Gay filmmaker Brandon Zuck has an eye for the extreme. His short film Goodbye Blue Sky took viewers into his vision of an apocolyptic era, which was very rugged and very queer. With his latest release, Stay, the out director brings us along for the ride while Ash (Brandon Harris) invites his ex-boyfriend Jacks (Julian Brand) for a weekend trip in the Florida Keys and fails to mention that their getaway is actually a dangerous drug deal.
"It's loosely based on me and my ex, the weekend I invited him to come with me on a road trip but neglected to mention there was $20K worth of weed in the trunk that I was delivering for some very scary people," Zuck told The Advocate. "We were just a couple of homeless punks. I was in love with him, and he tried to convince me we should steal it and run off together. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted."
He also opened up about why he wanted to bring this gay thriller to the screen and how he built the tension and chemistry between his two lead actors.
"It's funny how people look at my films and think that it's a conscious choice to consistently tell gay stories. The truth is I never really thought about it. It's not coming from a place of activism or strategy or philosophy. I never wrote a gay character to send a message. It's really just as simple as I'm a gay man, so when I write about love I'm writing about dudes, and when I write about heartbreak I'm writing about my asshole ex-boyfriend. And as much as I'd hate for him to know, Stay is the story of me and a boy from my past. It was a long time ago — and this is usually the point in the conversation where I feel the need to highlight that I've never killed anyone — but we were living a different kind of life. Sometimes homeless, often criminals, usually wasted. More than one night spent sleeping in a stolen car. I'm not exactly sure what we were, but suffice it to say there was a time when all we had was each other. And putting this one particular weekend on paper was really just me trying to understand it all.
"Because the material was so personal to me, I worked very closely with Brandon and Julian, the lead actors, and yes, I'm suddenly noticing that I cast someone named Brandon to play myself. We talked a lot about their real-life counterparts, but at a certain point it was important to let go of history and let them explore and find these characters for themselves. I made sure that they spent a lot of time together on and off set, and it definitely helped being away on location. The Florida Keys almost became a character themselves. Really, the whole crew became so tight on our little adventure that everything felt like it was happening organically. And to be honest, I was already lucky to be working with such great actors."
In this clip from Stay, the pair share a late-night dip in the water, which leads to a steamy moment and a debate about taking a step toward crime.