Fred M. Caruso: Divine Inspiration

When it came to casting his religion-themed film The Big Gay Musical, Fred M. Caruso handed down two top commandments: "Thou shalt be hot" and "Thou shalt be out."

BY Brandon Voss

September 16 2009 7:00 AM ET

In The Big Gay Musical, actors Paul and Eddie (Daniel Robinson and Joey Dudding) star as the first same-sex couple in Adam & Steve: Just the Way God Made ’Em!, an off-Broadway tuner that looks at Genesis through lavender-colored lenses. The real gay drama is offstage, where Eddie comes out to his religious parents and Paul ditches dating to whore around. After premiering in July at Philadelphia’s QFest before a brief Provincetown run, The Big Gay Musical opens September 11 in New York City before playing more than 20 LGBT film festivals around the world. First-time screenwriter Fred M. Caruso, who codirected the film with Slutty Summer’s Casper Andreas and penned the songs with NEWSical’s Rick Crom, took a break from writing the second installment of a planned TBGM trilogy to tell us why his movie is so much sexier than Prayers for Bobby.

Advocate.com: What was the genesis for The Big Gay Musical?
Fred M. Caruso: I actually wrote Adam & Steve, the musical within the movie, eight years ago. So many gay people have been screwed up by religion, but gay shows and movies about religion always end up being so depressing. I wanted to create a show with a positive message about being gay and religion that was funny, campy, and crazy.

Did you ever mount Adam & Steve?
I did a reading of it back when I wrote it, but as a commercial theater producer I realized that the show could never make money. It has a cast of 10 people, so it could never really find an audience to sustain it. But now that the movie’s out and can help sell the show, there’s actually talk of mounting Adam & Steve, so we’re looking at the possibilities.

You’ve had success producing off-Broadway shows like NEWSical and I Love You Because. Why did you make the switch to filmmaking?
I was a coproducer of Casper Andreas’s A Four Letter Word and I just fell in love with the medium. It’s actually so much easier and cheaper to make a film than it is to put a show up. You can also reach a bigger audience, because I can sell my DVD forever all over the world instead of trying to fill 400 seats of one theater in one city.

Which gay independent films do you admire?
I really like Trick, but I think Camp is closest to what I was trying to achieve here, just because it’s about musicals, showtunes, and theater stuff. It’s also uplifting and positive, unlike that recent Lifetime movie with Sigourney Weaver, Prayers for Bobby, where the kid had to kill himself for his parents to love him.

You do delve into some serious territory by touching on AIDS. It’s rare to see someone getting tested and worrying about his HIV status in a gay film these days, especially in a musical comedy.
At our reading of the film, the one criticism I had is that I bring up AIDS. I was told that there’s no reason to do that anymore. At the same time, I’m still meeting kids in their early 20s who are HIV-positive, so I think we do need to keep talking about it, and we need to keep talking about it a lot. So much porn out there today is unsafe and dangerous. There’s better medication than there was before, but the AIDS crisis is certainly not over. While I was writing the script, a 25-year-old friend of mine found out that he was positive. When he called the people he’d been with in the last six months to let them know they should be tested, he found out that three of them were positive and never even told him.

What kind of response have you gotten to the film so far?
We did a Q&A with some of the cast after the opening in Provincetown, and one of the things I’ve been really happy about is that whenever we’ve done Q&As after screenings, most of the audience actually stays to discuss it, which is so not the norm. A couple of ministers that came to QFest told me how much the film moved them, which is certainly something that I like to hear.

Tags: film

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