Just prior to the DVD release of Stud Life, an award winning film about ‘stud’ JJ (T’Nia Miller), her ‘pretty boy’ soulmate Seb (Kyle Treslove) and JJ’s new squeeze Elle (Robyn Kerr), we caught up with Director, Campbell X, to talk about the film, society, and all things stud.
Renowned For Sound: Why do you feel Stud Life is a story that needs to be told?
Campbell X: I do not live a life that is gender segregated – some of my closest friends are gay men and straight women. In LGBT films there is a tendency to portray a very closed podlike mono gender kind of world. I know it makes it easier to market to an LGBT audience to have just “girls” for the lesbians and just “boys” preferably with their kit off for gay men. But there is also another world that exists which is much more mixed up and complex. And yes, where there are Black lesbians who are tight with white gay men. Stud Life is about such a friendship and about how it gets complicated by a love interest entering into the lesbian’s life causing the gay man bff to be jealous. Stud Life asks the question how do we negotiate or very close friendships when we fall in love -”Who did you wake up with? Your best friend or your lover?”. We all have friends who have been around when we are single and then we fall in love. It’s shocking to be “replaced” even though we do not occupy the same space as a romantic interest, but our emotions are still there. I wanted to see the complexity of our LGBT lives on the big screen.
RFS: How would you describe JJ’s journey?
CX: JJ is not a very intellectual kind of woman. She hangs out with Seb her gay man best friend and they party party and take wedding pictures and bitch about people. She meets Elle and her world is challenged in so many ways as Elle does not accept her “rules” and ways of living or loving. She must learn that to love is to compromise and to accept someone for who they are right now, not who you wish them to be in a fantasy.
RFS: You portray a lot of issues surrounding urban life, such as homophobic attacks, do you think enough is being done to tackle homophobia?
CX: Homophobia is a huge issue! There is the external homophobia which demands that as LGBT people we should be grateful for any small scraps of human rights from the Master’s Table. When we ask to be equal in every aspect of life to make us fully realised HUMANS we are seen as making outrageous demands. This manifests in physical attacks as well as the constant hostile psychological warfare that invades our inner core and souls that force people to stay in the closet or kill themselves. Those who survive this covert and overt brainwashing have to deal with expunging this on a daily basis. And that is just those who ONLY have to deal with homophobia. Some of us have to deal with transphobia, racism, sexism, ableism, classism, xenophobia, Islamophobia etc etc.
We can deal with homophobia I think by looking at ourselves in the so-called “LGBT community” and examining our own divisions. If we cannot come together and actively support each other as LGBT people, why do we think dominant society will?
RFS: In Stud Life, you portray and embrace many examples of identity and diversity, why did you decide to include these in the film?
CX: Stud Life is a story about inner city London that is not grimy and downbeat. It is a lively joyous film. Too many films about urban life tend to be dark and hostile. It’s not how I experience London and life in the “ghetto”. It is full of colour, noise, people of different nationalities, ethnicities, genders and sexual orienatations coming together to create something that is uniquely “London”. This London is is never seen on the big screen and is where white British people chat patois, kiss their teeth and carry around their own pepper sauce “just in case the food is not spicy enough”, where Black people listen to indie music without irony, and where Asian food is consumed by all.
RFS: What was your inspiration for JJ’s character?
CX: JJ is a Masculine of Center woman, sometimes called “stud” in African American slang, and “butch” in dominant white gay world. This sort of woman is rarely on the big screen, TV or even in our LGBT press. So I had to go searching elsewhere. I found women like JJ on YouTube. As stud lesbians are excluded from our mainstream LGBT and straight media, they are creating their own stories online. It was very inspiring to see people just getting on with speaking their own truths and interacting with their demographic.
RFS: How would you describe the relationship between JJ and Seb?
CX: JJ and Seb are like so close, they live in each others pockets. Maybe they might be even a bit co-dependent. But they love each other and they have fun going to Black queer shabeens and talking about love and sex and dreaming that “the one” will be there round the corner.
RFS: How would you describe Seb?
CX: Seb is a patois twink. He loves his “bit of rough” and is seeking more and more encounters with masculine guys to conquer his own self-loathing. He is an urban gay man – at home with Black culture and black people. Seb is the type of white gay man who knows his bulla cake from his buns, his twerking from his turfing.
RFS: Why do you think initially Seb was looking for love in the wrong places?
CX: Seb is a gay man who is on the fem side. He suffers from a fear of the feminine, even in himself and looks to more masculine men to override this. But the men he chooses are also fearing the feminine in themselves. So they treat him badly: he is good enough to shag but not to love and certainly not to be seen with ….ever. Love is right in front of Seb’s nose, someone who just accepts him as he is and wants to love him for himself. But he cannot see it until he pushes his love of “trade” to a catastrophic conclusion, which causes him to wake up and accept that love.
RFS: A recurring motif is JJ’s Video Blog – what was the thinking behind this?
CX: I think the internet has changed the way LGBT experience our sexuality and identity. Instead of going to clubs we can speak to people virtually now as opposed to old skool IRL. Heh! In one way this is great as we can find people who mirror our exact experiences in one quick click. The downside of this is that we mistake internet chat for true intimacy which can only be experienced by being up close and eyeballing someone in the same room. JJ is such a lesbian who reaches out to people in her vlog sharing her thoughts, processing her life to anyone out there. She asks really huge questions that perplex her. But I am sure they perplex us all – questions about true love, desire, anger, rage and disappointment with love.
RFS: Stud Life is your first feature film – what was your journey towards making this film?
CX: I made a few short films before making Stud Life, many of which have won awards. My films were arty and experimental and showed in galleries and film festivals. I play with documentary and fictional elements in the films. I always want to use icons from LGBT people either them or their work in my films to pay homage to them. In all my films there are little clues in the Art Direction or actual cast of “us” representing. It is saying “we were here”.
RFS: What would your advice be to aspiring LGBT film makers?
CX: Make your movie and then make another one! Take the risk there are many supportive wonderful people out there who will help you. Even those who are not LGBT themselves. :-)
RFS: So, what’s next for Campbell X?
CX: Stud Life comes out on July 8th on DVD and I feel this is Stud Life being let loose unto the world. I am working on a movie about a road trip that goes wrong…….
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Check out our review of Stud Life here
Buy Stud Life here