Charlie Vaughn :: His ’Vampire Boys’ are Gay At First Bite
Filmmaker Charlie Vaughn has brought us another unconventional story about gay life with Vampire Boys, his soon-to-be-released film from Ariztical Entertainment .
Capitalizing on the eroticism in the legend of vampires, Vaughn has made a gay coming out film-of-sorts that combines old myths with contemporary gay themes. But stories with gay-related issues are not foreign to Vaughn, who has previously made film shorts and documentaries on gay life. Vampire Boys marks his first feature film.
As Charlie and I chatted about modern day sensual film with a gay twist on the Dracula tale, we visited gay themed filmmaking in general, going direct to DVD vs. theater runs, and making films gay people want to see.
A coming out story (with fangs)
BeBe Sweetbriar: Why don’t you tell me and my readers a little bit about your first feature film Vampire Boys?
Charlie Vaughn: Sure, the plot for Vampire Boys, the first thing that struck me when I read the script was it was a coming out story. And actually a very modern coming out story where the characters that happen to be going through this just happen to be vampires. What’s remarkable about the script is the word "gay" is nowhere in the script. And when Jasin, the lead vampire, who is supposed to find the chosen one, a mortal, he is to spend eternity with, he’s all set to spend eternity a college girl named Tara. Then he meets a new guy at the college named Caleb and decides there is an instant connection and Caleb is the one.
Now what was remarkable is that as a modern day coming out story, when he (Jasin) tells his vampire brood that he’s not gonna go with this girl (Tara) but with this guy (Caleb), they weren’t blown away with oh, so are you saying that you are gay? They just want him to pick somebody and be happy because if he doesn’t pick somebody the brood will perish. In reading the script I thought that was a real fresh approach to the coming out story, because I think the heyday of the coming out story as gay cinema goes are kind of behind us. That was a relevant issue in the 90s and early 2000s. Now with shows like Gle" coming out for many people is not as scary as it used to be. Coming out is always a challenge. I’m not trying to downplay the coming out process. I just think we’re in a different world than we were in 1995 when I came out.
BeBe Sweetbriar: How did you come upon the screenplay because I know you didn’t write it?
Charlie Vaughn: How I got approached to do Vampire Boys is there is a producer named David Sterling, who has close to 90 or more sci-fi movies, he was talking to Michael Shoel, the producer of the Eating Out films, about doing a gay vampire story and Michael got interested in the project. David went to one of his screenwriters named Jeremiah Campbell and asked Jeremiah to write this gay vampire movie. Originally my friend was approached to direct the movie, but my friend then said why don’t you approach Charlie to direct this, it is more his type of movie. And I jumped at the chance to direct my first feature. And I like the fact that Michael Shoel’s company Ariztical is a gay owned and gay run company that promotes gay themed films and gay made films. I don’t want to work in an environment that is exclusively gay, but who better to handle a gay themed movie than gay filmmakers?
Telling different stories
BeBe Sweetbriar: You say you don’t want to work in an exclusively gay environment, however, the work you have done thus far have all been gay themed, correct?
Charlie Vaughn: Yes. One of the things is that I am of the opinion if you’re not seeing the type of movie you want to see, then make the type of movie you want to see. And I think gay audiences, for many years, have not seen ourselves represented in cinema the way we would like to see ourselves represented. So as a filmmaker when given the opportunity to represent gay characters, I would jump at the chance to offer something a little bit different maybe than what we have previously seen.
I grew up in a church family, and I also grew up gay. So my first short film was a gay Christian musical called Flight to Sinai. And when I first heard of that movie being made, I thought, ’oh my gosh, give me the opportunity to make this story into a film because I’ve lived it.’ This is me. I feel very passionate and qualified to bring this story to the screen. And in my documentaries, I did one on gay, lesbian and transgendered elders (Old Age Is No Place For Sissies) when I was living in San Francisco.
That was more an opportunity to bring an often unheard or unseen part of the population to light. One of the things I will say that is thematic in a number of films I have directed is telling the story of the others. Like not necessarily a mainstream story, but a story of the people you don’t hear about very often. You don’t always hear about the gay Christian, you don’t hear about the gay elder, and of course you don’t hear about the gay vampire because they don’t exist.
BeBe Sweetbriar: It’s funny you bring up the gay vampire story being told because it seems there is always a gay subtext in vampire movies. We’ve seen in it in Interview of a Vampire and others. Do you have a thought as to why that is?
Charlie Vaughn: I do. It’s a theory that is kind of my own and one that is kind of based on some true theorists when it comes to monster movies. Monster movies are always about society. Frankenstein is basically an adolescence tale. It’s how a parent is trying to reconcile with his or her child. Vampires movies have always been a sexuality tale. It’s been about awakening a person’s sexuality. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was written during a time when only the upper crust were allowed to have sex, and the regular folk were not allowed to express sexuality in any way. Here comes this Victorian tale where the regular people could have sex in the midst of being vampires.
One of the things I got super nervous about was the fact that vampires represent sexuality. Gays in psychology books are a variation of sexuality. And AIDS/HIV is a blood related disease. It is and will always be tied to the gay population because we were the hardest hit, and AIDS education is very much targeted toward the gay demographic. So here was a story about gay vampires that suck blood in modern times, and I was just nervous that there would be something in the script about the HIV infection. And there wasn’t.
Ironically, Ryan Adames, who is in the film, is a singer/songwriter and we chose three of his songs for the film, and the title song is called "Virus". It’s about having someone in your life that is not good for you. When Ryan told me the name of the film, I thought here’s just more potential fuel to the fire. I’m not trying to make a political statement about gay men and HIV. I’m trying to make social commentary about the coming out process.