The sweet, unpretentious "That’s Not Us" -- playing Frameline this month, and Outfest and Philadelphia’s QFlix next month -- was co-written by Derek Dodge and William Sullivan, and directed by Sullivan. This charming comedy-drama features three couples—lesbians Alex (Sarah Wharton) and Jackie (Nicole Pursell); gay couple James (Mark Berger) and Spencer (David Rysdahl); and straight couple Liz (Elizabeth Gray) and Dougie (Tommy Nelms)—spending a late September weekend together at a New York beach community. While each couple spends their time alone together fucking or fighting, all the characters are dealing with partnership issues involving honesty and (mis)communication.
If the storylines are slight—the lesbians haven’t had sex in ages; the gay guys are separating because Spencer got into grad school in Chicago, and the straights are having problems of trust—“That’s Not Us” is consistently warm and engaging, thanks to the assured performances by the entire cast, who improvised most of their scenes. The scenes between Wharton and Berger, who co-produced, are particularly strong. This is a perfect film to see a summer night with someone you care about.
Sullivan and Dodge as well as Wharton and Berger chatted with /bent about making their fine film.
How did you conceive of the film, the intimate style, and the characters?
William: The impetus for the entire project was that we were seeing coming out or falling in love stories. We wanted to do something that reflected what we go through and experience on a day-to-day basis. That was the trigger that made us write down things we were thinking about. We had an outline for the characters and their arcs, and we wanted to explore these themes—the vulnerability, the physical separation of the gay couple, and the sexual offseason.
Derek: You see people in films trying to find love, or navigating new love, or it’s a break up movie, but for couples that are together, things always seem easy. But even for couples that have been together for so long, there is still work to do to make love last. We wanted to show everyday obstacles real couples face in long term relationships. Just because they have a bump doesn’t mean they will break up; they have their partner’s best interests in mind. We particularly wanted to see young gay couples doing that.