|STRAIGHTMAN - SYNOPSIS|
STRAIGHTMAN is about the difficulties of navigating friendship and love between men. David is a womanizing glutton and Jack is a blue-collar guy struggling with his sexual identity. What follows is a hard look at friendship and the elusiveness of romance in these young men's life.
Once Ben and I became partners we talked a lot about films and books we liked and started talking especially about sexuality and gender and how some people are not always perceived by others how they really are. The story line began to develop from those initial discussions and we built our characters by giving them names and talking about their history, sexual and otherwise. — Ben Berkowitz
The setting is contemporary Chicago. David Leibowitz is a wanna-be comedian, who manages a small comedy club. David eats too much, drinks too much and constantly cheats on his girlfriend, Rebecca. His only redeeming quality is being a good friend to his neighbors, Jack and Max. Jack is self-educated, blue-collar guy who prefers reading to working. He contrasts David's crudeness with a shy wit and a complete devotion to his girlfriend, Max. When she suddenly decides to leave him, Jack's world is shattered. However, David is there for him and the two move in together. Unfortunately, David's dream of an orgiastic bachelor pad is ruined when Jack tells David that he is gay. David thinks he can handle it as long as he can make fag jokes and belittle Jack's friends. Jack doesn't put up with David's needling for long and learns the only way for him to be out and get the respect he deserves is to be strong enough to stand up for himself.
STRAIGHTMAN began as a theater experiment to fulfill our independent study requirements at Chicago's Art Institute. We enlisted non-actors and actors alike to do in-depth character studies based on a group of people that had existed in similar circumstances to the ones that we experienced over the previous two years. A closeted gay male living with his girlfriend, a young woman struggling with the fear of turning into a yuppie, and a Jewish comedian unable to identify with his cultural background. All of these seemed very legitimate situations that young people faced, so we began to begin work on a relatable story from which people could possibly learn more about these specific people with universal problems and desires.
During our rehearsal process over four months we developed a method for taping actors based on their own rhythms by not calling cut and interrupting their performance. This forced them to conform to the camera. Instead we filmed them in accordance with the moment as a documentary filmmaker must. Breaking the conventions of both scripted and nonscripted filmmaking created an improvisational system that is based on decisions and instincts that come from knowing the character's identity, replacing the control of the writer with a documentary environment where in the players script the dialogue moment to moment. However, not allowing total improv frenzy as in theater of the absurd or comedy but rather creating reality-based boundaries for the actors that exist in everyday life decision making.