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POP INTERVIEW: Rob Williams and Rodney Johnson of Guest House Films

Actor John Barrymore supposedly said, “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” Rob Williams and Rodney Johnson are partners in more ways than you’d expec

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Actor John Barrymore supposedly said, “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” Rob Williams and Rodney Johnson are partners in more ways than you’d expect: in 2005, they began a production company together called Guest House Films. And in a door they never imagined, they were able to use personal experiences and their love in making great film. With their first picture released in 2007, Rodney and Rob began creating gay themed romantic movies that defied traditional romantic comedy standards and stereotypes.

How so? In Long Term Relationship, the main character Glenn shuts down the “all gays are promiscuous” stereotype with a film all about getting serious with the one. In Back Soon, a white man begins a relationship with a Hispanic former drug dealer who cleaned up his life, learning how you can fall for someone with a completely opposite life. And in Make the Yultide Gay, Olaf, a typical Midwestern guy wearing Old Navy clothes, someone whom no one back home at Christmas thinks could ever be gay, has to figure out how to please his parents setting him up with a girl.

Guesthouse Films Rodney and Rob

Obviously, your goal is for your movies to be seen by everyone. What can straight people take away from your films?
ROB: I know I’ve done my job when straight people say, “The problems facing the gay couple in your movie are just like the problems I face in my relationships!” We want people to realize that we all struggle with the same issues – finding love, finding acceptance, finding success – and a gay movie can simply provide a different point of view.

When you are working on your movies, how do you develop characters so that they are seen as strong, positive LGBT people but not defined by their sexuality to where it’s the only thing about them? How do you create characters who are relevant, but also realistic people who don’t care about politically correct story lines? A lot of shows and movies struggle in that area by making gay characters too cliched and/or one dimensional.
ROB: When we started Guest House Films, our mission was to make films about “gay people being,” not about “people being gay.” To us, the distinction is that while the stories revolve around gay characters, the movies aren’t necessarily about the struggle of being gay or issues that only relate to the LGBT community. We want to make films that show our universal problems, but we also want to make films that offer hope and inspiration and the possibility of a happy ending – and sometimes, just having a character be openly gay and having that not be an issue can be an extremely positive role model.

How and when do you think LGBT film will go mainstream? The only film in recent memory to do this well was Brokeback Mountain.
RODNEY: Personally, I don’t think the LGBT film will ever go “mainstream,” per se. I believe that it will become much more of a defined – and popular – genre in and of itself, much like the way “horror” or “rom com” define the story being told. As a filmmaker who happens to be gay, I think we should remove words like “mainstream” from our creative vocabulary and focus on making movies that strengthen the gay “genre” into a popular, substantial and commercially viable choice for moviegoers.

ROB: I think we will have achieved a major milestone when mainstream moviegoers embrace a gay-themed film with a happy ending. As much as we all love Brokeback Mountain, it’s still a tragedy where gay characters die in the end. I can’t wait for there to be a big-budget Hollywood romantic comedy featuring two gay main characters that finds commercial success.

Where do you get the inspiration for your stories? Do people ever ask you to write about them in a screenplay?
ROB: Inspiration can come from anywhere – our lives, our friends’ lives, current events, hope for future events, etc. Make The Yuletide Gay started from my desire to make a gay Christmas movie, while Role/Play grew out of my frustration with how the gay media covered gay celebrities. No one has ever asked me to write about them, and luckily, no one has recognized themselves in some of the characters that are “inspired” by real people!

Last year, you expanded Guest House Films into a distributor of LGBT films as well. You seem to be the first production company to go this route. What do you hope to bring to the table as a distributor? What other films have you released under this new label?
ROB: We started our distribution operations with our fifth feature film, Role/Play, then continued with two short-film compilations (Black Briefs and Blue Briefs), followed by an Australian documentary called The Doctor’s Wife, and most recently, our sixth production, The Men Next Door.

RODNEY: As distributors, we’re really striving to become partners with the filmmakers we sign – much more than what is currently happening within the world of indie distribution. We don’t view our filmmakers as merely revenue generators, but fellow artists who have a unique voice and perspective that we want to share with the world. Furthermore, they made the art so they should benefit MORE from the commerce it generates. There are very few distribution opportunites out there for the LGBT film, but with Guest House Films, we’re hoping that, given time, they will see more of the revenue back to them in the long run.

Out of the six films you have released since 2005 (pretty prolific, might I say?), which one are you each most proud of and why?
ROB: I’m going to say Make The Yuletide Gay because it generated the most amazing responses from viewers. We received a lot of messages from gay students and teens who said that the movie gave them the inspiration and courage to come out to their parents – it doesn’t get any better than that.

RODNEY: For me, it would be a tie between Make The Yuletide Gay and Back Soon. Back Soon is such a quiet movie, but with a profound theme – that true love sometimes is based on something more than just gender. I think the film looks beautiful, and you can’t beat the score, from Grammy nominated Austin Wintory (making history this year with the first ever video game score nomination). I think it’s one of the best gay movies ever made. But that’s just me.

Rob, last year you were invited to attend the Mumbai Queer International Film Festival in India, where you were honored with a career retrospective. How did it feel to be recognized in this way?
ROB: It was a huge honor for me – not just to be recognized for my body of work, but also to get the opportunity to visit India for the first time. The people there were incredible, and it really reinforced the importance of gay film festivals to me, because most people I talked to said that they wouldn’t ever be able to view gay-themed films outside of the film festival.

guesthouse films

Your most recent film, “The Men Next Door,” tells a story of a middle-aged man who falls in love with a father and son, and must choose between the two of them. A gay “Sophie’s Choice,” if you will. Was any of this storyline derived from personal experiences?
ROB: Absolutely not! The idea was to explore dating people of different ages in the gay community, and it evolved into The Men Next Door. If anything, it’s based on what we see with our friends and in the community. As you get older, the idea of dating someone in a different age bracket seems to become less of an issue. It’s all about finding a connection, and I hope that’s what The Men Next Door shows.

Is it ever hard to produce movies with someone you are in a relationship with?
ROB: It’s hard to make movies, period – with anyone! But we have been together nearly 19 years and make six movies together (so far), so we’ve pretty much worked out a lot of the kinks and issues. We know what each other is good at doing, and we know how to divide the responsibilities so that every step of production runs as smoothly as possible.

RODNEY: Well, since the entirety of our movie producing experience has been as a team, I have to wonder if it’s easy (easier?) producing a movie with someone who’s not your partner. To echo Rob’s point of view, producing a low-budget indie is going to be extremely difficult at the best of times. But I have to imagine that it is MORE difficult producing with your life partner. Since we are both passionate about what we do – as with any creative endeavor – there will always be times when we passionately disagree. Especially during a shoot. But we’re still going home together – which makes a “cooling off” period rather difficult to achieve. But we do. We’ve learned to compartmentalize our life together to a certain extent. And that helps. So does wine.

What are you going to be working on in 2013?
ROB: Good question! We’re in pre-production on our next feature film now, and we plan to release another short-film compilation this year. Hopefully, there will be more releases on the distribution side, as well.

RODNEY: We just announced the launch of Guest House Theaters at Krave Massive in Las Vegas, two theaters that will show LGBT films exclusively. Rob and I are thrilled to be programming and screening films in (what we believe to be) the only LGBT-focused theater in the country. Securing a theatrical run for the gay indie film is nearly impossible, so we can’t wait to start this new venture and get some of the best in LGBT movies up on the big screen. Guest House Theaters at Krave Massive is looking at opening its doors this spring.

Design

Get The Look! A Buyer’s Guide To Brian Balthazar’s Philadelphia Home Redesign

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As the world was forced to spend more time at home, Brian Balthazar found himself in a position where he had sold a house before the lockdown and had to find a new one.

“We sold our home with all the furniture in it, so not only did we find ourselves struggling to find a new place, once we found one we didn’t have any furniture to put in it.”

And so, Brian and partner Dennis got resourceful, turning to refurbishing and buying store floor models. They were inspired to make bold, fun choices in color and style when they started shopping around for wallpaper.

Below is the segment as it appeared on the Today Show, and further down, a rundown of where you can find the pieces or ones with a similar look!

THE DINING ROOM

Let’s start with the Dining Room!

Move the slider dividing the image to see all of the before or all of the after!

Brian saysThe dining room was the first space we wanted to do. I haven’t had a true dining room since I was a kid, and I’ve always wanted a big table for dinner parties! There were no tables within the price range we wanted, so we found a floor model at one of our favorite go-to stores, Arhaus. We easily saved 75 percent on this table by getting the one that they weren’t going to carry anymore. The chairs are from Wayfair.  On each side of the fireplace (not seen in the photo, but visible in the Today Show video) are two black tall lanterns flanking the fireplace. I got them at Target. I can’t currently find them on their app, but similar versions pop up every year. Get thee to Homegoods! Homegoods and Homesense (same parent company) are my go-to spots for home accessories for virtually every room in the house. You never know what you’re going to find, which is part of the fun.

But let’s focus on the real WOW element to this room – the wallpaper! This pattern is called Bellewood, by RebelWalls.   As you will soon see, I’m sort of obsessed with their patterns. To me, this room is magical with the added whimsy of this forest pattern. (They also have a more muted version with grays and even one with blues.) I also love that by hanging the paper from the chair rail up, you almost get the feeling that you’re standing on a balcony overlooking the forest. I surrounded the whole room with this paper, which I love, but you could easily add the same magical feeling by just doing one feature wall. Their website shows how it can translate to a bedroom or office. You might be intimidated by hanging wallpaper but don’t be! This pattern has so much going on that it really looks perfect when it goes up!

ON TO THE GUEST BEDROOM!

GUEST BEDROOM AFTER
GUEST BEDROOM AFTER
GUEST BEDROOM AFTER
GUEST BEDROOM BEFORE
GUEST BEDROOM BEFORE
THE GUEST BEDROOM

Brian says: The guest bedroom is on the top floor of the house, so it’s got roof lines on two sides that make it a tricky space to navigate if you’re not careful. The planning of this space alone resulted in a few bonked heads. On the upside, the wall where the bed goes is tall, so it was an obvious place to create some visual pop. Again, the wallpaper takes the spotlight.  Called “Nude Roses,” also by RebelWalls, I love this design. Floral wallpaper was ‘big’ in popularity back in the 1920s when this house was built, but the patterns at that time were smaller, repeated more often, and were often really bold in color. This interpretation is so fun to me! Gone are the small roses in favor of oversized blooms, and the bold colors are more subdued pink and gray hues, with touches of dark green and creamy whites.

While roses can inherently feel feminine, the plaid bedding (30 dollars for a queen set from Target) are a surprising complement that keeps everything from feeling a little stereotypical. The side tables are mismatched – partly because we didn’t want to go too “matchy=matchy” – but also to save some money – the one on the left side (hard to catch here) was from West Elm. Normally $199, we got it for half off as the floor model. The one on the right we found in the trash. It was perfectly fine, clearly someone had just gotten tired of it! Nothing some disinfectant can’t fix. That gave us some extra money to spend – To reduce the softeness we went with industrial lamps and edison bulbs. The lamps  are called “Ginyard,” from Wayfair. The headboard was on sale at Arhaus. The dark gray takes balances out the pink hues well. The pillows are from Target and Homegoods.

For the 360 degree view of this room, watch the Instagram reel below!  You’ll see the dresser, on sale for $599 from Arhaus, a lamp from Homegoods, and mobiles from Amazon which we fashioned into a ‘piece of art’ that keeps you from hitting your head on the angled wall opposite the bed. Watch the video to check it out!

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Brian Balthazar (@brianbalthazar)

THE GAME ROOM

BASEMENT AFTER
BASEMENT AFTER
BASEMENT AFTER
BASEMENT BEFORE
BASEMENT BEFORE
BASEMENT / GAME ROOM

Brian says: The idea for the basement game room was to create a space that feels like a lounge you might find if you went out with friends. When you go into this basement it definitely feels like you’ve gone someplace unique! Believe it or not, I found out the Today Show had invited me to to record my house tour just a few days in advance, and so we turned around this spot in just THREE days! There was literally no pool table at the time, (although it had already been scheduled to come on Friday, the wallpaper came on Saturday, (as well as the floor tiles!) and by Sunday we were covered in paint and glue and drinking wine to celebrate it’s completion! I recorded the final video that Monday.

Some people might not think to take a bright basement and make it dark, but that was our first instinct. Clubs are dark and moody, and we wanted this to feel like that. We painted the walls Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore, which is a very dark gray that seems to take on different hues based on where you paint it and the light that shines on it. We painted the ceiling black. This was Thursday night! Then Friday the pool table came. The floor tiles (“Tweed Indeed” in black by Flor) hadn’t arrived until the next day, so when they did arrive I meticulously trimmed four tiles to fit around the pool table legs so it looks like they were there the whole time. I had ordered the pool table online weeks before from PoolTables.com and by sheer coincidence it was scheduled to arrive in time for me to shoot the redesign. This was the second time I have ordered a pool table from them (which was initially scary because you’re not even seeing it beforehand!) but it always arrives in perfect condition to your specific selections. I love that the felt jet black and keeps things dark and moody. In the time that has passed since this photo was taken, I’ve added more of the carpet tiles to make the carpeted floor area darker and bigger.

But once again, the wall mural steals the show in a marvelous way! This mural is called “A Priori” from Rebelwalls, and is inspired by The Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power, a famous fresco by Italian artist Pietro da Cortona. Fitting, because this house is Italian in style on the outside. You can’t see it from this photo but the wallpaper runs up part of the ceiling as well. It truly gives the room a wow factor when you enter it. The lamps are from Homegoods, (we’ve since added some industrial floor lamps for extra mood lighting) and the piano was something we brought with us. The bar tables are from Amazon ($72 each) and the stools we brought with us – they were discards from someone who didn’t like their original bright colors and thought they were dated! We covered them ourselves with gray plaid fabric and they’re better than they were new!

 

So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed the rooms and find something you like!

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Well Sh-t, Leslie Jordan Has Shared Three Videos Of Himself Dancing In One Week And They’re All Perfect

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Doing much better now, Leslie.

If you’ve never believed that “good things come in small packages” then you’ve never seen Leslie Jordan’s instagram. The 4’11” actor known for his iconic roles in shows like Will & Grace and American Horror Story has recently developed a whole new fanbase who loves him for his viral Instagram videos. Usually starting each video by greeting fans with “Well shit, how y’all doing?”, viewers have grown to anticipate Jordan’s hilarious recounting of stories from his time in show biz or growing up in the south. This week, however, the Tennessee native has shared 3 videos of himself dancing within 5 days and honestly it’s precisely what we all need right now.

The first video was posted on August 12th and shows Jordan taking part of the “Git up and dance challenge” which swept the internet about a year ago. Even though he is a little late, the video is still perfection.

On August 13th, Jordan does a dance to “You Can’t Stop The Beat” from Hairspray a with special guest dance partner Katie Couric!

Finally, on August 15th, Jordan does an epic “tootsie roll” and challenges Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills star, Lisa Rinna, to do the tootsie roll herself. Of course Rinna commented with a big “ON IT ❤️😂.” Who could say no to the viral star?!?

The moral of the story here is that the world is going through some tough times right now but maybe, even for a few seconds, we could all feel better if we’d just dance it out. Thanks for the inspo Leslie Jordan!

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Planters ‘Baby Nut’ Has Somehow Already Turned 21 And People Are Not Loving The News

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2020 keeps getting nuttier.

The world was shocked when the iconic Mr. Peanut was killed during a pre-Super Bowl ad earlier this year. There wasn’t much time to mourn, however, before a new nut was thrust onto us like back-to-school commercials in July. Yes, after the 59-year-old mascot met his untimely death consumers were introduced to his reincarnate, Baby Nut. With big, expressive eyes and a tiny stature fans began to swoon over the cute branding revamp and accepted him as the new mascot. Well as if 2020 hasn’t been crazy enough, Planters just released a new commercial celebrating Baby Nut’s 21st birthday and I’m not sure how to feel about it.

According to a quick Google search, a peanut plant takes 4-5 months to reach maturity. So with Baby Nut being born in February, he is technically right on track in his growth cycle. The OG Mr. Peanut was the reigning mascot for 59 years so does that mean he was actually over 3,000 peanut-years old? The accelerated aging is not explained in the new ad with Baby Nut (Young Adult Nut?) simply saying “it’s been a weird year.” Reactions on Twitter are largely negative but as always, hilarious. Here are some of the best:

Yikes. Good thing Baby Nut is old enough to drink now…looks like he might need to throw back a few to handle some of these reactions.

To follow Peanut Jr.’s official account click here.

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