Filmmakers preview Out On Film opening night

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When Jonathan Lisecki made his popular short film “Gayby” back in 2009, the director thought work on the project was over. He was wrong. He’s now made a feature film version that opens gay Atlanta’s 25th anniversary LGBT film festival on Thursday with the director in attendance.

The comic feature (video above) is just one of the festival’s headliner screenings. It re-teams Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas, who starred in the short, as best friends Jenn and Matt – a straight woman and her gay best friend – living in New York. They made a pact to have a child together a long time ago, and now she is ready.

Jenn’s only caveat is that she wants it done the old fashioned way – no turkey basters for her! Their attempts are awkward, especially as both are handling their own love lives. After a bad relationship, Matt has started to date single parent Scott, played by Mike Doyle of “Oz.”

The short played at more than 100 film festivals, including the Atlanta Film Festival in 2010. Lisecki was convinced to turn it into a full-length film by former Atlantan Anne Hubbell and Amy Hobby, who became producers of the film.

Besides directing and writing the script, Lisecki also stars as scene-stealing Nelson, the quipping, bear wannabe friend of Matt.

“Nelson is a character, an extreme version of someone I can be,” he says. “I am not like that 24/7, constantly quippy. I would not have my boyfriend if I did.”

Lisecki admits that he has known lots of people like Nelson, however, who “grow a beard” and all of a sudden want to try out bear-dom. “It’s a cultural thing I wanted to acknowledge,” he says.

Not only is Hubbell a former Atlantan, but she was involved with the Atlanta Film Festival, coordinated Out On Film and actually was responsible for naming it. She visits often since her mother lives in Athens. She has been pleased with the reaction to the film and especially proud at how Lisecki fleshed it out and “didn’t just rehash it.” Hubbell will be present at Thursday’s screening as well.

Don’t touch that dial

If you’re not going to the Out On Film Opening Night Afterparty at W Midtown’s Spice Market, stick around the theater for the extreme sexual situations of “Fourplay” (video trailer below). It’s a quartet of short films by Kyle Henry, and like Lisecki with “Gayby,” the director will also attend his festival screening.

With one male and one female writer by Henry’s side for the project, “Fourplay” pulls from their personal experiences for some challenging, and graphic, material.

“We all have situations that are personal and life changing, and there may be some shame around them,” Henry says. “The challenge for our writers was to pull from personal experiences or people they know to come up with the stories.

“San Francisco” depicts a cross dressing sex worker trying to help a quadriplegic man feel vital and stars former Atlantan Paul Soileau. ”Austin” finds a straight couple fighting over whether they should conceive. In “Skokie,” a closeted lesbian falls for her minister’s wife but finds an unexpected substitute. In perhaps the most noted of the four, “Tampa,” a gay man goes into a public bathroom and is shamed as another man at a stall laughs at his small endowment. The latter short played at both the Cannes Film Festival and Sundance, but the sequence is not for the timid.

Georgia’s own Michael Stipe of R.E.M. was an associate producer of “Fourplay,” and Henry feels fortunate to have received the stamp of approval.

“Every year [Stipe] and his filmmaking partner Jim McKay decide to fund projects they believe in, that they know may have trouble getting funded, and this was one,” Henry says.

“Gayby” screens at 7:30 p.m. as the Opening Night Centerpiece of Out On Film on Thursday, Oct. 4, at Midtown Art Cinema, followed by an after party at W Atlanta Midtown. “Fourplay” screens at 9:40 p.m. the same night. Flip through the week-long festival guide.

Jim Farmer is festival director of Out On Film

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