Actor Andrew Roth prepares for a scene during the filming of a trailer for Dalliance Films’ feature, “Timing.”
“I’m for it,” Blaine Miller humorously exclaimed when asked how he and his business partners identified their sexual orientation.
Miller, the creative force behind Charlotte-based Dalliance Films, has poured his heart and soul into writing and directing the up-and-coming film company’s projects since they first incorporated in September 2008. Miller, who is gay, and partners D.J. Barton, Kathryn Taylor and Keith Sweeney have created something to be proud of — a film production company unwilling to shy away from important, interesting and compelling storylines and characters.
Currently, the team is working on editing and post-production for “Three for Dinner.” It’s their second short film — an 11-minute, 46-second thriller they hope will make a splash at top-tier festivals like Sundance.
“Three for Dinner” tells the story of a wealthy family who falls prey to a home invasion, but Dalliance’s production materials caution:” Things aren’t always as they seem. As fact is separated from fiction, the lines between criminal and victim are blurred in this gripping whodunit that celebrates the forties’ style of film noir.”
“The feel’s period, but it is very much a current-day story,” Taylor, a straight ally, said.
It’s also the first time the company has shot with two cameras, a test run for their much-anticipated, gay-themed “Timing” — described by the company as “’Three Men and a Baby’ if all the men were gay and the baby was 17.”
“Editing on ‘Three for Dinner’ was intense, because we were using two cameras at one time,” Miller explained. “In the edit, we end up with twice as much footage to cut because we have two cameras rolling. It ended up being a longer process than usual, but it was a good test to see complications, if it will help or hinder us.”
Taylor and the team still plan on shooting “Timing” with two cameras. The film, originally set for production this summer, has been pushed back to next year because of the recession, but the film has been in the works for years.
“I met Blaine and D.J. on a movie set in Columbia back in 2002 and we became best friends,” Taylor said. “Blaine had written ‘Timing’ while directing ‘The Last Confederate.’ Once I moved back to Charlotte we had worked on trying to get it produced through another production company. After lots of emails and letters and not much response we decided, ‘You know what? Maybe we should just do this ourselves.’”
That’s when the three brought in Sweeney, and Dalliance finally took shape. The four complement each other in ways that create a vibrancy needed for good business: Miller the creator, Barton on visual story and character, Sweeney on business and organization and Taylor working to connect the creative and business components together.
“Some of the challenges we were facing with ‘Timing’ — not being able to get anybody to accept or read the script — was because it was unsolicited material,” Sweeney said. “We brainstormed ways around it, and figured if we couldn’t get them to read 90 pages of a script maybe we could get them to watch four minutes of video. We took pieces of the full-length script, created a promo trailer in the four-six minute range that would tell the story. If we could catch their attention for four minutes, we’d stand a better chance of getting to read the script.”
It wasn’t meant to be. The trailer, shot in and around Charlotte, still didn’t get the attention Dalliance needed. But, Sweeney said, the trailer “did get the ball rolling and really shaped our path for the year ahead.”
As Dalliance got off its feet, they decided to focus on other projects, including “Three for Dinner.” They also plan to start shooting “40 Fears,” a dark comedy feature, later this year.
“’40 Fears’ presents an opportunity to get this out on the heels of ‘Three for Dinner’,” Taylor said. “The hope then is that we can distribute it and we can strengthen our company for ‘Timing.’ We’ll have shown we can make a film and follow through on it.”
The company, even with three gay principals, doesn’t identify itself as a gay film production company, Sweeney said. Regardless, the four all agree: some stories are just too important not to tell. In the broader media environment, Miller said, LGBT people are often still marginalized or sensationalized, especially on TV.
But all that is starting to change, as LGBT characters and storylines take root on some of the most popular cable and network series. Like mainstream media’s trend of creating gay characters with depth and meaning, Dalliance hopes its ‘Timing’ will shine through as a true family tale, with “gay” as an afterthought.
“I think the transition has already started,” Miller said. “Look at ‘A Single Man.’ It wasn’t about a gay man in the 1960s. It was about a man who happened to be gay who was dealing with the loss of someone he loved.”
Taylor agreed — it shouldn’t be about the characters’ sexual orientations. “We don’t care what their sexual orientation is. What is important is their story.” : :
Jack, a delinquent teenage boy, runs away in hopes of reuniting with Jesse, the gay father Jack hasn’t spoken to in seven years. Jack’s timing couldn’t be worse. To the shock of his father and his father’s partner, Connor, the boy shows up in the middle of their marriage proposal. Even more shocking, both Connor and Jack didn’t know the other existed. The party transforms into a true Dynasty moment as Connor and Jack storm out in opposite directions.
Torn between the two, Jesse doesn’t know whom to go to first. The couple’s snarky best friend, Patrick, takes charge. He shoos Jesse after Connor and then rushes after the boy himself. Patrick’s love for his friends, his pity for the confused boy before him and the “blunt” Jack pulls from his backpack all help Patrick convince the boy to stay. Meanwhile, Jesse is less successful.
Connor packs a bag and goes…across the street to stay with the neighbor, Dale. Tense weeks go by as Jesse and Jack try to rebuild their relationship. However, even as father and son make progress, Jesse can’t seem to patch things up with Connor. The couple continues to drift further and further apart.
Dale watches as Connor acquires a glut of new habits — going days without bathing, strewing trash, and drinking continuously — until he can’t take anymore. Dale teams up with Patrick (a la “I Love Lucy”) to step in, intervene and accelerate the healing process. The plan works! The couple reunites, Jack gets back on track, wedding arrangements are made, and everyone blends into one big happy family. Until…
There’s a knock at the door. It’s two weeks before the ceremony and the son’s girlfriend, Cara, is standing there. Scared, alone and very pregnant. At this pivotal moment, can this group of gay men convince the straight boy to “man up?” Will the coming baby get more presents than the happy couple? And, more importantly, can Jesse endure his new title: Grandpa? : :
— See the ‘Timing’ trailer and learn more about Dalliance Films at DallianceFilms.com.