"It is up to us to stand together as gay men of color and say no to jobs in
the media that we know demean or misrepresent who we all are."
These are poignant and profound words from Reginald A. Flemming, an emerging black writer, director and producer of gay-themed short feature films. His current series entitled, A First Time For Everything (AFTFE), has a rather considerable and loyal fan base. They are eagerly awaiting the release of AFTFE Chapter Three, to be released later this year.
The self-assured and candid Mr. Flemming, 32, hails from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Some of the words that characterize this filmmaker's work and brand are engaging, substantive and thought-provoking.
EVANS: Reginald, what was the genesis of your professional journey?
FLEMMING: I began writing at nine years old, after winning a third grade writing contest. The entire class was asked to make up their own fairy tale. The prize was a Hardee's free meal certificate, and your story would be posted on the school bulletin board for everyone to see. That's what got me because if you're the middle child, you're mostly ignored at home -- well at least I was. So any attention you could get was EVERYTHING. Therefore, I wrote my story and ended up winning. It seemed that the entire school read it and told me it was good. From that experience, I discovered that writing was a way to make me happy. Ever since, I've been a writer every day.
EVANS: Is A First Time For Everything (AFTFE) your first feature film series? When did you release Chapter One?
FLEMMING: It is. I released it on December 24, 2014 as an early Christmas gift to all the fans of TheRainbowConnection, a web series I wrote and directed from 2010 to 2013. I was getting countless messages from fans asking if there would be a season four of the show, but I wanted to move in another direction. AFTFE is the first to come from that new direction.
EVANS: Give us the snapshot of AFTFE's storyline.
FLEMMING: It's the story of man ("Ethan") who's on the verge of losing everything after his job ends; and in order to make ends meet, he turns to an alternate lifestyle of sex for money.
EVANS: I found Ethan's range of emotions -- his desperate need for cash, to his conflict/guilt over escorting, then to the allure and excitement and his swing back to guilt -- convincing and real.
EVANS: And, AFTFE has a strong precautionary message about HIV -- without a sledgehammer hitting you in the head. Am I correct in the way you communicated that?
FLEMMING: You are very much correct. And, there's sort of an underground
world for a lot of men in the gay lifestyle that involves hooking up with men for compensation. I wanted to explore that in a way that showed the reason behind why some may be in that world.
EVANS: Why did you cast a Caucasian in the pivotal role of the "john" in AFTFE -- whose cast is vastly African-American?
FLEMMING: I made the character "white" because that's the reality of that underground world I mentioned earlier. The majority of the men that pay them for pleasure are Caucasian. I knew if I were going to tell this story, I was going to have to keep it as real and as authentic as possible.
EVANS: AFTFE is well-produced, with rich drama and intriguing twists. How long did it take you to complete each film?
FLEMMING: Nine months for Chapter One, and eight months for Chapter Two.
EVANS: Describe your creative process. How do you create story, characters, etc.?
FLEMMING: I can't create a story at all until I have an ending in mind. My stories come from conversations, a thought, an idea; but I can't put it on paper until I know how I'm going to end it. The ending for me is the blueprint to building my story. I write to work toward the ending. Characters come from whoever the lead characters are. I create them to how they'll relate to the leads.
EVANS: Do you base your characters on people you've crossed paths with during your life?
FLEMMING: I take pieces from a lot of people I know, and build characters.
EVANS: Most films conform to the Classical Hollywood narrative film style, which has a set of guidelines that films tend to follow. The story in this style is told chronologically, in a cause and effect relationship. Is this your basic style? And, do you incorporate certain deviations?
FLEMMING: Basically, I write in the form of what's best for the story I'm trying to tell. In the case of AFTFE, I thought it was best to tell it chronologically because I wanted to leave the viewers wanting more until there's no more to tell.
EVANS: You wear several hats: writer, director and producer. Which one do you enjoy most -- and why?
FLEMMING: WRITING. I was a writer first. When I write, I get to leave my reality and create another.
EVANS: How do you manage your set? How tightly do you run it? Do you allow for input from your cast?
FLEMMING: Honestly, I don't run my set as tightly as I should. I guess I'm more focused on completing the scene the day I've scheduled to film it than worrying about who's on time or who knows their lines. I absolutely allow my actors input. I think a film turns out better if the actor suggests something that may work better than what's written.
Next Up: Flemming discusses the continuing lack of visibility of LGBTQ individuals of color in the media, obstacles he's faced, his recipe for success and future projects.
You can connect with Reginald A. Flemming at:
facebook.com/Reginald A. Flemming, twitter.com/rnbowconnection and youtube.com/ovada rainbow.