In the second episode of “The Outs,” a web series, Scruffy, played by Tommy Heleringer, has just met Jack, played by Hunter Canning. They first ran into each other outside a Williamsburg gay bar and have returned to Scruffy’s nearby apartment.
Their conversation flows easily from jokes to serious revelations to serious revelations delivered jokingly. Scruffy tells Jack about an injury he suffered at school in upstate New York. He was on a date with a dancer and the two of them were accosted by three men calling them faggots. The men ran off. That “killed the mood,” as Jack put it, and Scruffy and the dancer went their separate ways. With the previous moments’ incident still on his mind, Scruffy was hit by two motorcycles as he crossed the street.
Were the motorcyclists the same men who had earlier used the anti-gay slurs? Was this a gay-bashing?
Scruffy does not connect the two events. If Jack does, he does not say so. Scruffy allows Jack to stay the night if he promises “not to get fresh.” Later, Jack is awake staring at the ceiling. Scruffy is sleeping and he begins to make noises and says, “Cut it out.” Up to that point, Jack seems to be an unfeeling and selfish young man, but he reaches over and wraps his arm around Scruffy.
Writers of lesser skill and discipline would probably have made the incident an obvious anti-gay assault to play on the feelings of the audience. But Sasha Winters and Adam Goldman, who write, direct, and act in “The Outs,” chose to make it ambiguous. The moment reveals that Jack is capable of compassion, but only with a person who happens to be unaware of Jack’s feelings.
At a time when gay groups, television programs, and movies represent gay men and lesbians almost exclusively as married with children or coupled with children and hoping to get married, the series is a refreshing and authentic story about Jack and his ex, Mitchell, played by Goldman, and Mitchell’s straight female friend Oona, played by Winters.
“From actually around the world... people have told me that it speaks to them in a way that nothing else does,” Goldman told Gay City News. Not that “The Outs” is trying to make a point.
“For us, it’s about focusing on the content,” Goldman said. “We’re not trying to generalize.”
In “The Outs,” Jack uses an unnamed website to hook up with other men for one-time sexual encounters, and he also begins a relationship with Scruffy. Mitchell uses a “dating site,” as Oona calls it, but Jack unintentionally ruins his one date with some smart phone trickery. Oona temporarily spoils her romantic chances when she has Mitchell pretend to be her boyfriend at a party and he plays the role too well.
The series, which is posted on Vimeo, has won plaudits on out.com, Towleroad, and Queerty, among other websites. Commenters on Vimeo and other sites have consistently praised it.
By the end of this year, and because “good stories have endings,” Goldman said, “The Outs” will call it quits after six episodes and a Hanukkah special. The fourth episode will be posted by the end of July. The first three range from roughly 12 minutes long to more than 22 minutes. Collectively, the three episodes have been played about 100,000 times.
“The Outs” also shows the changed media landscape. The series was funded on kickstarter.com. Goldman raised about $22,000 and had roughly $20,000 left over after the arts funding site took its cut. That cash pays for equipment and space rental. The actors work for free. With the successful fundraising, Goldman is not concerned with other ways to fund the project, such as putting it on a credit card.
“Fortunately, we ended up with enough money, we don’t have to worry about it,” he said.
The technology to shoot and edit the series has become easy to use and inexpensive. “The Outs” is shot in high definition digital format, not film, and Goldman and his director of photography edit the series on a MacBook Pro using Final Cut Pro.
In addition to the actors and crew, Goldman has recruited other talented contributors. Much of the music is original and performed by Brooklyn musicians. There are links to the songs on bandcamp.com, a music sales site, from theouts.tv.
In Goldman’s view, “The Outs” meets a demand. By way of illustration, he said that lesbian and gay people do not get their “meet cute” in popular entertainment. A “meet cute” is a writer’s term for a “cutesy initial meeting between two characters,” Goldman explained.
Then, after asking a reporter to name his favorite gay show and getting no answer, Goldman said, “I think there needs to be something to fill that void.”