On sexualised puritanism

Midsumma is the Melbourne Gay and Lesbian Festival. Yesterday was one of their feature events, Carnival, a big get together day along the Yarra River, with music, food, and community stalls.

It is unclear, however, what Carnival is exactly designed to be. Right after the entrance, I walked into people in black singlets playing volleyball among a circle of stalls for Gay and Lesbian sports groups. I greeted a friend from the ‘Glamourheads swim team’, and walked across the centre lawn. Blaring sun, no shade. From the main stage, a cover band played a loud piece of doof doof dance music. On the way, I passed a small group of men in skimpy swimsuits, with the words ‘naked men fest’ written on their bodies.

Past the skateboard rink, the corporate and community stalls started: Coles, PWC, Dykes on Bikes, and three different animal protection groups. People pushed leaflets and showbags into my hands. ‘Are you interested in getting a job?’ Someone asked. At an HIV stand, somebody took a photograph with a hunk in a red cape and white underwear saying ‘no glove, no love’.

It was all very teasing, I was hoping to see some action – a handjob workshop, Kink DIY practice, an orgy tent – or at least some proper nudity. But there was none of it, no touching, no sex on premises. Carnival is family friendly. Yet again, there were not many families, nor many women either. Mostly white men with frustrated expressions.

As I walked back along the main alley, heading back home, I passed a man in a black t-shirt and two young Asian women holding white ‘Colgate’ plastic bags. “Oh, toothpaste!” I said, “Why are you handing toothpaste at a gay festival?  Should I brush before or after the blow job then?” They were not amused. “No, we’re a gay-owned dental clinic – some people find it more comfortable.”

Honey Pot – how a project came to life.

Four years ago, I wrote the script of a short gay film that would show two men dancing in a public toilet. My friend Nghi, whom I’d met by chance at a screenwriters meetup, was interested in the storyline, and offered to produce it. We gathered a small team, found a location, negotiated hard for a permit, and shot the whole thing three and a half years ago. The film screened at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was later selected for the Verona and Mumbai Queer Film Festivals.

Two years ago, Nghi decided to put Honey Pot on youtube. We were not going to sell it, and had exhausted the festival circuit. A month later, our film had received over 10,000 views – and we were exhilarated! That was more viewers than fifty festivals. And then the number grew. 50,000. 100,000. Last I saw, we were over 2 million. More people have seen this film than live in South Australia, Stockholm or Dublin – and with 2000 to 3000 views a day, we’ll soon overtake Manchester, Budapest or Vienna.

This is the power of the net. What was just an idea four years ago, with very minimal budget – 3000 dollars, which we’ve since covered through youtube ads – we’ve reached out over 2 million people, generated hundreds of comments, and become part of debates and discussions about male desire, police abuse, and the perception of Asian gay men. We spent no money marketing or promoting the piece – it resonated enough with people that they sent a link or told their friends about it.

This little video, and the story of its online success, is one of my great pleasures. When I doubt about the success of my current projects – I think back on Honey Pot, and how, within four years, a few words on a page became images seen by over 2 million people over the world. It’s happened, it could happen again. It’s taken time, other things will. And if all fails, at least, I’ve made this little film, which people have enjoyed. It’s also taught me something else: many viewers were in countries I never thought of – Indonesia, Philippines, even Saudi Arabia. There’s an audience beyond the North Atlantic – and maybe we should think of them when we shoot, write, paint, or edit. At least, from now on, I do!

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet – here’s the video. If you like it – send a link to your friends!

Emerging Writers Festival

I just had an amazing panel session on type-casting at the Melbourne Emerging Writers Festival with Anita Heiss, Ryan Paine and Karen Pickering. Empowering feminist vibe dominating the talk; smart people. It was good to reflect on being a gay writer – and as a result, I’m thinking, hey, how come I haven’t started a gay blog yet? I think I will!

Honey Pot is going to Verona

Nghi had yet another random piece of news a few days ago: the director of the Verona Video Festival saw Honeypot on the self-service computers of the Clermont-Ferrand short film festivals, and decided he wanted it in his festival. So there we are, after India, we’re hitting Italy, yeah!

For someone who wants to write romantic comedies, having my first film showing in the capital of Bollywood, and the city of Romeo and Juliet bodes well for the future :-).