Fall 2013 will see the debut of Peter William Dunn's Gays: the Series. Set in New York City, Dunn describes his creation as a "dramedy" a combination of comedy and drama.
Gays will follow the lives and loves of four twenty-something gay men navigating the often intense terrain of life in the Big Apple. The guys are best friends, and represent a diverse cross section of gay male humanity. There's a drag queen who's in love with classic Hollywood, a waiter, a self-entitled horny rich kid, and an introvert who works for a gay non-profit.
There has been an explosion in recent years of exclusive series, and even an occasional film, produced by maverick writers, producers, directors and actors, who present their work on the Internet. Free from the constraints of network television censors and studio bosses, they're able to tell their stories with total creative freedom. Quite a bit of web content plays to a specific, niche demographic, such as the LGBT community, who might otherwise not be properly represented in the mainstream media. Some web producers fund raise through Kickstarter or Indie-go go campaigns, which allows viewers to keep their favorite shows on their computer screens by donating to the budgets. A lucky few are able to sell ads and make a little money.
Web produced content has become so prevalent in current culture, SAG, the Screen Actor's Guild, has added New Media contracts for it's member actors to sign, which enables them to work on these series for a reduced scale rate: new media budgets are often quite low. Yet final products are often impressively slick, well written, offbeat, and creatively more original than what the major networks offer.
Dunn spoke to SFGN about his own efforts and experiences working in this cutting edge but growing new medium.
Please tell us about yourself, your coming out story, and what drew you to acting and film making?
I am a 27-year-old artist living in the New York City, where I was born. I went to college in Boston, then lived throughout Europe to explore more of the world. Came back a few years ago. I've made my living, working freelance in reality TV production and bartending at gay bars and restaurants.
I don't really have a coming out story. I always knew I liked boys and always admitted that I did. Growing up a child actor in the theater scene I was lucky enough to meet amazing gay men who were great people and whom I admired, so I never thought it was wrong.
What inspired the creation of Gays: the Series?
Gays actually came about from a New Years Resolution. I'd gotten so caught up in making other people's dreams come true in reality television, mixed with insane night hours as a bartender that I'd pretty much abandoned my own personal dreams. I wasn't reading nearly as much as I wanted or needed too. At the same time I read an article about the best gay web series of 2012. In one weekend I watched all of them and wasn't impressed.
Then I thought: 'if you can do something better, then do it and prove you can. Stop being all talk.' So I said no more bartending, no more freelance jobs, give yourself six months, see what you can do with it, and if you fail, at least you can say you tried.
The story of the show itself came from one character, one scene, and it just branched out from there. It pretty much poured out of me as if it had been stewing there for years.
I think that a majority of the gay media in both film, TV and web series has a lot of potential but ends up disappointing in some variable, whether it's the acting, the writing, or the production values. I wanted to create something for our community that didn't do any of those things, and would be an incredible piece of stand alone work. I wrote the pilot in one sitting in a couple of hours, sent it to my best friend Eden, and she said: "You're on to something here." Three months later I'd written out the entire first season and said, "well, let's do this thing."
How was the production financed?
I had been saving money to move overseas again, but to dream you have to take risks, so I poured every penny of that savings into Gays. We also have a couple of independent private investors who believe in the potential of the show. And we'll be launching an indie go-go within the next week or two to raise the rest of the money we need to complete the show. The cast and crew are all unpaid, which has just been so monumentally moving to meet so many people who believe in this thing, care about it, and want to make it a reality to share with everyone.
How long do you hope it will run?
I can honestly see Gays running for quite some time. Once I created these characters, they took me in all sorts of different directions, and I feel the show has a life of it's own now and I was just throwing words out there. I've already written treatments for a second and third season, and have come up with a way to keep things fresh and new for a fourth.
What do you want to convey to your viewers, and what do you hope they'll take from watching it?
My initial goal was to create a show for our community that I felt would help fill a void of there not being enough strong and smart gay programming. I also wanted to create a show that wasn't solely for our community but that everyone who's not an actual homophobe could enjoy. Just a really entertaining show that could stand up there with the greats of television.
I wanted to create a show that followed the lives of four men who happened to be gay, but the show was actually about the bigger universal aspects of life that all of us us people deal with: love, work problems, friendship, family, etc. I've always thought that the most fascinating thing with people is we're all so different, yet we're all so shockingly the same in so many ways. I guess that's what I hope viewers will take away from it, that realization.
I do hope that gays who watch this show think that they've been represented intelligently and appropriately. Not all the characters are likable: some are pretty damn awful, but guess what? So are people in real life. I hope people can respect that, and I hope they can laugh. A lot. If I can make people laugh and forget about their problems for a short time, then I've done my job.
What are the benefits and difficulties of producing for the web?
It's given a platform for independent artists out to the entire world in a way that they were never really able to. The power is now so much more in our hands as artists to just throw our work out to the world and see what can happen to it. I definitely think it provides more hope and the feeling of drive.
The difficulties for me are just the general difficulties of producing a pretty huge piece of work as an unknown and trying to convince people to give me a shot and that I'm doing something new, current and worthwhile. Being an indie artist is always hard but it's even harder when you don't have family money or anything like that to bring your work to life. I'm doing this whole thing the hard way, by just getting my hands dirty and working. I'm also doing a lot of the work on my own, it's like running a marathon, except running it for months.
Would you say Gays is rated PG 13 or R?
Gays is definitely R rated. Viewers can expect all the wonderful and terrible things that goes into struggling through your twenties. They can look forward to a whole lot of laughs, some tears, some foul language, and some of the most complex people they'll ever meet on the small screen. Oh, and some sex. Well, a lot of sex.
Look for Gays: the Series at Facebook.com/GaysTheSeries, and online in Fall 2013.