When I returned to the U.S. in November of 2013, working on a film had never crossed my mind. I just wasn't there. I'd been in Germany since May of 2011, and knew I needed to restart my life here in a hurry.
I applied for jobs everywhere I could. Then it happened. I saw the listing from Stagelight Productions, an indie filmmaking company, based in the Bay Area. It was for an assistant screenwriter position. I almost passed it by, but I'm glad I didn't. I read the listing and the description of the film:
"A story about a young man who was raised without a father, and leaves his hometown of Kansas, to start a new life in San Francisco.
He wanted to find some direction in life, and instead found love..."
It seemed to call out to me like no other listing I'd read. It's strange, because I'd never worked on a film before. But I'm a writer. A storyteller. Isn't film just visual storytelling?
Like the main character, I'm also on a search. I've been divorced once and have recently crash-landed after a failed relationship. I'm trying to work my way through it the best way I know: writing.
Since this past December, I've been working on a novel to clear my mind. Currently, I'm almost at the 30,000-word mark. In fact, I've also written the ending and opening for a second novel, which sprang from the first one.
Most people might find both of them very different from what I've previously written. In a way, they'd be correct. But really, this is not true. It's a story about someone overcoming great difficulties. It also delves into relationships and how we each handle this strange thing called love.
As I continued reading the job listing, the theme of the story gave me pause. It was a gay theme. I asked myself, "Is this something I really want to do?"
Then, after thinking it over for a minute or two, this was my answer: "Perhaps this is something I need to do."
It was then that I decided to apply. I saw it as just another opportunity to stretch my writing muscles and share the story of people dealing with different circumstances than I. Of course, I just might learn their circumstances are not so different after all.
I'm not gay. I'm straight. I know I'm going to have to say this again in the future. Because, after all, only gay people work on gay-themed movies, right? What I'm hoping for is an open dialogue about my reasons for signing on to this project. Because I think it might reach a special spot in others as it did in me.
I also struggled with erectile dysfunction the last six months of my relationship. Not a very pleasant experience because it can cause great difficulty for you and your partner. Working on this project might help me understand the past and not take that baggage with me into the future.
Of course, some of the guys I grew up with would take a few nice shots at me about my ED problem.
"Oh...now I understand, Lawrence. You've switched teams."
I'm also African-American, which means -- like most of us -- I was heavily influenced by the church. I was taught that being gay isn't something that anyone is born to be. It's a "lifestyle" that one "chooses". I was taught that if someone is gay, there is something wrong with that person. It just isn't normal.
However, I've always considered myself an independent thinker. I don't regularly attend any church. I just practice my faith in my own way. I'd like to think I treat people consistent with my favorite scripture. It's Matthew 25:40 (KJV), which contains a quote from Jesus Christ himself: "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
But, as with anything, others will have their own opinions of me and I can't do anything about that.
Over the years, I've reexamined my beliefs on many topics and that includes how I feel about someone who is gay. I chose to publicly discuss this evolution in a Huffington Post piece about a lesbian couple I met while living in Germany, titled ""The Outing of a Recovering Homophobe"."
I don't want to make myself out to be some sort of saint. I'm not. I'm just trying to find a way to live happily in this world without hindering others from achieving the same. That means overcoming some of my own prejudices, too.
When I made the final decision to apply for the screenwriter position, it was just another opportunity to stretch my writing muscles and share the story of people dealing with different circumstances than I. Or will I find out their circumstances are not so different after all?
Many people make the statement "Love is Love." But the question is, do they really believe it? I've said this many, many times myself. If I truly believe this, then working on a gay-themed love story shouldn't be a problem. If it is, then I'm a liar. Plain and simple.
So, I'm now an Assistant Screenwriter on an indie film. As I spoke with Samuel Vasquez, Jr., who will be the director and main screenwriter, he made me feel so welcome and showed me just how much he wanted to work with me. I thanked him for that. And I let him know just how much I appreciated the opportunity.
Because this experience will be a godsend, especially at a time when I was beginning to think God had forgotten who the hell I was.
Here is a trailer for the film Ruben's Place, directed by
Samuel Vasquez, Jr. for Stagelight Productions: