From the moment the anthology series The DL Chronicle’s premiered audiences have fell in love with the short films which tells the story about black gay men. The men behind the critically acclaimed dramas are Quincy Lenear and his partner Deondray Gossfield, the two former actors have become a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. In 2009 the dynamic duo was awarded a GLAAD media award for positive portrayals of gay black men. What’s next for the power couple? Here’s what they told PrideIndex.com.
PRIDEINDEX: Under what circumstances did you two gentlemen first meet? Were you instantly attracted to one another?
DEONDRAY: We met through one of my straight college buddies who had been trying to introduce us for a while. He said we reminded him of each other. He had no idea we were gay. I finally met Quincy at the same friend’s screening of a short that he directed and I acted in. I was immediately attracted to Quincy and tried very hard to get him to know that without outing myself (I was very much in the closet at the time). I tried to give him all kinds of subtle hints and innuendos, but he paid me no attention at that first meeting.
QUINCY: We met through mutual friends. I wasn’t immediately romantically attracted to Deondray. When we met I had just relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles and I didn’t know many people here. At that stage in my life I was denying my sexuality and was attempting to control and subdue my same sex attractions. I was in a straight relationship with good intent to be married and my head was in a different space when I met him. I liked him as person and he seemed like a good friend to have. I eventually, shortly after, found myself becoming attracted to him.
PRIDEINDEX:Where did each gentleman formally receive his training as a filmmaker?
DEONDRAY: I majored in Drama and minored in Radio, Television, and Film at my first attempt at college at The California State University of Northridge (right out of high school – my 2nd attempt was in my late 20’s when I earned my BA in Psychology from the same university). I stayed for two and a half semesters before dropping out after getting a small role in the film Sister Act 2. I kept acting after that getting guest spots on shows like The Parent ‘Hood, The Hughleys, and Roswell, all the while asking questions and learning from the crew and from the directors and producers of the shows I worked on.
QUINCY: My film education was primarily self taught and hands on training. I had been making movies since about 11 or 12. My parents bought a home video camera and I was creating short films and soap operas with my siblings, little cousins, and friends. (laughs). My grandmother had a basement full of resale clothing, wigs, etc. I had a whole costume dept at my disposal, putting my 7 year-old cousins in wigs and fedoras for my skits. (laughs). However, by trade I was a graphic artist and photographer as a young adult. So my skill set would eventually be the same as the technical basis of filmmaking. As a young adult I received a lot of hands on training on set by volunteering for student and indie films in Chicago. I loved the movie making process and I’ve work across the board to learn the ins and outs from being a Production Assistant and Storyboard Artist to Camera Assistant and Make Up Artist. Wherever I could fit in I was willing and I learned an immense amount because of it. Yet and still, I relocated to L.A. to be an actor, only to find myself back behind the camera years later.
PRIDEINDEX: Tell us all about the experience to produce The DL Chronicles? Who came up with the idea? How did you bring it to the marketplace?
DEONDRAY: Quincy and I came up the idea together after noticing the sudden boom in gay media that had so few black, gay images. Noah’s Arc was still in its infant stages at the time and had not yet been signed to LOGO, so black gay faces were almost non-existent in film. Then after watching an episode of the infamous Oprah Winfrey show featuring a stark, disturbing vantage point of the DL, we became troubled because the story seemed incredibly biased and never sought to answer the question ‘why’ or to dissect the influences of religion or homophobia on the DL phenomenon. We had just completed a short film on the same subject that had won us a Best Experimental Short award in Showtime Network’s Digital Media Festival. We thought, well, we make films, why don’t we write and shoot something that addresses this? It was hard though. Quincy and I were deeply in the closet and two working actors who were in a 7-year long relationship. Doing this show would force us to come out and could have devastating effects on our careers, or so we believed. It was a difficult decision to make, but our spirits couldn’t sit still.
PRIDEINDEX: Were any of the characters from The DL Chronicles based on your own experience? If so which ones?DEONDRAY: Almost all of the episodes have some remnants of me and Quincy’s story in them, but are mostly based on other friends’ lives, with the exception of episode Mark, which is based almost entirely on the first seven years of our relationship where we pretended to be roommates to our family and friends and actually had two bedrooms setup to keep up the illusion.
PRIDEINDEX: What 2 books and CDs do you believe everyone should own?
DEONDRAY: Books: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois. CDs: Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder and Sign ‘O’ the Times by Prince (bonus: Faith, the debut album of Faith Evans, a masterpiece!) I never ever get tired of playing these albums.
QUINCY: Books: Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler) The Joy of Imperfection (Enid Howard). CD’s: Nina Simone: Wild is the Wind, Bjork: Debut, Prince: Parade.
PRIDEINDEX: Do you believe that LGBT filmmakers/artist have an obligation to the LGBT community? Why or why not?
DEONDRAY: As it is with all minority filmmakers: we have a responsibility to tell our community’s story. We may not all agree on the content or agree that one story represents us all, but every minority filmmaker owes it to their community to create product that adds to the Diaspora of American Film and Television. This comes at a price, however, because the industry at large expects most minority filmmakers to only do films about the communities they come from. It limits the filmmaker – I have so many more stories inside of me that don’t have anything to do with being gay or black, but I have to say, I will always try to include a gay character whenever possible in these broader stories.
QUINCY: I feel like as an artist my art demands that I simply create what comes from my heart and whatever it is that I create hopefully makes an impact on the whole human condition. I don’t feel like it is a “responsibility” or “obligation” of any artist to create a specific genre or body of work because of a subtitle or belonging to or not belonging to a minority group. There is more to my life and life experiences that go beyond being simply Black or Gay or Black and Gay. There are stories that I’d like to tell about my families experiences, my friends, the people I have met in my life. They come from all walks of life. So many stories that inspire me that it seems oppressive to limit ones creative capacity. A Black chef shouldn’t just have to make Soul Food. That being said… I WANT to tell important stories about LGBT and Black experiences, but not because I am obligated, I am simply inspired. My inspiration for LGBT and Black content is that we begin to see ourselves and embrace ourselves as WHOLE individuals and not the limited perspectives that our labels imply.
PRIDEINDEX:Are there any plans to produce any new episodes of The DL Chronicles?If so when and where will they air?
DEONDRAY: There are plans to continue the series, yes. There are already four new episodes written. At this time we don’t have an exact date or venue in which they will screen or air, but have high hopes that the series be re-launched in mid to late 2011.
PRIDEINDEX: How do you balance your professional and personal relationships?
DEONDRAY: I admit, it gets hairy sometimes. Disagreements that we have at home can sometimes find their way onto our sets or vice-versa. The more we work together, the better we are at not mixing home with work, though sometimes it’s almost impossible. At the end of the day we both put our spears away because we know that together we will still end up with a quality product. Even with all of the hair-pulling and nail-biting, there is no one in the world who I’d rather work with than Quincy. We have the same creative vision, tenacity, and philosophy about filmmaking overall and compliment each other’s strengths.
QUINCY: I agree it is not bump free nor the easiest thing to do but we make it work. In the end, our relationship takes precedent above all. He is first and foremost my life partner and the individual I love beyond all and when work begin to challenge that, we know what is most important and that is each other. That is not to say that every situation is solved simply, but we make compromises if that’s what it calls for. In the end it really is all about perspective. We are both pretty headstrong at times and may have a very specific vision and that can get sensitive. Sometimes you just need a different vantage point to see things differently. It is a real life lesson in learning to humble yourself and subdue your own ego.
PRIDEINDEX:Name 3 people who have directly influenced your artistic style.
DEONDRAY: Stephen Spielberg, though I can’t touch this man’s work with a 20,000 mile long pole, but I try to emulate his shot composition, style, and storytelling to the best of my ability. His films that I saw during my childhood have incredibly shaped me as a filmmaker in very conscious and unconscious ways. Prince, although he’s a musician has influenced the underlying pulse of my style. Prince’s music and vision can be described with these words: Original, Unapologetic, Barrier-breaking, Avant-garde, Sensual, Explicit, In-Your-Face, Bold, Brave, all laced with a Beautiful Aesthetic. That’s what I strive for with my work. As a writer, Alan Ball sets the benchmark for me. He seems to be able to string sentences together in a way that are so provocative that you could take them out of the context of the film or TV show and apply them to your life. He’s an amazing talent.
QUINCY: Off the top of my head, Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under, Tru Blood), Spike Lee (School Daze, Crooklyn, Summer of Sam, She Hate Me), and Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Wrestler) – although that inspiration and influence has yet to be fully expressed due to the boundaries of the genre we have so far directed. I like risk and the avant-garde. People who view things from an uncommon perspective or take the less traveled road, whether it be visually or in story telling. I’m a big fan of Indie and foreign film, namely French and the new Spanish wave of cinema. There is BRILLIANT work coming out of Mexico. I want the African American’s aesthetic to grow and expand thematically and cinematically too. I’m tired of these generic, stripped down, sugar coated or ghettoized images of us. Why can’t we bend things creatively too? Why can’t we be big, strange, magical, mystical, awe inspiring? There are sooooo many more artists that I look up to and study but you only asked for 3… 🙂
PRIDEINDEX: When you’re not busy working on a project what do you like to do for fun?
DEONDRAY: Ironically, when I’m off I like to get to the movies, read, and write. Not a big partier, I’m too much of a homebody, though our sudden influx of new, young friends has been bringing us out more and more lately. I can barely keep up.
QUINCY: Mostly my work is my fun. That has been my fortune, that I enjoy, even as a hobby, what it is I do for work. So I may be unofficially “off” a project, but still creating something new just for fun. That may involve writing, painting, photography, or acting. Nonetheless, creating without the pressures of “business” is much more fulfilling. I’m free to just create with no constraints. However, I LOVE to travel, especially internationally, but even my travel serves for inspiration and motivation to create, to be inspired by new people, places, and things. New experiences feed the machine.
PRIDEINDEX:Tell us about 2cents Productions, its mission, current project and any notable challenges and how you overcame them.
DEONDRAY: 2 Cents Productions’ mission is to make quality, socially relevant content and to provide a home for other talented unsung artists who would ordinarily be told no by the narrow-minded film industry. We take our very tiny resources and turn them into big production values, hence the name 2 Cents Productions – it’s also a play on me and Quincy’s two-tiered way of working together. Also keep your eyes out in 2011 for the new launch of our parent company Russelli and Hall and our music management firm, The Gossfield Group.
QUINCY: One of our most obvious challenges has been working with a network and having been shelved for 2 years. It was a difficult period because our hands were tied and there was nothing we could do legally or creatively to continue with the DLC. We simply had to wait them out and see what their final decisions would be. Luckily for us, meanwhile, our fan base continued to grow over those two years because the series was being newly distributed internationally by the network and newly discovered by people in the U.S who missed the craze the first time around. The demand for the continuation of the DLC has not waned but has actually grown. Now we are back in a position to independently produce and distribute our product and that is due to some very smart decisions made by us and our reps when we first licensed the series in 2006. It is scary but exciting to explore this newfound freedom and we are trying to be tactical in how we move forward to maximize the exposure and impact this time around.
PRIDEINDEX: What is the biggest misconception about you or your work?
DEONDRAY: The biggest misconception is that The DL Chronicles perpetuates the myth that the DL only happens in the African American community, when in fact the series’ inception was to counteract that myth, while exploring all of the social reasons why black men find themselves having to live in the closet by consequence or by choice. To try and distance ourselves from a term that our community coined in the first place I believe is silly and counterproductive. Instead, we sought to accept and redefine the term, especially how it applies to men of color. Education is the best weapon against stigma, and I think in some ways, DL has a new face, in-part, because of this series. Before The DL Chronicles, the DL had a seedy, deceitful, HIV-spreading mythology behind it. Now, these men are three-dimensional and reasons have been offered as to why they live this way. The whole of society plays a role in this phenomenon, whether black or white, gay or straight, Christian or Atheist. This series exposes this.
QUINCY: I have no idea what the biggest is. Opinions are like… (You know the rest. LOL.) I try not to keep up with the negatives that come along with being producers of content or being figures in the media. When you enter that realm you are fair game to the good, the bad, and the ugly and can’t expect to be exempt from it. I really try to focus on creating what comes from my heart. We can’t be everything to everyone and it is a disservice to your art to try and be that. The DL Chronicles was very specific in its audience, message, and approach. It could have never addressed the full gamut of our experiences. My only pet peeve is a mischaracterization of our character as people. We are very approachable, helpful, and fun. Unfortunately, people create and perpetuate these ideas, rumors, or mischaracterizations of who you are because you didn’t respond to an e-mail out of hundreds, accept a request on FB or Myspace, or you didn’t get to shake a hand at a function etc. Learning from experience, there has to be a healthy distance between you and your fans or supporters because that line of who is a “real” friend and a “virtual” friend can be creepily misunderstood. There’s a healthy privacy needed because the whole world are not your actual friends or family. We’ve been cyber stalked, targeted, and bashed before by a fan we were probably too personable with online. I can only imagine what a REAL celebrity must endure – we’re just scratching the surface. LOL.
PRIDEINDEX: Ever consider making a full length feature film?
DEONDRAY: There is a strong possibility that the next three installments of the DL Chronicles may in fact be a feature film, but it’s still just a thought at this time.
QUINCY: We have so many feature film ideas it is just a matter of us committing to one and getting the ball rolling. I’m a bit ADD with ideas and so I hop around a lot.
PRIDEINDEX: What advice would you offer aspiring filmmakers?
DEONDRAY: Don’t give up! Our very first film cost $10, with a crew of two (Quincy and Myself), a cast of three (Me, Quincy, and Quincy’s childhood friend), and shot on a modest handheld video camera. That same film won first place and $10,000 from Showtime. If you have the will to get up and make the film, the universe will conspire to help you finish it.
QUINCY: Don’t fall prey to the excuse that you need money to create. What you need are resources (people) and to be unafraid of hearing NO. People stop because they are afraid of hearing NO. One monkey doesn’t stop a show. My dad told taught me that those who ask, receive, and those who don’t, don’t. And it took me years to grow the courage to ask people for anything. In this industry it is all about assistance. That’s how you get stuff done, by asking; Can you? Do you know? Can you refer? Can I have? Can you help? Can I borrow? Can we barter? Never underestimate the power of Quid Pro Quo – I’ll help you, if you help me. Money doesn’t have to be exchanged. Remember that your time, services, talent, and skill are are very valuable exchanges. Half of the people that came through for our production were people whom we had volunteered for or assisted in some manner in the past, the other half we repaid eventually by job referrals, hired for pay, introductions, etc. Money is only a symbol of services exchanged.
PRIDEINDEX: What’s next for 2cents Productions?
DEONDRAY: The biggest thing on our agenda is the return of The DL Chronicles, aside from that we are in partnership with the Black AIDS Institute and Kaiser Family Foundation to work on two major HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns called Test 1 Million, and Greater Than AIDS that will feature the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Glover, Tia Mowry, Tyler James Williams, Tatyana Ali, Kenny Lattimore and many many more. Also we just recently directed three public service announcements (PSAs) for Equality California that will remind voters that they can vote absentee in the upcoming elections that could drastically help sway the numbers on the vote for Marriage Equality in California.