Doug Spearman On Hot (Gay) Guys with Guns
Making it in Hollywood can be murder may be the tag line for openly gay actor turned director/producer Doug Spearman’s ("Noah’s Arc" TV series and films) upcoming movie Hot Guys with Guns, the first gay action-comedy film produced by his production company The Ogden Group, but it may very well be the tag line for a gay black man trying to make it in Hollywood.
Somehow, Spearman has been able to make it. With movies (particularly detective stories) and musicals driving his ambition early in his childhood, Doug has enjoyed a consistent and long career in the entertainment world as a television creative director, writer, twice-Emmy nominated producer and commercial director. He has launched several networks including UPN, SoapNet and LOGO, in addition to producing and directing for the established ABC, CBS, NBC, BET and E! Entertainment Television.
As an actor, Spearman has been in a variety of television shows including "StarTek Voyager," "The Drew Carey Show," "Charmed," "The Hughleys," "Girlfriends" and more. But, it was his role as Professor Chance Counter in the groundbreaking LOGO television series "Noah’s Arc" and its feature films which he most recognized from.
It is hard to believe that Doug has time to come from before and behind the camera to devote any time to various community causes, gay or not, that he supports (HRC, GLAAD, Black AIDS Institute, Equality California, Lifeworks Mentoring in West Hollywood, SMYLE in Washington D.C.).
It has been this love for the movies, the love for his community, and his fearless approach to entering the world where other actors and directors dare not go that has driven him to be apart of yet another groundbreaking moment entertainment by writing and directing "Hot Guys with Guns."
I had the great opportunity to chat with Doug specifically about the "Hot Guys with Guns" project, which ironically, though its characters, parallels Spearman’s own admiration for detective and private investigator movies, his personal and intimate relationships, his dedication to getting it right in the characterization of his roles, and living an action-packed existence as a gay black man in society. You know it’s hard out there for a gay black man. And though others like him are trying to make it out there in Hollywood, Doug Spearman may be one of the few that has.
A gay ’Bad Boys’
BeBe: As I read your synopsis of ’Hot Guys with Guns,’ I couldn’t help but think that this film is going to be a gay cross between Bill Cosby and Robert Culp’s ’I Spy’ series and film, and Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s ’Bad Boys’ films.
Doug Spearman: It’s a little bit of all of that, because you’ve got the two guy buddy comedy that are supposed to get along but not get along and have each others’ backs (’Bad Boys’). ’I Spy,’ I was a little kid when it was on television, but loved it. It definitely is an influence on this film. Any detective show somewhere between 1965-now goes into this movie.
BeBe: The main character in this film Danny Lohman who is played by Marc Samuel (’General Hospital’) happens to be an actor in the film sort of looking for some adventure. He has honed his P.I. (private investigator) skills, and looking for some adventure through this TV role he is trying to get. And, I do know that screenwriters and playwrights when they write their films and plays that there is a bit of themselves and/or their desires in their work. Does any of that apply to you?
Doug Spearman: Absolutely, all around! The first thing is I wrote Danny (the role) for me originally in 2007. And, I love detective. I think if I weren’t in the entertainment business as an actor, writer, director or something like that, I’d want to be a ’private eye.’ In fact, I still have thoughts of shucking the (entertainment) business and doing that. So, I wanted to write a job for myself, and I wanted to write something from a place that I know.
Everything about Danny is a lot like me. Danny’s experience with Pip Armstrong (co-lead character played by Brian McArdle), the reason Pip’s mom dislikes Danny ..... all this stuff comes out of my own experience, except for actually solving a crime and being chased by guys with guns.
Wanting to be on this (fictitious) television show called ’Intense Crime and Punishment’ so much leads Danny to take a class on how to be a P.I., the type of class training where you really immerse yourself, like a boot camp. My acting teachers (the late) Milton Katselas (former acting coach for such stars as George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Gene Hackman; director of 1972’s ’Butterflies are Free’) and Geoffrey Campbell are in this movie, especially my current teacher Richard Lawson (1992 NAACP Image Award winner for his role on ’All My Children’) who is a great, great actor. They were all about get in there, do whatever it takes to learn how to be the person that you want to play.
BeBe: Get in the trenches.
Doug Spearman: (The film) is just a hyped up version of what I would normally do. When I’m working on a character as an actor, I try and do as much as I can as (the character). Yeah, Danny is definitely me. He’s another black guy in L.A. trying to make it. And, we’re gay. You know, the whole nine yards.
BeBe: You characterize this film as groundbreaking because this is one of the first action film with gay lead characters. As with the other productions I mentioned earlier, ’Bad Boys’ and ’I Spy,’ I assume we will see in ’Hot Guys with Guns’ a lot of gun chases and physical action amongst the characters, the stuff we don’t usually see with gay characters in most films. We don’t normally see, in film and television, that side of the gay male. Is their a message you trying to put out there to other film producers with this film that we need these types of action films as well for gay characters?
Doug Spearman: Absolutely. I look at it this way, I’ve seen enough guy coming out stories. Usually gay movies either they’re over the top and sort of campy funny like ’Birdcage,’ which was a great movie, or somewhere along the lines of the softer two men falling in love. We get a lot of that.
But I love movies. And, I love very sort of traditional, I’m very American in my tastes. I like stuff that explodes. I like car chases. I love the ’Bourne’ and ’Bond’ movies. I always think that you can take any movie with any of those actors and put gay characters in it. There are gay C.I.A. agents. There are gay spies. They’re dentists, doctors and lawyers. There are even gay terrorists. But instead of putting them as like a side character, put them at the center (of the film). So yeah, I want write, direct and produce movies that are very traditional and very clear to any audience but a gay person at the center of it because there is nothing that we (gay people) don’t do, so why don’t we see ourselves. It’s funny because I didn’t know that there had never been a gay action comedy film ever like the ’Rush Hour’ film series. There’s never been anything like that.
A different funding model
BeBe: I know that you started your television and film production company The Ogden Group about 6-7 years ago, but this is the first film that you will have put out.
Doug Spearman: Yes. Mostly what The Ogden Group does television commercials. This is the first feature that we got to the point of doing. And, it’s mostly because technology changed. The business changed. You can crowd source for money. Nobody has thought of doing what we are doing with Indiegogo or Kickstarter before. And the cameras are so small.
BeBe: Let’s talk about that a minute. You’ve mentioned before as it pertains to the financing and funding of the film that because of the technology and and the advancement of filming that you are able to make ’Hot Guys with Guns’ with not a great deal of money.
Doug Spearman: First, let’s talk about technology. Most people know what a film camera looks like, a big heavy 35mm film cameras, you know, those classic movie cameras we’ve seen on sets. Well today, with cameras like the Canon 5D, the cameras look like 35mm cameras that you would take on vacation. The camera fits in your man bag. We are able to shoot with less manpower, leave the area more pristine because reduced equipment and what not, and less time. When you cut down on the people, you cut down on the money. When you cut down on the time you need, you cut down on the money. The most expensive thing on any movie set is time. Every person on the set is a cab with a meter running. I’m spending on this movie less than what most production companies spend on food craft services.
BeBe: I know you are using Indiegogo as a means by which to raise capital for the production and completion of this film. This offers regular people - like myself and your next door neighbor - an opportunity to invest in something without a large amount of money...
Doug Spearman: With something like Indiegogo, you can literally for the price you would pay for a movie ticket, you can help make a movie.
Doug Spearman: And, get a perk out of it. For every dollar amount that we have listed on the Indiegogo page comes with a perk, including being listed as a producer. When ’Hot Guys with Guns’ was first written, it had a $2 million budget. I was looking for somebody to give me $2 million. That would be lovely. But there is an economic reality of shooting a gay film. Any movie that has two gay guys in it as leads in the movie is a gay movie. No matter what you say. And, the world has a hard time with that. Try and go to the multiplex and find a gay movie.
BeBe: What is your plan in releasing this film? Is ’Hot Guys with Guns’ going to go directly to DVD? Are you going to distribute through film festivals? Are you going to release in independent theaters?
Doug Spearman: BeBe, here’s the thing. Because of the technology explosion in cameras and sound equipment, the way we can it get done and to the public is revolutionized as well. Part of what I think would work is to go to the theaters where we know ’Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom’ had great success, and talk to them specifically because those are independent theaters, and book the theater to raise awareness of the film in that particular city.
And, from what we have so far, this movie will definitely make it to (film) festivals. And, we can self-stream it by letting people know where it is and the public can download it, rent it, or buy it themselves. You don’t really need distribution companies unless you are going to put out a DVD.
Finding his cast
BeBe: I am aware that you reached out to your friends and family when it came to financing the film in addition to using Indiegogo. But, let’s talk about the cast assimilation . I see that Darryl Stephens who played Noah on ’Noah’s Arc’ with you is in the film. So, did you reach out to friends that you’ve worked to assemble your cast, in similar fashion as you did with getting the financing? Do you have some connection with everyone that is in the film?
Doug Spearman: Pretty much! The great thing about having been in the entertainment business my whole life, and certainly living in L.A. for 21 years, is great relationships. I pretty much cast all, almost entirely, out of my cell phone (draws a huge laugh from the both of us). There a couple of actors and crew people who came to me out of relationships they have with other people that I know.
This business is all about relationships. You want to work with people that you want to spend 2-3 months with. You want to work with people who you know are fun and talented. In this cast, there is nothing but amazing actors. You won’t be disappointed. I actually did try to go through the traditional route of casting this film initially by going through casting companies and agents, I you can’t believe, in this day and age, the amount of resistance you get from the Hollywood administration in terms of wanting their actors in a gay film.
I would have not been in ’Noah’s Arc’ if an (unnamed) actor’s manager hadn’t pulled him from the show because he did not want his client kissing a man. As I said before I love movies, and there are a lot of movies that influence me, and I remember the first time I saw two men kiss on screen. I thought it was the hottest, most erotic thing I had ever seen. It was in a British film called ’My Beautiful Launderette’ (1985). Daniel Day-Lewis (’Lincoln,’ ’My Left Foot,’ ’There Will Be Blood’) plays this London punk who has a secret relationship with an East Indian boy that he grew up with. They open a launderette and towards the end of the film they open the launderette and go in the backroom and kiss and make love. Daniel Day-Lewis completely gave himself to the part.
Franchise in the making?
BeBe: It has been enlightening to discuss with you how today’s technology has made it possible for independent films that are more apt to tell stories that are better representation of real life, in my opinion, than mainstream films without having to try and pull teeth from big money finance companies and investors. Not only can the little guy have a part in helping get stories, and in particular gay stories, told but, those who have constant complaints about not seeing our stories up on the scene accurately portrayed by the makings of the big production companies can put there little money where their mouths are and help get these movies, such as ’Hot Guys with Guns,’ made.
Doug Spearman: There have been leaders in the (gay) independent film industry all along. But there just come a point where you get frustrated over wanting somebody to tell your story, and you wait for them to tell your story, and then they don’t. At that point you have to go and pick up a camera and tell it yourself.
I love the story that Patrick-Ian Polk tells about him going out to a club one Pride Friday night, and he was standing on a platform higher than the dance floor looking over a sea of beautiful black men all dancing with each other. And suddenly, he said, the idea came to him about the show that became ’Noah’s Arc.’ So, we all have a story within us. We all feel the need to tell our story. We just don’t always answer the call when it comes. I just got tired of waiting.
BeBe: You know last October 2012, the James Bond film franchise celebrated its 50th year of existence. As I look at the potential of ’Hot Guys with Guns’ and the story you are trying to tell. And there are so many of us who the action and thrills that this film will have. We aren’t all into the sappy dramatic stories many gay films tend to lean toward. Gay men do have testosterone and adrenalin driven action in their lives, just like straight men. Do you see a series from this film? Can you see a franchise with these characters? Could this be the next James Bond series of the gay world?
Doug Spearman: Yes, I can definitely see franchising Danny and Pip. There relationship goes on. I love the idea of them, without giving too much away, continuing on. There is so much story here that’s not even told yet. You can get only so much story into 90 minutes. But for me, there is a whole bunch of world to be explored with these guys. I can’t see why the next generation of detectives and private investigators lead off with Danny and Pip.
You can still become an investor in the making and post production of Hot Guys with Guns online at www.indiegogo.com/HotGuyswithGuns2
Follow the films production schedule, film shoots and completion at www.facebook.com/HotGuyswithGuns or