I still have no title for the series we filmed a test scene for last week – a working title, but not one I want to commit for posterity.
Watching the scene I realized even more than I did while writing the script that the series is playing around with the idea of a buddy film. Wikipedia defines the buddy film as “a pairing of two people of the same sex, historically men.” It goes without saying, though Wikipedia mentions it, that women in these films are decidedly peripheral. No wonder I didn’t think too much about my intentions. Films about men, unrelated to women, tend to bore me. A film about male relationships is a real sedative. But something basic about the genre, minus the male focus, really fascinates me, and I realize now that reacting against those rules probably does too.
Wikipedia continues: “A friendship between the two people is the key relationship in a buddy film. The two people often come from different backgrounds or have different personalities, and they tend to misunderstand one another. Through the events of a buddy film, they gain a stronger friendship and mutual respect.” That definitely interests me. In the case of the series we’re filming, the male/male template has been perverted in a way even the few female buddy films I’ve seen haven’t ventured: the buddies are a gay man and his best friend, a woman. In this scenario, male bonding itself, as well as the hetero men who populate the typical buddy film, whether the buddies are male or female, are, for a change, the peripheral parties.
Some of my favorite films, or scenes in films, have hinged around the friendship between women in ways that could be identified as buddy film fodder. I like a good fight between friends on film, and for me it’s most powerful to see that happen between women, not because I fetishize the “catfight” but because I think women value and understand friendship openly in ways men just don’t, or at least don’t verbalize. Seeing them fight is more compelling to me – and seeing them make up more moving. There seems to be so much more at stake between people who don’t have to labor under the tedium of not being in touch with their feelings. And in a world full of the men who populate the buddy film, it’s clear that women have, ultimately, first and foremost each other. The risk of losing that is a lot more daunting to me than the risk of losing a drinking, gambling, touch football, or bank heist pal.
Growing up, I remember seeing the fight scene between Shirley Maclaine and Ann Bancfroft, staged in front of Lincoln Center:
It’s probably had a lasting impact on me and this series would have to be a way of working out the feelings it gave me. I realized, watching the scene we filmed, that even female buddy films don’t satisfy a need I have, and I guess that need is to see truly disenfranchised people working out their differences when all they have is the support and encouragement of their friendship, which is made even more fragile by its rarity and privacy. The scene we filmed shows these friends at their most relaxed and intimate, and the feeling I get from it is that it’s only when they’re alone together that they can truly be themselves – not among other women, not among other gay guys. Not among anyone else at all. It’s understandable that losing this refuge, as they eventually risk doing later in the series, would be an event of major proportions for them.
Pictured above: Stills from the scene we shot. Top, Savannah Bearden. Bottom, me. Real life friends exploring (the fiction of? certainly the friction of) friendship.