Director Justin Kelly on his debut feature ‘I Am Michael’ and working with James Franco
US director Justin Kelly, the debut feature filmmaker behind the James Franco and Zachary Quinto-starring “I Am Michael” which premiered at the Berlin Panorama this week, has also announced that the film will be opening the London BFI Flare festival next month.
I Am Michael tells the true story of former gay rights activist Michael Glatze, who later denounced his homosexuality and became an anti-gay pastor. We caught up with Justin to ask about the film that everyone is talking about, and to find out more about what it was like working with James Franco on his first feature.
- What would you like audiences to take away from the film?
Well, it’s about the power of religion and belief, what it means to identify with anything whether that means gay, straight or Christian. It’s about that box that it can put you into. Hopefully audiences will come away from it with a lot more than they expected to!
- The protagonist, Michael, is based on real-life Michael Glatze. What was it like making a film around true events?
Yep, Michael is formerly a leading US journalist for prominent gay magazine Xy, who renounces his homosexuality, turns to Christian ministery and becomes an outspoken opponent of homosexuality. It was pretty exciting to be able to tell this story without making too many assumptions and judgements on him. At the centre of it, it really is a film about the journey of someone trying to discover who they are.
- What was it like directing James?
It was very smooth. It was a demanding role to have what is essentially a breakdown for 40 minutes of the movie. But it was such a subtle performance, and he owned it completely.
- And he has a producer credit as well on the film, what was his involvement on that side of the camera?
With James as a producer behind it as well, it meant that he was dedicated to the project for 3 years. Having that relationship with someone who was so passionate about the film made it a pretty amazing experience for me. We were shooting a huge amount of material in a short amount of time, but it was always a positive set to be on.