Pillow Talk

Dear Pillows Bryan Poyser on 11-year-old directors and Logans Run orgies

It's hard to think of another film that has captured the frustrated, greasy, confused, self-hating, 24/7 horninessof male adolescence as effectively as Bryan Poyser's directorial feature debut, DearPillow.Rusty Kelly stars as Wes, a 17-year-old supermarket bag boy who finds a surprising friendship with Dusty (Gary Chason), an old, gay porn writer who lives in his apartment complex. This fascinating film is not without humor, but it does take us to some very dark, disturbing places. No, it doesn't venture into NAMBLA territory, but let's just say it's rather startling that this movie is screening in W's America at all, let alone in Newport Beach. I spoke with Poyser from (what was then) his workplace in Austin, Texas.

OC Weekly:This film has such a grungy, authentic feel; I had to wonder if certain aspects were autobiographical.

BryanPoyser:Certain aspects were veryautobiographical, actually. The character of Dusty in the film, this old porn writer who serves as a kind of mentor to the kid, was based on this guy who used to live in the same apartment complex as a friend of mine. He lived this somewhat sad existence; he had some kind of a trust fund that paid just enough to keep him supplied with beer and cigarettes. He wrote these pornographic novels, and he'd tell us stories about this wild life he'd lived back in the '70s. Also the element of the phone sex: that was based on something that happened to me back at the University of Texas. I was in my dorm room and I got this weird call from a girl. She was saying all these suggestive things, and then just when I was getting into it, she hung up. It was very mysterious, and it inspired the Lorna character in the film.

Thefilmfeelsalotlikeaplay,andImeanthatinagoodway.It'sjustthethreecharacters,verydialogue-driven,notalotofsets.Doyouhaveatheatricalbackground?

I did some plays in high school, but that's about it. The film was written this way specifically so it would be something we could get done. We had no money, so the film was built around people talking, the cheapest thing you can base a movie on. We had no budget for special effects, so we kinda hoped that the provocative language would work as our special effects.

Italmostseemedlikeyouweredeliberatelycourtingcontroversy.Imean,allthestuffwiththepornandtheweird,pseudo-gaythingwiththeteenageboyinthemovie—that'sjustgoingtoincenseconservatives.ButthatsamestuffisalsogoingtomakeyouatargetforthemoreextremesideoftheLeft,the"tyrannyofthemalegaze,"anti-pornpeople.Haveyoubeencriticizedlikethat?

Not much from either extreme, no. I think we've somehow managed to skirt right down the middle. The film has been accused of being homophobic because of the ambivalence the gay characters in the movie have about their sexuality. There were some walkouts in Dallas. We were very fortunate to get the cast that we did; I think these performances help people see beyond the provocative language, so they can't just dismiss these characters as perverts. Rusty Kelly was just crucial for making this work.

He'sarealfind.Washereallyonly17whenyoushotthis?

He was 15! He's 17 now. We were afraid at first, about casting somebody so young. We wanted to find somebody 18 or older who could play 17. We didn't wanna have to deal with somebody's parents and all those complications. But then we met Rusty at an orientation meeting for the 48 Hour Film Festival. He was in this room full of people in their 20s and 30s, and he stood up and said, "Hi, I'm Rusty, I'm a filmmaker and I've had a couple of my short films on HBO . . ." He'd been making films with his friends since he was 11. We were really impressed and jealous of this kid for having such success at such a young age, and we were impressed by his bravery and his attitude. So we decided to hitch our wagon to his rising star, as it were. We met him and his mom, and they both really responded to the script. Rusty's favorite director is Harmony Korine [Gummo], so he was used to dark, button-pushing material like that.

Didyouhavetoshootaroundhisschoolschedule?

No, we filmed during his spring break. He had two weeks off, which surprised me. It was only one week when I was a kid. Then we shot the rest over nights and weekends. We filmed the whole thing in a month.

IwasalsoimpressedbyGaryChason,whoplaysDusty.AmIcorrectinthinkingthatin35yearsofacting,thisisthefirsttimehe'splayedacharacterwithanactualname?

[Laughs] Yeah. It took a lot of persuading to get him to take the part, actually. He's been a casting director for a long time; he cast Pretty Baby, Logan's Run, pretty much every big movie that filmed in Texas in the '70s and '80s. A long time ago, he made the decision to give up acting and just do casting.

Originally he was working with us to find a big-name actor for the part of Dusty. We were trying to get the film some attention that way, and he was advising us. But the more we spent time with him, the more we got to know his great, perverse sense of humor. He'd tell us these fantastic stories, about orgies on the set of Logan'sRunand things like that, and he just had such glee talking about this stuff. Eventually, we realized that he kinda wasDusty.

Yourfilmseemstobequiteahitonthefestivalcircuit.Areyoustillworkingadayjob,orareyouafull-timefilmmakernow?

I've still been working as a data analyst. But I just put in my two weeks' notice yesterday. This summer we'll start work on a new film, The Cassidy Kids. My DearPillowproducer, Jacob Vaughan, will be directing that and I'll be producing. So I'm making that transition now. As we speak!

NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL PRESENTS DEAR PILLOW AT REGENCY LIDO. MON., 10 P.M. $10.

 
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