Art imitates life: Mason students’ films inspired by real themes


By Hailey Bullis, Staff Writer

For many, movies are a way to explore new worlds and experience different lives. Perhaps more importantly, movies are also a way to parallel real life and the hardships people face in their everyday lives. For their senior capstone projects for Film and Video studies (FAVS), Julian Nguyen and Logan Brown are creating stories that do just that.

Logan Brown: The Gay Club

The movie “The Gay Club” is a true story. Logan Brown, senior, and is based off a girl from her hometown in Georgia, named Hailey.

The main character, Hailey, is a lesbian from a conservative small town and is trying to create a club called the Gay-Straight Alliance in an effort to create a safe haven for other kids in her hometown. However, for a year the school’s administration does not allow her to create the club. Once they do get the club started, the movie becomes about the community backlash.

Brown’s original idea was a documentary on why kids leave small towns

“I ended meeting Hailey and she ended up telling me about the Gay-Straight Alliance and I knew right away that that story, Hailey’s story, needed to be what I make my movie about instead of what the doc was originally about,” continued Brown, “Hailey’s story really resonated with me because I’m gay and she’s from my hometown and I saw what she was doing in the community and it was just something that needed to be told.”

What makes Brown’s movie and Hailey’s story unique is that it is based in a rural, small town, whereas most movies featuring LGBTQ+ individuals are based in the suburbs or the city says Brown. This film is different in the way it chooses to not include romance, death or coming out says Brown. The film focuses on community acceptance rather self-acceptance.

“On the third day of shooting I got a phone call from real life Hailey’s mom, who I’ve only talked to three or four times before, she called me, and she was crying and I was like, ‘Oh hi, what’s up’ and she said, ‘I just want to say like thank you so much for doing this. I’m seeing your Facebook page and what you’re doing is absolutely amazing and I can’t believe how accurate you’re getting everything’ and I was just like, ‘Oh thank you, that means so much.’ and to have the mother of Hailey call me like that and just be so thankful for sharing her daughters story just meant a lot to me,” said Brown.

The budget for “The Gay Club” was around $2,000 after Brown did a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of $4,500. So far, however, production has spent roughly $3000 according to Brown. The film also received a camera from Sony for free after Jamie Mahon was given a grant with them. Brown worked very closely with the Hailey the film is based off and her co-writer Ryan Elliot, along with many others to create this film.

Both Nguyen and Brown’s films will be shown at Mason’s end of the year film festival on May 6.

Julian Nguyen: In Undertow

In a story created from personal experience, Julian Nguyen, senior, is making a movie called, “In Undertow,” a story in which the main characters, Teddy and Bobby are going through an “incredibly sad breakup,” as Nguyen describes it. Nguyen says he wrote the film to get closure from experiences in his own life.

The male main character, Teddy, is a hopeless romantic who wants the traditional life of getting a house, settling down and having kids. The core of his character, according to Nguyen, is that he wants to be with someone else.

However, Teddy is also not a redeemable character.

“I sent the script off while I was writing it to a set of different readers who would give me their opinions on stuff and one of the things I got back from one of my readers in the final draft is that he said it resonated emotionally with him, but more specifically he commented on how uncomfortable it was that he related so much to the male character, because he’s not a very redeemable character in the story,” said Nguyen. The female main character, Bobby, is more impulsive and passionate than Teddy, who wants to do her thing.

As the film progresses, Teddy and Bobby begin to clash more and more as they reach the main conflict of the film.

“I think if there’s one thing that I’d like people to take away from the film its that I’d like people to try to be more introspective when looking at the film. I’m not trying to push some kind of agenda or give some kind of grandiose idea about love or the nature of romance. It’s supposed to be about how you think about yourself and the kind of roles we play with each other,” said Nguyen.

“In Undertow” had a budget of about $740 which was raised on Currently, the film has not gone over budget and any remaining money will go to putting the film into festivals. The film was written by Nguyen and recent graduate Tiana Young.

Both Nguyen and Brown’s films will be shown at Mason’s end of the year film festival on May 6.