I have known James Townsend for a few years now as an artist and photographer but I was recently introduced to another side of him, Filmmaker. I came across some information about a film he is trying to fund called “Throuple
” when I found a group he has on Facebook.
The concept of the “Throuple” is fascinating to me from a psychological standpoint because relationships have changed so much and continue to do so all the time. Traditional values may not work for some people while for others it is all they are comfortable with. Is there a right and wrong or does it depend on the individuals involved and the circumstances?
I was very happy to be able to interview James about it since this is the first time we have really gotten to talk in depth and I was interested to learn more about him as well as “Throuple”.
Q: Throuple was originally a 2007 project. Can you tell me a little about what happened that stalled it and why you decided to resurrect it?
JT: THROUPLE began in late 2007 as a small character drama centered on what attributes define, make and break a relationship. At the time, I had just wrapped production on another psychological-thriller, A SIREN IN THE DARK, and THROUPLE was to be a quick little project to stir some creative drive until a larger project would move forward. The original idea of THROUPLE had been there from the start. Some of the story was sparked from personal experiences with cheating boyfriends of the past and the conflict of having been in a long-term relationship previously with someone myself, but knowing I was still in love with someone else outside of things. While I had the basic plot in focus, there was still a lot to be explored by it. I wanted the film to be small, intimate and even claustrophobic, with its minimal locations and next-to-nothing list of characters… think Richard Linklater’s “TAPE”… or Roman Polanski’s “Carnage”– pieces that resulted in great tension and character breakdowns without much overall action…
In trying to bring the story full circle, my friend Caleb Carter got involved. We had a lot of similar tastes in film and in turn, our storytelling meshed well. With Caleb, as a co-writer, the film started taking a darker twist, allowing it to meander from reality to dream, present to past and future, in a more philosophical yet nightmarish way…
Originally we had very little budget for THROUPLE… We had cast and crew working for meal/credit and hopefully deferred pay. We were filming it on nonconsecutive days in our spare time when we were able to get everyone together based on their work schedules, etc. We were paying for everything needed from our own pockets. Needless to say, it was a difficult task and wore people thin on patience. We were having to cut a lot of corners due to certain agreements falling through with locations originally offered for free, having people simply not show up to help out as promised for various reasons etc. It got to the point that we actually built the recurring “dive-bar” in the story, in my living room, since the location we had planned to use backed out… THROUPLE was really pulling at our creative drive and making us utilize what we had on mere pennies.
We reached the point that we had about three days of filming left, and we found ourselves at a stand-still… People had left town for work or vacations, school had started back up again– I was moving to a new apartment, which became a huge obstacle, as 90% of the film took place in my current residence… With so many holes in our path, we decided to take a breather.
With everyone being so busy with conflicting schedules, it was difficult to get back on track but we knew it had to be done. We were so close to being finished. Several months passed and I wound up calling Caleb specifically about the film and we brainstormed on how we could make it work, being that we no longer had access to the original apartment, etc. We decided to just utilize what we had, establish in the story that the characters had moved or whatnot– implement some lines and a scene or two to warrant such changes… We were going to make it work. Caleb seemed energized and ready to go. I immediately started putting word out to those involved, so that we could schedule things out… It never panned out.
About a week or so later, in February 2009, I logged onto Facebook one morning as I always do and stumbled upon some posts… Caleb had passed away. Over the next few days, more would come forward about his death… he had taken his own life. I instantly lost interest in the film. We had lost one of our lead actors, and more importantly a good friend…
Over the years, THROUPLE, has come in and out of my mind. At some point we did try to finish it by pulling a David Lynch type trick and having characters change identity so that we could finish their roles with new actors. It was a disaster and I shelved the project feeling that it would be unfair on too many levels to pull such an antic.
For the past year or so, the film hadn’t really crossed my mind much. But, recently I found an original hardcopy of the script in a box I was going through. It had all of our handwritten notes, doodles, inside jokes, etc. scribbled on its pages. I sat down to read it, following along with the notes included. I just had this huge urge to make it all come to reality… with a new cast and a few rewrites and needed updates. I hope to move forward… to make the film from start to finish with the budget and attention it deserves… while being able to show some of the original footage, behind the scenes moments, etc. to shed light on the history of the project and bring it to a close properly… That strong urge do to get it produced and released feels a lot like Caleb yelling at me to simply do so!
Q: The concept of Throuple is about three people getting into a romantic relationship. Do you think that such a thing is possible without it getting complicated or someone getting hurt?
JT: Everyone is different on their ideas of love and relationships. I have known most people to believe that strictly one partner is the correct thing… Yet, others believe in open-relationships… And, I’ve even known some that believe in “sets” (whereas there are multiple partners all under one roof and everyone belongs to everyone). For me, I can’t say anything but one person at a time would work romantically. But, there are so many different forms of love and understanding when it comes to relationships, that some of these less common make-ups could definitely work better for others…
In THROUPLE you see these characters move forward with what seems to be one-on-one relationships… But, as the layers are pulled back, things are not quite what they seem. They sort of find themselves in this forced situation of “love” as they are unable to define what it is one or the other wants. There is a lot of compromise involved that leads to people getting hurt, going behind each others’ backs, manipulating events for their own attention, etc.
Every relationship has moments of hurt and jealousy and complication… Nothing is ever perfect. With THROUPLE, we see that from the one-on-one on into the “permanent threesome” (as some have called it) that occurs. However, how it pans out in the end– that is all up to the individual and their own personal beliefs and paths of love.
Q: Do you think the theme of the film is more controversial because it is about three homosexual men? Do you think it would be less so if it were two men and one woman or two women and one man?
JT: We tend to only really see these sort of “threesome” relationships when it comes to comedy films. Even then, it is usually a case of trying to keep “so and so” a secret from one another… I really can’t think of a film that has explored such subject matter in a dark psychological way as THROUPLE attempts to do.
As for all male… or two women and one man… or vice versa… Hate to say it, but society is still more accepting of such a plot or relationship device if it is a mix of man-woman.
THROUPLE would be controversial on any level though as it does explore relationships with more than one person involved, cheating, addiction, abuse, and some other dark and twisted things we shall keep as a surprise!
Q: Do you think we will ever see a day where art is not described as “gay themed”? Are we making strides in the direction where all films would be human stories?
JT: “Gay Themed” has basically become its own film genre. While there are so many facets to it– comedy, drama, horror and everything in between, it still seems that if you have gay characters or plot lines, a lot of people are still going to refer to it as “that gay movie”. I do think it is getting better though… the ‘gay themed’ tag doesnt seem to be as prevalent as it was a few years ago. Even despite all the critical and audience acclaim for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN the joke or reference of “that gay movie” was very strong… Today, you have films like THE NORMAL HEART sweeping the Emmy nominations and getting the same critical acclaim but the tag of “gay themed” has seemed to lesson. Perhaps people are starting to focus more on the actual storylines rather than just the sexuality of the characters.
I think as long as “gay themed” films focus on creating well rounded characters, rather than stereotypes, and allow themselves to tell stories that could easily be told with a straight cast as well, we break out of that box of categorization that we were put into. For so long, it seemed that the gay character always had to be the closeted or flamboyant guy, trying on his best girl friends shoes and delivering every line with sass. Films are getting away from that… There are more and more films where the gay character are real life, well-rounded, everyday representations… The gay characters are slowly but surely being written and portrayed not as “characters” but as believable, real life people…
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing Indie artists and projects today? Has it gotten easier as time has gone on and people have become more familiar with crowd-funding?
JT: Technology! The technological advancements have been amazing and yet at the same time, they have made the indie world of film so much more difficult on so many levels. As cameras and other equipment get smaller and more powerful, and even more inexpensive compared to years ago, it seems that anyone and everyone that has a camera is out there producing content. It has gotten very competitive because with so many positive attributes of today’s technological advancements, it is really easy to put together a web series, or get some friends together and make a film on limited funds, etc. The need to have huge trailers of equipment and large crews etc is diminishing in many levels for film. Another facet is distribution! DVD sales are far from being as successful as they were just a few short years ago. So many things are going digital and V.O.D.– people are not buying films in a tangible medium like they used to. So, profits are obviously down. And, with so many low budget films being made so quickly and easily, the options are much greater… Distributors are feeling the crunch too. Rather than invest to produce actual original content, they are relaying on pre-made films that they can scoop up from the festival circuit and license cheaply for distribution…
With crowd-funding, there seems to be an over saturation. Going onto social media, it seems everyone is crowdfunding for something these days. I admire the people that set out, do it and make it happen, for creative causes or things more important like health matters, etc. But, as crowdfunding becomes more and more popular, a lot of people are using it as a quick money maker and it is turning away a lot of people that have lost patience for it. For, now we have college kids funding their spring break vacations and people making $50,000 for raising funds for potato salad. It has become a joke, or sort of a competition in a way– like, what stupid idea can we do to make money?! It can be very frustrating to see some guy post a potato-salad joke and bring in endless cash… while you see struggling artists and people in even more important need, raking in a few pennies despite their drive, talent, and passion or overall need.
Q: Where can we find you, James Townsend, online?
JT: Oh, I am not hard to find. Simply google my name or “JTownsendPhotos” and I usually turn up a lot of pages…
Q: Where can we find out more information about Throuple and donate to the campaign?
Q: I know you have other projects going on and you are also into photography. Anything to share on those fronts?
JT: The most recent project was a horror-comedy entitled KISSING DARKNESS. I wrote and directed the film and it starred Sean Paul Lockhart and Ronnie Kroell. It is newly available on Amazon. I hope to have more information on its overall distribution/release soon!
Aside from that, I am also in preproduction for a comedic webseries entitled DOG HAUS (https://www.facebook.com/doghausseries ) . It is in association with LA Based clothing company WhiteyTighties.com and follows the antics of a gay couple that find themselves out of work unexpectedly. In a chain of comic events, they wind up launching a hot-dog company and things get even more complicated. It’s like THE ODD COUPLE meets 2 BROKE GIRLS! We are currently recasting a few roles and then hope to film our pilot and launch crowdfunding for the rest of the season, which we have planned at 10 episodes, within the next several weeks.