Local filmmaker to tackle gay love topic
From the Stonewall riots in 1969 to the Supreme Court hearings in 2013, America has been on a long, torturous journey coming to grips with homosexuality. For many, perhaps most, the journey isn’t over.
A Kamiak High School grad is making a movie that takes a closer look at the American family, and how changes in attitude toward homosexuality affect one.
Arthur Allen, who is gay, wrote and will direct the independent gay film “Winning Dad.”
Allen, 28, said American culture is suffering from a “masculinity crisis” – a belief that all men must behave in a narrowly defined, manly way – and that his movie confronts that crisis. It also celebrates straight, gay and family love.
“‘Winning Dad’ tells a love story to show that love between men – brothers, friends, lovers, husbands, fathers, sons – isn't easy, but is worth striving for,” Allen said. “Love between two men should be celebrated, not ignored.”
Allen, of Seattle, already has a movie crew and the cast lined up. Filming is slated to start July 13. At least one of the scenes will be filmed by the Mukilteo ferry.
“Mukilteo is really a community of families, so it makes perfect sense,” he said. “And, of course, is there a prettier place to film some of these scenes?”
The Beacon’s own Chuck Sigars, who has been writing a weekly column for the newspaper since 2001, plays Mike, father of Colby, who is gay. Allen, himself, plays Rusty, Colby’s long-term boyfriend.
Allen had been searching endlessly for an actor to play Mike when a friend of his asked: What about Chuck?”
“I remembered my friend’s comment and I googled Chuck,” he said. “He had posted his Father’s Day column, and it had me in tears. It’s completely in the spirit of the film. I had to talk to him.”
“I wanted a man to sort of embody this very American sense of strength and patriarchy,” Allen continued. “He’s just got his stoicism about him and the voice to match. It’s one of those ‘John Wayne eat your heart out, I have Chuck Sigars.’”
Sigars almost didn’t accept the role. He acted in college and then professionally for about three years in Seattle, but that was 30 years ago. Sigars said acting in this movie feels like starting over.
“I liked the movie, I thought it was interesting, and I thought it was really timely,” he said. “My first thought, though, was how could I possibly play this character? I don’t make movies, and I don’t act.”
Also in the cast is Jake Street, who appeared in NBC’s “Grimm”; Megan Jackson, also a Kamiak grad; Brian Earp; and Ellen McLain, famous for her voiceover as the computer GLaDOS in the videogame “Portal.”
“Winning Dad” was inspired by Allen’s experiences serving on a U.S. Merchant Marine ship. Allen waited until he earned the other sailors’ trust to come out to them.
He said a lot of the men on the ship were homophobic, and were confused as to what to do about their friendship with Allen once they knew he is gay.
“They claimed they were homophobic and hating gays, and yet here they were befriending me, trusting me, sweating with me,” Allen said. “It opened up these great discussions where I could ask them, ‘Why do you feel this way? Why do you not like gays?’
“They all had reasons, and I feel that while I disagree with a lot of those reasons, a lot of those reasons haven’t been talked about.”
The plot: Colby's dad knows his son is gay, but he doesn't like talking about it. He respects it, but ignores that aspect of his son's life – he doesn't even know about Colby's boyfriend, Rusty.
Colby hatches a plan to trick his father into camping with Rusty under the pretense that Rusty is Colby's straight friend and future business partner.
Colby is convinced that, given the chance, his father and his boyfriend will get along great.
“Mike has to transform, he has to change,” Sigars said. “He has to reevaluate what he thinks about really important subjects like family and love.
“In between awareness and acceptance is messy and [the movie] is about that mess.”
Allen grew up in Mukilteo and graduated from Kamiak in 2002. He received his bachelor’s from St. John’s College in Maryland, where he wrote his thesis on film and ran the theater club.
His acting career includes productions with the 5th Avenue Theater, Taproot Theater and Village Theater.
On his first ship with the Merchant Marine in 2010, Allen put pen to paper and started to write “Winning Dad.” It’s been about two years in the works.
A pre-production kick-off for the movie is schedule for 8 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at the Northwest Film Forum, at 1515 12th Ave. in Seattle.
See more about “Winning Dad” at www.winningdad.com or www.facebook.com/winningdad.