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|Pronounced "Gee Eye Jay Oh", this one-man character monologue puts an entirely new spin on the solo video. A young GI lets us into his private world and shows us how he does what he does best. And he loves to talk about it. He says the kinds of things we all think but dare not say out loud. It's like he's the little devil that sits on all our shoulders. Outwardly humorous, this short subject is like no solo video you've ever seen.
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|Film Festival Screenings
Warning - may contain spoilers
I had been working for six months on shooting and editing a big, complicated production with intent of submitting it to the MIX NYC festival. It required assembling a cast and crew, doing location shoots, recording original music, and months and months of editing to put it all together into a final cut. It looked and sounded great, but I wasn't entirely confident in its strength as a thematic composition.
As I was resting on my laurels and getting ready to prepare the submission to MIX, I was already gearing up for my next production. I had shaved my head and was working on a voice for a skinhead character, but I was still ironing out the concept I would use the character in.
So one afternoon I decided to splurge and get a box of whippets on the way home from work. My thing is to get really, really, high, and then go through a whole box of whippets. It takes you to interesting places. And on that day, while I was in that deep nitrous netherworld, a strange idea popped into my head. I could use the skinhead look and voice, but change the character up to be a giggling goofball, and use that character to do a jerkoff video.
The concept hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn't stop thinking of it. I had a camera set up right in that room to project onto the TV screen, and be captured on VCR. I was horny (nitrous always made me horny back then). I could shoot this right then and there.
I put down the whip cream bottle. Now, anyone who's ever done whippets knows that you do all the whippets until they're gone, and then you wish you had more whippets. That's just how the drug works. But I was so consumed with inspiration for this creation that I didn't even notice that I still had a couple cartridges left. I just popped a tape into the VCR and hit record. I didn't even think to put it on the quality speed. I just pointed the camera at my desk chair, hit record, and started improvising.
I don't know where the things that came out of my mouth came from. I was on a drug-fueled, dopamine-fired, sensual rant. The only thing I knew was to just go with it, keep talking, and don't over-think it even for a moment. When I heard the cat coming up the stairs it almost burst the bubble, because I knew it would ruin the take. But in an instant I decided there was no reason not to just go with it, let the cat do whatever it was going to do, and I was able to keep the flow going. And it wound up being the best part of the whole thing. It always gets a laugh, and it help makes the whole piece memorable. This cat was a performer. She knew that I was doing an act, and she wanted in on it. She's been around me when I've been jerking off a million times. But this one time that I was doing it for show was the only time before or since that she walked under my legs like that. That's enough to get this video banned even from x-rated sites, because genital contact constitutes bestiality.
So after the cat got out of the frame I realized I was running low on material and I should probably start taking it in for a landing. I knew I probably wouldn't be able to produce a money shot, at least not on cue within the pace of this take, so I talked it up as best I could, and deliberately milked the anti-climax vibe until I could reach the record button and cut the action.
And there I was. I had done it all in one take. There was no thought of trying another take, because I knew never in a million years could I do anything better than that. But it was difficult to be objective. I mean, what did I just do, anyways? I didn't even know what I was saying half the time. It was about then that I noticed those unused nitrous cartridges. So I sat back down, picked up the whip cream bottle, rewound the tape, and watched it all the way through.
I knew it was something special. Like it or hate it, there was nothing else like it anywhere. I called it G*I*J*O (as in G.I. Jerkoff), and put up titles and credits by printing them out on card stock and pointing the camera at them. I could have done made it professional looking using the Public Access equipment, but I wanted to keep a DIY texture to it.
It actually wasn't long before I started thinking that G*I*J*O would probably have a better chance at getting accepted by MIX than the big elaborate piece that I'd just finished. The shorter minute running time would probably help find it a slot in their program. It was funny. I had an elaborate but unremarkable 22 minute piece where I had 6 months invested in the production, and an utterly one-of-a-kind 8.5 minute piece where I had all of 9 minutes invested in the production.
I really thought I had something here, but it was still difficult to be objective. I had intended to push the boundaries with my content, but an in-your-face jerkoff video was a little beyond even what I had been envisioning. I needed an objective opinion, but I mean who in my world could be objective about something like this. I was hanging out with some Ithaca College film/photography undergrads at the time. I showed it to two of them, one gay one straight. I couldn't even be in the room. In fact they didn't want me there. They sent me away while they watched it and discussed it, and wouldn't let me back in until they said they were ready. When they finally let me back in the room, the first thing they said was they both agreed it was art. It wasn't porn, it was art. They differed in opinion whether I should show it to a seated audience, but I had made up my mind to submit it.
There was such a lag in time from when I sent in the tape to when I was notified that I practically forgot about it. I had a PO Box that I used before I bought my house, and I thought that would be a more professional sounding address for a festival selection committee, but I had gotten out of the habit of checking it regularly. So it wound up being a bit late that I got the letter of acceptance. They had requested an exhibition copy, and actually their deadline had already passed, but I wasn't sure what to do anyway. The 22 minute piece had been shot in SVHS. But G*I*J*O was shot on VHS tape at the medium speed. And that was okay, because it was intended to look like something someone shot on his home VCR. But they wanted SVHS. So I went down to Public Access and quietly made an SVHS dub of a crappy VHS source, and sent it off.
So I went to MIX, and had an unbelievably good time attending a New York City film festival as an exhibiting filmmaker. My screening had a packed house, and it got consistent laughs through the whole video, especially during and after the cat scene. Then I got home and figured that was that. But a couple weeks later I got a call from the organizer of the Toronto gay/lesbian film festival. He said, "I simply MUST have G*I*J*O for my festival." So I sent it to him. And he did screen it. And I did attend the festival.
When I got home from Toronto, I decided to use this new Internet thing to find what other gay/lesbian festivals were out there. I couldn't submit to every one of them. It took time, money, and materials to dub copies to VHS, fill out the submission form, write a check for the submission fees, and stuff it all in a bubble envelope and head to the post office. It was funny on the international submissions when I wrote "For cultural purposes only" on the outside of the envelope. But it did have a very high success rate with the festivals I did get it out to, and am proud of all the places it's been seen.
G*I*J*O was not the first video I ever produced, but it was the first one that I consider to be art video. To this day, to people who were around back then, and to those who know me through my festival catalog, G*I*J*O has been inexorably tied to my identity. I spent the next several years trying to recreate the magic that it possessed, and the rest of the time in regretful acceptance that the first thing I ever did will probably be the most memorable thing I ever do.
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