Getting Go: An Interview with Cory Krueckeberg
Getting Go is a film about making a documentary about a go-go dancer. Writer and director Cory Krueckeberg talks about the trust that’s necessary in such a project, and the ways in which we look not for the real but the ideal in a culture dominated by social media.
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Cory Krueckeberg’s new film Getting Go: The Go Doc Project explores that moment when our deepest desires become a living reality, and that age-old warning, “Be careful what you wish for”. The film follows university student, Doc, who has developed an intense fixation with a local New York go-go dancer, aptly named, Go. His obsession leads him to rouse up a strategy to create a documentary about the performer in order to get closer to him. To Doc’s surprise, the flirtatious dancer – played by real-life dancer and artist Matthew Camp – agrees to take part in the film. What’s more unexpected is what happens when the two interact as well as the impact they have on each other’s lives. Andrew Darley spoke to Getting Go’s writer and director Cory Krueckeberg about the layers within the film, the trust needed to create it, his homage to Andy Warhol and the separate lives we lead on the Internet.
What drew you to the world of go-go dancing?
I really wanted to do something inexpensive and fast which looks like it didn’t cost very much money. I started with this concept of wanting to make a movie about a guy creating a documentary about somebody. I started thinking about different things like if I was that character what would I be interested in. The initial idea was New York nightlife so I did some research. As I dug deeper, the persona of a go-go dancer was fascinating to me. I started searching for a person who was multi-faceted and not just a go-go dancer. I wanted to find somebody that this wasn’t all they were about. I needed someone who had depth. I happened upon Matthew and that’s when the real idea came together. Something clicked. It was this process of looking for an idea for a subject that also becomes Doc’s in the film.
Matthew Camp in Getting Go, the Go Doc Project
Did you conduct much research into the world or look to any sources for insight?
Not really. Once I had the concept I started writing an outline. I started doing it based on Matthew and what we talked about. I made the whole process of making the movie the same as the way Doc does it in the film. Admittedly, I didn’t know a whole lot about go-go dancing but there isn’t a lot to learn either, other than who the different people are and the politics behind it. We actually shot this film while the clubs were open so we had to ask permission from the go-go dancers who are on the platforms if they would get off so we could shoot on it.
What was the rationale behind using a documentary narrative to tell the story?
My partner Tom and I make movies together. Together, we have a very specific aesthetic. There is a lot of gay film out there that looks really low-budget. I knew that if I was going to do this and only spend $10,000, I needed a concept that made the fact it could cost $10,000 feel authentic. Not just that we made a cheap movie.
Tanner Cohen & Matthew Camp
How were the characters cast? Did you have them in mind from the beginning?
Once I discovered Matthew, I contacted him online. I emailed him the same message Doc sends in the movie and his response is the same one in the film. When we met up, I wanted to make sure that he had some sort of charisma that would hold up on camera. Some people who are interesting and great in person can fall completely flat on screen. We did some improv on camera and he was engaging and appealing. After that I wanted to find a filmmaker for the character of Doc because I wanted this to be as meta-cinematic as possible. I searched for someone but couldn’t find anyone. One day, I was talking to Tanner Cohen, who was the star of our first feature, Were The World Mine. He said “I’m not really a filmmaker but you should consider me”. He came in and met Matthew and they hit it off.
There are some intensely sexual and intimate moments in the film. I wonder what the dynamic was between you, Matthew & Tanner? Did you have to build up a certain level of trust?
We didn’t make this like a normal movie; it was literally me and my partner, Matthew and Tanner. We just had the camera and we didn’t really have a schedule.
I kept saying we should the big sex scene first, but Matthew said we should do it at the very end. So we shot it at the end. We got together, we drank some bourbon and I choreographed it a little so that the camera would see what we wanted it to see and not what we didn’t want it to see. I literally set up the camera, closed the door and they did what we had planned out. I told them to take three or four minutes so that I could get a good edit. They were in there for 20 minutes! When they shot the scene, I think they felt a sense of freedom because we weren’t in the room and the door was closed they were in there by themselves.
Go starts out as stridently confident and flirtatious. In one of his first scenes, we see him stripping in the street. Yet, when we are brought into his apartment, we see that he is quite artistic and in touch with his surroundings. Also, the interviews he gives reveal a very deep person. Was your idea to build up this image of person and then dissolve any assumptions and preconceptions about him?
I definitely used preconceived notions of who a go-go dancer may be. For me it was more about creating a dynamic between two people that had a push and a pull. I pulled a little bit from both their personalities and my ideas to create two characters that are opposing. The more you go into somebody the more complicated they are. Gradually you start to build an image about him. A major aspect of this piece is the façade that we put on which links in with the homages to Warhol in this film. Who are you when somebody turns a camera on you?
What was the intent of interpreting Warhol’s Eat, Sleep and Kiss in this film?
As a writer it may be out of the lack of confidence. I sometimes want to try and find something in existing culture to ground the project in. With Were The World Mine it was Shakespeare and in our last feature Mariachi Gringo, it centred on the culture of mariachi in Mexico. With this, it’s along the lines of your first question, I wanted to make this to feel sophisticated and not cheap. I spent a lot of time brainstorming. Once I met Matthew and found that he was an artist we talked about what if he inspires Doc in some way to look at art and explore the art world. So I thought about artists who I could funnel some interesting ideas to give Doc a view of culture as well as mirror the other themes I was working with.
Warhol seemed to be perfect because he made so many films in his time. He was the birth of reality television, just setting up a camera and inviting interesting people to analyze how they behave with no narrative. That’s originally what I envisioned this film to be. I thought it might’ve been more experimental than it ended up being. With the Warhol homages, the idea was to fold in a layer of culture through referencing the male gaze and our obsession with celebrity or people that are different than yourself. Andy was already thinking about that, which is what I wanted to this film to be about.
There is an explicit emphasis on the importance of the male body and physicality in the film. On a general level, do you feel individuality is sometimes lost within the gay community?
Definitely I think that’s one of the main pieces of what we were trying to do. Matthew has a certain body and what’s interesting about him is that for 10 years he has been this nightlife personality with this big persona. People want to photograph him and invite him to events. The first thing they want him to do is take his shirt off. He is a exhibitionist so he does get off on it. He’s gotten to the point that he wants to do these strange mutilations to himself. He wants to widen the bridge of his nose with silicone. He wants to look like an alien which I’m not entirely sure why. He hates the fact the gay community is so militant in the way they portray the male body to be. He wants to push himself in the opposite direction for being the ideal for such a long time.
Yet this theme goes beyond the gay community. I was struck by this most at a film Festival in Tokyo. It’s a gay film festival but the audience is very mixed. It’s more of a cultural event that all people from different walks of life come to the screenings. This theme really resonated with them; the idea of being like everyone else. It makes up a huge part of their culture in Japan. The idea of being yourself and stepping outside the box resonated with them on a different level.
For me, the film is about how the idea of someone or something is more pleasurable than actually having it.
I guess that’s the moral of the story for me. Doc doesn’t imagine that this is a real person he is going to get to know. He just imagines that Go is an object on his computer. Then when he becomes involved in his life things become a little stickier. It’s just becoming so much easier now with social media, nobody really talks to each other anymore. People use Facebook or you text and then when you see them in person you’re always trying to put on the façade outside of your home, outside of your comfort zone. You can create this whole life yourself online and never really let anybody know what’s going on with you. I think it’s a major theme in the culture of the world going forward.
Do you feel there was a sense of uncomfortableness, or manipulation, in how Doc gets Go to agree to the film?
I think he’s too naïve for that. Tanner and I talked about this a lot. Tanner is very different from the character in that respect because he was worried that he would come across as not pure because Tyler isn’t that way. For me he was just caught the moment. I didn’t have any bad intention behind it.
Although the film is about Go, it’s also very much about the story of how Doc grows into his own sexuality and identity. I know he is openly gay from the outset but you can see that he doesn’t really own it. How do you think his character grew up?
Go is definitely a major stepping stone in his evolution. He’s young and he doesn’t know what to do the rest life. He has dreams but he doesn’t know exactly how to achieve them or what to do with them. I think he was starting down this wrong path. He is also like a reflection of what I said about social media earlier. If you can get out from behind your WebCam, from your computer, from your phone and get into the world and experience the world, your life will be much more fuller and richer. Go gives him some to courage to step out from his little apartment and meet people and be a part of something that’s going on down in the street. That’s his biggest growth.
What is next on the cards for you?
We have two projects in the works. The first one is a musical that was off-Broadway in the ’90s called Hello Again based on the Schnitzler play La Ronde. It’s basically 10 scenes, with two actors in each scene; it’s kind of a cult favourite. We have some of the financing in place so I think we maybe shooting out in the fall. But also I’ve written a script based on this happening in Harvard in 1920 referred to as ‘Harvard Secret Court’. It was basically a witch hunt to expel as many gay students as they could find in the spring of 1920. It wasn’t brought to light until 2002 when a file was found in the Harvard archive. There has never been a major film about it, just a couple of plays. I’ve been researching and looking at all the documents and files and the people’s lives. This one is a much bigger budget so it take a lot more time to develop. I’m excited about them both.
Given that the majority of your films have dealt with LGBT themes, in what way would you like to contribute to queer cinema?
The first queer film that I ever saw that I remember was Parting Glances. I was obsessed with that movie and it was a part of the new wave of queer cinema. If you look to the beginning of what we consider queer cinema now, for the past 10 or 20 years we have this great divide between highbrow gay movies and other queer cinema which is populated by inexpensive, unsophisticated films. What I hope to contribute most is just is an interesting point of view.
I’m a storyteller. The aim for me is to create the definitive version of that movie. For example, I don’t want there to be another movie about a guy trying to make a documentary about a go-go dancer. To me, it’s all about doing the definitive idea the best way you possibly can. Also I want to bridge the gap between queer cinema and the rest of cinema. We had a meeting in LA last week about the Harvard Secret Court script. The first thing to developer said, who is gay, said “We need to find out how to make this more palatable for a straight audience if we are ever going to achieve a commercial crossover”. I replied “Why don’t we try and find a way of having a gay point of view universal, instead of trying to force a universal point of view onto every project.” It’s crucial to maintain your own identity so when I say I want to bridge the gap between queer and mainstream cinema I want to gay stories with a gay point of view but make them something the mass audience will want to see and not just a gay audience.
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