One of the standout films from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival was the drama Pit Stop from director Yen Tan, which picked up numerous awards on the 2013 film festival circuit, including a Grand Jury Prize from Outfest. The film has also been nominated for the John Cassavettes Award (honoring films made for under 500k) at the upcoming Film Independent Spirit Awards. Starring Bill Heck and Marcus DeAnda as two gay men living in a small town, Pit Stop tells the story of their lives with quiet assurance, making the film as much of a character portrait as it is a (eventual) romance. Yen Tan (who also wrote and directed the 2008 film Ciao) spoke with GLAAD about Pit Stop, which was released digitally today with a DVD release from Wolfe set for February 4.
1) Pit Stop is a film very much based in a recognizable reality, relying on great dialogue and performances to tell a simple, but very poignant and engrossing, story. What are the film qualities you personally enjoy as a movie goer, and how much do your own films exemplify them?
I personally enjoy watching films that provoke a deep emotional response and nudge me to look within myself. Cinema that fosters this kind of reflection are the most meaningful to me. I try to do that with my films, with the hope that they'll affect viewers in the same way.
2) One of the unique qualities about Pit Stop is how it somewhat inverts a traditional romantic story structure, in that the two leads finally meet closer to the film's end than to its beginning, which allows the audience to first know them as individuals. Was it always your and your co-writer's (David Lowery) intention to craft the story this way?
Yes, that was always the intention.
The idea is to have an in-depth knowledge of their backstories and romantic histories, so that you'll be rooting for Gabe and Ernesto by the time they meet. You see these two men being unhappy for so long, despite their good intentions, that you really want something to work out for them.
This is also what we'd like to believe for ourselves: we may not be in the best of times right now, but we want to hold out for that light at the end of the tunnel.
3) Another unique quality of Pit Stop is its setting, which is a very grounded image of small-town America rather than the big-city settings of most gay stories in films. Why did you choose the particular setting you did, especially as it relates to a story focused on two gay men?
I was born and raised in Malaysia and I've never lived in a small town before … hence I find that setting very exotic. It's even more fascinating to see gay characters in that context, since we're led to believe that it's not an ideal environment to be gay.
My research for the film did uncover many gays who live in small towns and I thought it had endless dramatic possibilities when they shared their stories with me.
4) In addition to some well-deserved awards from festivals like Outfest, Pit Stop has also been nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, which recognizes features made for under 500k. What was the process of getting the film funded and made?
The script went through the Outfest Screenwriting Lab in 2009 and eventually received production grants from the Austin Film Society and Vilcek Foundation.
Honestly, without the initial support from these organizations, I'm pretty sure the film would never see the light of day. We could only successfully raise additional funds from private investors and launched a crowdsourcing campaign on United States Artists because we had grant money to start off.
5) If budget wasn't an issue and you were given complete freedom to make any film you wanted, what that dream project be?
Alison Bechdel's acclaimed graphic novels about her parents, "Fun Home" and "Are You My Mother?", would make a pretty epic family dramedy. It would be a very ambitious and challenging task to adapt them to a screenplay, but there's be a great and insightful film waiting to made in these books.
6) What's next for you as a writer and director?
I'm currently finishing up a new script called "All That We Love." If all goes well, I hope to shoot it next year!
Check out the film's trailer below and look for Pit Stop on Video on Demand starting today.