Comedic film 'Tennessee Queer' opens in Gainesville
Published: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 2:53 p.m.
A film centering on a group of LGBT teenagers in a small Tennessee town has its Florida theatrical premiere Sunday at the Hippodrome Cinema, and its creator will attend screenings Monday and Tuesday to engage the audience.
What: Mark Jones' comedy about a New York man who returns to his rural hometown and organizes a gay pride parade to help LGBT teenagers
When: Screens 7 p.m. Sunday through March 8
Where: Hippodrome Cinema, 25 SE Second Place
Admission: $7.50, $5.50 for students and seniors Sunday and Wednesday only
Info: 375-4477, TheHipp.org
Writer/co-director attends screenings:
Writer and co-director Mark Jones take questions from the audience after screenings Monday and Tuesday
“Tennessee Queer,” opens Sunday with 7 p.m. screenings daily through March 8. Producer/writer and co-director Mark Jones will discuss the film and answer questions from the audience after the Monday and Tuesday screenings.
Jones says he enjoys attending screenings to connect with new audiences. “In every community I learn something different about the film,” says Jones.
The 90-minute comedy focuses on a gay man who returns to his fictional hometown of Smyth, Tenn., from New York only to find that LGBT teenagers are having the same difficulties he experienced when he grew up there.
The lead character, Jason Potts, decides to do what he can to help the teens, and ends up planning the sleepy town's first gay pride parade. But community leaders including a conservative politician and minister plan obstacles to his goals.
The movie filmed for 19 days over the course of four weeks in Memphis, Jones says. “It was a pretty smooth process,” Jones says.
He says he did the casting, and some of the actors had worked with him on his two previous films.
Jones, a Memphis native and openly gay Presbyterian deacon, says that while he didn't base the movie on any of his own personal experiences, he wanted its main message to be that one person — or a small group of people — can make a difference.
The filmmaker contacted the Hippodrome about screening the movie because he wanted to show it in small, independent theaters in the South, he says.
Meg Westermann-Clark, the Hippodrome's rental coordinator, says that while the theater has done some Skype sessions with actors and directors in the past, Jones offered to visit the theater during the screenings. “This is a very unique opportunity,” Westerman-Clark says.
Actor Christian Walker, who plays the film's lead character, says he wanted to make him a person that anyone could relate to. Also born and raised in Memphis, Walker has appeared in more than 30 films since he was 12 and says filming “Tennessee Queer” was the most pleasant movie experience he has been a part of.
“It was like being part of a family,” Walker says. “It was really an ensemble process.”
Walker says there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding the South and the LGBT community, and the response to the film has been supportive and positive.
The film premiered at the Philadelphia Q Fest in July 2012 and opens in Los Angeles and Dallas after its week-long Gainesville run.
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