Pride On Film: CHANGE the movie, Talking with Actors Preston Mayes and Sean McClam

CHANGE cast Brooklyn Lowe, Preston Mayes and Sean McClam  Photo Courtesy of Bridgette C Wright

Reeling Part 1: An interview with Preston Mayes & Sean McClam

Reeling: The Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, the nation’s second oldest gay and lesbian film festival, takes place Nov. 3-12 in venues across the city and for the first time at Evanston’s Block Cinema. The festival will bring moviegoers LGBT-themed shorts and full length movies of all genres.

After scanning through the abundant offerings of this year’s films I noticed a few standout movies I’d intended to see – CHANGE, T”AINT NOBBODY’S BUSINESS: QUEER BLUES DIVAS OF THE 1920’s, BASHMENT, LEAVE IT ON THE FLOOR and GOING DOWN TO LA LA LAND, I immediately reached out to each filmmaker, and a few actors, the results are this year’s 5 part series on Reeling.  Keep in mind there are plenty of other outstanding movies in the festival (IE Dee Rees’ PARIAH, and BLACKMAIL BOYS by Richard and Bernard Shumanski) I have focused on the the films whose producers and actors have responded to an interview request for complete festival schedule visit

Back in April 2011 I had the honor of speaking with Melissa Osborne the co-Producer and co-Director of CHANGE, a film about an African American teenager grappling with his sexuality on the night Barack Obama is elected President and Proposition 8 is passed;  since then it has continued to play to wonderful reviews at  film festivals across the United States. CHANGE will be shown at Reeling: The Chicago Lesbian & Gay Film Festival on  Saturday November 5 at 7:15 PM as part of RAINBOW PEOPLE, a group of short films. I talked with actors Sean McClam and Preston Mayes, the lead actor and antagonist respectively  via email to discuss their views on bullying and what’s next for their careers.

Sean McClam has studied acting for about 7 years.  The 22 year-old Los Angeles native has studied the Meisner technique and has been contemplating attending the Julliard School. McClam has appeared in television commercials for Adidas and Zales Jewelry.  His next project will be an independent film about the 1992 Watts Riots.

Preston Mayes is a 25 year-old Chicago born/Los Angeles resident obtained a Bachelors degree of the Fine Arts at Northern Illinois University. He has studied at Columbia College, and has performed with the Free Street Theater, a community arts organization.

PRIDEINDEX: Tell us about your professional background, as an actor when and where were you trained?

PRESTON MAYES : I’ve been acting all my life. Freshman year of high school I joined a community theatre landing my first lead role as Romeo in Romeo & Juliet. From there I joined an acting company for teens by the name of Free Street Theater for two years. Free street challenged me even more as an artist. I had the opportunity to use other forms of my creativity by acting, playwriting and creating songs for their summer shows. Free Street performed all over Chicago and the Chicago land Suburbs for summer camps, Boys and Girls clubs, and local community theaters. Free Street happened at a the time in my life where the acting bug went up a notch. While in high school I took a drama class as well as acting courses at Columbia College and Kennedy-King College. I received pre-requisite college credits for the courses. After high school I went to Northern Illinois University to continue my education. I graduated with my Bachelor of Fine Arts emphasis in acting degree. A month after graduation I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my acting career.

SEAN MCCLAM: I’ve studied acting for 7 years. It started with simple acting classes around town, then theater, and then I studied with Kevin McDermott who also taught Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Emile Hirsch. I did 2 years of Meisner and now I’m thinking about attending The Julliard School.

PI: What about the script attracted you to read for a role in the movie CHANGE?

PM: During the last election I was in San Francisco for my birthday and as I was experiencing the city, “No on Prop 8” rallies bombarded the streets of San Francisco. I found it brave to see them out there fighting for what they believed in. When the CHANGE script came to my attention I knew instantly it would do well, it’s an extreme topic. I read for a smaller role but the director/writer loved my audition so much she added my character “Vincent” as the lead antagonist.

SM: CHANGE had all the qualities and grittiness of a film that I hadn’t done before, and I felt like I needed to explore. When I read the story I’d just seen a video on a kid by the name of Carl Hoover who was an 11 year old  that took his own life so I had to do this movie. I feel as an artist I am here to raise awareness to these issues.

PI: Have you ever encountered a situation where you had to stand up for what you believed was right, knowing there could be repercussions or potential backlash?

PM: I fight everyday for what I believe in knowing there are repercussions. There are so many ideas and beliefs floating in the minds of people. You never know what someone would do to you because you believe in something so passionately. Look at Dr. King, Malcolm X, JFK, Harvey Milk, Tupac Shakur and many more leaders of our past who died for their beliefs.

SM: I have, acting would be a great example of this. No one really thought I could do it or thought I would take it as seriously as I do. I had to stand up for my art and turn skeptics into believers.

PI: As I watched the film I noticed how the characters interacted with one another, it leads me to believe that some scenes were unscripted. Did the directors allowed you guys to adlib or improvise or were you guys all comfortable with one another and everything we the audience see are genuine moments of camaraderie?

Actor Preston Mayes as the gang leader in the movie CHANGE

PM: I’m a natural talent and a classically trained actor, that’s why my performance came across so genuine and there will be many more in the near future. Melissa’s theater trained as well; she had the actors explore theater games and improvisational techniques to help create the trust needed for the camera. We spent a nice amount of time utilizing different spaces trying to grasp and understand important characteristic traits about our characters. It didn’t change any dialogue in the script but more so helped the actors create that genuineness the audience appreciates so much. The script was well written and the actors brought it to life, that’s why it looks so realistic. Special thanks to the film crew they ROCKED!

SM: Everything you saw on screen was scripted. We were comfortable with each other from the beginning and very relaxed and that allowed us to be free.

PI: Has your friends and family seen the movie CHANGE? If so how have they responded to your performance?

PM: My family has only seen my clips from the movie because it’s on my demo reel. Some of my friends have watched it and they enjoyed it. CHANGE is receiving great reviews all over the world and the audience is receptive to my performance; I’ve gotten a lot of appreciation for portraying “Vincent.”  He helps the audience understand Jamie’s conflict.

SM: Friends, family, and friends of friends have seen the movie. I recently went into an audition and one of the actors. “said hey! You’re that guy from Change! ” And told me how great of a job I did. The response has been great.

PI: Do you plan on making any personal appearances to promote CHANGE? If so when and where?

PM: I’ve gone to several festivals in California to support the movie but it’s hard to make them all. It’s even been shown in England and Australia.

SM: Myself,  the directors, Bridgette Wright and the cast members have been to certain film festivals. We did really well at Outfest, they showed a lot of support.

PI: What projects are you currently working on?

PM: I’m always on set; I’m working on an independent project at the moment.

SM: I’m actually on set right now filming a movie that ties in with racism and the 92 Watts riots.

PI: How has your attitude changed about gay people since you appeared in this film?

PM: I didn’t have an attitude towards gay people before the movie nor after. It’s all about peace, love and positivity.

SM: Honestly its always been one love for one people!

PI: What advice would you offer to youth with regards on how to handle bullying?

PM: Give the bully a hug and tell them whatever he or she is angry about, it’ll be okay. Everyone’s got issues in his or her life that can seem overwhelming.

SM: I would honestly tell the youth that you just need to keep your head up! Talk to someone. Don’t try and hold everything inside.  I know it’s hard growing up but there are positive outlets for your feelings. Keep pushing forward!

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