Rob Williams has found a lot of success so far in his career with hit movies Make the Yuletide Gay and Role/Play garnering acclaim from critics and fans. He’s also the co-owner of production company Guest House Films.
For his latest film, The Men Next Door, Rob explores an unusual love triangle that we all hope never happens to us. We’ll let him tell you more about the plot in a minute.
We caught up with Rob to talk about The Men Next Door, discuss his career and discover what he’s like as a director.
How are you today? Where does this Q&A find you?
Super! This Q&A finds me in my home office, where I spend most of my time. It’s a total mess so I’m glad you can’t see it.
Your new film ‘The Men Next Door’ has just hit DVD. Tell us about it.
“The Men Next Door” is a romantic comedy about a 40-year-old gay man who falls in love with two different men who turn out to be father and son. And as they say, wackiness ensues. It’s a fun romp that has really gone over well with film festival audiences and DVD viewers.
Where did the inspiration for the film come from?
The initial idea was simply to explore dating over 40 in the gay world – which in the world of gay cinema is considered ancient. I know people who are around 40 who find themselves dating older men as well as younger men, finding that age isn’t as much of an issue to them as when they were younger. And that’s how it started. Then the father-son twist came about, and I have no idea where that came from!
You’ve assembled quite the who’s who of gay cinema in the cast. What was the casting process like and how easy was it to find the right people for the roles?
Some parts were easy, some were very difficult. We obviously had to be very specific in trying to find actors to play characters who are 30, 40 and 50, and hopefully find actors who could believably play father and son. We knew some people from their previous films, such as Benjamin Lutz, Mark Cirillo and Christopher Schram, but most people came through the standard audition process. We were so lucky, because people like Eric Dean and Michael Nicklin walked into the audition room and immediately became their characters. And once everyone started reading together to check their chemistry, it all clicked.
We watched the blooper reel on the DVD and Heidi Rhodes was hilarious. How did she come to be involved with the project?
Like so many others, she submitted herself through the casting website we were using, we loved her look and brought her in to read, and she won us over from the first second she walked in the room. She was very smart – she walked in playing the character, so we instantly saw her as the character. Not enough actors do that. Very smart and very, very funny.
What’s your favourite recollection from shooting the movie? Give us an insight into what you’re like as a director.
In the middle of the shoot, we travelled to Big Bear (a mountain area just outside Los Angeles) for two days of shooting in a very small cabin. At the end of the first day, we got a ton of food from the local supermarket, and everyone sat around the cabin, relaxing and talking and drinking, and it was such a perfect way to chill out and get to know each other away from the demands of the shoot. I had also just come back from India (yes, I went to India for the Mumbai Queer Film Festival in the middle of the shoot, because they were honoring me with an award and a retrospective – which was absolutely fantastic!), so I really needed time to relax and reconnect with everyone.
Are you very hands on or do you like to allow your actors room to interpret their role and play with their dialogue?
If you cast the right actors, a lot of your work as a director is done, so I try to give them room to play with the characters and find their own interpretations. If something isn’t how I imagined it, we can adjust it, but for the most part, everyone’s initial decisions were spot on. I’m not a big fan of ad libbing – I prefer that everyone stick to the script. That’s the writer side of me!
As it’s the festive season has just been and gone we’ve been revisiting ‘Make The Yuletide Gay’ once again. How important has that film been to your career?
“Make The Yuletide Gay” has been incredible. We get such a great response to it every holiday season. It feels so good to hear from people discovering it for the first time, and especially to hear from teens who feel inspired to come out to their parents after watching the movie. That’s something I never anticipated, but it shows how powerful movies can be.
‘The Men Next Door’ is available now through TLA Releasing in the US and the UK. Watch the trailer for the movie: