Outside of the margins within the marginalized

You've been living in Los Angeles for several years. What is it like to live between yoga, vegans, cage-free eggs and kale salad?

I have lived in Los Angeles since 2006 and much like most cities it has changed dramatically in that time. I have a monthly membership to a yoga studio that I use about once a month, I  have slept with several vegans (they were delicious), I have two cartons of cage-free eggs in my fridge and absolutely had a kale salad within the past week (also delicious).

There is an ease to the access of all of those things here but I think they are not just la things any more. We live in a world where everything is kind of everywhere in some way. I sort of hate that.
Your films are about identity and sexuality. How did you come to devote yourself to these topics? Where does the interest come from?

I don’t think that my films will always be primarily about that but so far has been motivated by seeing a lack of diverse representation in LGBTQstories. We are lucky to live in a time where there are many more films made featuring LGBTQ characters. For the most part they are films where the characters fit very specifically into their identity box. I am interested in the stories about people who are outside of the margins within the marginalized.

You submitted two films about the topic of LGBTQ to Retrospective of Jupiter. How important is the aspect of LGBTQ to you in your films?

I am going to tell stories that reflect the world that I live in. So many mainstream LGBTQ stories still hinge on the thing that makes the characters different from  the straight world. My approach is different, I like to ignore the straight world entirely within my world to explore other problems that just come from the characters humanity.

How did you go about collecting ideas for your films, is there first a need to create a film about the LGBTQ topic or is there a story first and then you include the LGBTQ aspect?

Each of my films have been a way for me to work out aspects from my personal life.

When did you start making LGBTQ films and what was the main reason for it?

I don’t really see things through this perspective. Regardless of what makes us different I am telling stories about people who have are experiencing very universal experiences.

«By putting such an emphaize on the thing about the work that makes it different sort of ghettoizes it.»

The desire to connect, to love and to be loved. By putting such an emphaize on the thing about the work that makes it different sort of ghettoizes it and possibly prevents people from seeing work that would benefit them the most. There should be inclusion and diversity  for all art in every institution without making such a big point of it. What do you feel? What do you connect to? How can you see yourself in someone you may have never spoken to on the street?

What were the reactions?

Completely mixed, just as it should be. It has really meant a lot to me when the work has really spoken to someone or made them see the world or their own journeys differently.

Do you use your films in a way to express yourself? Or is it quite the opposite?

It is really the only reason I do it! Ha!

The classic question still has to be asked: do you make films for yourself or for others? What are the core messages?

I make films for myself and others. For me it is all about the connection with others through the work. For me it is a cathartic exercise to work out my own demons and hopefully break some bad patterns.

«I think the core message is that to seek validation, adoration, or love as the source to fill a personal void is a foolish act.»

How do you inspire yourself, are there references?

I spend a lot of time with other filmmakers and artists. Travel is also very good for me to get creative. Being alone is important and after that it is helpful to very much not be alone and go out into the world and live fully and try everything.

What was the inspiration to the character Storme Du Bois in Curtain Down?
She was named after, Storme DeLarverie, a hugely important and largely unrecognized figure in the gay liberation movement and Stonewall. Stormewas a drag king and beautiful singer who walked the fine line between masculine and feminine before it was a fashion statement.
The character itself is based on several people, I drew from a lot of research on older movie stars to create the role. I watched a lot of old interviews with Judy Garland in the latter years of her life.
Within circles of gay men, particularly in Hollywood, youth and beauty are prized possessions. As one approaches 30 they can start to feel as if they are becoming invisible. It’s a feeling I have heard often expressed by aging actresses in Hollywood. Once you finally get comfortable in your own skin nobody wants that skin anymore. So I wanted to explore that, and explore the masculinity and feminity that we all embody. Femininity is often considered weakness and for young men it may have been the thing that got us beat up or made fun of.  I wanted to take my femininity back and own it with power. I feel very lucky to have access to that side of myself.
If you wouldn't work in the film industry, what would you do instead?

Well, I don’t really make much money in the film industry at the moment. These gay little movies are exactly lucrative. Mostly I have to be a waitress to support my work.

What will be the topic of your next film?

I have 3 different feature length films I am working on that I am looking for funding for. If anyone is in that world and interested in hearing more they can email me at tristanjamescott (at) gmail.com.

Tristan has been working in the film industry for the past decade. He has worked as an actor, producer, writer, director, wardrobe stylist and waitress, appearing in feature films such as Electric Slide & Pester. His film Curtain Down, which he wrote and starred in, was a great success on the film festival circuit. Curtain Down and Only Trumpets are official selections of Retrospective of Jupiter.

© All photos by Arne Gjelten

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