Five Questions with Gayby Director Jonathan Lisecki
Jonathan Lisecki’s award winning short Gayby screened at over one-hundred festivals world-wide, and it’s easy to see why. Lisecki takes a potentially divisive premise – a single woman looking to become a mother commissions her gay best friend to knock her up – and explores it in a style that’s so frank, honest, and completely hilarious that it’s impossible not to be charmed. Anchored by wonderful comic turns from Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas (who reprise their roles in the feature version), the Gayby short is available now on the new Wholphin No. 15. Lisecki meanwhile has been preppng the feature version for its premiere this afternoon in competition at SXSW.
Filmmaker: How did you initially conceive of the concept for Gayby? What led you to this story, and these characters?
Lisecki: The story partially comes from a suggestion a friend made to me. I didn’t take this particular person up on the offer to impregnate her. But there’s another friend I would have loved to have a baby with. And when we were in college we had a vague plan to try someday. But that option is no longer available. So this was kind of my fantasy version of what that experience would be like, mined for maximum comedic value.
Filmmaker: Gayby‘s subject matter has a lot of dramatic potential. What inspired you to approach it as from a comedic perspective?
Lisecki: I think you have to work with the things that make you different. And for me, that’s always been my sense of humor and my ear for dialogue. I feel like everyone makes dramas, and maybe someday I will, too. But very few people make truly funny comedies, and I find them to be just as important. Some of the ideas I am putting forth in this movie are a lot easier to get across when they are followed by a laugh.
Filmmaker: Was it a challenge adapting your short to feature-length? How did you go about expanding the story?
Lisecki: I had always seen it as a feature first, but I just wasn’t ready. I made the short as a way to see if the idea would interest me further. I was really happy with the short and thought for a time that I was done with this story. But audiences who saw the short always wanted more and wondered what would happen next. That response is kind of rare, and it’s partially due to Matt and Jenn’s charisma. They are hilarious, wonderful people and magically talented actors. One simple reason for making this feature was so I could work with them again. We have a ridiculously great time working together.
Filmmaker: One of my favorite things about the short is how we never lose focus on these two individuals and their very specific situation. It never feels like you’re straining to make a grand political statement, even as you’re exploring some potentially hot-button issues. Do you view Gayby as a political film?
Lisecki: I’d love to say no, just because I like this sneak-attack approach of making political films that can be viewed as “just a fun comedy” by the people who don’t want to look for more. But, yes, there’s more in there for those who want it. That said, anything that ever sounded like me trying to make a point and not like a character speaking was cut. We made some really hard edits along the way, but I’ve struck everything that would have felt pushed. Still, sure, there’s a tiny bit of political rage under all my humor.
Filmmaker: What are you goals for SXSW? Are there specific things you’re looking to get out of the festival?
Lisecki: I want people to love the film. Any and all people. To any straight dudes who might be afraid of the title, I say, come on out. This Gayby don’t bite. You’ll love it. You loved Weekend last year. This is kind of like that, but it’s way goofier and has comic book references, so it’s more like just a Wednesday. I’d also love to have my own show on HBO called Gays, and for Joe Swanberg to cast me as his girlfriend in his next movie. These are the kind of wondrous things I hear happen once you’ve been at SXSW.