Friday, February 19, 2010

1 on 1 with Kirk Shannon-Butts

I recently got an opportunity to talk to up and coming film maker and fasionista Mr. Kirk Shannon-Butts who you may have heard of if you have gone to any pride events in the last 2 years and taken part in the film fest portion of pride you would have seen his new film "Blueprint" If you would like to order or view the trailer go to

1. Can you talk about the process of making Blueprint as far as the characters the storyline and the concept behind the movie?
Formulating Blueprint was very simple for me. My favorite films are all about gay men (Happy Together, Maurice, My Beautiful Laundrette) - yet none of them were about Black men. So after I graduated from film school, I moved to New York City and wrote Blueprint in two weeks. The characters, Keith and Nathan, are just two guys in New York City. Guys like me. Guys I want to be, guys I would want to date, fall in love with and may be marry - legal or not. The concept is simple just like the Keith and Nathan. Open to explore. The complexity in the story comes from the world around them and the choices Keith and Nathan have including the option of dating and expressing their desire for another man.

2. What is the state of Black Gay Cinema to you? We have had a handful of independent films and only one theatrical movie release with Patrik-Ian Polk Noah's Arc what needs to be done to finally see more of us on the silver screen?
Lee Daniels has placed a tremendous spotlight on Black and gay and more dark issues in the Black community. He is definitely a person who will attract and bring the media and press into the Black gay world. The state of Black gay cinema is burgeoning. It is where it needs to be at this moment in time. They are many short, documentary and feature Black gay filmmakers and themed films out there - we just have to seek them out and buy them. The bottom line is always sales - HOWEVER, the Black gay filmmakers are in a place where we can make diverse films because it is still new. I am making intelligent, worldly, youthful films that are beautiful and present gay life in a way that makes people think about what gay is.

3. You are currently in Paris writing the screenplay for James Earl Hardy's "The Day Eazy E Died" can you talk about that and why you choose to take this particular story on and turn it into a film? When Trevite Willis (Blueprint Producer) and I were starting out on the film festival trail - we sent James Earl Hardy a copy of Blueprint to get a quote. Never in a million year did we think Hardy would contact us and ask me if I would be interested in directing "The Day Eazy E Died." For me, I think it is important to present these "other" views of gay. Why must every gay film be the same? It doesn't. "Eazy E" is a great project very timely. It deals with HIV, single parenthood, parents not being accepting, the Black Church/religion and hip hop culture.

4. What do you think of today's fashion trends being a fashionista yourself and do you miss the fashion world since film writing to me is your focus now? Paris was the perfect place to come to write because I will get my fashion fix organically. My films will always present fashion trends, evoke style, detailed art direction, beautiful cinematography and eye catching casting (MEN). I believe in the very near future, all fashion will be moving on the internet and film. Hopefully some budding or established designer will see my work just as James Earl Hardy did and asked me to do internet content for them. Internet content is the new commercial. I did my first music video with singer Nhojj for Love from Blueprint. Love just screened at Sundance and is premiering on LOGO tonight. So music video and Internet features will be a great way to release and express my fashionista desires quickly. Films can take years to make.

5. Do you talk to the other gay film writers and do you guys give each other advice? you see a lot of friendships with the straight film writers is it the same with the black gay community?
When I left Southern California for New York City, I left my filmmaker network behind - hoping to link into some cool indie New York filmmaker community. I never located it.
When Blueprint premiered in London at the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, I had the opportunity to meet Patrik-Ian Polk, Maurice Jamal and Quincy LeNear and Deondray Gossett. It was great. I could tell everyone had so much going on - trying to get their projects off. I was new to the mix. I did not know any of them - only their work. Everyone was very pleasant and cool.

6. The achievements of Lee Daniels and Precious what are your thoughts on it?
Some filmmaker friends and I went to Cannes to show our students a few years ago and saw Lee Daniels on the Cannes' Croisette near the American Pavillon. He was very nice and responsive to our group of young Black filmmakers. It was refreshing. Lee Daniels and Precious are amazing. Now Hollywood knows that if you present Black audiences with quality, interesting material and excellent marketing we will turn up

7. Do you ever see a gay actor/actress/director winning an academy award?
Every year! They just aren't open about whom they are sleeping with! It's called being in the closet the antiquated and chic way of saying t DL.

8. What are some other projects you are working on?
The Pain Session - A romantic affair between an American (Black) man and Arab man in the days following September 11, 2001.

Come With Me - Two guys who spend the night together and discover they are actually attracted to each after the sex is over and the lights are on.

A Short While in Paris -- While I am in Paris I am trying to shoot a short about a young American (Black), Lance, who travels to Paris to be with his French lover, Pierre. However before he makes it, his lover, a journalist, is called away to Africa immediately. Pierre leaves everything behind for Lance, including his African housekeeper (no English) who takes care of Lance (very little French). Lance and the housekeeper start a friendship, which eventually leads to so much more than either could have expected.

9. What would your dream cast consist of and why?
Really would like to continue to work with some of the young actors I worked with in Blueprint. Blake Young-Fountain is a true professional, a graduate of NYU's Tisch. Damion Lee started out in Finding Forrester and is such a natural with an amazing screen presence. Rene Rosado is great with a boy-next-door quality. Derek Wong is so funny. My dream cast are actors who take their work and craft seriously and are not focused on the re carpet moments and being styled.

10. Who is Kirk Shannon-butts when you not writing or working on any projects?
Mainly Uncle Kirk these days as my neices and nephews are growing up. I have lots of nieces and nephews. The artwork in Blueprint is by Damani Washington - my nephew and a great painting. He went to SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design). I love to walk, ride my bike, go to the cinema Tuesday at 1:30 when no one else can. Eating ice cream. Listening to Sade, Lisa Stanfield, Lizz Wright, Ledisi, Stephanie Mills and dance music without a name.

11. What made you start wanting to get into the film business?
Not seeing Black gay images. I was lead into the industry because as I watched more and more gay themed films from ALL over the world and I was not seeing "me". I had to put "me" in cinema. Movies are so very powerful. It can change things in less than 2 hours. I want my family and the world to see me and not just the Black / gay stereotypes.

12. Who you your opinion are some of our new generation gay icons and why?
It should be people like you, Rod McCullum, Darian Aaron, GBM News, Gayte Keeper, Hoodsworld, Traveling Caravan - the very OUT and informative Black Gay new media who are presenting people like me to 12 year old gay and straight boys in girls ALL over the planet. It is so nice to have a gay Black media with ALL sorts of news about our world.

13.Some of our best authors book were suppose to be turn into films from E. Lynn Harris "Invisible Life" to "B Boy Blues" by James Earl Hardy to Lee Hayes' "Passion Mark" do you ever seeing any of these films ever making it to screen?
It is inevitable that Invisible Life will come to life on the silver screen. It is such a franchise type of film. It is going to generate so much money. It is perfect for right now. Blue Boy Blues is so perfect for the big screen. It is edgy, urban, raw, DL, the language, New York City backdrop and great characters with a cool love story. It has all the elements a director wants in a screenplay.

14. What other Book would you like to turn into a film?
The Fabulous Sylvester by Joshua Gamson
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
Bayard Rustin: The Troubles I've Seen: A Biography by Jervis Anderson
Lust Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn

GOOD TIMES -- It is not a book - but the television show Good Times with an out Michael Evans and fashionista Willona Woods.

15.You traveled all over the world is there anywhere you haven't been yet that you would like to go?
Yemen, Lebanon, Nigeria, Honduras, Belize, Uruguay and Columbia.

16. Do you ever think we will see an openly gay mainstream artist from the black community anytime soon?
Yes. Soon and very soon!

1 comment:

Kirk said...

Thanks for the support! Best. . .Kirk| DIR | Blueprint