Interview with Gaby Dunn, Writer & Co-Creator of “Just Between Us”

Sometime at the end of June, New Form Digital is going to release my pilot I wrote, starred in and created called LOVE ME DO, which is the autobiographical project I’ve been hinting at. It’s a show about my relationship with my dad, who’s an alcoholic. But it’s a comedy. I’m very excited and nervous for people to see it because it’s very close to real life.

It was recently Gaby Dunn’s birthday and I reached out to the gay icon to chat with her about bisexuality, the future of the media and her exciting upcoming projects.

18514012_688326368038372_9046144029611261952_n.jpgSOURCE: @gabyroad

You’re a strong advocate for bisexuality but bisexual representation remains lacklustre. Media today in contemporary society is more diverse than it has ever been but there’s an unmistakable focus on gay male characters. What are your thoughts on that?

GD: I mean it’s very true. Especially on cis white gay male characters, who are wealthy. I think it’s because media in general is selling a fantasy rather than being committed to portraying real life. For instance, those gay male characters we do see are also very fit, or sexually active, or “fierce.” When it comes to bisexuality in particular I think people are scared of using the word because they think viewers won’t get it but part of being a creator is trusting your audience to understand gray areas.

Queer shows on mainstream networks, like MTV’s Faking It, ABC Family’s The Real O’Neals and even Netflix’s Sense8 have all suffered a very similar fate despite being progressive and positively representative. What do you think the cancellation of these shows means for the future of television-oriented media?

GD: I would hope it means the same that the cancellation of thousands of shows about straight white dudes does but I know it doesn’t. The good news is there are many more platforms for inclusive shows to live on so hopefully creators find their audiences in more than just mainstream places that weren’t going to appreciate them anyway. 

The way you’ve described bisexuality in the past has been something along the lines of open to all genders. How would you say that differs to polysexuality?

GD: I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about polysexuality. I assume they’re similar? I think it really just depends on what word you’re personally most comfortable with, and less on the exact definitions of every label. 

YouTube has restricted LGBTQ+ content and been criticised in the past for promoting heteronormative and ethnocentric content. How have your experiences been on the platform?

GD: The LGBTQ+ restriction is the worst. Our most popular video, which is called Your Girlfriend’s Girlfriend, and features me dating a woman, is demonetized. It makes queer kids feel like their ability to make money being themselves is limited, it makes them feel ostracized from “normal” content, and it’s just a bad look all around. When you purport to be for creative freedom but start cow-towing to advertisers the way networks might have in the past, then how can you say you’re looking toward the future?

I’ve been a long-time fan of Just Between Us for some time now and you’ve recently announced the release of your book with co-author Allison Raskin. Walk us through the process of writing with your best friend. In one of your videos you mentioned how trying it was on your friendship but that you’re closer than ever because of it.

GD: Yeah, we fought a lot about the book because it’s two very different characters and we each had intense visions for what our characters would be and go through. But the conflict in real life is what became the central conflict of the characters in the book. So it was actually really beneficial! And we love each other, so we know when we fight it’s just us getting our ideas out and trying to communicate. It’s never a bad, real fight but collaborating on anything artistic is going to stress both people out. You have to be really clear about what you want and compromise on what they want.

What’s next for JBU? And what are some projects that you’ve been working on independently that we can look forward to? You’ve posted to your Twitter and Instagram about an autobiographical project – can you tell us about that?

GD: Well, we have a development deal for a half hour comedy with YouTube Red so we’re excited to see what happens with that. I’m working on a Bad With Money book for 2018 or 2019, not sure yet. Sometime at the end of June, New Form Digital is going to release my pilot I wrote, starred in and created called LOVE ME DO, which is the autobiographical project I’ve been hinting at. It’s a show about my relationship with my dad, who’s an alcoholic. But it’s a comedy. I’m very excited and nervous for people to see it because it’s very close to real life. I’m also going to start writing a column for Marie Claire, which comes out in August. And a million other things. I wrote a movie with my friend Lauren Garroni that we want to make.

How did your podcast Bad With Money start? It’s a seemingly niche topic but your argument is that people don’t talk about it enough – which is true, and especially interesting when you factor in the fact that your Internet fame (which is still a mystifying subject for many) is a large part of your revenue. 

GD: It started with me talking about how much I make as a YouTuber which apparently people weren’t doing before. And when that article went viral, I was approached by Panoply to turn that into a podcast. I’d thought about doing a sexuality podcast but I figured a lot of that topic was covered on JBU so I thought a money podcast would be a great way for me to learn about something I don’t already know about. Instead of doing a sexuality show, which would be something I do know a lot about. I wanted to learn with the audience, rather than teach.

How did you start your writing career and what’s some advice you’d give to aspiring writers? 

GD: I started writing as a little kid and I won an award in second grade for a short story I wrote about breaking my glasses. That was my big break. My advice would be to not undervalue yourself or work for free when writing is a job and should be treated as one.

Female sexuality has always been oppressed, while hegemonic masculine identities are encouraged and seen as the “norm”. More recently things are changing with the “New Man” and social awareness of gender inequality but where do you think these traditional ideals come from? And how/when do you envision it ending?

GD: Oh, it’s the Trump administration. I don’t have high hopes for it ending any time soon! I really wish I had a better answer for this but I’ve been super depressed about that very question for months, haha.

You’re very politically active and involved, which is something that’s much-needed in this political climate. What’s something that you desperately wish will change sometime soon and what’s the first thing you’d do if you were in office for a day?

GD: That’s a great question. I think I’d start with disability and health care and how terrible we are at taking care of the people in our society who need it that most. It should not be so difficult and emotionally exhausting to get help if you need help. We desperately need an overhaul of the healthcare system for the poorest and most vulnerable among us particularly the disabled community and the trans community.

Up until college you described yourself as mousy and you’ve talked about the sexism within the writing/comedy community that you experienced. Was that what made you change your style and appearance?

GD: Not really! I just realized that women are allowed to be both hot and smart at the same time. I spent a lot of time worried that if I was pretty, I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a comedy writer — and if I was smart, no one would want me to act in anything. But once I realized that wasn’t true and I could just be whatever I wanted as long as I was talented and confident and (shock of all shocks) boys didn’t make the rules? I was so much happier.

You’re well-known for your graphic tees and bleached hair now. Who are your fashion/style inspirations and is it as high maintenance as it looks to keep your blonde hair?

GD: I get it bleached once a month but somehow it stays strong! My hair’s very thick so it can withstand all the dying I do to it. In terms of fashion, I really like gender-bending so I like people like Tilda Swinton, Evan Rachel Wood, Rain Dove, Bowie. I like looking more masculine or tomboyish now. 

And lastly, when did you decide to become polyamorous and what would you say to people who think they might want to pursue polyamory? What would you say are the best/worst things about it, compared to monogamy?

GD: I think I’d always been more inclined toward non-monogamy just in terms of having an inkling about it when you’re dating the same way i did about my sexuality. I would say the best advice is not to try and talk anyone into it. To find people who are already poly and test it out with them rather than convincing a monogamous partner to do something they don’t want. The best is the intense communication and how I never feel like I’m being lied to. The worst is time management and not sleeping enough.

Make sure to keep up with all of the exciting stuff Gaby has coming out soon, the second season finale of her podcast is out, “I Hate Everyone But You” comes out 19th September 2017 and Just Between Us has videos out every Monday and Thursday.

Interview With The Creators Of “In A Heartbeat” – The Sweetest Gay Animated Short Film

We definitely think that there is a lack of LGBTQ+ characters in films and the amount of response this film has gotten, without it being out yet, hopefully shows media executives that people are ready and hungry for more content like this.

Esteban Bravo and Beth David are the creators of “In A Heartbeat”, a gay animated short film that has been making waves before even being released. It features a closeted boy who risks being outed when his heart jumps out of his chest to chase down the love of his life. It’s tooth-rottingly sweet and bound to be a global success. Take a look:

I contacted them recently in hopes that they would answer some questions, and they were kind enough to respond.

Thanks again for doing this, the film has garnered so much attention before even being released! Did you expect it to gain this kind of attention and recognition when you started making it?

EB & BD: No problem, we’re happy and excited to answer your questions! We didn’t expect this kind of attention, at least not before releasing the film! However, we did get a glimpse at how the film was going to do after our kickstarter garnered much unprecedented attention.

What was the process of beginning such a demanding project like this and how did you cope with it being just the two of you?

EB & BD: We started on this project on our preproduction class for our thesis films at Ringling College of Art and Design. On the first day we have to pitch four ideas for our thesis and from the very beginning we knew that this was the story that we wanted to see through. Thankfully, the faculty greenlit the idea and so we started the process of fleshing out the story and the visuals for it. After having worked on that for a semester, we started production during the summer of that year. From there on out it was a matter of working day and night to bring this film to fruition, which took in total a year and a half. We honestly don’t know how we would have been able to make it our senior year had it not been for our love for this story and the characters. Some other things did help to cope however haha, like coffee breaks at 2am and watching shows from time like Parks and Rec.

What were your influences and where did this sweet story come from? Did your own personal experiences play into the story at all?

EB & BD: There were several films we watched as we were developing the film – some of them being LGBTQ+ films. Here’s a list with a few of them: The Way He Looks, The Imitation Game, High School Musical, Get Real, Hidden Away, School Ties, Blue is the Warmest Color, The Blue Neighborhood Trilogy, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. A big influence on the appeal, charm, and feel for the film were The Peanuts Movie and Flipped

We have to say that developing the film was therapeutic for us in some way. Though thankfully we were never in the position in which our identity was in absolute danger of being exposed to our crush or the entire school (like Sherwin is in the film), much of the story came from both of us having a heart-to-heart about how it was like to grow up being gay (pun intended). 

Did you purposefully make the characters younger to appeal to a certain audience? Animated films – and blockbusters alike – generally don’t feature LGBTQ+ main characters, what are your thoughts on that?

EB & BD: The main reason why the characters are that age (13/14) is because it’s at that age when you start to notice that something is different and begin a process of self-acceptance. After having decided that, we hoped that our film would reach younger audiences going through this stage and hopefully let them know that “it’s okay”. We definitely think that there is a lack of LGBTQ+ characters in films and the amount of response this film has gotten, without it being out yet, hopefully shows media executives that people are ready and hungry for more content like this.

You changed Jonathan’s ethnicity and as a Portuguese gay man, representation is so important. Do you feel the same about portrayals in media and was this kept in mind while producing the film?

EB & BD: Yes, the more we worked on the film the more we realized how important representation is, so we thought making Jonathan Latino would be perfect. It also added an extra personal touch to the film since Esteban was born and raised in Mexico. We’re excited that so many people are positively responding to this and it just shows how people want to see themselves represented more in media. 

What are your plans for the future? I know the film isn’t out yet but you’ve been submitting it to film festivals, so what can we expect as an audience and as fans of your work?

EB & BD: Now that we’ve just graduated, we’re breaking into the industry and starting jobs at different studios. We’ll be jumping on projects for television and feature film that we’re both really excited about. In a Heartbeat for now will live as our student short, but we’ve definitely talked about the possibility of making it into something bigger. It’d be a dream of ours to work together on a project like this again in the future.

And finally, what do you hope to continue to do and what impact do you hope this film has on the future of animation and as a whole? What do you hope audiences take from it?

EB & BD: The responses we’ve gotten prove to us that this is something that a lot of people really want to see, and we hope that means studios and production companies will open up more to projects with LGBTQ themes. We never really expected our film make the impact that it already has, but we hope that audiences can watch it and feel more accepting of themselves or a loved one going through a similar experience. If it helps one person feel a little better about who they are, then we’ll have done our job.

Once again, thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my initial reaching out. This film means so much to so many people – including me. Often times LGBTQ+ characters are sexualised and for straight people to see this change to show a more innocent side of gay romance is a big step in normalising homosexuality.

Esteban and Beth were lovely to talk to, their Instagram accounts are linked above and you can find In A Heartbeat’s Tumblr page here and its official Facebook page here.