I felt like there was no middle ground in terms of bi-sexuality", Jesse Rosen

The art of being straight is the story of the smart, handsome, twenty-three-year-old Jon (Jesse Rosen) that has just moved to Los Angeles from New York, ostensibly “taking a break” from his longtime girlfriend. He moves in with college bro Andy (Jared Grey), whose pals incessantly do that kind of “That is so gay” banter that’s essentially harmless — unless you’re the only gay guy in the room. Jon is hardly comfortable discussing his shifting Kinsien scale placement with them, and his new job as bottom-rung gofer at a major ad agency is fraught with sexual tension as a studly boss (Johnny Ray Rodriguez) barrages him with thinly veiled come-ons. Infamous among his buddies as a womanizer, Jon is more surprised than anyone when he ultimately falls for his boss’ seductive charms, which sends him spiraling into a world of sexual confusion. Meanwhile, he becomes re-acquainted with Madeleine (Rachel Castillo), a friend from college, who has recently chosen to become a lesbian. She falls for the affections of a man….until his wandering eye and casual maltreatment cause her to remember why she gave up men in the first place. Ultimately, each of the friends discovers that acceptance in modern American society is not as difficult as they thought, that social mores no longer dictate who we are and that each decision you make has a direct affect on your identity.

Jesse Rosen (JON) (Writer/Director/Actor) After graduating from Emerson College in 2004 with a BFA in writing, literature and publishing, Jesse moved to Los Angeles to work in the film and television industry. In 2006, Jesse’s short film “Hold Music” was accepted into the Sacramento Film Festival. This is Jesse’s first feature film. He currently resides in New York City, where he is developing his second feature, “Touch of Grey.”

Bijan Tehrani: How did you come across the subject of your film and what motivated you to make The art of being straight?
Jesse Rosen: The film was loosely based on some personal experience as well as from talking to friends of mine. I felt like there was no middle ground in terms of bi-sexuality. It just seemed like we’re growing up in a time where being gay is certainly becoming more acceptable but the problem would be anything in between or even the lack of any sort of label: it seems like people are always trying to label you… so I couldn’t seem to find a movie that discussed that in a way that I understood and this propelled me to make the film. I wanted to start a discussion.

BT: How’s the reaction of those who’ve seen the film?
JR: It’s been a very generous and warm reception of the film, thankfully. Especially kids my age who’ve seen the film: they’ve come to me and said, “Thank you for making something that is more real than a lot of these types of films that we come across in terms of how you convey sexuality.” So I think it’s been good.

BT: How difficult was the making of The art of being straight?
JR: It was difficult to get going at first. It’s certainly not something you can sell right off the bat. I knew I wanted to make it the way I wanted to make it and I wasn’t going to compromise. The ending was something I knew first-off and I knew what I was aiming for. The apartment in the film is my apartment, we also used Rachel’s apartment. Everything was written and rewritten so that we were able to shoot it. We had to combine scenes and throw away scenes on the spot. So, that was a challenge. A large challenge was to raise money. I pretty much knocked on every door that I knew. And we were able to raise enough and get through production. Then, once we had a first cut, we showed it around and another old boss of mine, Laurence Ducceschi, came on as an executive producer. He was really crucial in bringing this film to any screening. If not for him, we would not be where we are today.

BT: How did you pick the actors? Everyone’s so fitted for their parts.
JR: Well, I don’t know if you know this, but I was not supposed to star in the film at all. We had cast the lead three days before we started shooting the film and the lead dropped out of the shoot. He basically wanted to be paid more than we could afford. We were going to put the movie on hold but I stepped up to the plate and did my best, I don’t really have any acting training. Rachel used to live next door to me in sophomore year; I found her again on myspace through friends of friends. I begged her to come to the audition; she came and blew it away. We had casting sessions in my house, and we posted some things on the internet for open casting calls. It was basically just me and the producers with my little mini-DV camera

BT: As far as the visual style of The art of being straight, it flows very nicely. Did you sit down with your crew and cameraman?
JR: I had found Aaron Torres [the DP]. I had called USC and asked them to send me a list of DPs and we hit it right off the bat. I showed him some movies I liked the look of. I understood with the time that we were going to have, we had to be very economical. Definitely, I wanted a simplistic look and I had some crazy ideas too. Aaron, who basically had nothing to work with other than a light bulb, was really just incredible, he really made things happen out of nothing. But that goes for everybody on this film. I think that’s why people were excited about it, because for a large part they weren’t being paid but they were a part of the creative process.

BT: The art of being straight, compared to Hollywood movies, looks like a foreign film…
JR: I’ll take that as a great compliment, thank you.

BT: What’s your plan for the future?
JR: I’m just finishing the millionth draft of a father-son movie which I plan to shoot later this year, which takes place mostly in New Orleans. Hopefully, I’ll be doing that as soon as possible.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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