Forbidden Cigarete5 minutes 30 seconds  ©2011
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Forbidden Cigarette is a brief but vivid journey into a deviant world of consensual misconduct. Told through a self-destructive haze of sexual bravado, the darkly poetic narrative is peppered with graphic hyperbole. It is an assault on the sensibilities while remaining humorous and engaging. You won't have a more entertaining cringe all day.
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Film Festival Screenings
2011Nov19 MIX NYC
2012May10 Boston LGBT Film Festival
2012Aug17 Homoscope "Smartass" Austin, TX
2012Sept24,28 Queer Lisboa, Lisbon Portugal
Back Story

Now that I had a taste of the festival life again, I was keen on producing another video. But I was still clinging to my old equipment, and didn't have any bright ideas or other prospects for shooting anything new. I went through my back catalog of tapes looking for something I could work with.

Among myriad bits and pieces, I found some footage that caught my eye. I had forgotten I'd shot it, actually. I had been on vacation many years before in San Francisco. It was the middle of the week, I was bored with the touristy stuff, and was sitting in my room with nothing to do. I was naked and all horned up, and when it was time for a smoke break I decided to get it on tape. I really did shoot video at the drop of a hat back then. I had to blow the smoke out the open window, so the lighting worked itself out. I set up the camera and let it roll while I walked into frame naked and erect, and sat that way on the foot of the bed while I smoked a whole cigarette. When I was done I walked back out of frame, the end.

It caught my attention because it had a beginning, middle, and end, and the running time was about right. Plus it would fit into the MIX Saturday night erotica program. I'd been using my dick to get into festivals since the start. Why stop now.

I could do some manner of voiceover, lay some quiet music in the background, and it would work as a piece. I struggled with what the voiceover should be. I started with the vibe. Naked, erect, and having a smoke in a cheap San Francisco hotel room. That's context. But what to do with it? I struggled to come up with an idea. I was having blank page syndrome. I really had to put my head down and concentrate. I got into almost a meditative state. I focused on the whole self-destructive angle. Smoking a cigarette is a voluntarily self-destructive act. As a recovering alcoholic, former smoker, and active addict, the concept of behaving in a way contrary to one's own wellbeing was something I had a lot of familiarity with. I meditated on the whole notion of it in hopes something would come to me.

Eventually I imagined a character. He was someone who not only engaged in self-destructive behavior, but actually embraced and celebrated it. Someone who made not just a lifestyle, but a value system out of self-destructive behavior. He could be the narrator of the piece. But what would the narration be? I tried just pontificating on his value system, but that wasn't working. How about if he told a story? Some crazy story that would take the viewer on a wild tour through his world. I would need a setting. Since it was shot in San Francisco, I went with that. And the high holy day of the kind of gritty, edgy, devil-may-care culture he'd operate in would have to be the Folsom Street Fair.

Okay so I had a character and a setting, but I had to put him into a situation. How about a chance meeting? I dreamed up another character. I made him into exactly what I would crave if I were the narrator. They meet, and the rest wrote itself. It was as if I were actually following them and writing down what I saw. And it was a great tale.

I had fun with the way I described what played out. I'm always good with a saucy adjective or visceral metaphor. It gets me into trouble at my day job, but in this case I could totally run with it. I took it as far as I could. In the end it's probably what the audience would connect with the most

So I had it written, and now I had to record it. I had a friend who did some acting. He had a deep, gravelly, old man voice that would be perfect for the character. He also sold me weed and occasionally gave me marathon blow jobs while I listened to my iPod. It all fit in well with the idiom I was trying to create. He agreed to do it, but after I drove all the way out to his place clear across the county and out in the middle of nowhere, he read two lines and said he wasn't into it. After he smoked me up and sucked my dick, I went back home and recorded it myself.

Now I had to find some music. Like last time, I went to my iTunes library and found songs that had the same running time. There was a Dandy Warhols number that was just about right. They're always good for atmoshperic music. It was a few seconds too short, but the sound and vibe were both right. I took the voiceover and cut it up into individual segments. The way they fit in with the song worked perfectly. There were intervals in the music where voiceover naturally fit, and the overall song matched up well with the segments of the story. It actually created a good pace over the full running time, and the pauses between voice segments gave the whole video time to breathe. It came together very nicely.

Overall I was happy with the piece. It didn't bowl me over like some of my previous work, but it stood on its own merits. I packaged it up and sent it off to MIX with high confidence. Sure enough, they accepted it into the festival, and no surprise, it would screen as part of the Saturday night erotica program. I attended the festival as an exhibiting filmmaker for the second year running, and I had a total blast.

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