On this, our third week of Tuesdays with Dorty (again a bit late on a Wednesday, I’ve never claimed that punctuality is my strongest quality), our retrospective of the films of indie filmmaker Brian Dorton, we jump ahead to a film that hasn’t even been fully released yet. While we’ll be going back to look at the films we’ve jumped over, we started with the Trashology trilogy in order as our introduction to Dorton’s work. We began with the first Trashology, Drton’s first feature, then covered Preexisting Conditions. In this week’s film, An Extremely Uncommon Set of Circumstances, it’s the final chance we have to spend time with the unforgettable filth mongers we’ve grown to know and love(?) in the first two films.
While you can grab the first two Trashology films on Blu-ray from Slasher Video, An Extremely Uncommon Set of Circumstances is not yet released, so I was lucky enough to get to watch a screener before most of the world has seen it. What is most familiar is the style, aesthetic, and characters – but there’s some unfamiliarity too. What’s new is the vast difference in the quality and craft of the filmmaking itself. A decade after the first film, it seems Dorton and the team have learned a thing or three about filmmaking.
Starting shooting Trashology in 2011 and we started shooting An Extremely Uncommon Set of Circumstances in 2021 so it’s been a decade which is insane to me. I feel like as a writer I’ve developed more as far as writing a screenplay.
Dorton is spot on in his assessment of his writing capabilities, as the film is most certainly a far stronger film from a script standpoint. The story is much more cohesive, the characters (old and new) are far better drawn, and the subplots are more interesting. The way the different elements come together much more seamlessly is noticeable and the nuances that connect things together are really intriguing.
Dorton also notes that “the production gets better as [they] learn onset what we should do to help later in the editing process” – this is an obvious thing to anyone honing a craft. With time doing that craft, you are bound to continuously improve. And, improve they did.
As this is our final edition of this column that will release in Pride Month, I felt like I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the films in their connection to queer cinema. Like the early films of waters, I feel like the Trashology films have a place in the world of queer outsider art, but Dorton hadn’t really thought of them that way, necessarily.
That’s a tough question. These 3 particular films aren’t necessarily full of queer characters. It’s lots of men playing women which started way back when we started doing short films. We simply didn’t have any females we knew at the time that would play the parts. Douglas Conner and I would throw on a wig and dress and play the parts. They were pretty hideous looking women but it was funny. I recognized it was funny if we crossed dressed vs. putting a female in the role.
Yet, for me, as the critic and consumer of the the films, the gender bending feels interesting and important in today’s world. Perhaps it’s simply watching these during the height of the drag queen debates and legislation happening in our nation at the moment, but there’s something both progressive and transgressive going on in these films that helps to challenge the status quo… even if at their core, they are just filthy comedies and not “message” movies at all.
There’s a matter of fact attitude that Dorton applies when discussing the acting in these films, though, as well.
I’ve never been one to mind if straight plays gay, non trans play trans… its acting. Try getting a schizophrenic to play schizophrenic or a homeless man to play a lead as a homeless man. Unless you’re doing a documentary, it’s acting.
On the other hand, it seems like he’s interested in taking a crack at something more serious that actually deals with the struggles and lives of LGBTQ+ characters in the near future.
I am working on a script that will realistically represent queer life in a small town. A group of LGBTQ+ friends and the ups and downs of life in a small town and as they come together when tragedy occurs.
Of course, this type of real life focus is decidedly not what the Trashology films are about. An Extremely Uncommon Set of Circumstances is appropriately named, as I sure hope the events n this film are anything but commonplace. While I loved watching Dorton’s evolution as a filmmaker through these 3 films, I am looking most forward into getting into other worlds he and his team have created in the coming weeks. So I leave the Trashology series behind after today and I shall return next week with something a bit different.
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