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Hello, Goodbye

Hello, Goodbye

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A New Yorker by way of Sweden, writer-director Casper Andreas (Slutty Summer,A Four Letter Word) gets serious with topics like immigration in Between Love and Goodbye.

The accent might betray his Swedish origins, but queer filmmaker Casper Andreas is New York City through and through: With a body a Chelsea boy would envy, a do-it-yourself work ethic right out of Brooklyn, and a teensy-but-adorable railroad apartment you could only find in the East Village, the 36-year-old director has spent more than a decade in the city, making movies that explore what it's like to fall in (and out of) love in the Big Apple. His first releases, 2004's Slutty Summer and 2007's A Four Letter Word, found ample humor in the kind of romantic misadventures gay Manhattanites often fall prey to -- though admittedly, most of us don't end up dating pathological liars who hustle on the down low, as Jesse Archer's Luke did in AFour Letter Word.

Andreas's latest cinematic effort, Between Love and Goodbye, strikes a darker chord: After falling hard for each other, young lovers Marcel and Kyle move in together -- and that's when the problems start. First Marcel, who is French, must marry their lesbian neighbor Sarah to stay in the country. Then Kyle's troubled transsexual sister April moves in, demanding constant attention and poisoning him against Marcel. As jealousy and anger threaten their bond, it's hard to tell if the couple will pull back from the brink or if it's time to say goodbye.

Even though the film deals with heartbreak, making Between Love and Goodbye was a labor of love for Andreas: He not only wrote, directed, and produced the film, he is distributing it himself through his company, Embrem Entertainment. Shortly before the movie's January 30 premiere in New York (a Los Angeles release is set for March 6), Andreas spoke with Advocate.com about the film's evolution, whether he's a believer in true love, and how far some New Yorkers will go to keep a decent apartment.

Advocate.com:Between Love and Goodbyeis much more serious than your previous work. Is this an attempt to branch out into new territory?Casper Andreas: It's actually the first script I worked on -- I wrote it almost 10 years ago. It was inspired by my first big love affair, which ended with a bad breakup. A lot of the story is made up obviously, but all my films are inspired by my life being a gay man living in New York, especially this one. When I wrote it I thought I would play the Marcel character. I sent it out to a few places but didn't get much response, so I put it aside and ended up doing Slutty Summer first.

Is that because gay comedies are more marketable? That was certainly part of it. I thought, How can I make an inexpensive film that will be successful and lead to other projects? Certainly being funny and having young hot boys made it accessible. I wanted to make [Goodbye] my second film, actually, but having done one romantic sex comedy, it was so much easier to go ahead and make another. And Jesse Archer, who costarred in Slutty Summer, cowrote A Four Letter Word with me. A lot of it was Jesse pushing me [laughs] -- he really wanted to get that film made. This one is my "European" movie -- my art film. It's more like the kinds of movies I watch myself.

Was it easier working on Love and Goodbye with some distance? After 10 years you must've felt less upset about the failed relationship that inspired it.It's hard to say. But I think I've learned a lot about being a filmmaker in the past 10 years and I was able to do things with this movie I wouldn't have been able to back then. I'm happy I waited.

The characters are really unique: You've got Marcel, a foreigner who is reserved but passionately devoted to love, and Kyle, who is a beautiful free spirit and sings in a rock band. Was it hard casting for the film? It was the hardest film to cast because the characters were so specific. We didn't cast Kyle, Simon Miller, until the very end. We saw a lot of people for that role over the summer of 2007. Finally Simon came in and he seemed so perfect. We took a bit of a chance because we were up against the wire, but he was right for the character. And he does his own singing in the film, which wasn't a requirement but really added something.

The music is incredible. I was singing the theme song in the shower today. The songs were definitely intended to help tell the story. I had some friends who were in a band years ago and they let me have access to some of their music. A few other tracks were actually big pop hits in Sweden in the '80s, like "What's the Colour of Love," which was originally done by these sisters, Lili & Susie. Adam Joseph, who produced and did all the studio recordings with the band, was really great.

Is Justin Tensen, who plays Marcel, French? The accent is really believable. Well, that's an interesting story. As an actor I'd been discriminated against for being a foreigner. So I really wanted to not cast an American as Marcel. I guess originally I thought he'd be a Swede, since I was planning on playing the role. We read a lot of actors for Marcel and Justin did an amazing job. He was the first person we cast. But he's not French -- he's Canadian.

Although it's certainly not hard-core, there's a fair amount of nudity and sex in the movie. Both Simon and Justin are certainly easy on the eyes, but is it awkward filming scenes like that? Putting the sex scenes in is admittedly something I did to make the film a little more inviting. We asked the actors about their comfort with nudity when they read for the parts. And also, sex is a part of a relationship -- I didn't want to shy away from that. Both Simon and Justin were good about it, and I had experience with sex scenes from the other films I've done. When you get down to doing the blocking and who's positioned where, it kind of kills a lot of the tension or awkwardness.

You said you thought you'd play Marcel. Does that mean you saw yourself in the Marcel role in your own relationship? When I wrote it, yes -- I was the one who had trouble letting go. But I've learned and grown since then, and I've been in relationships where I've been on the other side too -- where I wanted to leave. But I think I've handled it better than Kyle does.

April, Kyle's sister, isn't portrayed very sympathetically. Let's face it, she's basically a bitch. Were you worried about coming off as transphobic? It is a controversial role, but she's not meant to represent all transsexuals. She's just...a little messed up. Again, very hard to cast because you don't want a drag queen or someone who just looks like a man in a dress. I've known Rob Harmon for years. He's not really an actor, but I had seen him in drag and thought he might be good for it. I think he surprised us with how convincing he was. It's a fun, kind of nasty role. He just won Best Actor for the role in a film festival in Tenerife.

Was it April's interference that killed Kyle and Marcel's relationship? I think she's the catalyst, but it's really the two guys not being able to handle their emotions. Marcel is too possessive and he can't handle Kyle being such a free spirit. And I think Kyle eventually realizes he's signed up for a lot more than he planned to.

Marcel has to marry a woman to stay in the United States. Was the issue of same-sex marriage on your mind when you were making the film? It wasn't such a big topic when I wrote it, but of course it's great that it's getting so much attention now. And it means I can talk about it during interviews. But I really wanted to address immigration -- it's totally screwed up that we gays don't have equal rights as far as immigration. I know so many people who have had to go through this, marrying someone, to stay in the U.S. -- and they have to face the kind of interrogations Marcel and Sarah do in the picture.

What marriage rights do gays have in Sweden? About 10 years ago, I think, they started partnership registration. It gives you all the same legal rights, but it's just not called marriage. I kind of wish that was how they went after it here -- let's just get the rights first. Because in Sweden now, it's been around long enough that everyone calls it marriage. But a lot of gay people I know here get angry when I express this opinion. "No, it has to be the same thing!" I see their point, but it's not the easiest way to go about it.

Aside from their access to marriage rights, what's the difference between American and European gay guys? Well, I don't know how much of an expert I am, even though I've dated my share of both. But I think people in Europe are much more willing to commit to relationships. Americans seem a lot more cautious. Maybe it feels like that because my experience is specific to New York and L.A., which are like the capitals of non-commitment! [Laughs]

One thing I loved about the film is how, when the relationship has totally unraveled, who gets to keep the apartment becomes a major point of contention. That's a very New York perspective. Oh, definitely! I have neighbors next door who used to be a couple -- they broke up, but they still live together in their railroad apartment. Then one had his boyfriend move in, and now all three share one apartment. So one of the guys has to walk through the other's bedroom to get to his own room. They've been doing it for years now. It's a very New York thing.

What's next for you? I just codirected a film called The Big Gay Musical, which is a romantic comedy about two gay actors in an off-Broadway production. It's the first time I did a project that I'm not also writing and producing. It's on hold right now while the producers secure more funding.

Was it hard being a hired gun after working on your own projects for so long? Oh God, no, it was a huge relief! As a producer, you're so conscious about how much everything is costing. We had a truck crash while we were filming Big Gay Musical. The truck was totaled, but the equipment we needed inside was fine, so I didn't even care about the accident. Had it been my own film, I would've been pulling my hair out. I'm definitely looking to be a hired gun again.

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