I first became aware of Rosser Goodman through Leo Garcia at Highways Performance Space. He was marveling at the job she did producing and directing Holding Trevor under the typically tight budgets of independent gay films. Rosser’s early career reminded me that it didn’t take a gay man to dive into the dating scene and psychology of single gay men. Rosser’s curiosity about the human condition transcended the specifics of identity and entered the universal challenge of finding love…in Los Angeles. We met through mutual friends and circled closer. She was kind enough to share some of her experience in putting together and directing feature films, hard-earned wisdom much appreciated. Although her pragmatic advice was invaluable, I especially appreciated Rosser’s insight with actors, simultaneously encouraging them and challenging them to find another gear.
Hunter: Where do you usually start when making a film? With a character in conflict? With an idea? An image? An idea of one scene? An ending? A genre?
Rosser: It depends on if I am writing the script or not. If it’s a script I have written it could start from an image or an idea. When I am compelled to write an original script, it’s usually because I have been inspired and I have a deep passion to get it written out as soon as possible. That then, of course, evolves into a story. So, once I have written the script, I am coming from a place of story and character.
If I am directing a screenplay by another writer, I am always coming from story first. I think a lot of people may come from genre… My thought is that if I were to come from that first, I could lose nuances of the story and the characters’ reactions. I would hate to do that, so I believe truly coming from story will enhance the genre even more.
Hunter: You’ve made a number of contributions to queer cinema, including Holding Trevor and Love or Whatever. Has directing LGBT films taught you anything you didn’t already know about the gay experience?
Rosser: It’s absolutely my gay experience that has informed my making LGBTQ cinema actually. It troubled me a lot to see queer film after queer film about unrequited love and/or just coming out stories. Of course, those can be part of the queer experience, but I felt it was imperative to reset that narrative and present our community as just real people already successfully engrossed in their human life experiences. I think one of the commonalities in all of the queer films I have made is each has a the world which simply exists. It’s comfortable in its own skin and I think that’s where a lot of LGBTQ content is landing today.
I will say that directing two feature films where the two male leads fall in love did teach me a thing or two about the choreography of gay male sex. But, that’s another story.
Hunter: A lot of filmmakers are talking about just how much content is now available online and everywhere. With that kind of competition, what is your advice to filmmakers in terms of distribution?
Rosser: Well, the good news is the bad news… unless you are a filmmaker making a film that already has distribution in place and that distributor is working closely with you from the earliest stages of production on marketing and social media, your best bet truly now is self-distribution. There ARE so many outlets and support services that today we can self-distribute. Rather than handing over all world rights to just one distributor, groveling for some kind of MG and then hoping for the best… the indie filmmaker can capitalize and monetize almost every aspect of not just the finished film, but extras, interviews, transmedia, lunches with the cast, etc. all based on what kind of following the project built. In terms of the film itself, the filmmaker can parcel off territories as well as platforms.
Hunter: For our actors, what makes you trust an actor? What makes you distrust an actor
Rosser: Another great question… I guess the biggest way an actor gains my trust is simply through their talent and their range. Next, how much do they trust themselves and the risks they take in choices for their character. And, I LOVE working with actors! For me it’s the most organic part of the filmmaking process. Basically, if I have cast you in a role, it’s because I already trust your talent and your range. I know that you have the goods already in you and by working together we just get to have even more fun with process from fine tuning a performance to upping the stakes and taking more risks.
The quickest way to lose my trust is by lying. I always love the truth.
Hunter: You’ve gone back and forth between directing shorts and features. Other than the obvious – that there’s a different time commitment – how do you approach the requirements of short form vs features?
Rosser: Well, before directing my first feature film, I had done many short films which won some awards and had fantastic festival runs. So, what was so fascinating for me in the feature process was the story arc. Unlike most shorts where there is kind of a one-two punch, it lands and the ideal is to leave the audience wanting more. Telling a feature story required a type of story stamina that I found I loved creating. It’s almost as if each scene is its own short film. Then it’s like serializing those scenes into a story string that builds on itself and builds in anticipation with big finish ending. I love it.
Hunter: I’m always curious why people name their companies what they name them. So…why Circle Content? What’s the idea behind that?
Rosser: For a long time, my company was named KGB FILMS. Then in 2014, I was co-producing a documentary feature about the Syrian Civil War and someone brought up a concern about Putin, etc. and the company name. So I thought it would be a good time to change and modernize the name. My wife and I love circles. To us they represent inclusion, a whole and coming full circle. Everything that the world watches and makes these days no longer fall into either film or T.V. It’s ALL content now. Filmmakers and production companies are actually content creators. So, Circle Content was born.
Hunter: What are you working on now and how is it going?
Rosser: Currently, I am pitching my script mongoose8 which is a super natural love story between two women separated by death and connected by obsession. It’s going very well. Last week, two production companies asked to read it and one manager. I also just submitted it to Film Independent’s Screenwriting Lab.
I am also striving to break into directing television. I have applied to a few network directing programs like ABC/Disney. I am super excited to see that The L-Word coming back to Showtime! I hope to get to direct an episode of it. On the side, I am always producing commercials or films.
Hunter: Keeping my fingers crossed for you! I’d love to see your take on that reboot.
You can find Rosser Goodman on social media on Facebook, Twitter (@RosserGoodman), Instagram (@RosserGoodman) LinkedIn, and IMDb. Her film Love or Whatever is on Hulu, Amazon, Netflix DVD and iTunes and Holding Trevor can be seen on Amazon, Netflix DVD and iTunes. Her recent short film [in]visible can be found on Facebook.
Hunter Lee Hughes is an actor-filmmaker living and working in Los Angeles and founder of the open source production company Fatelink.