‘Seek’ Encourages Audiences to Take a Second Look

Who among us hasn’t heard “Seek and you shall find”? Trouble is, do we always appreciate it when we finally get what we think we’re looking for?
This conundrum is at the core of Seek, an intriguing new film that’s just made its way onto DVD and V.O.D. from TLA Releasing. The story follows Evan, a young, gay, buttoned-down type who recently had his heart broken by his “ideal” man. Evan is a writer, and in attempting to shake off his feelings of depression and career stagnation, he takes an assignment profiling Hunter, an attractive gay club promoter.
Hunter soon introduces him to the fast-paced, pulsating world of Toronto gay nightlife, featuring plenty of uber-hot twentysomethings, each desperately looking for something bigger, brighter, buffer and better. All are striving for something seemingly just out of reach, whether it’s to be part of the in-crowd, winning over that sexy stud across the bar, or finding success in their work. As a result, they often fail to appreciate what they already have.
Written and directed by Toronto-area filmmaker Eric Henry, Seek explores some original territory in LGBT cinema in a genuine and sometimes touching way.
“The whole reason I wanted to make this,” Henry said, “is that I wanted to address different things in my movie that I haven’t seen before.”
 
A native of northern Ontario, Henry recalls that going to the movies was an escape for him when he was growing up. It was a fun diversion because, as he candidly recollects, there wasn’t a whole lot to do up there.
“The entire process of going to the movies was exciting,” he says, “because we had to drive an hour to the next town in order to go to the theater, so there was a big trek to get there. Then getting the tickets and buying the popcorn — it was always something I wanted to be a part of, because as a kid I found it so thrilling.”
As he grew older and studied filmmaking, he understood that this would be a dynamic way to present his feelings or a message to a greater audience. And his new film does deliver a message.
It masterfully deals with topics such as not appreciating what you have (while you have it), unrequited love, and even aspects of ageism in the gay community.
“Every time I’d go to a gay film festival, I would see a couple things that were always the same,” he says. He offers a list: “a difficult coming-out story, a guy falling in love with a straight guy (who sometimes turns out to be gay), a disease/AIDS story, or a ‘bullying’ story. … I wanted to create a film that didn’t really have any of that.”
In Seek, none of the characters has any specific issues or problems just because they’re gay.
“They’re human beings first, who are living in the gay community. So I wanted to tackle a couple of things that we don’t really talk about in any kind of movie, really” he says. “Things like being marginalized, overlooked or disrespected due to your age, or personal dissatisfaction regardless of your circumstances.”      
 
Newcomer Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski stars as Evan Brisby, the fresh-faced writer who takes on a freelance project that could open a lot of doors for his career. Ryan Fisher is Hunter, the boyishly handsome club and event organizer who takes Evan under his wing to show him a vibrant and colorful city that only exists after dark.
Matthew Ludwinski is Jordan, Evan’s “dream lover,” whom he pines for after their one-night stand doesn’t develop into a deeper relationship. Jonathan Nathaniel offers terrific comic support as Evan’s wisecracking co-worker, Aidan, who is no stranger to the club scene that Evan is learning about.
Henry said he wrote the part of Evan specifically with Shepherd-Gawinski in mind.
“Adrian and I had become friends a year or two before we made the picture,” Henry says. “He was going to the national theater school here and I wanted to be a filmmaker, so we agreed: ‘Let’s go make a movie!’ Considering film-acting was all pretty new to him, I think he did a remarkable job!”
Henry says he chose Fisher because his overall look was precisely what he had in mind for the character.
“Although Ryan’s personality in real life is not really Hunter’s at all, when I pictured him, he was who I thought the character looked like,” Henry says. “In fact, Fisher’s image was sort of the inspiration for Hunter as I was writing it.”
He says Fisher initially auditioned for the part of Evan, but when Henry suggested that he read for the Hunter role, Fisher found that he liked it more.
Henry says, “I’m very happy with the entire cast. I think they all worked out amazingly well!”  
 
Seek is not autobiographical, Henry says, but a number of the events and people depicted are representations of his life in Toronto over the last five years.
“A lot of the people in the film are inspired by people in my own life,” he says, smiling. “Their stories might not be exactly the same, but it’s more the atmosphere and the attitudes that were inspired by my actual experiences.”
This includes his coming out and looking for a special someone to fall in love with and share in the life he was creating.
“It’s taken from my having gone through all of that, and maybe even having gone after the wrong person,” he observes. “All those sorts of instances and occurrences over the last several years have inspired this film.”
 
In many ways, though, it could be asserted that Seek is autobiographical for the entire LGBT community, because it portrays many societal elements that viewers will undoubtedly identify with.
Take, for example, Evan’s straight best girlfriend who eventually reveals hidden sexual feelings for her gay best friend, or the cross-dressing (but strictly heterosexual) couple, or even the bold suggestion that not every interaction that two gay people might have with one another automatically has to be construed as a sexual come-on.
This latter idea serves as the basis for a compelling bar scene in which Evan reacts coldly to an older man’s interest, which is clearly not meant to be sexual but rather an attempt to learn more about the younger man as a potential friend in a new city.
“These again are a reflection of what has happened to me,” notes Henry. “Most folks hang out with people their own age, and they block themselves from meeting and dealing with people who are different from them in some way, which is the point of what I was trying to showcase. In doing this, you’re putting blocks up from meeting someone who could be very interesting, or who could be insightful and give you good advice — and not necessarily for a hook-up. But in this instance, Evan insists on putting up such barriers and making such presumptions simply because this man is a bit older.”
The director says that when audiences have spoken with him about the film, “The greatest thing that people have told me is that they’ve never seen a gay movie quite like this before.” He adds that plenty of those he’s talked to have confessed to identifying with much of what Seek presents.
“Especially when we’ve shown it to older audiences,” he says. “They really pick up on that one scene we’ve talked about in the bar, where they just feel it spoke to them. It’s great that they could finally see themselves and their experiences in a movie, because really, when you reach a certain age you don’t often get to see yourself — especially in gay films — and so that’s awesome. Those are the comments I’ve loved hearing!”    
 
Seek asks viewers to take a second look at what they think they see and encourages them to dispense with any preconceptions that might prove limiting.
“Not everything is exactly what you might think,” Henry says. “You have to look into it and be sure not to get the wrong impression. This film urges people to take their blinders off and look around — and really examine what they see, because we all make judgments so quickly. By not doing this, you’re missing out on life.”
But he says perhaps the most significant message the movie contains is: “You may think you know the life you want (because you planned it all out), but it’s important to not plan out everything. Don’t be afraid to go off that path, because it’s off the path that you often find the greatest things!”
For more information about the movie, which was an Official Selection for the 2014 Toronto LGBT Film Festival, go to www.tlavideo.com or look for “Seek the Film” on Facebook.
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