TIM KIRKMAN (Writer/Director/Producer) received Emmy, GLAAD, Gotham and Spirit Award nominations for his first film, DEAR JESSE, winner of the Audience Award at Frameline and named Best Documentary of the Year by the Boston Society of Film Critics. After a theatrical run, DEAR JESSE aired on HBO/Cinemax’s REEL LIFE series. He also wrote and directed LOGGERHEADS, which debuted at Sundance, won the Grand Jury Prize at Outfest, won Audience awards at the Florida International and Nashville Film Festivals, and was distributed by Strand Releasing. He also directed the film of David Drake's play THE NIGHT LARRY KRAMER KISSED ME and 2ND SERVE. With Todd Shotz, he formed T42 Entertainment. LAZY EYE is its first production. A North Carolina native, Tim lives in Los Angeles.
Q&A WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR TIM KIRKMAN
Where did the idea for the film come from? Around the time I turned forty, my vision changed dramatically, which coincided with some stereotypical early-middle-age reflections and questioning some of the life choices I had made. Throw social media and the internet into this soup and you’ve got a big, boiling pot of crazy! You start thinking about the roads not taken, especially when you were younger, and that includes exes. Thanks to social media, it’s quite easy to find someone from your past, but in my case there were at least two, and maybe three, exes who were completely invisible. They had no internet presence at all. They “ghosted.” I started to think about what would happen if the proverbial “one that got away” suddenly reappeared and I saw an opportunity to change my entire life. It was terrifying and thrilling. When I talked about this with friends, many had experienced similar upheavals in their own lives, so I started making notes and jotting down little scenes, which became Lazy Eye.
Unlike your other films, the sexual orientation of the characters is not really the issue. Right. I wanted to tell a story from the perspective of the post-marriage equality world we are living in, but one in which the obstacle in the film was not the characters’ sexual orientation. Alex and Dean could have easily been a heterosexual couple. But it’s important to see LGBT stories that tackle ordinary problems that straight people also grapple with. We have seen compelling, important LGBT narratives about coming out and AIDS and discrimination in the workplace or disruption in families. And those are important films. I’ve made a few myself. But telling stories in which an essential part of one’s self isn’t the “problem” is another step towards maturing, both as people and as artists.
What was the most challenging part of making Lazy Eye? As a director, the most important decision is choosing your creative and production team — that’s critical. And I feel so lucky to have worked with an amazing team. This was my first time actually producing a film and Todd Shotz has been an amazing producing partner — we go back nearly twenty years — and we had incredibly generous and enthusiastic executive producers. But producing is challenging. I think it made me a better director, as a result. I hope it did. It made me more mindful of time and budget. Almost every independent filmmaker says finding the money is the hardest part. I agree. I’m really proud to say that every person who worked on the film was paid. Nobody got rich, but everyone was paid. And we all had about the same day rate. We shot the entire movie in twelve days, which was more exhilarating than difficult, again, largely because of the cast and crew. The desert setting itself was challenging, but in the end Joshua Tree and the Mojave Desert becomes a character in the story. The people who live and run businesses there embraced us and made it so much more fun and productive, too.
How important is the role of memory in the story? We all have our own versions of what happened in our lives. Dean and Alex don’t necessarily disagree about the what happened in the past as much as they don’t recall certain things. It’s like our brains have to edit some things out or shift them so that life is bearable. Everyone is telling the truth in the film, as they see it. Dean is a romantic, at heart, driving around in that old car and remembering being twenty-five years old, looking back at who he was, who he might be now. It’s funny and sad and universal.
What is the significance of the title? I have amblyopia, like Dean, and when I turned 40 my eyes changed. So it’s literal in that way, but I think there’s a poetic aspect to it. Dean’s vision is changing and he can’t control that, but there are things in his life that he can control and change, if he chooses to take action. He’s become complacent — in that sense, he's become lazy. Now is his time to reflect, to reassess. It’s important to have your vision checked once in a while.