Hi Lauren, we are super excited to host your film on MAP. Can you introduce yourself?
Hello Rosie and Alison! Thank you for having me. I’ve been really looking forward to speaking with you both. I’m an American artist, educator and activist currently based in Edinburgh. I have recently graduated with an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art where I re-immersed myself in filmmaking. My professional life and artistic practice are always informing each other. I am passionate about social justice and the ways in which artists and activists have historically collaborated to create radical change.
In my day-to-day life, I work with an amazing team at Media Education where I’ve been able to combine my experience in filmmaking and education to make films with a diverse range of people across Scotland. On my days off you can most likely find me binge watching TV on my couch, drinking coffee or charity shop hunting.
And your film too?
This film is a collaborative project between me and my father. Gay Bond follows the life of Larry and behind-the-scenes footage of the failed attempt to make an action film. Based on Larry’s experience as a Mexican-American, he uses fantasy as a means to process his personal struggles as a queer, disabled veteran in Southern Texas. Filmed over fifteen years, this personal story captures an intimate look into the lives of a modern American family in the face of the current immigration crisis and the intersection between race, poverty and identity.
Larry’s hand-written film explores his gender identity by re-appropriating the classic James Bond storyline. Larry plays a flamboyant, openly gay secret agent known as known as Lorenzo Bond (Agent 68), who is followed by a posse of gender-bending ‘pretty boys’. His plot subverts the stereotypical heteronormativity of contemporary Bond films, and asks what if ‘instead of having beautiful women, you had beautiful young men.’
Can you describe how you initiated the project, filming with your dad, and how this filming relationship has developed? Have there been times when he has leaned into the process, or leaned away?
This project was initiated by my dad. In 2010, he presented me with a handwritten film script and asked me to help him make his movie. That was the start of our process. As he mentions in the film, we quickly realised that we didn’t have the budget or know how to make the big explosions he wanted, but we tried to capture what we could.
The core of my work is about building relationships, building trust is essential, and trying to meet people where they’re at. Making a film is hard work and often I had to adjust my expectations to what we could achieve. Due to my father’s health, there were days that other concerns took precedent, like going to the doctor, getting groceries, paying the electric bill and maintaining the house.
For me the creative process is inherently a transformative one. This film has been our thread of connection over the past decade, so filmmaking for my family is our way to connect and be vulnerable in our own terms.
The film is a collage of footage from a period of around fifteen years—how does this affect your editing process/your material relationship with the rushes?
Families are inherently complex and so making a film about mine was, and still is, a learning curve. I often get lost in the editing process. I usually work from a personal family archive across various formats, so when I first started filming in 2005, I had no idea it would develop into this project.
Reflection is a huge part of this film and makes up most of the emotional labour that has gone into this process. As time passes, I’m able to make different connections to the footage and cultural significance of the images. Additionally, this footage literally captures the only time I have been able to spend with my father as an adult. In the rushes I am watching myself grow up through bad haircuts, fashion choices and even bad reactions to my family. It’s difficult facing yourself.
For years I didn’t see any value in the footage. I was convinced there was no story. I still get insecure about how long it has taken me to get even this far, but am grateful to have the opportunity to be able to physically look back on our relationship. I can see what has changed and what hasn’t and how this very personal story about a modern American family relates to the larger socio-political landscape happening today.
The film features interviews with people around your dad, describing the relationships they have with him—through these we learn about various aspects of his character/s. How do you feel the process of making films with and about your dad has opened you up to other sides of his personality?
All the interview subjects were decided in collaboration with my dad. So the interviews with family members didn’t reveal more information about my father but rather were a way to historicise the stories I grew up with. The details and characters in Gay Bond are based on real people in my dad’s life. The most interesting part of the interviews was hearing more about how each person, who inspired different parts of the script, related to my dad’s story. For me the interviews reveal a network of really loving relationships in my dad’s life.
As the film progresses, moments of strangeness that problematise and dramatise each other are slowly revealed and then layered, so the film’s meaning deepens. How do you feel about this having seen the work as both an installation (in the Glue Factory) and as a screening (AMIF, Tramway)? To build on this, how do you feel about the domesticity and particular nature of watching the film online via the MAP website.
Having the privilege to show this work in multiple spaces has been very informative. Seeing the work in a cinematic setting was powerful for me and gave me the courage to continue to work on this piece as a feature film.
This project addresses a wide range of contemporary socio-political issues, including race, immigration, mental health, poverty and identity. It is a conscious choice not to compartmentalise these issues. As this family ages, the viewer observes the pervasive issues that affect their lives and how the making of the film tries to bring them back together.
Although this project is driven by these issues, the story is centred around the lives of real people. This film uses a combination of reflective and performative styles of documentary filmmaking resulting in the use of long takes which follow my family throughout their daily routines and into their homes. These intimate portraits use an observational approach which implicates the camera as a character. The closeness of the camera to the subjects’ lives reveals the distance felt between the subjects as they try to reconcile their relationships with each other throughout the film.
Gay Bond shows that social and political issues are inherently entangled. This concept of entanglement comes from the history of queer and feminist filmmaking practices which have historically presented the mundane as political acts of resistance. Mixing fantasy and the everyday illuminates the power of cinema, the importance of self-expression and how fantasy is a powerful tool to process trauma.
There is interesting interplay between your film and the potential film that your dad is working on—two films with different ambitions. What are your current feelings about how Gay Bond will develop further? Is your dad still working on his screenplay/own film?
Through this process I am learning how to navigate the borderlines between artist moving image and documentary filmmaking. I feel that Gay Bond is part of a larger work. As mentioned earlier, I am currently developing this project into my first feature film because I want to further develop the story and include more archive footage alongside more recent interviews. My dad is a very creative person, and regularly developing new film ideas. Even though he is no longer working on this screenplay, we do chat regularly about the film. He hasn’t watched Gay Bond yet. He said that he doesn’t want to watch the film, because, ‘like Clint Eastwood he never watches his own movies.’
How do you feel about your dad as a sort of Latinx queer anti-icon?
I am not sure how to answer this. My dad would never use these words to describe himself. To me he’s just my dad and no matter what our relationship may go through I just want him to be happy. I wish we could live in a society where it didn’t matter what your status, race, gender or gender presentation is, but it does, and it can’t be ignored.
To me it’s important to centre the story around empowerment rather than victimisation. This is important because it is far from a tokenistic approach. Rather, this project celebrates the importance of lived experience and the power of storytelling. Larry’s take as a veteran and immigrant provides a unique snapshot into the complex political dynamic currently running through the United States. So it’s important to believe in and work towards a just society where people are treated equally and have the freedom to be truly themselves.
Where can people find more of your work, and if they have questions or would like to get in touch, how can they contact you? Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
You can see more of my video work on Vimeo.
This project has inspired the development of new works which explore different aspects of my personal family archive. As mentioned earlier I am currently developing my first feature film and in a time of research and reflection. Due to the current circumstances, my upcoming print workshop and International Art Exchange with the PO Box Collective in Chicago and Glasgow Zine Fest has been canceled.
Lauren La Rose is an American multidisciplinary artist and educator who advocates for equitable access to the arts and has worked with veterans, young people and formerly incarcerated women and their families. Her current research, often encompassing social and participatory practices, uses humour as a means to confront viewers with aspects of contemporary culture and history. In 2018-19, she was awarded an Official Selection Award at the Together! London Disability Film Festival and is included on the Women CineMaker’s Independent Filmmaker list. Gay Bond was screened at AMIF, Tramway, Glasgow (dates?) 2019.