Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival: Director Andrew Putschoegl Talks BFFs

Films like BFFs disprove the myth that a majority of film festival offerings are nothing more than pretentious, self-indulgent arts projects. BFFs is a funny, cute film with well-developed characters who endear themselves to the audience.

"The film is firmly in the 'dramedy' realm," says the film's director Andrew Putschoegl. "There are a lot of laugh-out-loud situations, as well as a grounded reality to the story and characters."

BFFs was written and produced by Tara Karsian, who plays Katherine in the film, and Andrea Grano, who plays Samantha. Putschoegl worked with Karsian on the short film Hello Caller, which did well on the festival circuit.

See also: YouTube Sensations Jessica and Hunter

"We had a great time working together on that film, so when it came time for Tara and Andrea to find a director for BFFs, I was in the mix," Putschoegl says. "I loved the script from the first time I read it, and it was clear early on in the process that Tara, Andrea, and I had a shared vision for the film. I also knew it would be a lot of fun, and it certainly was. They wrote the script, produced the movie, and play the two leads - I don't know how they did it."

He also worked on the web series Jessica and Hunter, which is a viral barrel of laughs.

Putschoegl chatted with us about the film, his last visit to Miami, and the shenanigans he and his two leading ladies are sure to get into on South Beach.

Cultist: Tell us what the film is about:

Andrew Putschoegl: BFFs is about best friends Katherine and Samantha, who, after a rather awkward birthday dinner, decide to pretend to be in a relationship in order to attend a couples retreat using a gift certificate from Kat's mother. They expect to lay out by the pool and get massages all weekend, but instead, they get drawn into the group therapy sessions and dig themselves deeper into the lie, with disastrous results.

What was your favorite moment during filming?

There's a scene in the film that takes place on a ropes course, 30 feet off the ground. When Tara and Andrea called me to tell me I got the job, I was actually on a ropes course - the same one we ended up using in the film. So being able to come full-circle and shoot the scene in that location was pretty special.

How do you feel about BFFS being part of MGLFF's line up this year?

We're thrilled to be a part of MGLFF. The festival has been incredibly hospitable toward us and we're honored to be included among so many outstanding films.

Will you be coming to town for the Festival? Ever been?

I've only been to Miami once before, nearly 10 years ago. It was during the MTV Video Music Awards and the city was a little... intense. Tara, Andrea, and I will be there for the festival (we will be doing a Q&A after our screening on Saturday the 3rd) and we're looking forward to it. We'll also be at the after-party at Score. If all goes well, I'm pretty sure something will happen at that club that will ensure none of us will ever be elected to public office.

What do you feel is the message of the film, if there is one?

I'll answer that with the caveat that we didn't set out to make a "message" movie, per se. While we certainly touch on topics that are important and current, our goal was first and foremost to entertain. Hopefully, people come away from the film having enjoyed the 90 minutes they spent watching it, and if they take away something deeper, all the better. Kat and Sam discover a lot about themselves and each other along their journey, primarily that sexuality isn't black and white, but many shades of grey (perhaps not quite 50 of them, though).

Is the Samantha character straight?

I'm pretty sure Samantha is somewhere on the lower end of the Kinsey scale, but she's open to trying just about anything once. Or twice. There's a good chance she'd be at least a three during the festival.

Were any of the actors LGBT? If so, who?

Sean Maher is gay, and he has children. He's playing J.K., a character who is gay and about to adopt a child with his partner, Jonah. It felt great being able to cast someone who could relate to that role on such a personal level, and I think his performance shows it. We also had a number of crew members who are LGBT, including me.

What kind of response has the film received so far?

We premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in January to a tremendously positive response. Each of our three screenings sold out, and the festival added a fourth, with more than 450 people in attendance. The other festivals have had similar turn-outs, with great feedback. There's nothing better than hearing an audience laugh during your film - well, as long as it's a comedy, I suppose, and they've been laughing at every screening.

MGLFF presents BFFs as its Women's Spotlight feature on Saturday, May 3, at 7:00 p.m. at the Colony Theatre. Tickets for the film cost $15 and admission to both the film and the Women's Spotlight Party cost $25. Visit mglff.com.

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