It’s every gay critic’s fantasy: a handsome actor-producer delivers his latest film to your doorstep. It is especially interesting if he does so early on a Sunday morning and you haven’t yet gotten dressed or otherwise made yourself presentable!
Such was the situation when Mark Whittington brought a DVD of Lost Everything to me. The movie, made by Florida-based Hunu Films, is currently awaiting the finalization of a distribution deal. In the meanwhile, it screened at last month’s Q Film Festival in Long Beach and has been raking in festival awards and audience acclaim across the US (watch the trailer here).
Lost Everything stars Whittington as Brian Brecht, a closeted movie star who arrives in Miami on a public relations tour. Dogged by a tabloid reporter determined to out him, Brian unwisely begins an affair with the hunky bartender at his hotel.
The script entails several other storylines, including one about a powerful televangelist’s efforts to break up his gay son’s happy relationship by any means necessary. In addition, a reluctant hitman (and an all-too-eager hitwoman), Brecht’s pill-popping manager, a young starlet-wannabe and an art dealer with a violent ex all add up to an intriguing plot with numerous twists and turns. As the film’s tagline sums things up, “Some people will do anything … to keep the things they have.”
It took nearly ten years to get Lost Everything from script to screen, but the filmmakers’ long effort has paid off. It is extremely well-written (by Jerry Hamilton Bell), directed (by Florida theatre veteran Kim St. Leon), acted and edited, especially for a low-budget independent film.
Whittington was involved in the production of Lost Everything for over seven years, initially as a cast member but then as a co-producer. His passion for the project is evident when speaking with him.
When Whittington was cast as Brecht back in 2000, “They re-wrote the part for me to make the character a younger, Leonardo DiCaprio type,” he told me. “Now, I’m the age the character was originally supposed to be!”
Whittington began his acting career in his hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas, at the age of 15, playing the lead in Neil Simon’s plays Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues. Since then, he’s racked up numerous stage, film and television credits, the latter of which have included recurring roles on Party of Five and General Hospital.
“My cousin was into acting at an early age,” Whittington recalls. “We played Mary and Joseph in the church Christmas pageant when we were 5.” He also cites his high-school drama teacher as someone who inspired him to pursue a career in acting. “In Fort Smith, if you didn’t play football you weren’t shit,” Whittington said, “but we were studying Uta Hagen in the tenth grade and won many theatre festival awards.”
Of his longtime commitment to Lost Everything, Whittington states, “The script getting better and better. All the characters have lots of levels and are very complex.”
His character, Brian Brecht, illustrates that complexity. “The trapped sense of the character struck me,” Whittington explained. “The climax of the film (in which Brecht commits a surprising act of desperation) was the reason I took the part, although it changed a lot along the way.”
Whittington shares some intimate moments in the film with the equally attractive Kyle Lupo, who plays the bartender, David. Lupo is becoming increasingly well-known thanks to his current role on the TV series Wildfire. “Kyle is one of my best friends,” according to Whittington, and he believes Lupo’s talent shines through “his character’s big switch from nice to nasty in the middle of the film.”
I asked Whittington whether the villainous televangelist character in the film is supposed to illustrate something about the role religion has played in fostering homophobia. He replied, “Yes, but in another way the script has changed since it was first written, the character was originally a cruise ship owner.” Whittington added, incidentally, “All the board members of the televangelist’s church were played by local GLBT community leaders.”
Lost Everything first came to my attention when I heard about the less-than-positive reception it initially received at last summer’s Indie Fest USA film festival, held at Downtown Disney in Anaheim. “During the first night’s press interviews,” Whittington explained, “one of the reporters reacted negatively to the filmmakers’ comment that we were proud to be the only gay film at the festival.” They also were prohibited from promoting the film on Downtown Disney property.
But, ever-resourceful filmmakers that they are, Whittington and crew sent out e-mail notices regarding the initial reaction to their film to the Orange County and Long Beach GLBT Centers, to GLBT publications and to GLBT community leaders to drum up support. Whittington said their response helped greatly, and Lost Everything ultimately won an award at the festival.
If you didn’t get the chance to see Lost Everything at the Q Film Festival in Long Beach, Whittington’s hopes are high that you’ll be able to catch it in a theater or on DVD soon. The filmmakers are working with the agent who guided such successful movies as Boys Don’t Cry, Monster and My Big Fat Greek Wedding to secure distribution. In terms of a wide release and broader reception, their intelligent, suspenseful film may yet gain everything.
UPDATE: Mark has updated us in regards to Lost Everything's distribution; the film will be released theatrically and on DVD by Wolfe Films and will also air on here! TV in the future. Lost Everything also won the audience award at the North Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.