Fringe! Queer Film Festival 2020
SHORTS: SLOW FLAME OF DESIRE
Only For The Night
The end of a hook up is rarely the start of a romance. But for Sam, a young trans man, connection is all he desires and an invitation from a handsome stranger may offer that.
Hi LaQuan thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?
I’m doing well. I’m trying to make the best out of what I have and I’m putting in my best efforts to not allow it to bring me down or hold me back. I plan to come out of this a better version of myself than I was going into it.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?
I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten creative inspiration. But I do have more creative opportunities now to work on and create things I probably did not have as much time to in the past. I’m really trying to take advantage of all this acquired free time.
You recently won Best First Time Director & Best LGBTQ Short at Indie Short Fest Los Angeles, what has winning this award meant to you?
Oh god, that was really a turn of events for me! It means a lot and it at the very least shows that as a writer/director, that I’m doing something right.
This is my first project and having this recognition tells me that people are ready and wanting queer stories of this form. I say this all the time, but I think that there're so many layers and depth to trans stories and these awards are proof that there is value to narratives that don’t focus on the stale plots about “coming out” and discrimination.
Did you imagine your debut short film would get such an amazing response from audiences?
I DID NOT expect to win anything at all. I’m just so very grateful to be accepted into any film festival, let alone receive awards! I just went into this with a story that I felt should be heard/seen and I wanted to make sure that I walked away from it knowing that I did my very best and that there was nothing else inside of me that I can bring to it at that time. I just wanted to use it as a marker of what my abilities were as a first time self taught filmmaker. To look at it and say “Okay, this is where I’m at right now, and what I'm capable of”. Now I have to build off of it, learn and get better as I go.
And congratulations on having Only For The Night selected for this year's Fringe! Queer Film Festival, will there be any nerves ahead of the festival screening?
Thank you and umm, no nerves really. But I’m curious as to how people receive it overseas. I’m born and raised in Los Angeles and this is my first acceptance into a festival outside of the U.S. So it’s exciting to be able to share this story in a different country. I was actually more nervous submitting it to Fringe! than anything else.
How did Only For The Night come about and what inspired your screenplay?
Well if I’m being honest, OFTN wasn’t originally going to have a trans protagonist. I wrote it as cis queer boy’s experience finding romance. But when I was still writing the script I was thinking of people to possibly play the character of Sam. A friend of mine (who coincidentally is named Sam) came to mind and I thought he’d do well in the role. Sam is trans and I didn’t think much of it in regard to the gender of the actor. But once Sam agreed to it and we started talking about the character it dawned on me that making the protagonist trans would bring so much more to the story. From that point on I reached out to any trans men I could have access to in order to get their experiences and prioritized authenticity if I were to tell a story of a community that I am not a part of. I always checked in with them with each draft as I wrote to make sure that I am capturing the character’s essence properly. I’ve learned soooo much through all the conversations I’ve had and felt confident that I was being as authentic as I could.
"...I wanted these stories to be told then I would have to do it myself rather than depend on someone else to do it for me."
My goal then became making sure that I tell a story that everyone could identify with regardless of gender or sexuality. We all experience loneliness and heartache and putting a trans body at the forefront of this narrative I felt was important given the lack of visibility of the trans community in cinema, especially trans men. AND making sure that a trans character was being played by a trans person. I forgot to mention that Sam was no longer able to play the role, but not long after I met Angel Labarthe who I feel really gave a beautiful take on the character and really made the character of Sam feel lived in.
What were the biggest challenges you faced making Only For The Night?
Umm the biggest challenge I faced was mostly learning how to direct as I was directing. This was the first film set I’ve ever been on and I didn’t really know what I was doing - I mean I knew what I was doing, but I have never done it. Luckily I had an amazing Cinematographer and Production Designer who took the time to give me pointers and weren’t afraid to share their honest opinions on set. I made sure to make a list of all the things I’ve learned and needed to work on moving forward so that I don’t make the same mistakes again. But honestly, after directing this short I really see now that this is the field of work that I belong in.
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently
I wouldn’t say that production was perfect, but at the moment I wouldn’t want to have changed anything about it. Mostly because these are lessons that I had to learn and they will shape me as an artist. I feel that as a creative we are always looking back and thinking we can do something better, but I choose to take what I have and keep moving forward with intention to grow.
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've taken from making Only For The Night?
Representation. It is important to have the faces behind the camera reflect the ones that are on camera and vice versa. To have a more diverse group of team members (gender, ethnicity, sexuality). If I’m going to continue to tell these types of stories then I need to include more minorities in the process.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
Frustration really, I started out wanting to be an actor. But I had a very specific type of career in mind for myself, and I eventually saw that the stories I wanted to be a part of weren’t being made. So I had to take matters into my own hands. I learned to write screenplays and then thought that if I wanted these stories to be told then I would have to do it myself rather than depend on someone else to do it for me. So naturally directing was my next step and it seemed to be a way better fit for me than acting was. On a deeper level, my passion comes from creating the content that LaQuan in 2013 longed for and content that I as a kid didn’t think was an option or existed. Not seeing faces that looked like mine and people that I identified with on a deeper level on screen as a child was the norm and that is not okay. So now I want to show anyone who feels overlooked or misrepresented that they aren’t alone and that their stories matter too.
Do you think filmmakers should push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
Yes 100%! I feel that the strongest and most impactful stories are those that don’t shy away from the truth and authenticity. Cinema is very vanilla right now and we aren’t seeing creativity anymore. Now all we are being fed are remakes, sequels, and adaptations. I want to see a resurgence of raw stories that show the ugly side of the deep/personal human experience. Because we’d be surprised to see how many people feel the same way but were too afraid or ashamed to express it out loud.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
I’m most definitely not one to give advice hahaha but I guess I would just say; don’t give up and be patient, in all aspects. From conceptualizing to writing to post production.
Also make sure that you are putting out work that you feel strongly about. If what you are making is genuine and coming from the heart then it will be noticed. No one else has your voice and the worst thing you can do is compare yourself to others.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Only For The Night?
All I want is for people to see that we all experience heartache and loneliness the same. Regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality. That’s really it.