A GoPride Interview

Kyle Henry

Fourplay: Kyle Henry talks about his four short stories

Thu. February 21, 2013  by Jerry Nunn

Kyle Henry
Everyone needs a little more Fourplay in their life and Kyle Henry has just the fix for audiences these days.

Four short stories, sex tales, make a complete movie with each set and titled in various cities in the US. They run the gamut from a closeted lesbian church choir member in "Skokie" to a shy guy looking for a bathroom hookup in "Tampa" also a date night goes awry in "Austin" and a cross dressing prostitute performs in "San Francisco."

Characters lives are changed in the process as can only be dreamed up by truly twisted writers.

Kyle Henry the director is no stranger to the festival circuit. His debut Room premiered at Sundance and Cannes in 2005. He has been nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards and his short N.ew Y.ork C.asino won Best Experimental film at SXSW.

Jerry Nunn sat down with the Northwestern University teacher of film production at the Kope Café to hear more about his project.

JN: (Jerry Nunn) Hi, Kyle. How long have been making movies?

KH: (Kyle Henry) I had been making films for about 15 years.

JN: Where are you from?

KH: I am originally from Texas. I was born in Houston. I spent ten years in Austin after grad school. I have lived in New York, San Francisco and now Chicago. I teach at Northwestern and that is how I came to Chicago. I was three quarters of the way through making this Fourplay film when the move occurred so we changed the original city for the bestiality short to Skokie.

JN: How long have you been at Northwestern?

KH: A little over two years.

JN: How much time was spent making this movie?

KH: It has been over the course of four years. It was filmed as an anthology of shorts. The first short played at the Outfest Festival circuit in 2010. The second showed at Cannes' Film Festival's Fortnight of Directors in 2012. The feature all together was shown at Outfest and the festival circuit as well. Right now is the first time for its theatrical showing all together.

JN: Each segment seems like an interesting story.

KH: We tried to make them as interesting as we possibly can. The goal was to set the bar high with deviance. We wanted shorts that would challenge an audience's notion of sexual behavior but also to find human being inside of it, to be free and find yourself in that spectrum of sexual expression and sexual behavior that we all fall somewhere inside of.

JN: They were all filmed on location in the different areas?

KH: Yes. One was filmed in Tampa, the home of the republican national convention. That's our gangbang bathroom farce! So there maybe a fallen senator or two can be found in a bathroom in Tampa. The one in San Francisco is our cross dressing sex worker short, which is based on a real story. The one set in Austin, Texas is our straight couple short. They are troubled about conceiving a child and end up hooking up in a very unlikely situation at a porno arcade. The Skokie one is about a closeted lesbian that has a crush on her minister's wife. She then has a sublimated affair with the minister's wife's dog while babysitting.

JN: These could have all been a feature.

KH: They could have but we really wanted to see how the act of having sex could have drama inside. The sex acts are key moments but they are longer than they would be in a feature narrative. I wanted to break it down step by step with the shame, the fear, and the comedy that we find in the bedroom or wherever we are having sex.

JN: Did you write this also?

KH: I worked with two writers, a comedian named Jessica Hedrick who hails from New York and my partner who is the head writer on three of the shorts Carlos Trevino. The only thing I did was asked both of them to come up with a short that dealt with deviant sexual behavior. They wrote six short films and I chose four.

JN: So the crème of the crop [laughs]!

KH: Yes, a sex short challenge.

JN: Were you raised religiously or conservatively?

KH: There was a time that I was a fundamentalist Christian. It was when my parents were shopping for a denomination during a mid life crisis then they settled for Southern Baptist. I went through my trail by fire and water especially as a young gay man. It was a very interesting experience to see or find within Christianity a spirituality that I had to adapt to make my own. I am not someone that throws off religion and the impact that it can play in the lives of people for good or for ill.

JN: The event at the Siskel Center is happening soon?

KH: It is happening Friday with three screenings. There will be a Q&A with myself, the screenwriter Carlos Trevino and the two actresses from "Skokie" Sara Sevigny and Amy Jean Johnson. Sara is in the Broadway in Chicago show of I Love Lucy. She plays someone planted in the audience.

JN: I know exactly whom you are talking about. She is very funny.

KH: She is hilarious and done a ton of comedy around the city. She was down with playing the faux bestiality scene. I can tell you plenty of actors and actresses who would be scared of each of these shorts. We have a cross dressing scene where they have to have sex with a quadriplegic man. It is quite graphic on how to work with this. The session is arranged with the man's wife so it is crossed with other kinds of stuff. Sara who is the lead in "Skokie" found a way for an audience member to not be freaked out by the bestiality. The character is on their way somewhere else. I don't think she is going to be stalking animals at pet stores. You will feel that sublimating her desire for this other woman is the focus.

JN: Are you a fan of sexual movies like Shortbus?

KH: I like Shortbus but I am more of a crazy ‘70s movies like from Ken Russell such as Women in Love or Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now. They are really out there expressionistic movies. They would throw in the whole kitchen sink and were not scared to express themselves. There is a great Nicolas Roeg film called Bad Timing starring Theresa Russell and Art Garfunkel. They have the craziest sex scene on the planet! I grew up on that. It makes things seem pretty damn tame. If my film had come out in the mid ‘70s I don't think it would be as shocking for people as it seems to be now.

JN: Reactions have been shocked so far?

KH: Shocked, happy, elated, it is all over the map. It is going to elicit a response. At Sundance in our Salt Lake screening a friend told me that someone screamed out, "Stop, make it stop!" Heckling came be the sincerest form of flattery. If you fall asleep then we have failed.

JN: Where does the film go after Siskel?

KH: It is touring the United States to Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York. It is NC-17 if people don't know. It is really non-rated but would have been NC-17 if we submitted it to the MPAA. That creates a very high hurdle for any film to get booked in regular theaters. It can be hard for distribution. Many newspapers, television stations, and even websites will not broadcast advertising for NC-17 films. It is funny that we can see any kind of decapitation or disembowelment torture in movies but god forbid we have people touching each other or sex acts. Most of my sex acts are farcical, over the top, and ridiculous. There are only so many butt thrusts but violence seems to get a free pass.

JN: People like Roger Ebert have been saying the same thing for years.

KH: Especially queer work. This Film Is Not Yet Rated shows a point-by-point analysis of this with the amount of nudity that can be seen. The bar is always set higher for gay and lesbian films. These aren't the hippest people on the MPAA board or the most open minded but they are fine with violence.

JN: Anything else you want to say about your film?

KH: Don't be afraid, it's only sex, we are not going to punish you. You will leave having had a good time!

Find Fourplay on February 22 at 8:30 pm, and February 23, 25 at 8:00 pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 North State Street. For more information visit www.fourplayfilm.com and www.siskelfilmcenter.org. The February 22 night screening is co-sponsored by Reeling, the Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival.

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.