A GoPride Interview

Tom Gustafson

Tom Gustafson gives the world Glitter & Doom

Tue. March 26, 2024  by Jerry Nunn

Moulin Rouge was a huge influence on me.
Tom Gustafson

tom gustafson

photo credit // music box

Gustafson talks about Glitter & Doom on Zoom

Director and producer Tom Gustafson is giving the world Glitter & Doom, a queer musical romance flick using the tunes of Indigo Girls. The movie stars Alex Diaz as circus performer Glitter and Alan Cammish as musician Doom who pursue their dreams together during a summer of love.

Gustafson brings an impressive resume to the table and has received more than 60 trophies and awards for his work over the years. He continues to make more movies with his partner Cory Krueckeberg and SPEAKProductions company.

The talented filmmaker gives a behind-the-scenes account of creating his labor of love Glitter & Doom with a Zoom interview.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Tell our readers how you got into show business.

TG: (Tom Gustafson) I went to film school at Northwestern University. Right out of college I luckily landed a job in the casting department for Road to Perdition. I worked my way up to do on-location casting.

In between these huge movies, I started making films with my partner Cory Krueckeberg. He was an actor at the time in Chicago and we started writing and then making films together. This is our sixth feature together depending on how some of the projects are defined.

JN: Where are you located now?

TG: We moved to New York in 2002 and have been based here ever since.

JN: Were you always a fan of musicals?

TG: Yes, he had a musical theater background more than I did. I was in musicals in high school and college. We are both drawn to music-driven storytelling. That has always been our focus, even with a project we did that was more of a documentary called Getting Go. Even when it is not singing musicals we love telling stories with music.

JN: Do you have a favorite musical?

TG: Moulin Rouge was a huge influence on me.

JN: That brings us to Glitter. What do the character’s names of Glitter and Doom represent?

TG: There is a Tom Waites album called Glitter and Doom, but the title came from an amazing art exhibit with German portraits that I saw.

Cory and I relate to those characters. I am more Glitter and he is more Doom. We did a movie together called Hello Again back in 2017. After that, we wanted to do another musical. We started looking at Broadway projects and one of our friends suggested we tell our origin story of when we met in Chicago.

Cory went off and wrote it. He gave the script to me on our 20th anniversary. We knew it would be a musical but there were only placeholders for all of the songs at the time. We started brainstorming on whether it would be new music or a jukebox musical with music that was important to us at the time with various musicians, but we kept landing on Indigo Girls. They were such an important part and soundtrack to our relationship. We reached out and they gave us the rights to their catalog. That started our journey…

JN: Was it difficult to convince them to be a part of the movie?

TG: It was strangely very easy. I reached out and two days later was given permission. I asked which songs and they said I could pick out any that would work. It was a dream. Their management team has been very supportive and it’s been remarkable to have that kind of trust from artists.

JN: It says a lot about them and they created queer spaces at their concerts when no one was doing it.

TG: They have always been out and proud about being unapologetically queer. That influenced my own coming out.

JN: When did you first attend their concerts?

TG: I think the first time I saw them was in 1993 at McCormick Place then I saw them at other venues later.

JN: I saw them open for R.E.M. in 1989.

TG: They were talking about that recently in New York. That would be my dream to see them together. Michael Stipe was my hero!

JN: Emily Saliers had COVID during the filming of Glitter & Doom didn’t she?

TG: Yes. We started the project during COVID, which was a blessing for the casting process because it was virtual and we did a worldwide search to cast it. We had thousands of submissions from all over the world for those two roles. We paired people up to figure out who would be our leads. We shot the scenes in Mexico City after the world started opening up. There were still many protocols at that time and we didn’t even meet any of our designers in person. It was through Zoom until the first week of shooting.

JN: When I saw the scene with Lea DeLaria I thought you filmed it at The Green Mill in Chicago.

TG: We have an homage to Berlin Nightclub because that is where we met and we fabricated the sign to be outside of the club, which now hangs in our kitchen.

For The Fountain club scene, we sent pictures of The Green Mill to our production designer. They created a huge sign, which now hangs in the production office in Mexico City of our producing partners.

JN: The costumes were notable as well. I wanted the shirt that Alex Diaz wore for the fireworks scene!

TG: We wanted a fable kind of feel for the whole movie where it could happen at any time or be in any location. When talking to our costume designer Adela Cortazar we decided to take a different time period for each character. She used that as inspiration to go crazy on the costumes.

One of my favorites is the vintage circus scene when I had no idea what they would wear. When I arrived on set Adela had knocked it out of the park.

JN: What was the most challenging scene to shoot in?

TG: The camping scenes were shot about 20 minutes outside of Mexico City. We were up in the mountains with insane weather. It started hailing, then it would rain.

JN: What would you like to say about Glitter & Doom to encourage people to see it?

TG: We wanted to make a joyous, unapologetically queer movie. There is so much negativity all around the world, especially leading into the election. I want people to go and have fun while listening to great music.

Our dog is right here who has a cute cameo in the movie by the way.

JN: What’s his name?

TG: Pippin, not like the basketball player Scottie Pippin.

JN: My mind went to musicals, not sports. I interviewed Jenna Ushkowitz on a red carpet for your movie Hello Again a few years ago.

TG: Now she’s a dear friend of ours. I am very proud of that movie and what we pulled off. It is weird narratively, but I love it.

JN: You must have learned things from Hello Again to bring to other projects.

TG: Yes. It was almost 90 percent sung through with live vocals. We also did live vocals for Glitter & Doom. With every movie, we have learned to do live vocals better and better.

JN: What are you working on next?

TG: We have a couple of projects that we are pushing up a hill. It is a challenging time for independent film.

We have the rights to a Broadway musical from the early 2000s. The clue is 1920s vaudeville. We might make it a limited series or a movie. Cory has a few scripts that we are shopping around also.

JN: Where did the name SPEAKProdctions originate?

TG: It’s from R.E.M. when Michael Stipe would write “SPEAK” on his hands. I was obsessed with it. I started the company back in 1998 and I love the idea of speaking my mind and not holding it in. It became my mantra.

JN: Another Georgia musician popped up in Glitter & Doom, Kate Pierson of the B-52’s.

TG: Those cameos were shot after production with people who were on the wild spectrum of the LGBTQ community. I have admired Kate for decades.

To shoot the cameo she invited us up to her recording studio outside of Woodstock, New York.

JN: How cool that must have been. So where will people be able to see Glitter & Doom in the future?

TG: It will be on VOD on April 9, so people can search out their favorite platform at that time. The Music Box Theatre was where Cory and I had our first date so it was a fun circle moment to have it on the big screen there right now. This is all very special to us!


Interviewed by Jerry Nunn. Jerry Nunn is a contributing writer to the GoPride Network. His work is also featured in Windy City Times, Nightspots Magazine and syndicated nationally.