Interview: Gay director’s debut feature blurs reality and fiction

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American film director Patrick McGuinn’s feature debut, released on DVD in the UK yesterday, has been hailed as “a brilliant debut.”

In Sunkissed, writer Teddy takes a seaside retreat to his agent’s isolated beach house. Upon arrival, he’s greeted by the mysterious and muscular gardener Leo.

As Leo begins to have disturbing visions, Teddy is left to wonder what is real and what is fiction.

What was the inspriration behind Sunkissed?

I grew up in the desert, and would often go on long drives through arid stretches of land between Arizona and California. The mind comes up with a lot of ideas during times of solitude. I have friends who are writers, and I had visited them in remote areas – in the mountains, in the desert.

Suffice it to say, I’ve driven hours and hours just to see a person I’ve loved. I wanted to explore why two people, strangers, might fall in love in such a remote setting, and the intensity of the emotions and sexuality in that environment.

I’ve personally experienced a lot of what is depicted in Sunkissed – from the madness that comes from mining one’s
inner depths while writing, to the whirlwind of anxiety and exhilaration that romantic love creates.

How difficult is the transition from making a short to a full feature?

Since I enjoy making ten-minute short films between producing feature projects, I find it practical to look at making a feature film similar to making ten short-length films – and to budget time and money exponentially.

Making that ‘first feature’ can be a difficult leap – and often the first feature film is not one’s best film. There’s a lot of expectation to make an EXCELLENT first feature. The only way for a director to have a successful first feature is to have an experienced producer behind them. Many first-feature directors take on the producing role themselves. Not easy, and not recommended!

How did you go about casting Teddy and Leo?

The part of Teddy was written for John Ort – he’d been in my short film, Soda Pop. I imagined him as the protagonist of a larger project, because of his expressive face. After some failed negotiations with a couple of different actors in Los Angeles for the part of Leo (both were uncomfortable with the nudity in the film), John suggested Gregory Marcel.

Gregory had no issue with the nudity, having appeared nude onstage in off-off Broadway plays. Since they’d never worked together, I had John and Greg fly out on the same jet from New York to California, so they had a chance to get used to the idea of the characters they’d be playing before the filming began.

They shower themselves down a lot in their undies – any amusing anecdotes from the set?

The cast and crew knew we were making a special film when we started filming the outdoor bathing scenes. It was the first day of shooting, and it sort of ushered in the ‘feel’ of how we’d all work together.

There’s something very primal in being outside and bathing oneself. I’ve had a minor obsession with garden hoses and
flowing water since I was a small child. I think I was reliving my childhood a bit when I wrote that into the script.

As cast and crew, we all knew it was supposed to be a FUN part of the film – and it was! I should have tried it again myself, but there wasn’t any time!

Are you pleased with the final product?

YES! The film is different, but better than I originally envisioned. I actually based a lot of the preliminary visuals in my head, in the desert and at the locations, on unreleased instrumental songs by the Beach Boys (from the ‘Pet Sounds’ era). It would have been a very different film if I’d gone forward with that vision and music instead of music by The Sea and Cake.

What’s next for Patrick McGuinn?

My next film, now in the completion stages, is a queer vampire thriller, entitled Eulogy for a Vampire.

The screenplay was written by André Salas (Latin Boys Go To Hell), and has a large cast of gifted new-comers. It tells the story of a remote monastery that is overtaken by a mysterious drifter.

Filming took place last summer in the eerie mountains of upstate New York – and the finished product will be playing the film festival circuit of 2009.

A trailer can be viewed at

To order a copy of Sunkissed or to watch a trailer click here.

Note: trailer not safe for work.