Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Adam Baran is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, writer and curator. His most recent film Jackpot recently won Best Short Film at the 2013 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and was shortlisted for the 2013 Iris Festival Prize. Jackpot is based on a feature script of the same name that was selected for the Outfest Screenwriting Lab in 2010. Adam has also written for Hunting Season and was a contributing editor of Butt magazine for many years. Adam and filmmaker Ira Sachs also curate and host Queer/Art/Film, a monthly NYC-based screening series at the IFC Center which invites queer artists from various backgrounds to present films that influenced their artistic practice.

Adam took a moment to talk with us at Big Shoe Diaries about the moving short he made.  It has an interesting relevance to Big Shoe Diaries in that one of the main characters is a gay porn star.  Watch the film embedded here and read our brief interview.

BSD: Tell us about the inspiration behind JACKPOT.

AB: I never had sex dreams with actual people in them, instead as a kid I always dreamed of finding a huge stash of porn. I was looking for something to write a film about and one morning I woke up after one of these dreams, and realized it was the perfect set up for a kid's adventure film. A boy finds a huge stash of porn but faces obstacles trying to get it home before anyone finds out. The Odyssey or The Old Man and the Sea with gay porn. For kids. I wrote it as a feature film, and then made a short version to garner interest in the feature version, which was workshopped in the Outfest Screenwriting Lab.
BSD: How long did it take to make the film, beginning to end?  Where has it shown?

AB: It took me about 8 months from writing, to doing a Kickstarter, to shooting, editing, and doing all the post-production on the film. It premiered at Outfest in 2012 and has gone on to screen at festivals everywhere from San Francisco to Mumbai to Reykjavik to Miami, where it won Best Short Film at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

BSD: Was it difficult finding the main actor and the porn star featured in the film?

AB: It was actually difficult finding both parts because it needed to be an underage actor, and many parents didn't think it was acceptable material. Also sometimes the kids auditioning themselves would have second thoughts and decide they didn't want to read for it. But we were working with a really great casting director named Henry Russell Bergstein, and he helped us find the lead actor Ethan Navarro who really stood out immediately. The imaginary porn star was a hard part to cast because we wanted someone with a convincing 90's porn star look and that could have meant several things. Adam Fleming, who is an actor well known for his work both on Broadway, and for a very famous gay short film called Dare, was a choice I was initially resistant to. But he had a great reading and I saw how he could fit the kind of faded Ryan Idol look of the porn stars on the backs of many of my favorite porn rags. It was great working with both of them.

BSD: Did you run into any problems working with young actors on a project that involved some fairly direct displays of homosexual desire?

AB: Not really, the young actors were all really game for everything. I think it meant so much to all of them to work on a project like this, they all really gave everything they had. 

BSD: What about the elements of bullying?  Was that difficult to write/direct?

AB: It always is difficult for me to write - have done it in another short as well, but it's something I really experienced quite a lot of, so while it's difficult, yes, in another way it's easy. What was really weird was shooting the main bullying scene in the parking lot where I had been bullied myself and that sense of powerlessness and confusion really bubbled up. Definitely had to pause for a few minutes during that scene and think about what it all meant that I was doing that. 

BSD: What new projects are you working on?

AB: I just finished directing another project that's inspired by erotica - but this time more of the late 60's early 70's variety - films by Kenneth Anger, Wakefield Poole, Jacques Scandalari, and more. It's a music video for the indie band Holopaw for their song "Dirty Boots (He Don't)". It's about a gang of imaginary Brooklyn biker boys who wake in the afternoon, feast, and go out to a dark sex club where they enjoy themselves. Peter Berlin recorded narration for the beginning of the video and the Toronto Tumblr exhibitionist genius A Bearded Boy is the star.  It's a dark weird video and I think people are going to love it when it premieres in a few weeks. I'm also still working on finding money for the feature version of Jackpot, and a hybrid documentary about a good friend of mine who grew up in the town where the show Twin Peaks was filmed. It's a strange project about how we construct fictional worlds for ourselves out of the pieces of media and cinema that we take in, which is sort of similar to Jackpot.


  1. Great interview. I hope the feature gets made. It totally took me back to years of furtive Playgirl purchases at the local mall, and one time in NYC where I actually pulled a porn mag out of a trash can that I'd scouted earlier in the day. Good times.

  2. no bullying here, but the hunt for glimpses of male erotica and porn - how i know that well. something you (almost never) can't experience as a teen (in the Western countries) any more. sad? or liberating?

  3. Many years ago, I thought I would "stop being gay" by throwing out all my gay porn. SO MANY magazines and books... all tossed into a dumpster behind a movie theater. I've often wondered if someone ever stumbled across them and gave them a new home...