Month ago, I did a weekly(ish) series called Tuesdays with Dorty. It was a look at indie director Brian Dorton’s filmography. We covered all of his films except one. That film, The Horror Network, is a fun one – however, he only did one of the segments of the anthology film and doing a whole piece on it felt difficult, so I decided that final issue of the column would include a final interview with Brian and his friend and collaborator Douglas Conner.
Based on delays from both sides and out crazy schedules, the interview never made it up… until now. So, today I present to you the final issue of Tuesdays with Dorty, a capstone interview with Brian and Doug. So without further adieu, here’s the final installment of that series… well… the final installment for now…
Sorry for the delay in sending you these questions… as you’ve learned in the past 2 months, I may have a ton of great qualities but punctuality has never been one of them… so alas, I’m finally sending you these interview questions. While I’m bummed we weren’t able to hook up via Zoom or something at the moment, I am stoked that we’re still going to get an interview in via email. So thanks for your time.
Looking at your whole filmography has been a fun journey… while some of your aesthetic isn’t entirely my vibe, I appreciate that you’ve been able to build a certain aesthetic and build into a variety of genres of film off of it. We touched on this before, but please tell us a bit about some of your main inspirations and influences, both as you got started and now… as well as everywhere in between.
Brian: I think a lot of my influences come from different art forms from movies to music to artists that draw or paint. Even though the comparisons to other filmmakers like John Waters and Andy Warhol are there… I enjoy the work of Wes Craven, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese… so I’m all over the place in regards to influence.
Doug: I’ve been a fan of horror films since I was a small child, probably an age in which I was too young to watch certain movies. My passion stems from way back then, long before I knew what all was involved in making a film. My influences range from John Waters, to Wes Craven, to Christopher Nolan.
Since I have the pleasure of talking to both Brian and Doug today, I realize that this series has likely done a pretty good job at highlighting Brian’s work and personality a bit, so let’s make sure we don’t get too far along in this interview without proper introductions to Doug. So… who is Douglas Conner?
Brian: Doug who are you? Besides the most awesome best friend?
Doug: I am a tech guy… where Brian writes and directs, among other things, I focus on editing, sound and cinematography. We all enjoy acting too. I think Brian, Gerica (Horn), and I are a killer team. Brian is a great story teller, I’m good with the technological stuff, and Gerica is a master with costumes, hair, and makeup.
Well, obviously, part of that last question was a set up… because I’m not familiar enough with your filmography to know that you work with a host of regulars. Who are some of the folks you’ve worked with most and what drew you to them in the first place?
Brian: Besides Doug who I’ve worked with more than anymore, we also bring Gerica Horn on board 95% of the time. She is extraordinary at hair, makeup & costumes as Doug said. She also plays multiple roles and always adds depth to her characters likewise and more. In addition to Gerica, we’ve worked with Jenny Coulter many times. She played Beatrice in the Trashology Trilogy and Aunt Joyce in Crazy Fat Ethel. We absolutely love having her on a project. Doug, who else should we mention? I saved a few for you.
Doug: Dixie Gers always brings it. After she got cast in Crazy Fat Ethel we added her to Preexisting Conditions, the film we were shooting when she got cast as Ethel. She has been apart of several films since, and gone on to appear in many other indie projects like Deadly Dealings and a few Troma projects. Most recently she plays a Jehovah’s Witness in our latest film which we’re editing… Early Morning Calm.
Your films certainly vary in genre and tone, but tend to be films that employ at least some of the same sensibilities and aesthetics. Of the horror, exploitation, and other genre work you’ve done, what are your favorite genres and subgenres to work in? And, related, which of your films are your favorites to date?
Brian: I like working in horror the most, but comedy is up there too. People have always told me I have natural comedic abilities. My favorite films I’ve done are An Extremely Uncommon Set of Circumstances, it’s coming to streaming soon although I’ve not received an exact date. And Crazy Fat Ethel because it was a long process and I think we pulled it off.
Doug: I agree with Brian on Crazy Fat Ethel. I’m proud of that film. Another film that I feel is overlooked is Preexisting Conditions the sequel to Trashology. To answer though, I definitely like making horror films more than other genres.
From what I can tell online and through our interactions, you both identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Do you feel like your art reflects this? Do you feel like drawn to make queer cinema or use your art to further the fight for greater rights in this country? Or do you feel like you just make what you love and let the art tell the tale on its own?
Brian: I like to work with LGBTQ+ talent for sure. When it’s an option I’m all for it. From what I recall at the moment there’s only one feature film I’ve written that doesn’t have something queer themed in it.
Doug: Agree again, I most definitely want to work with queer talent. I also think it’s more important than ever to tell stories about the LGBTQIA+ community. Real stories that are relevant to today. We don’t have to make every gay film about characters dying of AIDS or being bullied or about parents not accepting us. That’s all real and true but we are more than that.
I’m gonna turn the interview over to the two of you for a moment. I’d like you to ask each other a question or two that you want to hear the answer for or feel like the readers would appreciate to better understand your art and who you both are as artists, creators, and… well… people…
Brian: This is different, yet interesting at the same time. I always write and direct our projects. Doug, do you ever want to write, direct or both?
Doug: I wouldn’t mind dipping my toes in and maybe write and direct a short film. I think it’s crazy when someone that has never made a film starts off with a feature length film. Baby steps are ok. But yes absolutely.
Thanks for indulging me on that. Before I start to wrap this interview up, I want to get a little serious about things weighing heavy on me lately. I’m a pastor’s kid who has always been and still am heavily interested in the intersections of faith and religion with art and culture. I personally hold some of the basic Christian beliefs on God and Jesus, but veer away drastically in other areas. With that, I still call myself a “believer” but don’t use the term Christian as a descriptor for myself.
I say all of this to say that I founded this site on the idea of exploring some of the spaces where art and faith collide, both in harmonious ways and in opposition to each other. Lately, I feel less compelled to explore some of these things as deeply on the site, because the American Evangelical church disgusts me far more often than it does anything I even remotely want to highlight or celebrate. This past Pride month was one of the grossest I’ve seen when it comes to the responses of the Evangelicals and the American Right in general.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least ask where you feel your personal beliefs and worldview have helped to shape the art you make and what you hope people get from your art.
Brian: I think of myself as a spiritual person, a believer in a higher power, or God. I pray from time to time. Its hard though to include religion in film for me without delving deep into the hypocrisy of it, which I’ve done a time or two. I feel like there are so many different religions all pointing the finger at each other on what is factual and what isn’t. It’s hard to know when our bibles are written in riddles instead of being a more direct instructional tool for mankind.
Doug: I grew up Catholic but we were not like what you see on TV. I wasn’t beaten with a ruler by a mad nun. Right now I don’t practice any religion. That might change later on but don’t count on it.
Thanks for indulging me once again. I’ll be when I told you I wanted one last interview you didn’t expect so much heavy lifting… so I truly appreciate it. Let’s wrap this up with some looks at the future. Tell us about the upcoming release of your new film, as well as what else is on the horizon.
Brian: Early Morning Calm is in the editing stages, sound work and then the composer will add score. I don’t know if that October release is gonna happen… typical though. On the stab for us is a new LGBTQIA drama called Gayly Foward it follows a group of people in the community and shows the ups and downs of living in a smaller town. There are some surprises of course… and Doug, what’s that other film we are doing?
Doug: I’m excited to see Gayly Forward get made. Not sure I love the title, but the ideas I’ve read and heard sound very good. We’re now working on the sound for Early Morning Calm. Which is not my favorite part of editing a film.
And, finally, where can folks find your films, what you’re up to in the future, and all that juicy info?
Brian: I have an ebay store I’ll give you the link to that has our dvds and blurays at the best prices plus you can request them to be signed at no additional cost. Several films are streaming on Amazon, Hulu, Tubi and others. Follow us on social media, I’m always updating there on new things. It’s Brian Dorton on Facebook, dortonbrian on Instagram, I think… and there’s always IMDB.
Doug: Brian handles all that. Thanks Justin… You’re awesome!