Strip at the Doris Duke Theatre!

Everyone has their story to tell from a trip to Vegas–America’s playground, and this particular one of Michael Jortner is bi-curiously interesting. Michael gives us more information about his Bisexual short to premiere here at HRFF.

Sunday, June 02 @ 8pm STRIP
Plays with AUGUST

Synopsis:  Brent, a recently divorced businessman in Las Vegas visits a straight nightclub, and he gets more than he gambled for when he meets blonde siren Brandi.  After hitting it off  -and several drinks later – Brandi invites Brent to her hotel suite.

Tell us why your film is titled “Strip”?

It’s a metaphor that works on several levels.  The film is set in Las Vegas so there’s the famous Strip there, where all the hotels and casinos are.  And there are a lot of strip clubs in Vegas, so we built that motif in there, along with an actual striptease that furthers the plot.  But it’s really about this character discovering who he is — and stripping off his mask, or layers of protection — and taking the biggest risk of his life.

There is no trailer for “Strip”so festival goers will need to go to the screening to see the steam and heat that is “Strip.”  What can you tease our followers with what they will be seeing in your film.

Well, STRIP, I have been told by people who have seen the film, is a “surprising story.”  It takes the viewer on a journey that is very revealing and sexual.  Several male audience members have told me the sex scene aroused them.  That made me happy.

What have you learned about directing a “progressive” threesome love scene?

I have learned that it is a real challenge!  The first thing a director has to do is make all the actors feel comfortable; they have to trust you or they will appear self-conscious.  Rehearsing fully clothed first, and then blocking well, help with that.  I also learned that, in terms of coverage, get as much of it as you can:  reaction shots, 2-shots, 3-shots.  I was also surprised at how I wanted to focus on each actor’s reactions, when I went into the shoot envisioning I would just focus on the lead actor’s.  You have to picture the end result, the edited film, and how the viewer can truly feel a part of the sexiest action of your film.

What was the hardest thing about shooting “Strip”?

Aside from feeling like you always need more production time – because you want more coverage – the hardest thing about shooting STRIP was a scene that ended up on the cutting room floor.  It was the first scene we shot and it involved the lead character and his two male best friends.  It read well on paper, but when we shot it, it just wasn’t coming across.  I wasn’t directing it well.  When I got into the editing room I realized I had a big problem.  And because it was the first scene in the film, I rewrote it to what it is now:  a short scene with the lead character’s wife, providing much-needed backstory to the rest of the film.

What was it like to premiere at the Palm Springs Int’l  FF? How was the film received?

It was an incredible experience because it is one of a handful of Oscar-qualifying festivals for short films.  I thought, at first, that we would be a gay film in the midst of non-gay content.  And that excited me; I think it’s important for non-gay audiences to see gay films.  But the laugh was on me as we were programmed into the most popular gay short films program of the week!  The house was sold out (probably about 500 seats) and the film was received very well.  It was after this screening men told me the sex scene “got them hard.”

Devon Odessa (My So Called Life- Sharon Cherski) stars in “Strip.”  How did she get involved and what was it like to work with her?

Our executive producer and lead actor, Scott Strassner, had worked with her over the years and he suggested she might be perfect to play Brandi.  So he connected the two of us and I met with her.  At first I wasn’t sure.  I envisioned the Brandi character a little younger.  But she convinced me.  She said, “I know how to play this character.  If I were still in my twenties, I couldn’t make these choices.  I wouldn’t know what they meant.”  Scott’s suggestion and Devon’s perspective were right on target.  It was a joy to work with her.  She’s a consummate professional and has this absolutely wonderful, natural quality I know audiences connect with when they see STRIP.  She doesn’t just play the role; she makes you feel that she really is Brandi.

How do you think the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival audience will react to watching “Strip”?

Well, I think they will be intrigued, surprised and ultimately satisfied.  It’s a film that asks the question:  Who do you really want to be?  Who are you, really?  And, hopefully, viewers will also like that little sex scene you keep asking me about!

What is the strangest/most interesting question you’ve gotten in a Q&A thus far for “Strip”?

It’s either, “What inspired you to write STRIP?” or “Were the actors really naked when you shot the sex scene?”

Sunday, June 2 @ 8pm STRIP
Plays with AUGUST

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