words by: Michael Vorndran
Gay cinema was once dominated by two things: over the top caricatures and overly dramatic caricatures. But over the last ten years we have seen a shift in queer movie-making that now showcases a wider range of the homo experience. One of the main reasons? The work of people like Casper Andreas. For nearly a decade Casper has been making and directing gay films that cover the entire spectrum of who we are. He has covered guys on the rebound, boys madly in love and hags having breakdowns.
Casper’s latest film, “Going Down in LA-LA Land”, dives head first into the gay porn industry. The film stars newcomer Matthew Ludwinski in a role that is sure to go down as one of the hottest in years. Check out the screening of the film opening night of Atlanta’s annual Out on Film festival taking place September 29. To get you ready for the fest, Fenuxe grabbed an interview with the gay auteur and his male ingénue.
Fenuxe: Give us a quick little run down of “Going Down in LA-LA Land”.
Casper: It’s a dramedy about struggling actors in LA. The main character is Adam who comes out to LA with the dream of becoming a star. He gets pulled into porn and prostitution. It is a bit of a cautionary tale and it is also a story about friendships and love affairs. Ultimately it is about what is most important in life, is it love and connection to other people or is it fame and success?
Fenuxe: How did you end up making this movie?
Casper: I read the book and thought it would make a great story for a film. I related to the struggling actor’s part a lot because I lived that life ten years ago. I related to a lot of the descriptions of L.A. and I thought it would be a really interesting and exciting story to make. I asked Andrew Zeffer (author of the novel) if I could make it as a film and he was all for it.
Fenuxe: How did you find Matthew Ludwinski?
Casper: He was up for one of the lead roles in another one of my films. “Between Love and Good-Bye.” I didn’t cast him in that film. I called him back a couple of times and gave him a small role in that film as sort of a consolation prize. He played a character who comes over and gets kicked out.
Fenuxe: Did you decide to cast him as soon as you started casting “Going Down in LA-LA Land”?
Casper: Not exactly. When he learned about it he actually read the book and told me that he would be perfect for this role, which is something I had thought of as well. I did keep him in mind over the couple of years as I started to cast the film. He was the first actor I read for the role. But then I also decided to audition actors in LA, to see who else I could find, to see who was out there. I kept coming back to him. I thought he had everything that the part called for. He looks the part and he brought a lot of different levels to the character.
Fenuxe: Were you nervous about someone relatively new to acting being able to carry an entire film?
Casper: It is a big part, he’s in almost every scene of the film. It took me a while for me to be sure that he was going to be right for it. I am very happy with my decision to cast him. He did an amazing job and he is super supportive of the film by going to festivals and doing interviews, which is so important.
Fenuxe: What character do you play in “Going Down in LA-LA Land?”
Casper: I play Nick who is a director wannabe who shots dirty pictures. And he convinces Adam that he should get involved in that business. They have a bit of a romance as well. He is definitely trouble. It was a fun role to play.
Fenuxe: Had you planned on being a writer and director too?
Casper: Before I got into acting I always knew I wanted to write, but I figured I should live a little so I would have something to write about. I was pursuing acting in New York and then I moved to LA for a little bit and pursued acting out there. And that is when I started to write my first screenplay which led to me wanting to direct. When I was writing I saw these characters, these things that I was writing were playing out in my head and I was like, “I want to direct this.” Directing wasn’t something I had originally thought of I guess. It came as a natural extension to the writing and working in film as an actor and see what a director did and saying, “Oh I want to do that, that looks like fun.”
Fenuxe: And was it?
Casper: You know directing is probably the most creative job imaginable because you get to create this entire world and be in charge of every division basically.
Fenuxe: Your first film was “Slutty Summer”?
Casper: Yes, “Slutty Summer” was my first film and we shot that in the summer of 2003 in New York over 2 weeks. It is super low budget. It was amazing to me at the time that we were able to pull it off. We didn’t have any real planning or anything we just went out and shot it. That is what started my journey as a film maker.
Fenuxe: Since “Slutty Summer” was your first film as a writer/director how were able to get the money to get it made?
Casper: There wasn’t really any money. I had read this book called “How to Make an Independent Film for $10,000 or Less without Going to Jail.” I wrote “Slutty Summer” with that in mind that it was going to be made with no money. It was going to be a $10,000 film. Half the film takes place at one restaurant. I was thinking we could pick a place that was closed during the day and we can shoot during the day when they were closed. They would let us shoot for free because they would get PR. And that didn’t happen. He had to pay for the restaurant and that turned out to be the hardest location. In the end the whole shooting budget was around $15,000 and we ended up spending the same on post. But that includes a lot of people working for free or deferred payment. And it also meant for me I wrote, I directed, I produced and did a lot of jobs during the shooting. I was in charge of wardrobe, I was in charge of catering and I even edited the film myself. It was a hard process, but it came out of this feeling that I can make this film, but since I hadn’t made a film it wasn’t easy to get someone to believe in me. It was me and my roommate who put the money up for it. The plan was to put up $5,000 each and luckily enough he kept writing checks. He ended up getting all of his money back.
Fenuxe: Does he still work with you?
Casper: No, he is in computer programming. He was like “there is no money in film making” and quickly got out.
Fenuxe: That is also where you found Jesse Archer who you have worked with a couple of times.
Casper: Yes, he is someone that I knew socially and I wrote the part of Luke with him in mind, kind of based on him as a person. Then I offered him to come in an audition a few times and I was like “yeah you can play that role.” I knew he could be that character, but I didn’t know if he could play that role and if he would actually show up and take it seriously enough to get the part, but he did and he was so supportive of the film so we ended up writing a sequel together called “A Four Letter Word” which he stars in and is all about his character basically. From there he ended up spinning off characters from both those films that he wrote called “Violet Tendencies.” We made this trilogy together, but for me to be able to direct “Violet Tendencies” he told me I had to give him a role in “Going Down in LA-LA Land.” He blackmailed me into giving him a part and that is why he plays Matthew in the film.
Fenuxe: Do you find it easier to find actors who are willing to play gay roles and be in gay movies? It seems like 10 years ago no one wanted to do them.
Casper: The subject matter of “Going Down in LA-LA-Land” scared some of the actors off in L.A. I don’t know if that is the main reason or if it is because I was doing my castings in L.A. A lot of the people submitted for the role read their sides or learned more about the film or even after they had their first auditions were no longer interested in coming back or auditioning for the role. I would say this film was a bit harder than some of my other, well, “Gay Musical” was hard too. “Gay Musical” was hard because we had Fred Caruso, who wrote the screenplay and who I directed the film with. He was very adamant about wanting to cast openly gay actors in that film. Because the film is about being openly gay and has a strong message about being true to yourself and stuff. He felt strongly about having openly gay actors in those leading roles. To find someone who can sing, act and dance and who are openly gay limited us to very few people who were comfortable with it.
Fenuxe: What are you working on next?
Casper: I am taking a break from producing any new films. I am looking to get hired and come in and work on a film and just direct it. I have been reading a lot of scripts and talking to various producers. One film I am attached to is called “Over the Rainbow.” Which is a wonderful script, but there is no financing in place yet so I don’t know when that is going to happen. I am also spending more time on the whole distribution end of things and trying to figure out how to monetize the films I have made so far.
Fenuxe: Do you have a distributor for “Going Down in LA-LA Land”?
Casper: Right now I am just doing the film circuit, but for my last four films I have acted as my own distributor. Signing off various territory rights to others, but I don’t like one distributor taking on the film by themselves, because no one is going to pay for that anymore. You used to get an upfront fee, but it isn’t like that anymore. I pretty much do the distribution myself so I can recoup the budget sooner. It takes a lot of time and with six films in various stages of distribution I decided to spend a little time on that.
Fenuxe: Tell us about your character in “Going Down in LA-LA Land.”
Matthew: Adam is a young actor that moves to LA to pursue his dream. The movie is about his struggle in all the pitfalls and craziness that is the Los Angeles entertainment industry.
Fenuxe: The stuff you are living right now.
Matthew: Well, I know about parking tickets anyway. That was the first thing that resonated from the movie that is true to life. My character in the movie gets a lot of parking tickets and apparently they can drive you to do porn.
Fenuxe: That is a good lesson for people to know before they move to LA to become an actor…pay your parking tickets.
Matthew: Read the signs. Oh it’s impossible. You have to get a couple of parking tickets before you can be that vigilant. They are confusing.
Fenuxe: So, after a few parking tickets he just can’t take it anymore and just starts to do porn?
Matthew: He doesn’t just start doing porn. It is about when you get to Hollywood and you are a young attractive actor you are always walking the line of people trying to use you in jobs that are a little more risqué, a little sexier. And both he and Candy (another character) are toeing that line of what are legitimate avenues of getting ahead and what aren’t. They just make excuses for themselves bit by bit falling deeper and deeper into the seamier side of things.
Fenuxe: You started out as a model right?
Matthew: Not really, most people think that, I started out as an actor. I went to school to be an actor. I moved to New York to do acting. I was acting the entire time I was there in little things. I was also doing modeling and I think I have a bit of a disability in that at least on the internet.
Fenuxe: I ask because I was wondering if you have ever had to decide how far is too far?
Matthew: I have never done porn, thank goodness for my acting career, but I know what it is like to do a job and then be like “oh my gosh, why did I do that?” I did a series of naked photo shoots for a coffee table book that made me pseudo-famous on the internet for a minute. Afterwards you go through this process of how you ended up doing this thing that you are so surprised. You think, “How did I end up doing that?” My character goes through the exact same things. I was able to relate to that a lot.
Fenuxe: Don’t worry Josh Dumhel has done nude photos so you are fine.
Matthew: Oh, I know it’s fine.
Fenuxe: It isn’t the 50s anymore.
Matthew: Yeah, but it was a little awkward when my dad found them on the internet.
Fenuxe: I can imagine. When did you move to Los Angeles?
Matthew: I went back to New York (after filming “Going Down in LA-LA Land”, but I immediately knew I had to get back to LA to be a part of all this. I wanted to be out here before the theatrical release of the film so I could use the buzz around the movie to further my career. And we are getting a lot of buzz.
Fenuxe: Have you received a lot of attention since the film premiered at LA’s Outfest?
Matthew: My IMDB star rating sky rocketed after the premiere (laughs) and I have taken some meetings. I am getting all my ducks in a row. I am getting new headshots. I am getting my reel together. And hopefully soon I will decide where I land as far as representation. Allison, the other star of the movie, she got everything done immediately after the premiere. She signed with an agent and manager. It has been great for both of us. Especially Outfest.
Fenuxe: This movie is a mix of comedy and drama. Which one do you like doing better?
Matthew: I love really getting into those vulnerable moments that you get to do in drama. That is fun, but really good writing, really good material is the best stuff to do whether it is comedy or drama. I haven’t figured out if there is one that I am better at than the other. I am still discovering my place in the entertainment industry.
Fenuxe: Have you studied acting or are you just winging it?
Matthew: I studied acting in college, well I studied musical theater, I am taking classes now, so I wouldn’t say that I am winging it, but there is always more to learn. I have a lot to learn about film acting.
Fenuxe: Can you sing?
Matthew: Yes I can (laughing) I don’t really anymore, but I took voice lessons for years.
Fenuxe: For people who don’t live in LA, give us a little idea of what it is like for an actor trying to make it the movie business.
Matthew: What do you mean? You mean my day job? Is that what you want to know?
Fenuxe: Yeah, exactly.
Matthew: I do a lot of bartending for private parties and events. I do promotional modeling. I work for Miller/Coors a lot passing out Coors key chains. I am a light beer sex symbol, actually. When I have too you can find me slinging crab cakes for the man at some bitch’s bat mitzvah.
Fenuxe: So, it is a cleaner version of porn?
Matthew: Yes it is.
Fenuxe: Who would be your dream collaboration?
Matthew: You know I was just thinking about this today. Gus Van Sant because his work is so off the beaten path and strange and that would fit with my sensibility and I would like to work with Jim Carrey cause I think he is really funny and it would be fun. And I want to do a Henry James novel.
Fenuxe: Why a Henry James novel?
Matthew: I used to love watching those Merchant Ivory films and half of them were written by Henry James and they all starred Helena Bonham Carter. She was an ingénue back then.
Fenuxe: If you were stuck in an elevator with one person who would you want it to be and why?
Matthew: Um, DH Lawrence. Because I used to read his books and I used to picture meeting him at the turn of the century and us like becoming amazing friends and him confiding in me and tell me about what book he would be writing next.