Meet the Filmmaker: Jonathan Lisecki (“Gayby”)

We sat down with writer and director, Jonathan Lisecki, to discuss his hilarious new comedy, Gayby, about two friends’–a gay man and a straight woman–and their unusual business with the birds n’ the bees. After laughing until our sides hurt, we had to hear the inside skinny on Lisecki’s source of humor that made this screenplay into the clever and caustic masterpiece that it is. Below, he elaborates further on the characters, his intentions behind the story, and the fun they all had in making it. So please join us in kicking off Gay Pride Week with Gayby on Saturday June 23 at the Open Road Rooftop in the Lower East Side, with live music performed by Ski Lodge before the screening.

Rooftop Films:It’s refreshing to see filmmakers not afraid of showing gay/lesbian romance. Did you intend for this incredibly funny film to also make a social/political stance for gay rights?

Jonathan Lisecki: I didn’t want the movie to be explicitly political. I cut anything that sounded more like my voice than the voices of the characters. First and foremost I wanted to make a comedy that people of many backgrounds can engage with. Yes, the politics is in there, but it’s more subtle than blatant. It’s been really fun to see straight guys responding to the movie as strongly as women and gay men—the awkwardness of sexuality and the power of friendship are universal themes.

RF: With the fast paced witty repartee and colorful characters, the comedy here is very smart and quick. Yet, there are some serious issues being dealt with—getting over break ups, hopes for the future, etc. Do you think this film could have been done any other way apart from a comedy, a drama perhaps? Can you talk a little bit about what the humor contributes to the story?

JL: I come from the Bronx, from a family of storytellers, and that fast-paced voice is what I grew up with. You had to be fast and funny to be heard in my family. I’ve always found comedy to be the best way to express myself. I do like to weave in more serious themes; these characters are confronting the frustration of making your way in this society. But for me it always comes back to handling issues with a lighter touch. It’s better to get your point across with a laugh rather then a sledgehammer.

RF: How did you think of the storyline?

JL: A female friend and I talked once about having a baby together if we got to a certain age. She wound up having a baby with someone else, and I thought about what it might have been like for us. I saw the story in comic terms, but there was some serious feeling underneath, a kind of sadness that I no longer had that option. I made a short, which matches up with several scenes early in the movie, and then fleshed it into a full-length feature. I wrote it pretty quickly, this time last year. I knew who would be playing certain roles, and having their voices in my head helped dictate where the story would go.

RF:What kind of audience did you have in mind while making the film? What kind of audience do you hope goes and sees it?

JL: I wanted to have multiple audiences relate to the film—gay and straight, younger and older—and so far I’ve been lucky to have exactly that happen. I wrote it so the balance between the lead gay and straight characters would be even. Matt isn’t the standard supporting role of the gay best friend—he’s central to the story. He’s not your usual stereotype, either: he is shy, sensitive, heartbroken, and resistant to casual sex. Plus, he works in a comic-book store. Jenn isn’t the sad female character waiting for her man. She gets all the play in this film, and she is definitely a bit more wild. I think audiences like that twist: it’s less standard rom-com stereotype and more fun.

RF: One of our favorite moments was Jenn’s “club dancing” in the yoga studio. Was making this film as fun as it looks like it would be?

JL: Definitely! That’s one of my favorite scenes, too, especially when Jack Ferver (Jamie) joins her. I told them to dance around like maniacs and use the poles if they wanted to. When they looked at each other and said “Go!” and jumped on the poles, sliding down in tandem, we all were kind of amazed at how in tune with each other they were. It’s why you work with your friends when you can. I’ve known these people for a long time: Matt, Jenn, Jack, and I all did downtown theatre together, and we were always trying to one-up each other and make each other laugh. We had that spirit on the set every day. We strove to make our cast and crew crack up. And they did fairly often.

RF: Any up and coming projects?

JL: I’ll still be touring with this film for most of the year, going around to festivals and various cities when we set up our theatrical run. Prior to Gayby I wrote a script which I’ll go back and work on further. I have a superstition against talking about projects before they’re ready, but I guarantee it will be something you can show on a rooftop.