(*homocinematically inclined)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reverend’s Interview: Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom's Patrik-Ian Polk

While it has often been referred to as the gay black man’s Sex and the City, the 2006-2007 LOGO TV series Noah’s Arc has a vibe and style all its own. Despite some initially amateurish acting, the show was quickly embraced by gay men of all ethnicities. However, LOGO decided to cancel the series after just two seasons — to the surprise of its creator, Patrik-Ian Polk — but they did make it the subject of the company’s first film for theatrical release. The result, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom, opens in select US cities tomorrow (watch the trailer here).

LOGO's unusual decision has paid off, at least artistically. Jumping the Broom (the subtitle refers to a wedding custom African slaves brought to America) is a wonderfully satisfying movie that picks up two years after the TV series’ conclusion. Reuniting the original cast, it is a very well written, funny and touching exploration of the meaning of friendship, marriage and commitment. Spoiler alert: be sure to take Kleenex; you’ll need it for the finale.

Polk called in the midst of a press junket in New York City to talk about his first feature since 2000’s Sundance smash, Punks. I asked him how he felt about the decision to cancel the Noah’s Arc series in favor of a movie.

Jensen Atwood, Patrik-Ian Polk and Darryl Stephens on the set of Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom.

“It wasn’t my decision,” Polk made clear, “but it was ‘good news, bad news.’ I’m still confused by (the network’s decision), but the movie is getting great response and early tickets sales are big, so it’s hard to be disappointed.”

Polk denies that HBO’s popular Sex and the City was the inspiration for Noah’s Arc. Rather, he says “It was very simple: while attending a black Gay Pride event in Los Angeles, I realized there wasn’t anything on TV representing this community. I decided then and there ‘I’m going to make a TV show!”

Of course, it wasn’t that simple in execution. Polk had to finance the Noah’s Arc pilot independently. He remains particularly grateful to the LA-based Black AIDS Institute and its president, Phill Wilson, for their early support. “They have been incredibly helpful in raising the initial money for the pilot,” Polk told me, “and they co-sponsored early screenings and a national tour of the pilot, which attracted LOGO.”

I was surprised to learn Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom was shot in an unusually speedy 15 days. Polk explained, “It was a budget necessity; no overtime or going over-budget were allowed.” By comparison, the writer-director’s Punks was shot in 18 days on a lower budget. “But it was a more complex shoot,” Polk explained. “This one was simple in terms of only using one location.”

Patrick-Ian Polk and Rodney Chester on the set of Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom.

Music figured prominently in the Noah’s Arc series, and the movie is no exception. The soundtrack, available onlineand in stores now, features songs by Solange Knowles (Beyonce’s sister), Nikki Jane, Michelle Williams, Phoebe Snow and Polk himself, among other artists.

I asked Polk about his next film, an adaptation of Larry Duplechan’s novel Blackbird, scheduled to begin shooting next month. “It’s the story of a group of high school kids in a small town, with a gay coming-of-age story at the center,” he said.

In discussing his future goals, Polk told me “I just want to be afforded the opportunity to continue making films and TV shows; I’d love to have a series on network TV someday.” He also confided that Jumping the Broom might not be the last chapter of Noah’s Arc. “If the movie does well, who knows?”

UPDATE: Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom is now available on DVDfrom

Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.


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