Interview with Filmmaker Curtis Lee (YESTERDAY, MY DEAD BOYFRIEND MESSAGED ME ON GRINDR)

YESTERDAY, MY DEAD BOYFRIEND MESSAGED ME ON GRINDR was the winner of BEST SHORT FILM at the March 2021 LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

– Same thing that motivates me for most of my work to be honest…heartbreak, haha. Me and my boyfriend had broken up as I was convinced he was cheating on me while I was working abroad (He lives with the person now, so I think I was on the money. They seem very happy though so I’m happy for them). I was pretty heartbroken for a while as I loved him a lot and I try to channel that into my work when possible as it has always been my outlet ever since I was an angsty kid sitting in art class making up song lyrics and writing them on my arm. I wanted to play around with the idea of what it meant to be haunted through social media. I was still seeing a ghost of someone that I knew wasn’t really gone…not in the traditional sense anyway, which I think a lot of people can relate to. So many people still have access to the lives of someone online that they no longer communicate with. If you have still have love for that person and know that you can’t reach them even though you can see then…how is that any different to being haunted? Anyway, from that “Yesterday, My Dead Boyfriend Messaged Me on Grindr” was created.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

– Oh, you know what… We shot the film in three days entirely in my apartment on a budget of $300. I did a lot of the work in post production myself because I am a massive control freak (I produced, directed, wrote, edited, sound designed, color grade) over the course of about 6 months or so and then had someone come in and do the sound mix at the end. I would just chip away at it bit by bit until it was ready to be submitted to festivals.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

– Depressingly Accurate

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

– I had to teach myself sound design because I had a very specific idea in my head of what I wanted it to sound like. Complete with the mouse clicks, the sound of the phone, the voicemail messages. I just remember how slow that process was. I would add layer after layer after layer and then would somehow mess it up and everything was out of sync. The entire thing was a nightmare and I promised I would NEVER do sound design again…turned out that was a massive lie I told myself and now I do it rather often.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I cried. Like a lot. Do you know that moment in the Schitt’s Creek documentary where they’re reading the letters from the “Serendipity-Doo-Daa” group about what the show meant for them? Obviously, that show has had a FAR larger impact on the world and Dan Levy is a genius, but I compare that to the moment of me watching the video haha. Do you know what I think is incredible about this festival? From a filmmaker’s perspective, it is an incredibly overwhelming sensation when you submit your film somewhere, especially during Covid, to then sit back and hear total strangers talk to you, without filter, about how the film resonated with them. I work with an incredibly talented creative team and hearing them be sung similar praises from other creatives that I’ve been singing them for years, it’s just so good. I love it, I’ve told so many people about this festival, it’s easily one of my favorites. I showed my mum the video and naturally, she sent it to my nan and now I think the rest of the family has seen it.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

– I was 6. True story. My sister is older than I am and she made me watch Scream. A 6-year-old watching Drew Barrymore hanging from a tree at six years old, yeah that’ll do things to you.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

– Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4. After Scream 5 comes out, I’m likely going to say Scream 5. With new directors on board who are fans of the original, I have very high hopes. Original cast returning? The cherry on top. So keen. Imagine reading that script before it went into production…wild

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

– I’m a big fan of FilmFreeway. Especially as an Aussie, I mean we have film festivals here but in terms of global outreach, FilmFreeway allows you to create work that can reach all four corners of this flat Earth we live on…jokes. I’m sure it’s round, or it’s not, why does it matter. Anyway, FilmFreeway has allowed me to have this film screened all over the world and I don’t think that was something I had ever really considered until I started submitting this film to places

9. What is your favorite meal?

– So I don’t know what the American version tastes like BUT Mcdonald’s Bacon and Egg McMuffins are my literal happy place. I have to work out a lot to get away with it though…also dumplings, oh and duck pancakes are phenomenal. So expensive though for what you get. Actually yeah duck pancakes. I have three answers and I’m sticking to them.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Yeah, my anxious brain always has something on the go. I’ve just locked off the first two episodes of a new LGBTQI+ series called ‘COMMITTED’ that we raised nearly 20k in crowdfunding to make. I’m looking for a producer if anyone has any advice on the next stages on getting things distributed…honestly COMMITTED is incredible, it’s my baby. I’m shooting a pilot episode of a new web-series I wrote called ‘Still or Sparkling’, which we’re shooting next Monday that I have a lot of prep work left to do. I’m also producing a short film named ‘Rapid’ which goes into production next month, which I’m collaborating on with artist Isabel Dickson for her directorial debut. We work together a lot and I’m very excited to see how that turns out. Then there’s a short film I have that’s in the early pre-production stages called ‘Triggered’ which I want to shoot a little later in the year. It’s about an identical twin dealing with the aftermath of the horrific choices his brother made. Should be very dark, I’m very excited about that one. On top of that, just working full time in reality TV and trying to keep the dream alive….as I’m writing this I’m wondering if maybe I should take a break sometime soon.

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