" in time. A sense of mystery wasn't quite the intended goal; however, I did intend a sense of confusion as Anthony tries to make sense of his relationship with Stephen. In my mind, the film takes place over only two days: The first is Gavin's 18th birthday, when Anthony breaks down; the second is the next day, when Anthony takes a bus to find Gavin in Chico. Every other scene is a memory Anthony has while on the bus -- memories of the first two people he became close to in San Francisco, both of whom he subsequently lost. So for me as a writer, the shuttling in time is really Anthony's stream-of-consciousness.
8. What LGBT films would you recommend, besides your own?
Wow, there's so much to choose. I'm actually teaching a class on Queer Cinema at San Francisco State University at the moment, so I've been focused on this very subject. For people interested in LGBT film, I highly recommend the classic book, The Celluloid Closet, by Vito Russo. I've been influenced by directors like Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho) and Pedro Almodóvar (Bad Education). Some recent favorites include the Canadian film I Killed My Mother by Xavier Dolan and the local documentary We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco by David Weissman.
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