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Interview: Creators talk about gay drama, The Green

10/21/2011 07:40 am ET | Updated Dec 21, 2011

Writer-producer Paul Marcarelli got the germ of the idea for his new film, The Green, when he noticed that, in dividing his time between his adopted hometown of Guilford, Ct., and his apartment in Brooklyn, he also seemed to divide his personality - or, at least, his behavior.

"New York City is the place where you're gay until proven otherwise," Marcarelli says, sitting in an Upper West Side diner in Manhattan. "But in Connecticut, when you're the only gay guy on the block, you find yourself spending a lot of time making sure other people are comfortable. It's this feeling that you need to be a good gay ambassador because you're the only one in the neighborhood. There's a level of internalized shame - and shame is at the root of Michael's challenge in this film."

In The Green, which debuted on digital platforms this week, Michael (Jason Butler Harner) is a well-liked English teacher at a private school in a small Connecticut community, where he lives with his partner, Daniel (Cheyenne Jackson), a popular vegetarian caterer. But when Michael is accused of inappropriate behavior with one of his students, the entire town turns on him, despite the lack of evidence that the charges are true.

For Steven Williford, who directed The Green after working on its development with Marcarelli, the situation in the film was the extension of an idea he and Marcarelli had discussed.

"My first job out of graduate school, I ran a theater company in southwest Indiana - and I've always lived as an out gay person," Williford says. "That was unusual in that conservative part of that state. And people seem fascinated with my ease with living an openly gay life there in 1990.

"While I didn't experience any obvious homophobia, I always wondered what would have to happen for people to really come to terms with what they felt. I shared that experience with Paul, who said he'd been trying to write a story on the same subject, but couldn't find a hook."

Once Marcarelli and Williford had settled on the script, Marcarelli and his production company put together the money to make the film ("It was less than a million and bigger than a breadbox," Marcarelli says), which they shot in 17 days in Guildford, where Marcarelli still has a house.

"We come from a scrappy downtown theater work ethic," Marcarelli says. "We're good at figuring out ways to make a little look like a lot."

This interview continues on my website.