The 2012 Worldwide Short Film Festival, which runs June 5 to 10, boasts a number of impressive queer works, including The Immigrant
, by gay comedian Scott Thompson. Thompson talks to Brian Batugan about his film, part of the festival's Stranger in a Strange Land showcase.
You’re the producer and lead actor of The Immigrant
. What’s the story behind its production?
Three years ago, I’d been working for a couple of years trying to get a television series made with the same premise as the story – about a Canadian comedian who falls on hard times and then decides to sneak back to the States and try to have a comeback. Then I got sick with cancer – then I came home to Canada. Two years later, I got better. And then I went back to Los Angeles and decided to start it up again. Afterwards Josh Levy, with whom I made two very successful short films, had this idea to take the premise of the series and write a short film. We were all in Los Angeles, so with Dave Pullano, the one who I created the series with, I wrote this script very quickly, and with the help of the Levy brothers we made this whole film together in about four days. No permits or anything. We just got a great team from the first two short films. We’re very happy with it.
Any memorable experiences while shooting?
We were shooting in Southeast LA: it’s an area of Los Angeles which was almost completely populated with Central American immigrants, and many, many people are illegal. So we shot on the streets there without any permits. The interesting thing about that is when people are illegal in the country they don’t make any trouble. And the whole story was about immigration. That was the main premise – people trying to make a better life. In my story it was about a Canadian comedian who’s trying to get stardom because in Canada that’s impossible.
We were shooting one of these scenes in an alleyway in the morning, and a couple of apartments put their music really, really loud. They cranked out Mexican music, so we had to go around and ask them to turn it down. Then we’d shoot, then they’d turn it up again, but we managed to shoot this stuff perfectly. There was this scene where I was in a phone booth and there was a guy on the side eating his food and staring at me. That sort of thing happened constantly. It’s just an awful lot of fun that way.
Is there anything about your being gay that contributed to this work?
I think partly. I think I’ve always had a keen appreciation for the role of the outsider. That’s just fuelled an awful lot of my work. You never really feel that you’re being fully accepted. I have a greater empathy for people outside of the norm or the mainstream. When you think about immigration, you think about the struggle of gay people and the last few years of gay liberation – it’s like gay people are immigrants to the mainstream. Even when you think about gay marriage, it’s almost like a visa – it’s like immigration to acceptance.
How is it being part of a film festival?
It’s a lot of fun but also a lot of work. The LA short film festival was great because the film won first prize, so that was very different from any experience I’ve had. We got an award and people loved the film. Awards don’t really matter, but it sure is nice.
What do you want your audiences to take away from the film?
I just want people to have a good time, laugh a lot and be moved by Bob’s journey. I hope people will take from it that we’re all immigrants. Everyone’s an immigrant and everybody goes to some place else. Every human being has a right to search for a better life.
What are your future plans?
We’re looking at the possibility of making a feature film next year. I am working on a graphic novel – part two of the Hollow Planet series. I’m doing a lot of standup comedy. Right now, I’m coming up with a show in Ottawa. And I also have a podcast that I continue to do with Paul Bellini, and we’ll probably make a movie together. I also do a fruit blog
After Toronto, The Immigrant
is going to New York, to the Manhattan Film Festival. It’s been chosen to open the festival. It’s going to be shown before the main feature and is getting an awful lot of steam. It’s moving along. I’m excited.
The Immigrant screens June 8 at 4:15pm and June 9 at 10:15pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St W. $11. worldwideshortfilmfest.com