The Fenuxe Interview: Filmmaker Sandon Berg

The Fenuxe Interview:  Filmmaker Sandon Berg

words by: Michael Vorndran

Out on Film kicked-off last night with a bang. Now we are all getting ready for a long weekend of fab gay cinema. The films over the weekend will help wet your appetite for the world premiere of Morgan. The film was made by long-running gay filmmakers, Sandon Berg (producer/writer) and Michael Akers (writer/director). Sandon took a few minutes to sit down with Fenuxe and discuss the film which screen on Monday October 3 at 9:10PM at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

Fenuxe: Tell us about the film, Morgan.

Sandon: The movie is the story of Morgan who was an avid bicyclist who was injured and rendered paraplegic in bike race. The story joins him on his first day home after 5 months of grueling surgeries and rehabilitation in the hospital. He comes back in a wheelchair into the same apartment and the same life he left as a walking person. His walking specter sort of follows him around and drives him to madness throughout the film ad He tries to be the same person that he was and not accepting the fact that he can’t walk anymore.

Fenuxe: What inspired the film?

Sandon: Every time I sit down to write a script and I am throwing around different ideas, I try to figure out what is already out there. What stories have already been told? I try to challenge myself. There are only about seven different stories in the world. If there is a unique was to tell a story that is fine or to try and come up with a perspective on life or in a story that has never been done that way before. I didn’t think, especially in gay genre films, an area that had been explored very much at all.

Fenuxe: How would you classify the film genre wise?

Sandon: There are two story lines in the film. One is about Morgan deciding to do this bike race again, but as a wheelchair entrant. And the other one is his meeting and falling in love and discovering how to physically love this other man. Those are the two storylines that go along and intersect with one another. Dean, the love interest, inspires Morgan to believe that he can compete again. By inspiring Morgan he sort of taps into an un-faced demon that Morgan has which is the crux of the story.

Fenuxe: Did you talk to other gay paraplegics when writing the story?

Sandon: I looked around for different groups. The way that I was actually able to get in touch with someone is that I found a dating site that caters to men in wheelchairs and were looking for relationships. Through one of these sites I was able to contact a couple of people, hoping I didn’t sound too creepy. They were very open and very excited about the idea that there could be a movie about a gay guy in a wheelchair. One guy in particular lives in Texas. He was very open, very generous and very candid about all my appropriate and inappropriate questions. Everything from how did your injury happen. What was the process you went through to accept the fact that he was injured and was never going to be the same again. How did adapt to your new way of life. How do you go to the bathroom? How do you have sex? He was so candid it made what I had to do much easier.

Fenuxe: Would you call this a true story?

Sandon: I can’t say that is it is a true story. None of what is in the movie is based on anything they told me. The story itself is completely unique. The perspective that each of these guys gave me on what it is like to live in a wheelchair was really helpful in sculpting a story. I think it is a very universal story. I don’t think it is gay specific at all.

Fenuxe: Morgan is world premiering at the Out on Film festival. Has anyone seen it other than the production team?

Sandon: We did have one works in progress screening in Philadelphia where we always screen our film. We have a small following there with a strong core audience in Philadelphia. They are always very honest about. A lot of times they are seeing things without a score, without color correction, with missing scenes and little cards with what would go on. This is our opportunity reshoot or re-record any lines. But what the audience is seeing in Atlanta is the first finished product. It has been color corrected. The beautiful score is in. It is great.

Fenuxe: Will you be on hand for the premiere?

Sandon: I will not be there, but Michael Akers, the director/writer, will be there. He will probably introduce the film and do a q and a afterward.

Fenuxe: Are you nervous?

Sandon: I am really, really excited. I can’t say I am not nervous particularly since it is the first screening. But at this point in the film when you get into color corrections and sound fixes and stuff where you are really going frame by frame by frame you completely lose sight of the film. The last couple of times I watched it it was a very technical experience for me and I wasn’t emotionally involved in it. It is getting the point where I need to see it from an audience point of view because it is so fresh.

Fenuxe: It is like seeing it for the first time.

Sandon: Yes, Exactly! You know along the way I might show it to a couple of filmmaker friends and ask about little technical things. At the end of the day the only thing that matters are the people who are going to the theater and see it or go to the store and rent it or buy it. Those are the opinions that matter.

Fenuxe: Hopefully they like it.

Sandon: (laughs) Yes, hopefully.

Fenuxe: When you cast your films do you specifically seek out gay actors?

Sandon: For the first time we have these two straight actors playing gay roles. It was very brave of them even if they don’t have any unfounded fears about being a straight actor playing a gay role. There is a weird moment during the audition process. We’re to the point where we are trying to figure out which actor is going to play which role because we were considering both of them for both roles. We got to a kiss in the scene and I was like okay let’s do this through again and I would like to see you kiss. Whether the actors are gay or straight it is irrelevant. But I don’t want to get into the middle of shooting and find out they are uncomfortable with that. Then there is nothing I can do about that. So these two guys kissed and it was like electricity in the room and there chemistry was astounding. They left and said Michael and asked him if he thought that was the first time they had ever kissed another man. I would never ask them that. I don’t want to know. It doesn’t even matter, but the ease that they just did it because that was the job at hand.

Fenuxe: Did Leo have a hard time getting used to being in a wheelchair?

Sandon: I sent him home with an old rickety wheelchair that didn’t even roll straight. He took it home and lived in that wheelchair. He came back and didn’t use his legs. Some of the other actors who hadn’t met him would come on set he wouldn’t get out of the wheelchair. He would be there and be there and be there. Then he would have to go to the bathroom and would get up and walk. The other actors would be like, “You can walk!”

Fenuxe: You have been producing for a while. Tell us a little about your other films.

Sandon: This is the fourth film Michael and I have done together. The first one was called “Gone but Not Forgotten.” It was about a forest ranger who rescues a guy from the city who escapes his life in the city and heads to the mountains. He has an accident and gets amnesia. While he is recovering from amnesia he ends up falling love with the ranger. When he gets his memory back and he has to go back to his life in the city. This is what the end of the movie is, so I won’t reveal it for people who want to see it. That movie explores is being gay a choice? Of course our perspective it is not a choice you know when remove all the elements of expectation from this person’s life he is free to fall in love with who he wants. “Gone but Not Forgotten” is one of the most successful gay films of all time.

Fenuxe: Are you working on anything now?

Sandon: We have a couple of other things that we want to move onto. One is something that has been a long time in development. It is called “A House Divided” which takes place at the very end of the civil war. It is about a young straight lawyer who takes the case of a confederate soldier who is on trial for crimes against nature. We come to learn that his partner in crime is a young heir to a plantation. He is protecting his family name by not coming forward. It is a sexy period courtroom drama that addresses the issues of separation of church and state. We also have a gay fatal attraction and we are going to try and shoot that one if 3-D.

Check out the trailer for “Morgan” below and check out the rest of the fest by clicking here.

Michael Akers’ MORGAN – Trailer from Michael Akers on Vimeo.

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