Having read and enjoyed the LGBT novel Missing, by Drake Braxton, which I found to be a fun and unique romance/mystery, I wasn't surprised when the book went on to win several awards, including Best Gay Fiction for the New England Book Festival. Now, two years later, I've learned not only that the book is getting the feature film treatment (as He Is Gone), but that my dear friend Gregory G. Allen has written the screenplay. I had the pleasure of speaking with him and director/producer Lois Munoz Merka to learn more about the project and its journey from page to screen.
Kergan Edwards-Stout: Thanks for joining me! I'm very excited to see how you've taken this from book to movie...
Lois Munoz Merka: Thanks for sharing the project with your readers.
Edwards-Stout: For those who haven't yet read the book, tell us a little about it.
Gregory G. Allen: The simple answer is that a gay couple goes from Boston to Alabama for a high school reunion and when one turns around -- the other is gone. He Is Gone becomes a pulsating ride to unravel the mystery of his disappearance.
Edwards-Stout: Funny enough, when I reviewed the book, I called it 'a challenging, sexy, and worthwhile ride'!
Munoz Merka: And we hope you feel the same way about the film!
Munoz Merka: I've been in the industry a long time... I've been involved in everything -- music, TV production, film. I've directed a few shorts and was looking for a feature project when my friend, publisher Ken Harrison of Seventh Window...
Allen: Who published Missing -
Munoz Merka: He told me about this book. Actually, a few other friends had as well, saying it was right up my alley, given the grit and truthfulness of the story. So I grabbed a copy and fell in love.
Allen: Ken and Lois were going to work on the screenplay as Drake Braxton, who wrote the book, is busy writing his next D.C. Plummer book, and I got to talking to Ken about my past. In addition to writing, I've been a director and producer for the theater, and I knew I wanted to go into film. The next thing I knew, I had a draft to send to Lois.
Munoz Merka: Greg and I worked back and forth on the script, as adapting is always a challenge. You want to stay true to the original, but you also want to open it up for film.
Allen: Plus, there is so much in that book, we had to pick and chose the most cinematic moments or we'd have had too long of a movie on our hands.
Edwards-Stout: Anyone who has read the book talks about the twist...is that intact?
Munoz Merka: Yes! It's very important to the film, and we've made sure it occurs at the right moment.
Edwards-Stout: How do you view the current landscape of LGBT cinema?
Munoz Merka: As a straight woman, I watch everything. Love is love. Stories are stories. I think it is so important this story maintain the integrity of the original and show this relationship between two men --
Allen: -- which is why we're producing an indie film. Hollywood would have switched Blain to Betty and made them heterosexual. I think we need more, better quality LGBT films. The indie circuit does have much to choose from -- it's simply a matter of finding them.
Munoz Merka: This film shows many aspects of the LGBT community -- from romance, to people's views on homophobia, to the tight-knit families made among closest of friends.
Edwards-Stout: If you were to give one word encapsulating what the film is about, what would it be?
Munoz Merka: Redemption.
Allen: I like that!
Edwards-Stout: I know financing an indie film is no small task these days. Are you doing the crowd-sourcing track with He Is Gone?
Munoz Merka: We've all seen the success stories of Zach Braff, James Franco, Spike Lee and others using Kickstarter, but it's not always that easy for indies to get their projects into the faces of the public.
Allen: Coming on as a producer, I immersed myself quickly into this culture. Many films will go after investors to get a 'letter of intent for giving' while still offering perks that you may see on crowd sourcing sites. Not to say we won't do the latter at some point, but for now - we have our own website with ways people can get involved. We want every dollar to go directly into the film, and not pay a percentage to a particular website for hosting our information.
Munoz Merka: Naturally you want anyone and everyone to donate to a film...
Allen: Yes! You there reading this - I'm like Uncle Sam. We want YOU!
Munoz Merka: (laughing) But we are specifically looking for those individuals and corporations that have a stake in the LGBT community and truly want to see films showing those diverse lives. You want to see more LGBT films? Help us make a damn good one for you!
Allen:People can go to ASD Media if they would want to donate or be involved with He Is Gone. We'd love to hear from as many gay-friendly people as possible.
Munoz Merka: Did we mention there will be hot men in the movie?
Edwards-Stout: I was going to ask about some of the sex scenes from the book -
Allen: Oh, they are in the film, for sure. (laughs)
Edwards-Stout: I wish you guys the best. I know you're getting ready to scout New England locations and cast the roles. I can't wait to see these characters come to life.
Allen: Thanks again, Kergan, for sharing this project. I really appreciate it!
Munoz Merka: See you at the movies!
For more on the He Is Gone movie, check out their website, Facebook and Twitter.
Photo credits: Gregory G. Allen and Lois Munoz Merka provided by Gregory G. Allen. Missing cover art provided by Seventh Window Publications.