Director of the critically acclaimed short film "Yesterday, My Dead Boyfriend Messaged Me On Grindr", FTV Alumni Curtis Lee celebrates his win in the 'Best LGBTQ' Category!
We absolutely love to celebrate the successes of our JMC Alumni, especially when they are as ground-breaking as this one! Director Curtis Lee and Director of Photography Rhys William Nicolson, both FTV Alumni and Martini Award Winners, recently had their short film screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival along with a myriad of International Festivals and have been congratulated on their efforts by receiving the title of "Best LGBTQ Film"!
With an extensive catalogue of works created by the duo, their recent accolades are a shining example of the hard work and dedication they have put into their work. We are shinning the spotlight on Director Curtis Lee as we catch up and talk about what inspired the film, how 2020 forced Film Festivals to adapt and why Scream 6 needs to happen!
What was your inspiration behind creating “Yesterday, My Boyfriend messaged me on Grindr”?
The same thing that inspires me for most of my work, to be honest...heartbreak, haha. My boyfriend and I broke up as I was convinced he was cheating on me while I was working abroad (He lives with the person now, so I think I was on the money. They seem very happy though so I'm happy for them) I was heartbroken for a while as I loved him a lot and I tend to try and channel that into my work when possible as it has always been my outlet ever since I was an angsty kid sitting in art class making up song lyrics and writing them on my arm.
I wanted to play around with the idea of what it meant to be haunted through social media. I was still seeing a ghost of someone that I knew wasn't really gone...not in the traditional sense anyway, which I think a lot of people can relate to. So many people still have access to the lives of someone online that they no longer communicate with. If you have still have love for that person and know that you can't reach them even though you can see them...how is that any different from being haunted? Anyway, from that "Yesterday, My Dead Boyfriend Messaged Me on Grindr" was created.
The LA LGBTQ+ Feedback Film Festival Screening your film must be such a career highlight, how do you think festivals and events like this have challenged themes of inclusivity and representation in film?
We actually won the feedback festival for the best short film! I got the email from them a couple of days ago and they sent through a 10-minute feedback video where a panel talks about how the film resonated with them, which is incredible...and also really surreal to have strangers talk about your work like that. In terms of inclusivity, I can only talk about my experience.
The thing about festivals and events like this, it's not so much that they exist, it's more that there's a platform that allows people from all over the world to submit to them. FilmFreeway is an excellent hub that lists all the festivals you're after based on your search criteria. Having that platform available to filmmakers is invaluable. When that service already exists, the only thing left for creators to do, is create, which makes room for everyone to be included and represented in film. As an Australian, being able to submit to festivals around the world is an incredible privilege.
How do you think Film festivals have evolved with the creation of new distribution channels creating content shareability like never before?
I think (especially during Covid), film festivals have had to adapt. Although with that, people have also become more inventive. There's that movie on Shudder that was filmed entirely in lockdown which was pretty cool. The world changes rapidly and I think festivals have handled themselves pretty well. So many festivals have had to move on to online screenings, which at first was a bit of a bummer, but really the potential for a bigger projection of your film can come from that. Clicking a link can be a lot easier than getting in a car and driving to a cinema and back to watch a short film. It's not my ideal scenario, but I think this film has likely actually benefited from the pandemic in terms of its outreach... weird.
You’ve worked on numerous projects such as Big Brother and S.A.S., how have those television experiences differed from working in film?
TV is fun. I'm a huge control freak though so it's really hard not to be making executive decisions, but I am definitely learning a lot. It has been great applying my own on-set practices to the workplaces that I find myself in. I've definitely worked on some great shows and it's really nice to be able to make a living creatively while also using the weekend to live creatively. Television is different because of all the moving parts that go into it like Ratings, networks, etc. All a bunch of things that are currently above my pay grade.
Dream Project Collab?
They just shot the new Scream 5 movie and honestly being on that set would have been a dream come true. Maybe if they make a sixth one they'll let me be a runner or something. So wild I watched the first one when I was 6 and they're making another one with the original cast. Amazing!
Any new projects in the work?
Too many, my anxious brain always has something on the go. We just had the cast and crew screening for the first two episodes of an LGBTQI+ series called 'COMMITTED' that we raised nearly 20k in crowdfunding to make. It was in post for a very long time as I needed to get it jussst right. I'm looking for a producer if anyone has any advice on the next stages on getting things distributed...honestly COMMITTED is incredible, it's my baby. I'm shooting a pilot episode of a new web series I wrote called 'Still or Sparkling', which we're shooting soon that I have a lot of prep work left to do. I'm also producing a short film called 'RAPID' which goes into production in April, which I'm collaborating on with artist Isabel Dickson, a long-time co-collaborator of mine who is about to have her directorial debut. We work together a lot and I'm very excited to see how that turns out.
Want to study Film & Television at JMC?
How do you think JMC Academy prepared you for your work in the industry?
I think when I reflect on my time as a student at JMC, the biggest takeaway from me was what I learned about working with other people. I went into the experience thinking that everyone would share a similar mindset in terms of....hey let's not have a life and just make things 24/7...which was irrational now that I think about it haha. JMC introduced me to people that I've now worked with for years. I'm really lucky to have gone to JMC because the creatives (my friends) I work with are so incredibly talented.
There are lots of talented people at JMC and I didn't get along with all of them, even though on paper it seemed like it would be a good match and that also trickles into my experience in the industry. Not everyone gets along, no one can. But the people you DO get along with, those are the ones that you stick with because they are going to be in your corner and you in theirs. Being able to share victories together such as winning festivals in France, Los Angeles, India, and having your film screened as part of the Perth Pride Festival, there's nothing quite like it. It just motivates you to work harder and to create more stuff, which is what I've wanted to do my entire life. There were some really good people at JMC and I had an incredible mentor as a lecturer that I still work with today and having her as a teacher has set me up on a very good path that I'll always be grateful for.
WANT TO WATCH? CHECK OUT CURTIS' FILM BELOW!
"Yesterday, My Dead Boyfriend Messaged Me On Grindr" Synopsis: A short film that tells the story of Julian, a man dealing with the unexpected death of his boyfriend, Kinsey. In an attempt to move on from the grief, Julian logs onto Grindr only to be bombarded with messages of detached filth. Giving up on the app, he goes to turn it off before an all too familiar voice comes through the phone… Kinsey’s.