‘Exchange’ wins best short in special online-only Reel Out Charlotte Shorts Showcase

In close audience vote, ‘Exchange’ edges out runners-up ‘After That Party’ and ‘Public Life’

Charlotte Pride and its Reel Out Charlotte, the Queen City’s Annual LGBTQ Film Festival, is proud to recognize the winner and runners-up to this year’s special online-only LGBTQ Shorts Showcase: Stay-At-Home Edition. Hosted online May 7-11, the online shorts showcase allowed LGBTQ and ally Charlotteans and community members across the region and nation to enjoy 11 short queer films from a variety of genres and styles from the comfort of their homes. Reel Out Charlotte had been due to be hosted May 9-17, but has been rescheduled for Oct. 24-Nov. 1 due to stay-at-home orders because of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Exchange” took the top spot among audience members and voters in order to win the online showcase’s Best Short-Viewers’ Choice Award. In a very tight vote among the top three vote-getters, runners-up included “After That Party” and “Public Life.”

Below, read more in our Q&As with key folks involved in the creation of “Exchange,” “After That Party,” and “Public Life.”

Congratulations to all the filmmakers and especially to “Exchange.” We appreciate the participation of all 11 filmmakers in our online-only showcase this spring. We’d also like to thank all of the 620 community members who registered as guests for the online event, and extend a special note of gratitude to the 71 guests who opted to send a donation along with their free online screening ticket. Your generosity will enable Charlotte Pride and Reel Out Charlotte to have additional funds available to make this fall’s rescheduled film festival a success.

Want to learn more about all the films we screened? Click here to see an archived event page.

Still hungry for more indie and queer film conversation? Check out our Facebook Live Q&A with Lucas Drummond of “After That Party” and Ben Baur of “Next Level Shit.”

BEST SHORT-VIEWERS’ CHOICE: ‘Exchange’

“Exchange,” written and directed by Conlan Carter and produced by Jonathan Souza, the 11-minute short tells the story of Javier, who has become an agoraphobe following his recent HIV diagnosis. His friend and caretaker, Ashley, begs for him to reenter the outside world, but, strangely, Javier has already arranged for the outside world to come to him, via a Grindr hookup. However backwards it may seem, Javier is determined to make contact with another person in whatever small and strange way he can.

Conlan Carter, Writer/Director (He/Him/His)

Why was it important for you to tell this story, and what do you hope viewers take away from it?
Exchange was born, in large part, from a fear of loneliness. I think there’s a uniquely queer experience in fearing that the world won’t accept you for who you really are. Living a queer life is a journey of vulnerability and bravery in integrity. We wanted to make a film that embodied a small part of that journey from fear to vulnerability. We also wanted to talk about living with HIV, which can often be an isolating and fearful experience. Through this film, we hoped to shed a light on the importance of community in the lives of LGBTQ people and how community can come from even a single person if it comes from a place of love.

What is the most memorable or meaningful thing you remember about creating your film? Do you have a special, memorable moment or something that happened that touched you in a special way while creating the film?
This film was shot on an extremely-low budget over a period of three relatively-short days with a group of students who had largely-minimal experience; this was both the DP, Director, and the Lead Actor’s first actual film. As a director, it felt like I was juggling while running a marathon. One of the last, late shots of the first day was the closeup on Arnold (Javier) delivering his titular “exchange” monologue. If it looks like he was strung out on the film, it’s because he was. We had been on set for over 16 hours and were deeply behind schedule. We did about a dozen takes of the monologue, and the conversations between takes were completely nonsensical. I remember turning around, resisting anxious, exhausted tears, and I saw how full the room was. Our crew–who has stayed on, working all day–was perched perfectly still, silent, and beaming with genuine, tired smiles. It was at this moment that I knew for certain that we were making something good, something that everyone believed in, and I won’t ever forget it.

How would you describe the importance of events like queer film festivals? What do queer film festivals provide that a filmmaker may not get at a larger or more mainstream film festival?
I think that queer film has some of the most-innovative filmmakers on the scene. There’s more than one way to tell a story via film, and queer films continue to prove that time and time again. If queer film festival like Reel Out didn’t exist, there simply wouldn’t be any innovators. In these spaces, we get to refine what makes each of our singular voices so compelling, in concert with a menagerie of other, equally-unique filmmakers. There’s just no substitute for it.

Jonathan Souza, Producer (He/Him/His)

Why was it important for you to tell this story, and what do you hope viewers take away from it?
For me this story was important to tell because I think it shows a beautiful flawed queer person, fighting through everyday life, and it shows his struggles within himself that I think everyone can relate too on some aspect. Queer people are real people that go through real issues and tell this story was taken on with great pride and sensitivity. I hope viewers take away that everyone’s struggle with isolation and mental health is real and valid, and that queer people should be able to see themselves represented in all stages of their lives.

What is the most memorable or meaningful thing you remember about creating your film? Do you have a special, memorable moment or something that happened that touched you in a special way while creating the film?
We spent 3 days trapped in a Brooklyn, NY apartment creating this film. Many of us were still students balancing a full schedule of work and class during the shoot week. Some of the most important moments of our film were shot at 2am. Fighting through those days and seeing our actors use that energy is something I will always remember. Moments like the bathroom scene were just written so beautifully on the page that easily transitioned equality as powerful on screen, and others like when our lead actor (Arnold Treviño) shoot his “Exchange” monologue, I think we all realized we had something special. I couldn’t have asked for a more caring, diverse and beautiful group of collaborators to tell this special story with.

How would you describe the importance of events like queer film festivals? What do queer film festivals provide that a filmmaker may not get at a larger or more mainstream film festival?
Queer festivals are so important because they allow are work to actually be seen, that might normally not happen. Queer Festivals provide a community where our work can be celebrated and not filtered to worry that our audience won’t understand us. Especially in times of isolation, like now, for queer people’s story to still be watched and validated is providing so many queer people the availability to be seen. I’m proud our film was able to be viewed and received with such grace. I’m also thankful to Reel Out Charlotte, for adapt their programming to this online program to allow our work to be still be seen.


RUNNER-UP: ‘AFTER THAT PARTY’

“After That Party” is a 15-minute short shot in Brazil. It tells the story of Leo, who had never imagined he would see his Dad kissing another man in the middle of a party… until it happened. Now, with the help of Carol, his best friend, he has to find the most perfect way to tell his Dad that he found out about his secret.

Lucas Drummond, Screenwriter, Producer, Editor and Lead Actor (he/him/his)

Why was it important for you to tell this story, and what do you hope viewers take away from it?
I think this story is important to be told first because we are very used to seing films about teenagers or young adults coming out to their parents, but we rarely, or at least not that often, see stories about men in their 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s having to come out to their families. And these stories need to be told as well. They deserve to be. I also feel that in terms of coming out stories, we usually see dramatic plots. And I think that is what’s most special about this film in particular. Leo accepts his father from the moment he finds out about his sexuality. What he struggles with, and this is actually the film’s biggest conflict, is with finding the most perfect way to tell his dad that he already knows about his secret. So, when I think about this film, what stands out is this sweet story about being kind and supportive to the ones you love and that’s the message I hope viewers take away from it.

What is the most memorable or meaningful thing you remember about creating your film? Do you have a special, memorable moment or something that happened that touched you in a special way while creating the film?
One of the most remarkable moments for me was when I first called Charles Fricks, the actor playing the father, to invite him to the project. Although, we had never worked together before, we had written this character for him and we really wanted him to play it. He’s an incredible actor, so talented and passionate, and a very special human being. So I call him, tell him about the project and he immediately answers to me: “Oh, I was just invited to play a father in another gay short, which will be shot in the same month as yours. I don’t know. I’m not sure whether I should accept your invitation, because I’m afraid they are pretty similar characters.” So I ask him to read the screenplay before taking any decision and he agrees on doing that. I hung up the phone, text both Mel and Caio letting them know what Charles’ response was and add “let’s wait.” I go out to work and, less than three hours later, I get a call from Charles. I will never forget that moment, I was on the train and the signal was horrible: “I just read the script. I absolutely love it. I really wanna do it.” Obviously, I was really glad. We all were. But the most important thing: from that moment on, I was convinced that we had a powerful story in our hands.

How would you describe the importance of events like queer film festivals? What do queer film festivals provide that a filmmaker may not get at a larger or more mainstream film festival?
I think queer film festivals create a safe and respectful space for our community. A space where we can not only tell our stories, but also to get to know ourselves better. And by getting to know each other better, we will accept each other more and get united to fight for our rights together, as a community. I think there’s still a lot of prejudice in the world, but unfortunately part of it originates from inside of our own LGBTQIAP2++ community. Gays need to make room for lesbians to tell their stories. Both have to make room for bisexuals to tell their stories. Bisexuals have to make room for transgender people, who have to make room for the non-binary, who have to make room for asexuals and intersexuals, and so on… And, in my point of view, queer film festivals create a space (they have to create it) for all these stories to be told. We have to achieve equality, sorority and respect inside our own community, in order to be able to ask it from the outside. Together and united, minorities become majority.


RUNNER UP: ‘Public Life’

“Public Life,” a 17-minute short, follows Eric who, after befriending his new classmate John, is forced to come to terms with both his sexuality and the tragic death of a friend. This is a coming-of-age film that examines what it is like to struggle with sexuality, depression, anxiety, and loss in high school. The characters in this story must also deal with these issues in the age of social media. A world where everyone knows what you’re doing and where nothing is ever really gone.

Matthew Allen, Director/Producer (he/him/his)

Why was it important for you to tell this story, and what do you hope viewers take away from it?
I think it was important to tell this story in order to show that sexuality and queerness can extend into all facets of life. I feel that often times people (especially heterosexual and cis-gendered people) have the assumption that sexuality only impacts our romantic lives, but don’t understand the depth that queerness can effect. In Public Life, the struggle with our protagonist’s sexual discovery extends into his grief and regret regarding his friend’s death and ultimately shapes not only the person he becomes socially, but also changes his depression and inner feelings about himself.

What is the most memorable or meaningful thing you remember about creating your film? Do you have a special, memorable moment or something that happened that touched you in a special way while creating the film?
Public Life deals with the topic of school shootings, a topic that seems to never go away in America. The day before our first day of production was when the Stoneman Douglas shooting took place in Florida, and it really impacted the mood on set (our lead actor actually used that event to drum up emotions in the scene where Eric first hears that Noah was killed). The day that we finished the film and started submitting it to festivals was the day that the El Paso and Dayton shootings took place. So obviously, while these events weren’t memorable in a happy way, the fact that these events happened on such big days for the film really pushed the importance of the film.

What is the most memorable or meaningful thing you remember about creating your film? Do you have a special, memorable moment or something that happened that touched you in a special way while creating the film?
Queer film festivals are SO IMPORTANT! Not only do they offer a space to view important films that might not get the opportunity to be shown at a larger festival, but they also offer a filmmaking community of like-minded people.


Reel Out Charlotte, the Queen City’s Annual LGBTQ Film Festival, has been rescheduled to Oct. 24-Nov. 1, 2020. Be sure to RSVP on Facebook or sign up for our email list to get the latest updates on both online and, when we’re able to resume, in-person events and programs from Charlotte Pride!