Review Fix chats with “Engaged” writer and director David Scala to find out what inspired his new production, “Engaged.”
About David Scala:
Triple threat David Scala is a second-generation Filipino-American writer, director, and producer who received his BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ film school. Scala’s previous short films won top awards at over 40 film festivals in the US and around the world. His previous LGBT short Grotto (2013) won the Outstanding Emerging Talent at FilmOUT San Diego and has screened in over 30 festivals internationally. He is currently developing multiple projects and will be making his feature directorial debut.
Review Fix: What inspired this film?
David Scala: As you may have guessed – yes, the inspiration for this film is based off of a personal experience, however I’ve never proposed to my partner, nor has he never proposed to me. Instead, this film’s inspiration stems from a nagging insecurity I didn’t even realize I still had as an “out” gay man.
Like all insecurities that build up until we can’t ignore them anymore, mine came to light when a close friend of mine became engaged, and I quickly declared marriage is something I’d probably never want. Only later, I began to realize this dismissal was actually coming from a place of fear. A fear of being seen. A fear of being judged. A different kind of coming out. And I began to wonder how this apparent insecurity about my sexuality – even years after coming out – might be affecting my life and my relationship.
Review Fix: What films have inspired it the most?
Scala: While there are no films that jump out as specific “inspirations,” I really wanted to create a film that highlighted a queer couple of color, grappling with every day social issues, that perhaps someone from a more mainstream or heterosexual background might not realize and take for granted each day. Much of the inspiration comes from my own life having lived in New York for 12 years, which is an extremely open and accepting place, yet I still have these moments in the grocery store, or at the barber shop, where I’m confronted with these small moments of “micro-coming out” which affect me. And I feel like people from all over must experience these as well, so I wanted to tell this story and bring it to audiences who perhaps might not see what it is we have to go through each day just trying to get from point A to point B.
Review Fix: What have you learned about yourself through this entire process?
Scala: Honestly this film has helped me come to terms with a lot. First off, my apparent “insecurity” about my sexuality is thankfully being grappled with, since even describing the logline of this film is another type of micro-coming out in certain situations! It’s funny. The more I’ve been talking about LGBT issues and stories to friends and family, the more I’m realizing how much I’ve never talked about these things before, and it’s almost like, as this “representative” of these issues in my own life, how am I the one shying away from it? Why have I been the one reluctant to talk and educate people about these topics? It makes me realize I almost have to be the one taking a stand, because sometimes I might be the only one able to in a truthful and real way. And that’s an opportunity I shouldn’t take for granted.
Review Fix: What was the feeling like on set?
Scala: The set was honestly amazing. We shot for 4 days at the end of August in New York – which is hot – but we had such an incredible cast and crew, it felt like such a dream. Most of our locations were within a few block radius downtown, so we ended most days with a few extra hours either between moves, or we wrapped early – which is the FIRST time after directing 5 short films I’ve ever had such the luxury. Our cast and crew were also so committed, and many had personal investments in the material, so it felt like this awesome family coming together to tell this story and the vibe was great. I hope to work with everyone again, they all were so talented and such an integral reason why the whole film turned out the way it did, cast and crew alike.
Review Fix: Why is the topic of this film important today to you?
Scala: It’smy goal for this film to show that everyone has experienced self-imposed shame or self-imposed insecurity at some point or another, which is something that affects people from all walks of life. It’s this empathy that I hope will continue to connect people from different backgrounds, which is now more important than ever. This film also puts a spotlight on LGBT voices of color, which as a second-generation Filipino-American filmmaker, I am proud to help champion and represent at this point in our culture. I couldn’t see a better time for ENGAGED, and am thrilled at the response we’ve received from audiences so far.
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of Palm Springs International Film Festival and Frameline: San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival?
Scala: This will be my first time at Frameline, which – ever since I was at NYU undergrad film school – is a total and utter dream! I also can’t wait to bring this story, which is based upon my own personal experiences as an LGBT person of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, to the world, and I hope to bring a voice to the under-represented communities I belong to. I see both these festivals as a perfect avenue for sharing this diverse story with the world.
This will be my second time returning to the Palm Springs ShortFest as a writer/director, and the moment I got that email, I screamed in the restaurant where I was, because the festival creates an unparalleled atmosphere for short filmmakers like no other. Also this year I can’t wait to bring this important story to everyone out there. That desert doesn’t know what’s about to hit it.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Scala: As I writer, I’m always developing new material, and I’ve had many great scripts I’ve been trying to get made for the past six or seven years. Then I just thought, I want to get behind the camera again and shoot something and get it made, and did ENGAGED. Since then, I’ve had a whole new wave of ideas and stories, which makes me think maybe I’ve been trying to tell someone else’s story, or a story someone else is better suited to. I finally feel like I’m tapping into who I am and what I want to say as a filmmaker, and these stories are relevant NOW, so I can’t wait to get these finished and bring these films to the world right after ENGAGED has its turn. I hope ENGAGED gets to open those doors and start those conversations.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Scala: Please come see us at Frameline June 22 and 30, and at Palm Springs on June 21! And, watch POSE and BILLIONS because Daniel K. Isaac and Ryan Jamaal Swain are huge talents to be reckoned with, I can’t wait to see what they both have in store next.