37th BFI Flare 2023
In this utterly charming coming-of-age comedy, a teenage boy experiences a sexual awakening when he falls for his cousin’s boyfriend on a camping trip.
Hi Corey congratulations on your debut feature Big Boys having its World Premiere the BODIES section at the 37th BFI Flare, what does it mean for you to be able to have such a huge platform to showcase your beautiful and touching film?
I’m thrilled that we’ll be playing in such a beautiful venue to an audience of this size because I always wanted the film to be a crowd-pleasing, communal experience. The story is about a pretty difficult, vulnerable time in a queer person’s life that can sometimes be hard to look at. However, I hope seeing it with a big audience, especially of other queer people, gives viewers a chance to revisit that time in life with a little more compassion and humour, and to feel less alone in their experience.
What was the first LGBTQ+ film you saw that really left an impact on you?
I became briefly obsessed with a Spanish film called "Cachorro" when I was in high school. It’s a film about a bearish man raising his nephew in Madrid. It was so refreshing to see a film that presented big men as attractive and worthy of romance, especially when we’re so used to seeing them as the butt of a joke. That really inspired my effort with this film to present a story about big men in a dignified light. I was a big guy when I saw "Cachorro" and still am, and have always wanted to see more stories that celebrate bigger people. I think films like that can provide viewers with a small stepping stone towards feeling better about who they are and living without shame. I hope our film offers that, particularly for the bigger young people who deserve more films that treat their stories with as much respect as anyone else’s.
Do you think part of this problem of representation is down to LGBTQ+ filmmakers who rather prefer to cast the ‘fantasy type’ gay male character (Call You By My Name etc) rather than focusing more the diverse body types that can offer them much more substance?
I think that we see that type of character on screen all the time because it seems like a safe bet. There’s this assumption that most people aspire to be with that type, and therefore will be much more interested in watching a story about that type. However, I think people have a much wider range of interests than we’re led to believe. If you ask someone what their type is, it’s almost always so much more nuanced and interesting than the defaults we’re led to believe everyone admires. I’d love to make and see more films that trust in and celebrate how varied people and their interests actually are.
"During post-production, we watched endless cuts together and Allison’s input was huge in keeping the story as focused and accessible as possible."
Can you tell me a little bit about how Big Boys came about, when did you realise you wanted to make a film that is inspired by your own life?
I’ve always been really interested in telling the story of an unrequited crush on a straight, older person. A big way I came to terms with my own sexuality was through crushes on guys I could never have, be that because they were straight, older, my teacher, etc. These experiences were really frustrating but they were also really thrilling and taught me a lot about what I wanted. I thought that was worthy of its own story and that we didn’t need the closure of two characters finally “getting together” in order to make a satisfying, emotional movie about someone’s self-discovery. I got more into camping during the pandemic and started to think that a campground could be a good setting for this kind of story. When you’re a kid camping with your family, you have absolutely no privacy. There’s no doors, strangers are everywhere and you’re sleeping hip-to-hip with your siblings. I thought that could present an interesting challenge in a story about such a private, sensitive moment in a young person’s life. A new part of them is emerging, and as exciting as it is, it’s also scary, and they’re trying everything they can to hide it in a world where it’s nearly impossible to hide. Once that clicked into place, it felt like I had enough to start outlining a story.
Did you allow yourself and your actors a lot of flexibility with your screenplay or did you prefer to shoot what you wrote?
It was most important to me that the words felt natural coming out of their mouths, so if there was ever a line that felt weird or overly written, we changed it. We also did improv during rehearsals and incorporated that into the script, which was invaluable in punching up the humor in the story. The cast also did improv on set, some of which made it into the film because they were so tuned into their characters that the improv felt like it was part of the script. The Taboo scene by the campfire was a really fun improv scene to do because the actors were literally playing the game with each other in front of the cameras.
With this being both yours and your producer Allison Tate’s debut feature, how important was the creative collaboration between you both?
Allison has been a creative partner on this project throughout the entire process. We went through the script many times together and talked a lot about the intention of the scenes, how to flesh out certain characters, and how to keep the audience’s attention. During post-production, we watched endless cuts together and Allison’s input was huge in keeping the story as focused and accessible as possible. She cares just as deeply about this film as I do, and having her by my side as a creative collaborator and sounding board has constantly inspired me to make a better film. "Big Boys" definitely feels like our shared baby.
Finally, what themes are you hoping to explore with future films?
I have a bunch of ideas floating around, but I know I’d like to make something about a mother-son relationship. My Mom passed away 5 years ago. She was and is a huge part of my life, and my relationship with her continues to grow and change even to this day. I’d love to make something about the way a parent’s outlook shapes our behaviour long after they’re gone, and how their passing teaches self-reliance as well the value in leaning on others for support.