Tag Archives: Ishmael Chawla

New Awards for The New Twenty

Congratulations to Colin Fickes who just won the Best Actor Award at the Calgary International Diversity Festival in Canada.

And contratulations to Ishmael Chawla and Chris Mason Johnson, who just won the Best Screenplay Award at FilmOut San Diego.

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Greg Hernandez from Greg In Hollywood recommends

Greg Hernandez, who first saw THE NEW TWENTY at Outfest and championed it then, is doing it again! Here’s the full piece from GregInHollywood.com

Chris Mason Johnson had less than $1 million to make his movie The New Twenty and just 24 days to shoot it. The writer-director needed good, highly-skilled actors who were not going to be too expensive to hire. He wisely used a casting director who found a first-rate ensemble that includes 2009 Tony nominees Karen Olivio (West Side Story) and Thomas Sadoski (Reasons to be Pretty).

“In the end, what really makes or breaks an independent film is the acting,” Johnson told me recently. “If there’s one false note in a performance in a low-budget film, it’s just not gonna work.”

This cast has no weak links that is for sure. It also includes Ryan Locke, Bill Sage, Terry Serpico, Nicole Bilderback, Colin Fickes, Andrew Wei Lin, and Thomas Sadoski .

I like this movie a lot. It kind of reminds me of The Big Chill. Five best friends in their late 20’s discover new truths about themselves and the friendships they thought would last forever. Two of the guys in the group are gay, two are straight and the woman is straight.

So you may be wondering if it’s a gay movie or a straight movie.

“Gay audiences say it is a gay film, straight audiences say it’s not,” Chris said. “I was really interested in these buddy films like American Graffitti and Diner where you have this group of guys and 100 percent of the time, all the guys are straights and 100 percent of the time, if there’s a gay guy in the movie, it’s gonna lead to unrequited love, homophobia etc. So the idea that gay and straight young male friends can get along as friends without that issue coming up is not something movies have addressed – in America at least.”

Chris had a decade-long career as a dancer before attending college so once he got there, he found himself about 10 years older than most of his peers. He also noticed that there was an ease between straight and gay students that had not been there when he was growing up.

“It was based on my own experience because I came out of a very gay world in the dance world where we were sort of segregated by gay-straight,” he said. “This was new to me and their attitudes about their sort of integration was new to me. As the old guard kind of recedes, this is the next wave. Assimilation for both racial and sexual issues I think is reality. The Republicans may be screaming but they can’t stop us.”

Chris and a co-writer Ishmael Chawla based the characters in Twenty on people they knew but they sought to make a movie that was strong on plot with “an active protagonist with external goals.” That protagonist is alpha male Andrew (Ryan Locke) who is extremely ambitious, has a fiance who is more successful than him, and he mixes his friendships with his business dealings.

“He’s the catalyst at the center of this and that allowed us to have some passive characters who don’t necessarily know what they want reacting to his actions,” Chris said.

The New Twenty opens tomorrow (May 15) at Laemmle’s Sunset 5. Chris is doing Q&A’s after the Friday, Saturday and Wednesday (May 20) 7:45pm shows. Go to TheNewTwenty.com to order tickets.

“An impressive feature debut” with “fine acting” says Boxoffice.com Review

“In addition to fine acting, The New Twenty benefits from David Tumblety’s excellent cinematography. He uses color to expressive advantage and turns routine skyline footage (not another shot of a rooftop water tower!) into a vibrant cityscape. Ballads and incidental music add another pleasant layer without taking attention away from the characters. Johnson and co-writer Ishmael Chawla (his fellow Amherst College grad, as is producer Aina Abiodun) shine in a concise barroom scene during which Ben drunkenly holds forth on the nature of human suffering to an older gentleman (Larry Pine in a superb cameo), who sympathizes before gallantly asking, “Now, would you like a blow job from an old cowboy?”

READ THE REVIEW

Village Voice Loves THE NEW TWENTY movie 03-17!

Tracking Shots

Village Voice Review

By Chuck Wilson

Tuesday, March 17th 2009 at 2:34pm

In his sleek and accomplished debut film, writer-director Chris Mason Johnson tracks the lives and loves of a cadre of 29-year-old Manhattan college friends who betray themselves and each other by abusing the Big Three—sex, money, and drugs. At the center is Andrew (Ryan Locke), a lean, blond alpha-dog investment banker whose beautiful Asian fiancée (Nicole Bilderback) may be his match in the world of business. Among those circling this golden couple are Ben (Colin Fickes), who’s gay, overweight, and addicted to online sex sites (there’s a great moment when a trick comes over to Ben’s apartment and the two men reject each other on sight), as well as the drug-addicted Felix (Thomas Sadoski) and commitment-phobic Tony (Andrew Wei Lin). We have been here many times before (see 1966’s The Group), but Johnson and co-writer Ishmael Chawla have a light touch that keeps things from turning overly melodramatic. (No vases get thrown.) Supported by veteran New York actors such as Terry Serpico and Bill Sage, the strong ensemble of young actors create fully defined personas, thanks in large part to their director’s willingness to linger after a dramatic peak and observe the characters in private, take-a-breath moments. He’s got something, this guy, and I’d hate to see a movie this ethnically and sexually diverse fade away on today’s dead-end gay release circuit. After all, for better or worse, every generation deserves its own St. Elmo’s Fire.