Woodstock Film Festival - "Were the World Mine" - Oct. 3, 2008
Were the World Mine
Friday, October 3, 2008
"Were the World Mine" Director Tom Gustafson. Photo by Brian Geldin.
Tom Gustafson’s Shakespeare-inspired musical Were the World Mine, a hit on the festival circuit this past year, made a stop at the Woodstock Film Festival on Friday. The film tells the story Timothy, a gay prep student who joins the school’s production of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and falls for one of his fellow classmates, amidst the scorn of his fellow straight students and the community, until he concocts a love potion that reverses everything. Shot on somewhat of a shoe string budget in Gustafson’s home town of Chicago last year, Were the World Mine is filled with lavish production design and musical numbers. Gustafson noted that the film is actually an expanded version of his previous short film Fairies from 2003. At the centerpiece of Were the World Mine is a stellar performance by Wendy Robie (of Twin Peaks fame) who plays the teacher who casts Timothy in the role of Puck in the school play. She also plays the same role in Fairies. Were the World Mine opens October 31 in Louisville, KY, and then opens in New York and San Francisco on November 21. Gustafson talked more about the film after the Woodstock screening. Below are some highlights of that discussion.
Q: You use trees a lot in the framing of so much in the film. I know it was intentional, why?
Gustafson: It comes back to A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. We really wanted to have a forest feel.
Q: Why was the film shot in Chicago?
Gustafson: I grew up outside of Chicago. When I did the short film, it was very autobiographical. I had a coach that was very similar to our nice friendly coach in this film…Because of the short we shot there; I really wanted to bring it back. In Chicago, they have a really great tax program for independent films and the community there was really supportive.
Q: Did the actors do their own singing?
Gustafson: They did. Casting was interesting because I kind of did what most independent filmmakers do right off the bat. We thought we were going to get some name actor to become attached so for the teenage roles we went after some of the leads in High School Musical…we literally got told that ‘no way would my client play gay’ or ‘I don’t want my client in a gay film.’ I really thought we were past it. We basically said forget it, we’re going to do our own casting calls…in Chicago, LA and New York and found Tanner Cohen who plays Timothy. Now it’s meant to be. I’d so much rather have him than any of those silly, cheesy high school musical stars.
Q: Has the film been picked up for distribution?
Gustafson: We premiered the film in March at the Florida Film Festival and we’ve played a lot of festivals all around the world for the past six months. We got offers from distribution companies to do an all rights deal and we decided…this has been such a labor of love, we’re going to split it up. So we took a risk. The DVD is going to be with Wolfe Video and our cable release will be with Logo and theatrical, we held onto ourselves. We just got booked in 15 cities.
Q: Where have we seen the woman who plays the director of the school play?
Gustafson: Wendy Robie, she was in Twin Peaks as Nadine, who was that crazy woman with a patch who was obsessed with her blinds. She’s done a lot of Wes Craven movies…probably about five years ago, she decided to stop doing film and TV and focus on stage…she’s been doing Stratford Festival up in Canada…she’s been doing all this good work in Chicago and we found her for this short film. Literally I was looking at head shots at this little tiny theater in Chicago and I knew exactly who she was because I had been obsessed with David Lynch my whole life and Corey (the writer) was like, ‘Tom, you have to call her.’ There’s no way that Wendy would do a short no budget film, but I called her and her agent said exactly that, that there’s no way she would do it for no money, and he was like ‘can you just send me the script?’…and the next morning she called and said, ‘I absolutely want to do it. I don’t care what anyone says, but I want to play the teacher, not the mother’ who I thought she was going to play the mother. At that time, the teacher was nothing like it is now.
Q: What’s your next project?
Gustafson: The next feature project is called Mariachi Gringo…which Corey wrote. It’s basically about a guy who’s in middle America and sick of his life and decides to run to Mexico and become a Mariachi singer…I’m also doing a short film called Revelations, which is about a hate group that’s famous for picketing gay people’s funerals.