Stud Life is a romantic comedy about LGBT life on the multicultural streets of inner city London. Stud Life did not come into film territory that is bursting with content. I can count on my hand all the Queer People of Colour (QPOC) who have made feature films in the UK. The list includes Pratibha Parmar (Nina's Heavenly Delights), Rikki Beadle Blair (Fit, Bashment, Kick Off) and Hong Khaou (Lilting). The reason for this has possibly been already written up in a report by a management consultant employed by any one of the film funders in the UK.
East London, where Stud Life is shot, has always been and continues to be an area with high immigrant population from Africa, the Indian Sub-Continent, the Caribbean and more recently Eastern Europe. I used real locations as it was easier to negotiate on our 10 day shoot. As a result I knew I was going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers who were of colour, staunch Christians and Muslims. I wondered whether to even mention the queer nature of the film at all. I was worried about potential hostility.
With bated breath I would approach, the cafes, bars, restaurants that were possibilities for locations. I told them - "I am making an LGBT film, can we use your space to have breakfast/filming/etc?" I was always met with blank stares. So I changed it to "I am making a lesbiangaybisexualtransgender film" Still blank stares. Then "I am making a gay film" People's eyes would light up in recognition. At last a familiar word! Every single person of colour I approached to ask for help, gave us their support on the shoot.
Lesson #1 Not everyone gets our queer jargon and sometimes we need to speak in a language and have an approach that is accessible.
Stud Life was made with the help of film industry people, queer and London communities. After many successful sold out film festival screenings I found out we were nominated for a Screen Nation Film and TV Award. Screen Nation is organised to honour the work of UK based and global industry professionals from the African diaspora. I was delighted that Stud Life was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award. Then I thought - Stud Life is a beautiful well executed funny heartwarming film, but surely would be read as a super gay, Gay GAY genderqueer film, with explicit LGBT sex! Winning?! That would definitely be out of the question, because after all Black people are more homophobic, right?!
On the night they read out the nominees and announced the winner - Stud Life! The predominant Black audience erupted with love, whoops and cheers and we were congratulated warmly by people all night.
Lesson #2 Do not believe everything you hear/see or read in dominant media about Black people
If we accept that Black people are "more homophobic" then we have to accept that Black people are more stupid too. There was even "scientific evidence" to prove it. As a result it still remains in some people's consciousness that we ARE indeed not as intelligent as other 'races'. This is of course nonsense, as any of the other so-called scientific research about race and inherent differences. There are different types of Black people - there are ignorant homophobic ones and there are liberal progressive ones. The homophobic ones are very vocal but that does not necessarily mean they are any greater in number than for any other race or culture. If we keep highlighting this as an inherent 'truth' then we are in danger of creating yet another damaging belief system about ourselves and failing to notice the qualities of compassion and hospitality inherent in cultures of people of colour.
STUD LIFE is available now on VOD and DVD from Amazon, Play, Zavvi, iTunes, blinkbox and Peccapics.com