(Editor's note: San Diego Gay & Lesbian News will be previewing the 14th annual FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival, which runs May 30 through June 3 at the historical Birch North Park Theatre. Look for Q&A interviews with celebrities and directors as well as film reviews.)
Paul Baker, director of the short film "Andie" that will have its world premiere at FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival on June 2, grew up in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa.
While attending schools there, Baker says he was bullied for being "different." It is a fearful time of life that he suppressed into adulthood, but now he tackles the societal problem in his short film "Andie," subtitled "Just A Boy And His Doll ..."
On his website andiefilm.com, Baker writes "A Note from the Director" that explains why he made the short film:
"I absolutely love kids. Their ingenuity, purity and passion are insurmountable and I wanted to bring that to film. When I wrote the script for 'Andie' I wanted it to stay true the perspective of a child. I wanted to capture the raw emotions and experiences young children face when they are considered 'different' in the world, especially with peers.
"A boy playing with dolls is still an uncomfortable situation with parents and kids alike. I hope this film can help change your perspective about what it means to be masculine or feminine. In the end, we are human and just want to be happy with what we want in life. Like the old adage goes 'boys will be boys' and I think dolls are just toys."
Currently, Baker is a producer and video editor at Paul Baker Productions in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of Palomar College and Sonoma State University. He is a former senior editor at Palomar Educational Television. On his LinkedIn profile, Baker says: "I am an editor, producer, director, cameraman ... Above all, an artist who loves film."
Baker discusses the making of "Andie" with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News and shares what his future holds.
SDGLN: Where did you come up with the concept for “Andie,” your short film?
A: Believe it or not, I was running at the gym and it hit me: Make a short film about part of my childhood. I had several dolls growing up, but was the only boy I knew who had any. I got made fun after school playing with them and never understood why they hated dolls so much. I just liked playing with them, but in the ‘80s and today, girls are suppose to play with dolls. I wanted to make a film about a kind, ambiguous boy who was happy just playing with his doll.
SDGLN: How did you find that adorable boy Mason Davis for the part of Andrew? And did his parents have any qualms about him playing with a Barbie doll in the film?
A: My original pick for Andie dropped out two days before the first day of shooting, and I was frantic to find my main character. Mrs. Davis emailed me, and she and Mason showed up the day of shooting. I knew right away when I saw him he was perfect without him even auditioning. Talk about great timing!
There was some hesitation with his parents. Mason had never touched a doll until that point. I let him choose a Barbie doll he felt comfortable with. However, when we finished shooting, Mrs. Davis did tell Mason to “play with something else.” Funny how a doll can still cause family controversy?
SDGLN: What was your thinking process about choosing the point of view of the film, from the boy’s perspective?
A: That’s amazing you noticed that because every single shot in the film was captured at his eye level. I wanted to subconsciously and physically show Andie’s perspective. A child’s physical point of view is very different from an adult and in turn the internal point of view is different. I just wanted “Andie” to center around him and how he felt.
SDGLN: Mom says I was very attached to a doll named Joey when I was a baby, and when my sister got her first Barbie doll, Mom and Dad bought me the Ken doll so that we could play together. Considering that the time was decades ago, it seems today like progressive thinking on their part. Do you think boys playing with dolls is still taboo in the 21st century?
A: Of course. Classic gender roles are still in play today. For some reason, boys playing with dolls still tugs at parents and adults the wrong way. There is a stigma that if a boy plays with a girl doll, they will become gay, too sensitive or a wimp. One thing that is changing is the converse, that if a girl plays with a manly doll, she is strong and confident. I made sure to show that odd reasoning with the juxtaposition of a delicate girl holding a manly doll and a typical boy with a girlie doll.
SDGLN: Did you ever face bullying while growing up? Why was it important that your first short film be about this subject matter?
A: Of course I faced bullying. From kindergarten to about eighth grade, I was bullied constantly. Boys playing with dolls was out of the “norm” and classmates preyed on people like me who stuck out. “Andie” was a film I had buried deep in my subconscious and needed to release it. It’s a film from the heart with a deeper message.
SDGLN: What do you want audiences to learn from your film?
A: Dolls are toys. If a boy freely chooses to play with a doll on his own, why can’t he play with it? Why do any of us need to follow a warped 20th-century gender role? As long as what we do doesn’t hurt anyone and make us happy, why not? Why can’t we be like the old song goes, “Free To Be You And Me”?
SDGLN: What challenges did you face as an indy filmmaker to make this short film?
A: The entire process was not that challenging, even though only two people did most of the work. Coming from a background in video editing, I always thought like an editor. “Andie” was my very first film EVER, but it was a still shot in the dark. I researched, watched other films, and tried to prepare and understand the pre-production process as best I could. The hardest thing to overcome besides finding a film location was when our large lunch never came last day of shooting!
SDGLN: What are your connections to San Diego?
A: I was born in La Mesa and still have family here. I studied to be an elementary school teacher in 2006 at SDSU, but made a career change in the middle of it. I became a video intern at PCTV in San Marcos. Then, after becoming the senior editor and editing an Emmy- winning documentary, I was ready to go out on my own. I now live in L.A.
SDGLN: Are you an activist outside of work? What causes are dear to your heart?
A: I used to be very active in ACLU and PRIDE in San Diego and San Jose, but decided to be an activist in narrative film. I do sing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.
SDGLN: What is something that your fans don’t know about you?
A: That I have fans?!
SDGLN: Single or taken?
SDGLN: If you were granted three wishes, how would you use them?
A: 1. Unlimited income. It would provide years of help for projects and money for family and friends.
2. A partner in crime. I’d like someone who is active, attractive, gets me and could explore life together.
3. Healthy life. I plan to live to be 140!
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.
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BEST OF LGBT SHORTS
“Andie” (2011), directed by Paul Baker, 7 minutes, USA.
Andrew is a young boy who loves his doll. He is happy being himself, but his mother and kids at summer camp are uncomfortable with it. Will Andrew have to give up his doll?