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The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Rhys Ernst, Director Of The Thing

The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Rhys Ernst, Director Of The Thing

Outfest 2012 is happening in Los Angeles from July 12 through July 22. To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Los Angeles LGBT film festival, we will be sharing interviews with filmmakers and persons involved with movies being screened. See all of our Outfest Interviews here.

Rhys Ernst is no stranger to this site. We’ve share his Secret Men’s Club before and even bumped into him when interviewing Zackary Drucker for our Featured Interview series. Thus, when we noticed that his short film The Thing was included in Outfest, we sent a note hoping to hear his thoughts on the festival and what Angelenos will take from his piece. The film screened this past Saturday as a part of Outfest’s Trans Shorts programming which will be replaying this Wednesday as well.

The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Rhys Ernst, Director Of The Thing

Outfest is one of the most well known LGBT film festivals in the world and has had films shared that have gone on to have profound affects on the world. Can you tell us a little bit yourself and your film? Is this the first time you’ve had a film shown at Outfest?

I write and direct films that situate transgender characters within larger narratives. My film at Outfest is called The Thing and it’s a short film shot on super 16mm. A woman, a transgender man and their cat drive towards a mysterious roadside attraction called “The Thing.” The film is about their relationship, the journey and what will become of them when they reach “The Thing.” The trans theme is present but downplayed as the film focuses more on universal struggles such as relationship power dynamics, what’s left unsaid, the journey versus the destination, and so on. It premiered at Sundance 2012 and the screenings at Outfest will be its first public showings in LA.

I love Outfest and am always impressed with their programming. I have shown at Outfest before but it was before I lived in LA, and this will actually be the first time I get to attend my own screening at the festival.

There is a lot going on at Outfest this year–and it is the 30th year of the festival! How does your film fit into Outfest? What are you hoping it brings to the wide variety of different films being shared in the festival? Moreover, people will be coming from all over the world to share and see films at Outfest. What are you hoping people take away from your film?

I like to pretend we’re several years into the future and that trans is something that doesn’t need to be explained–that the subject can be folded into a complex narrative and speak to a broad audience. I also believe in casting actual trans people as trans characters and went to great lengths to do so in The Thing. I think we are on the edge of a sea change with trans representation and I hope to be a part of that wave.

The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Rhys Ernst, Director Of The Thing

Similarly, is there anything specifically Angelenos can take away from your film? Your work speaks to multiple audiences; however, are there certain themes, images, or concepts that may hit Angelenos deeper than other viewers?

It’s a car movie! The characters are on a road trip through the desert. California is full of “Mystery Spot”-type destinations that “The Thing” drew influence from. I was inspired by my own experiences of Southern California car trips as well as places like The Integratron. I think of the road trip in The Thing as being existential and never-ending. I think Angelenos can relate to that to that feeling.

The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Rhys Ernst, Director Of The Thing

Looking into the future, what’s next for you and the film after Outfest? Where else will your film be going? What are you hopes for the film?

The Thing is playing a lot internationally–it premieres in London July 15th at Rushes Soho Shorts Fest and in New York July 29th in Newfest. I’m excited to see its festival life unfold. I also directed two new shorts. She Gone Rogue is an experimental narrative I made in collaboration with Zackary Drucker that’s playing throughout the summer on a loop at the Hammer Museum as part of its biennial, Made In L.A.. It’s like a combination of Meshes of the Afternoon with Alice in Wonderland that features legendary trans performers Holly Woodlawn, Vaginal Davis, and Flawless Sabrina. You have to see it to believe it! I also just directed a new short based on the life of trans pioneer Vicki Marlane, co-written and filmed by Michelle Lawler, who directed the Outfest award-winning documentary on Vicki, Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight. The short is based on the true story of when Vicki was arrested for crossdressing and sent to a male prison where they forced her to cut her hair. She ultimately escapes prison, puts on a stolen dress, and hitchhikes to freedom. We shot the short on 35mm(!), it stars Zackary Drucker as Vicki, it’s set in 1972 and was filmed in a real prison. We just wrapped that shoot two weeks ago and I just saw the dailies for the first time, which look amazing. I’m really excited about it. I also plan on making a feature in the next year or so, and am developing ideas and searching for a co-writer. All these projects are adding up to what I hope is a successful career as a trailblazing trans director. Much like how certain gay and lesbian directors have combined successful Hollywood and indie careers while changing the face of gay and lesbian representation in a meaningful way, I would like to be a go-to director for films that deal with trans issues.

The Outfest Interviews: A Word With Rhys Ernst, Director Of The Thing

We know Rhys is going to go up, up, and up and he is certainly trailblazing to become the go-to director dealing with trans issues: we definitely see that reality unfolding very, very quickly. The Thing screens this Wednesday at the DGA as a part of their Trans Shorts programming, which runs at 7:30PM. For more on the film, you can check out their website and give them a Like on Facebook.

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