Iowa Arts Council
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Iowa Arts Council

Inside “The Film Lounge”: Outed Web Series

Well, hello there. And welcome (back) to “The Film Lounge.”

If you’re returning, skip right down to our interview with filmmaker Joseph Alan Smith. If you’re new, here’s what you need to know first:

“The Film Lounge” is a new TV series that features a sampling of short films by Iowa filmmakers. It’s produced by Iowa Public Television in partnership with the Iowa Arts Council and Produce Iowa, the state’s media-production office, and its first episode airs at 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12.

Three preview parties are set for Des Moines, Iowa City and Sioux City in the week leading up to the premiere.

If you’re jumping in just now, feel free to read our earlier blog posts about Sam Kessie, Paul Berge, Ian Carstens and Josh Thorud. We’ll meet some others in the next few weeks.

But right now, let’s focus on Joseph Alan Smith of Marion, who graduated with a theater degree from Iowa State in August.

His contribution to “The Film Lounge” is part of a work-in-progress web series called “Outed,” a story about a fictional pair of high school seniors in a closeted relationship. Their secret gets revealed, as these things do, when a photo goes public, forcing them to decide whether to love each other openly or step further into the closet.

Smith’s previous work includes a musical he wrote called “Holloway,” based on the highly publicized disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway during a trip to Aruba in 2005. The musical premiered last summer in New York and helped Smith kickstart his career.

So how did “Outed” get started?
When I was in New York, I got this really great piece of advice from Adam Ben-David (the associate music director for “The Book of Mormon”). He told me, “The best thing you can do is write for you.”

So I thought, what could I do that would be more tailored for me? I took a situation that I went through in high school and loosely based “Outed” on it.

I knew I wanted it to be a web series with short episodes — from 5 to 13 minutes apiece — so I wrote a few episodes and then applied for an Iowa Arts Council grant, which somehow I was actually got. And then I thought, “Holy crap! Now I have to actually do this thing.”

How is production coming along?
We’ve already shot four episodes in Des Moines — at Gray’s Lake and some houses and a school and the Blazing Saddle (a gay bar in the East Village), which is also our sponsor. We’re planning to shoot the last six episodes of the first season in the spring and then launch the series this summer.

How does the web series work?
We’re still figuring out which streaming platform to use, but eventually people will be able to download the whole thing pretty easily. The best way to find out how and follow our progress is on Facebook or our other social media channels, like Twitter or Instagram.

What do you hope viewers take away from the show?
The story is about these two high school seniors who desperately love each other, but can’t be out together for various reasons. But as I started writing it, I realized it’s much more universal than that. The story is really about these people who are trying to discover who they are in the moment.
We all have to reinvent ourselves when we hit different phases of our lives. It’s a continuous process, but it’s all about living life to the fullest.

What other projects are you working on right now?
I’m continuing to re-write “Holloway,” plus a couple of pilots for two other web series. I’m also writing a script for a short film called “Coffee,” about two women — one’s a lawyer and the other is sort of a bohemian — and they get an apartment together. After this chance encounter one night they have to figure out the next morning, over coffee, what it all means and how they’re going to move forward.

Would you change anything about Iowa’s film scene?
Some of the locations are pretty sparse, and people are reluctant sometimes to make them available. There’s definitely a collaborative spirit, but I think it could be stronger.

Do you think you’ll stay in Iowa or move out?
I’ll always have ties to Iowa and will always be creating here, but I can definitely see myself moving to New York, where there’s a happy balance between television and film and theater. But with this kind of work, I could literally move anywhere.



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