True Blue: an interview with filmmaker and writer DMW Greer
Mon. June 2, 2014 by Gregg Shapiro
I just wanted to tell this story about these guys who unexpectedly fall in love with each other.
director dmw greer (right)
GS: (Gregg Shapiro) Burning Blue began its public life as a stage play. Why did you choose that medium, versus say a novel, to tell that story?
DMWG: (DMW Greer) At the time I was studying and I felt like I knew that form better. I'd been reading a lot of plays for playwrights who needed actors so that they could hear their work. It felt like something I could probably figure out how to do. So, that's what I did.
GS: What did it mean to you to that your first play, Burning Blue, received such a favorable response?
DMWG: It meant a lot. It was really encouraging. I felt like I was very lucky to get an audience. I guess maybe the timing was really good on it. I didn't plan it that way, as far as the political quotient. When I wrote the first draft of this, I was really writing my feelings about the situation in the military and telling, in many ways, my own story. I wasn't trying to make a political statement. At the time, I didn't even know that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was even being discussed. There was a bit about it in the media. I wrote this in '92 and Don't Ask, Don't Tell really didn't go into effect until 1994, but there was a lot of political banter back and forth in '93. It was a fluke. I just wanted to tell this story about these guys who unexpectedly fall in love with each other.
GS: I'm glad you mentioned Don't Ask, Don't Tell, because the subject matter of Burning Blue – gays in the military – has evolved considerably from the time the play was written and produced, to the present day when the film is having its premiere and Don't Ask Don't Tell is a thing of the past. Can you please say something about that evolution?
DMWG: Maybe it is really good timing [laughs]. I think, I hope. It's interesting that when I wrote it, it wasn't an issue. Then it suddenly became an issue. Then it was a big issue in the UK, where my first production was (staged) because they were debating their own repeal of allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. There was less debate about it here. In the ensuing years, I can't remember which production it was of the play – either Los Angeles or New York in 2001 – where one reviewer basically said it wasn't news and who cared about it, which I thought was interesting. It was a political touchstone in the lead up to the appeal almost three years ago. I hope that this story doesn't rely on the political to be relevant. I think it's a classic love story and that that's what resonates with people.
GS: Not only did you write the screenplay for Burning Blue, based on your stage play, but you also directed the movie. How did that come about?
DMWG: I ended up directing it because I figured out after many years of trying to figure out a way to get this made and having it optioned by other film companies then having everybody not be entirely sure how or if it would be made, myself included, I finally came to grips with the fact that the only way it was going to get made and told the way I felt it needed to be told was for me to direct it. That's what it was. I think it was difficult also, and I've said this to many other people – one of the big obstacles in getting this film made and in telling this story was trying to show potential investors, film companies, whatever, how you could actually marry the setting with this small intimate story. And do it on a budget that wasn't massive. I felt like I could do that. I had a very clear visual image of how this would or could come together by using really great stock footage. That's what I ultimately did. I needed to shepherd that through the process.
GS: As feature film directorial debuts go, how would you rate the Burning Blue experience?
DMWG: Gosh, that's difficult (to answer). There are so many aspects of it that make something like this come together. The experience was really challenging, but I loved it. I have to say. I felt like I got lucky in a lot of way. I think luck is a part in any successful filmmaking venture. But I also had some smart and talented people supporting me along the way. I really enjoyed the shoot so much. The delivery process of it has probably been the least enjoyable [laughs]. The minutiae, the paperwork, the millions of Ts and Is that need crossing and dotting has been incredible.
GS: How do you think military personnel, gay and straight, will respond to the movie?
I think they'll respond positively. I think it's important for the military to see. I think it's important for them to see themselves represented as fully-dimensional human beings in addition to being soldiers and warriors. Often in the media and film, military people seem to be depicted in broader strokes, not as nuanced. Hopefully, this film goes against that.
GS: As we mentioned, so much has changed in regards to gays in the military. Have you considered writing a sequel or update about what it's like to be gay in the military?
DMWG: I haven't really, Gregg. I guess I've spent so much time with this particular story and I think I'm ready to put it out there, get it out to the world and move on. I have another film
I'm hoping to shoot this fall which has nothing to do with the military. It's a romantic comedy [laughs]. It's about as far afield from this one as you can get [laughs]. It's an American-Irish romantic comedy that takes place in New York City and in Dublin. My female protagonist is a designer, which I know a little bit about because my husband and I have a design company. We renovate apartments and homes for people. They say you're supposed to write what you know about.
Burning Blue opens in select theaters and video on demand on June 6. Visit burningbluefilm.com for more information.
Interviewed by Gregg Shapiro. Gregg Shapiro is both a literary figure and a music and literary critic. As an entertainment journalist, his work appears on ChicagoPride.com and is syndicated nationally.