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Adam & Steve opens doors for distributor,

Adam & Steve opens doors for distributor,

On the surface, Craig Chester's Adam & Steve seems like another low-budget gay-themed comedy, destined for a limited Los Angeles-New York run before a platform release in urban markets en route to Netflix. But the film marks several important milestones for its producer, director, and distributor and for gay independent cinema itself.

It's the sophomore feature for Funny Boy Films, which released the Mormon coming-out drama Latter Days in 2003. It's the directing debut of longtime indie film actor Chester (Swoon), who has made an unapologetic gay romance with a happy ending. It marks the widest release for TLA Releasing, opening Friday in 13 markets on 18 screens followed by a rollout to 14 more cities over the next few weeks, making it one of the largest releases ever for a low-budget gay film.

For producer Kirkland Tibbels, founder of Funny Boy (his childhood nickname and the title of the bomb musical version of Hamlet in The Producers), the film also is part of his mission. "There's plenty of what's wrong with our culture onscreen--our struggles, our plights--and I'm looking to create more heroic journeys," he says.

Not that Tibbels takes too much seriously. The former stand-up comic and film school student grew up poor on a cattle ranch in West Texas. After striking it rich as an agency owner in the employee leasing firm Administaff in the late '80s, Tibbels eventually ended up in Los Angeles and founded FilmNext, producing Tim Kirkman's 2000 film version of David Drake's play The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. Distributing the film himself "was ridiculous," Tibbels recalls. "I spent a summer digging post holes that was easier." Still, taking it on the road taught him a lot. "People said, 'Where are the life-affirming stories?"'

Funny Boy, which has billed itself as "the world's first gay and lesbian studio," has a multifilm, first-look deal with TLA that includes theatrical and DVD distribution rights. Both firms are open to offers from larger buyers, and though none have bitten so far, Tibbels says the pact helped attract some 25 investors to the $1 million-plus Adam. The star factor didn't hurt, either. Chester's longtime friend Parker Posey was attached from the start, and Chester staged a dozen readings of his script for the producers and development people he had befriended at film festivals over the years. "I used to read scripts for Miramax," Chester says, "and I found it was really hard to get comedies from what was on the page."

Chester and Caroline in the City actor Malcolm Gets ultimately took on the title roles as two men who meet in the late '80s New York club scene and reconnect nearly two decades later with no recollection of their embarrassing introduction. Former Saturday Night Live cast member Chris Kattan and Posey add some star value as their sidekicks, along with film vets such as Melinda Dillon, Julie Hagerty, Sally Kirkland, and Paul Sand.

Aside from the film's name actors, Tibbels said the reason for such a relatively wide release on such a small film is "to move through the release window faster, rather than creep out." He feels confident that the film will reach more than the nearly 100 markets where Latter Days played. "We're prepared to throw gasoline on the fire," he said.

Funny Boy's next production is an adaptation of Neil Miller's Sex-Crime Panic. Covering a little-known chapter in American history, it documents 20 gay men in Iowa committed to mental institutions after a child's murder in the 1950s. "The majority of these guys found their freedom and a way to exist openly as part of the sexual revolution," Tibbels says. The recent success of Brokeback Mountain augurs well for Tibbels's efforts, he hopes, explaining, "Before Brokeback, no studio execs were calling, but now a few have been asking 'What else have you got?"' (Gregg Goldstein, Reuters)

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