Kept Boy — a film that explores the complexities of being a ‘sugar daddy’
Director George Bamber discusses his personal connection to this story of intergenerational relationships
Filmmaker George Bamber brings us an adaptation of Robert Rodi’s novel Kept Boy.
Kept Boy tells the story of TV star Farleigh Knock and his relationship with younger boyfriend Dennis. When Farleigh’s attention appears to be drifting to new attractions, Dennis has to make a decision as to how far he is prepared to go to remain in Farleigh’s life, and what that relationship means to him.
It’s film that handles this relatively familiar scenario with intelligence, depth, and compassion for its characters.
We spoke with director George Bamber for a behind-the-scenes look at the film:
When did you first encounter the novel by Robert Rodi?
When my son Ethan was born, I took six years off to be a stay-at-home dad. When Ethan turned six, my husband and I were dropping him off at a brand-new summer day camp. Ethan jumped out of the car, ignoring my outstretched arms, and ran by me to a group of kids in the distance while yelling: ‘See ya losers!’ I turned to my husband, with tears in my eyes, who said to me: ‘Yeah, it’s time to get another job.’ So, I immediately starting reading gay novels to find my next film to direct. When I read Kept Boy I instantly related to that story of reinvention.
What was it about the novel that suggested to you that it would translate well into film?
Robert Rodi’s deft ability to create complex characters are what makes his books film-worthy. His work from this period all get their titles from gay stereotypes — Fag Hag, and Drag Queen. Yet his books are successful because his characters reflect the honesty of human relationships. As a minority culture, gay people have had the freedom to embrace a complexity of issues like monogamy and fidelity that straight people haven’t. As gay people merge into mainstream culture with the right to marry, I hope we don’t lose our minority cultural wisdom.
Have you had any personal experiences with intergenerational relationships?
Yes, in my 20-year marriage, we had a thruple relationship with a much younger man. It lasted a little more than a year. Because of his youth it was impossible to sustain, and it hurt all three of us very much when it ended. My friends were surprised when I said I didn’t regret it because I had grown so much from the experience. I realized that love and loss are connected and inevitable. Since the relationship occurred during Kept Boy’s script writing process, I was able to better portray the relationships between Farleigh, Dennis, and Jasper without judgement.
What was your process for adapting the novel for film?
I told our writer, David Ozanich, that he had to divorce himself from the novel, and tell the story he needed to tell. David later told me that he did that but was surprised how much he embraced the original structure. For fans of the novel, we had to change the B-storyline which focused on coming out. This was relevant in the 90s, but we needed something more relevant to today’s culture. So, instead, we focused on the theme of love. How do you know when you have it? And once you have it, how do you keep it?
Was it difficult to raise the funding required?
No. I have a set of very smart producers who know how to create a budget that is in-line with the realities of the LGBT marketplace. Ben, Haley, Laura and Corey were able to utilize all the latest technologies available to keep cost down. It’s an exciting time for LGBT content now that the distribution technology allows us to deliver content all over the world. We especially get very excited when we see people from traditionally non-LGBT friendly countries reaching us through social media platforms.
What was the production process like?
It took one year to secure the rights, then two years to secure a writer and have him complete the screenplay. Then, one year for production, and finally, one year for post-production. We shot the film in 16 days. Luckily, we were lucky to shoot in Colombia for two of those days. I’m so glad we were able to, because Colombia is a destination I recommend to everyone.
What was the casting process like?
I was very scared as this was the first time we did the entire casting electronically. Susanne Scheel, our casting director, is based in New York and I’m based in Los Angeles. I never auditioned anyone in person. We had over 1,000 submissions by video. Susanne did an amazing job narrowing down the field to a provocative select group. From there, I focused on honesty. Each of our cast members moved me. They each had the ability to make me fall in love with them, and that’s the connection I was looking for with this film.
What does the film have to say about love and relationships?
The film is about trusting love. A kept boy is a wonderful metaphor for love because how can you trust someone who is transactionally motivated? You can’t. It doesn’t make sense. But love doesn’t make sense, so, in the end, we must have faith and embrace the dichotomy.
What sort of response have you had so far to the film?
The response to the film is very polarized. Young gay men can only see the context, the trope of being kept. Mature men understand and feel the subtext, the complexity and richness of love. That is the audience I’m addressing.
What do you hope that people feel when watching the film?
I want people to feel the tragedy of love as well as the hope of love. It is a savory taste. I find too many people become addicted to the sweetness of Instagram or Facebook, those perfect pictures of instant ideal relationships. I am the ‘gay gap’ generation. I came out during a time when I could be arrested for having sex with those I loved. I’ve lived to see my love sanctified by the Federal Government through marriage. Savory may not be a facile flavor, but it nourishes and sustains.