Out gay cinematographer Matt Lynn usually works behind the camera. He lensed the fabulous web series “The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo” as well as various queer-themed short films and series. But his latest effort, Jorge Ameer’s “Oasis,” puts him in front of and behind the camera.
Lynn stars in the film — and worked as the director of photography (DP).
In a recent Skype interview, Lynn explained, “I originally applied to be the director of photography for the film, but Jorge [Ameer, the director] asked me to come in and do a reading. He liked my performance and how I looked for the character, and we talked about me being the DP as well.”
The low-budget bromantic drama “Oasis” has the married Andrew (Lynn) arriving in Panama City to reconnect — perhaps sexually — with his friend Oliver (Cesar De Fuentes). What appealed to Lynn about playing Andrew was his struggle of living as a straight guy while hiding in the closet.
“I connected with him. I used to be a Southern Baptist music minister, and I was in the closet for a while,” he explained. “Andrew has desires, but he’s mostly a person with these walls. He doesn’t want to commit to things. He was trying to protect himself. It’s about his outward desire of men and his interior struggle.”
What Lynn appreciated about the film is that writer/ director Ameer’s perspective provides “an interesting commentary on what is masculine or manly. The film is not apologizing for these guys. We don’t comment on them being gay or not gay. There are more layers to them. They are not tropes.”
The actor talked about how his own coming out informed his portrayal of Andrew.
“I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church,” Lynn said. “I went to gay-straight therapy. But on the inside I had these feelings, and deep inside I had a moral conflict: Do I believe what I feel or what a book says? I made a choice and never regretted it.”
Applying that thinking to the character he plays, Lynn observed, “Andrew doesn’t understand who he is, and he can’t grapple with it. Who he is on the inside hasn’t connected with who he is on the outside.”
The actors developed their sexual tension in rehearsals. One of the questions Lynn considered was “What is the relationship between Andrew and Oliver?” The men obviously have a connection, but can their friendship and their secret past blossom into romance or are there other factors coming between them?
There is a real sexual frisson between the guys, which comes to light especially during an intimate hotel room encounter when a drunken, naked Andrew begs Oliver for a backrub one night. What transpires the following day forces the characters (and the audience) to reconsider the motivations of the characters.
When asked about the hotel room scene with Oliver literally drooling on Andrew’s ass, Lynn demurred in his response, saying he “won’t comment on my personal life.” But he was then completely candid in discussing his full-frontal nudity in the film.
“Maybe because I was so in the closet when I was younger, I don’t have a problem with my body,” he said. “I can be an ambassador to the world and show my body and that I have no shame about who I am physically. After we shot it, I did realize my penis will be visible in a 40-foot screen in New York and Los Angeles for lots of people to see. But I don’t have a problem with that.”
Lynn’s comfort level may also stem from the fact that he is a photographer by trade. He started taking photos back when he was doing his ministry work. At age 23, when he came out, lost his job, his family, and was questioning his future, he pursued photography and filmmaking at Full Sail University in Florida. That led to him being accepted at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and making a living shooting photos and films.
Currently, Lynn is shopping around a new series he created and wrote called “Triads” about three gay men in a polyamorous relationship. His purpose in making the series, he explained, is not just to explore the emotional swings, struggles, and trust issues of being in love with two people but also because, “I want to elevate gay content. I want to prove a point. I want to make a show that an audience finds a connection with. It’s a drama that doesn’t apologize or water down what it is.”
In Lynn’s view, the effort is, in part, about broadening the reach of queer cinema.
“Gay content is a lot like Christian content — there is a devoted audience that excuses the shortcomings of the quality because we made the content and we like the message and what it’s saying,” he said. “We are much more forgiving. We do work harder and struggle more. I fully believe the way the industry is going you have to build a brand and have a following to create content. There’s somewhere between by/ for/ about the community and crossover into mainstream. There are so many life experiences and stories that straight people can connect with gay culture. I’d love to create that bridge.”
Director Jorge Ameer hosts Q&As after the 4 p.m. show on November 10 and the 7 p.m. show on November 12.
OASIS | Directed by Jorge Ameer | Hollywood Independents | Opens Nov. 10 | Regal E-Walk, 247 W. 42nd St. | regmovies.com