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.