Call Answered: Sam Greisman: "Dinner with Jeffrey" at NewFest LGBT Film Festival
Sometimes a tweet by Sally Field, one of your idols, about her son's film, leads to your next interview. "October 21st. My son's (@SAMGREIS) funny, touching short is playing at @NewFestNYC. Go see it if you can!" After I took a look at the film's description, I called & Sam Greisman answered.
Sam Greisman is a rising film writer/director. As excited as he was I asked for an interview, I'm even more delighted to provide a platform to promote his film Dinner with Jeffrey, which he wrote & directed about a teen who's struggling after coming out when his gay uncle tries to teach him about the "gay lifestyle."
It was great talking with Sam about this film, learning about his creative process, coming out struggles, and so much more!
Dinner with Jeffrey will be playing in NewFest, NYC's premiere LGBT film festival on Saturday, October 21 at 11am in their Shorts Program: Boy Shorts at Cinépolis Chelsea (260 West 23rd Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue). Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer/producer/director? Well, my whole family is in the business in some form or other. So I'm not sure if one individual person inspired me to be in film. It's really just all I know. What I grew up with. The only way I know how to live, basically.
2. This October, your short film, Dinner with Jeffrey, is part of NewFest, New York's LBGT Film festival. What made you want to write Dinner with Jeffrey as a short as opposed to a feature film? I wrote and directed Dinner with Jeffrey as part of my coursework at Columbia Film School - I graduate in May. So it wasn't really an option to make this as anything other than a short, that was really just how the concept came about.
3. Why did you want it to be part of NewFest? What do you feel this film festival will offer your short that another one might not? I know NewFest has a really great reputation among the LGBT community. They show a lot of great stuff and I'm really just glad to be included with all the other work. I'm pretty new to getting my stuff out there, so any opportunity, especially in New York is huge.
4. Dinner with Jeffrey is about a young teen who is struggling to fit in after just coming out when his uncle tries to teach him about the "gay lifestyle." What was the most challenging part of the short to write and was was the easiest? Well, the short is based on something that happened to me shortly after I came out at 19, so I guess most of the dinner stuff was the easiest, but taking reality and turning it into something that felt like a story was definitely the challenge.
5. What did you learn about your own coming out experience from writing this short that you didn't know while you were going through it? I'm not sure that I learned this while making it, but I definitely think it's the message of the film and I learned it as I was coming out, which is that coming out doesn't necessarily mean one's own work is done. There's still a lot of figuring out and messiness happening. That's kind of what the short is about.
6. Looking back, I think, one of the funniest things my dad said to me, though at the time, this was him processing what I just told him, my dad said, "So you would rather look at a picture of a naked man instead of a naked woman?" and I said, "Yes." He said, "Ok." What was something, that looking back, you felt was the funniest thing one of your parents said to you after you came out, but at the time it was their way of processing that you were gay? I think my parents processed the fact that I was gay by the time I was five years old, so I kinda wish I could hear what they were saying to each other and my brothers about it then, because by the time I came out, they were more like "Ok, great, good job, lets go eat." Although when I was twenty, my grandmother did ask me if I had "taken a lover yet" and when I told her "Eww, please don't use that word," she said "why that's what all my friends called it when were in our 20s" (which was sometime in the 40s), which I thought was pretty cool.
7. How do you feel this short will help teens with their own coming out? Ha. I'm not sure that this film will help teens with their coming out, honestly. I think it's something someone should watch after they come out. Maybe future films of mine will deal with the actual coming out process and all that entails.
8. Like the main character, "Oliver," who feels he must change who he is to fit in with the gays, was there a time in your life when you felt you had to change who you were to fit in? When did you realize you are perfect just the way you are? I definitely remember feeling VERY conflicted when I was in my teens. Realizing I was gay and really the only kids I knew that were out, didn't share my interests and I felt like I had to fit into some kind of stereotype because I was gay and I couldn't just be myself. I also think the early 2000s were such a different time than now, which is saying something since it hasn't been that long at all. I'm not sure if I ever felt perfect just the way I am, but only cuz I am naturally a very anxious person.
9. If you had to describe Dinner with Jeffrey with a Madonna, Cher, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, & Cyndi Lauper song, what songs of theirs would you use? Wow. I don't think any of them have songs that basically just mean, everyone is the worst and life sucks. But if they did I would choose that one, cuz that's the best way to describe the film ha. I'm sure Gaga will get around to a song like that eventually. If she gets to like, a Joni Mitchell phase or something.
10. Since the short is called Dinner with Jeffrey, if could you have dinner with 5 of your favorite gay icons/influencers, who would you invite? What would you serve? And some would say, most importantly, what would you wear? Tough. Truman Capote, Laura Dern, Jane Fonda, Reese Witherspoon (she's on her way to being a gay icon) and Troye Sivan (cuz I have a crush on him). I wouldn't serve food. All booze and weed.
More on Sam:
29-year-old Sam Greisman grew up in West Los Angeles and has lived in New York City for the last nine years, since he moved there to attend undergrad at NYU. After years of running from the pressure of the family business, every member of his immediate family is in someway involved with television or filmmaking in some capacity, he discovered that storytelling is inescapably in his DNA.
He is currently in his thesis years as a Screenwriting/Directing concentrate at Columbia University. So far his scripts and films have dealt with his experiences as a young gay man, a very cynical young gay man and his feelings of not fitting in with the gay community.