Cinespect Selects: Will McCord and “Casual Encounters”
Published on August 16th, 2011 | by Carlos J. Segura0
Henry. Julia. Miyuki. One is a “chubby, lonely, 32-year-old, Chinese male computer technician that still lives with his mother” that is a homosexual pretending to be a girl online to ensnare his dream guy. Julia is a young woman who is a recent college graduate and full of adventure, sexually speaking. Miyuki is a Japanese girl newly arrived in America with barely any command of the English language and she just wants to make friends. All of these characters are linked by a desire to connect with another person (or persons) for one reason or another in different ways. Some want romance, some want sex, some want friendship. And all end up in the online personals game in their search for a human connection. What ensues across these shorts, all soon to be bound into one film called “Casual Encounters,” (the last two films, “Jose” and “Eric,” are currently being completed to round out the soon-to-be feature) is a mix of the funny, the sad and the surprising.
Yours truly was able and lucky enough to catch “Miyuki” at New Directors/New Films when it premiered earlier this year before one of the features. This led to inquiries into the other shorts and the decision to interview New York City based filmmaker, Will McCord. For his ability to combine heartbreak and humor Will McCord is our latest pick for a local talent worth spotlighting. The following interview covers the “Casual Encounters” project’s beginnings and its present state. For more information on “Casual Encounters” and to get involved go to: www.casualencountersthemovie.com.
What inspired “Casual Encounters” as a whole and what inspired each individual short?
Each individual short is probably a slightly harder question. So far as what inspired “Casual Encounters”…I had some lurid curiosity with sex personals at one point. I would occasionally read them and get a kick out of them. I had noticed…in fact I don’t tend to think about theme very much, but I had noticed an ongoing theme in artwork I was doing and then in the films that I was writing, which was the theme of loneliness. So it seemed like sort of the perfect area to explore loneliness. At least in my head it seemed like the perfect place. The idea of these anonymous people, presumably lonely, reaching out in dysfunctional ways to make connections. Obviously not in the most productive way.
I think most people when they think about casual encounters or internet sex personals, they automatically think about Craigslist killers or pedophiles. There are a lot of people that think that way and I definitely wanted to avoid that. I didn’t want to make it into a tabloid film. To me it wasn’t about the extremes, though, that does happen occasionally. I was much more interested in relatively normal people reaching out in dysfunctional ways.
In my research, I had found that there were a lot of gay men pretending to be women so that’s what inspired Henry, the first story. I think I made him Asian because I do have, or I used to have, this preoccupation with yellow fever. Other stories just sort of fell into place. I thought it made sense to do a story about a middle-aged couple sleeping with a younger guy. The idea of being emasculated was interesting to me. Then I thought it made sense to focus on that young guy and what his life was. The story of Miyuki…it just seemed like a fun, comedic set-up to have a foreigner not understand what ‘Casual Encounters’ meant and again, I was also interested in the yellow fever phenomena. It was also the epitome to me of loneliness – to have a foreigner in a foreign land who barely speaks the language, looking for a friend and meeting a person who only has interest in treating her as an object.
You have two more “Casual Encounters” shorts coming up. You’ve shot “Jose” and you’re shooting “Eric” soon?
Yes, so we’re finally finishing. Its been 4 years in the process, something like that.
You’ve been shooting these for 4 years!?
Yea! I wrote it maybe 5 years ago and we shot the first one 4 years ago. We’ve run into various problems with casting or our crew members have had problems and we couldn’t work with them or funding problems came up.
What can you tell us about your last shoot and the next one in terms of plot, when we can expect to see them and so on?
“Jose” is about a middle-aged Hispanic couple who try sleeping with a younger guy. I’ll just leave it at that. As I said earlier its about emasculation. I shot it a while ago. I have a rough cut and I am close to being done with it. The last story, “Eric,” follows that younger character in “Jose.” For “Eric” I will just say he’s a vain character, he’s a struggling actor and he likes women (laughs).
So what films did you refer your cast and crew to in order to get at a certain tone, look and so on in your films?
With the actors I can’t think of any films that I referred them to. I used the script as the guide and the rehearsals and their own imagination. In terms of the look I tend to like handheld films, long lenses but not overly jerky. Crime television shows seem to all be done that way now but the camera movement is far too jerky for my taste. I like the way Steven Soderbergh shoots. “Rodger Dodger” is probably on the shaky end of things but I like how that was shot so we talked about those films. In terms of writing I thought about “Short Cuts” a lot, I am a big fan of that film. I tried to avoid doing what films like “Crash” (Haggis) or “Babel” do, where the stories intersect too much. They have their strong points but I try to avoid intersecting stories too much. There’s a little bit of that but I didn’t want to overdo it.
How pleased are you with the films compared to how you initially conceived of them 4 years ago?
I’ve been quite happy with the actors. They’ve looked a little different than what I imagined initially but I think they’re all quite strong. There are always compromises when you’re shooting. You might run out of time, spaces may be too small, or the sun may be setting. So there might be shots that don’t look exactly like I initially imagined them, though, that’s not to take anything away from our really talented cinematographer, Bobby Webster. There’s always a time crunch on shoots, decisions have to be made quickly and sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want them to. Overall though, I’m quite happy with the way things have turned out.
Since “Miyuki” got a little more press thanks to New Directors/New Films has that helped any in terms of being able to raise post-production funds?
More or less its been the same. We’ve been fortunate to have a primary fundraiser come on board. They came on board…I think it was after “Julia.” But yea, the press has been great, the festival play has been great.
Do you have a rough or fine distribution plan for these films?
With “Miyuki” we’re fortunate that we’re getting a distribution deal with Film Movement. It’s being partnered with “Hospitalité,” which is the feature that it showed with at New Directors/New Films. But it’s a non-exclusive deal and the idea from the beginning has been to get distribution for the feature or to self-distribute it if we need to but yea, I do want to show the entire thing, all the shorts, as a feature.
Is there a particular character from your shorts that you identified with the most?
Interesting…I’ve always had a fondness for “Henry.” He sort of embodies longing to me. To me there’s something really sad about the fact that he desperately wants something that he’ll never get. That said I’m not an overweight, gay Asian male but I think many of us can relate to feeling like an outsider and wanting things we can’t have.
What makes the search for love and romance different in New York City compared to other places and at the same time no different from any other place?
(Laughs) Man, I’ve been in New York for 15 years and I haven’t really lived anywhere else. But my sense is that because there’s an attractive person on every block or every other block in New York, we’re inundated by attractive people and there’s the feeling that you can find something better or different at any moment. But that’s an illusion. That’s also human nature. The grass is always greener… when you’re in a long-term relationship you often think about being single and you romanticize that and vice versa. And while that process is not unique to New York, the population density and stimulation here amplifies that feeling.