- A still from the film Groupers, written and directed by Anderson Cowan.
Anderson Cowan, one of the voices of the podcast CinemAddicts and a filmmaker himself, has always dreamed of making a full-length feature film. Now, with Groupers, that dream has finally come to fruition.
“I’ve written a number of scripts,” Cowan says, “however this idea kind of came up, the absurdity of it all ... [and] was the cheapest script I had written, by far and away.”
It presented a good opportunity for a first-time feature filmmaker with a small budget. Now, less than two years after beginning fundraising, Groupers is complete, and Cowan has been holding private screenings in select cities. Colorado Springs is next on the list.
Groupers tells the story of a grad student who kidnaps a couple of teen homophobes who, the audience learns, have mercilessly bullied her gay brother. She straps them together in the bottom of an empty pool and conducts an experiment. If they believe being gay is a choice, they can simply choose to become attracted to each other, and she’ll let them go.
A Chinese finger trap-like contraption is involved, to, ah, study their reactions.
“I’ve always appreciated independent movies, because they’re the kind of movies Hollywood wouldn’t have the guts to make, a lot of the time. And the choices that a Hollywood studio would shy away from,” Cowan says. “And Groupers is definitely rife with choices Hollywood would shy away from.”
The subject matter is not Cowan’s only unique choice in this film. He also chose to tell the story through the perspectives of five different characters, who each bring their own opinions to this absurd situation. The five-part narrative doesn’t result in a clean, clear, moralistic tale, but something a little messier. The message, Cowan says: “Everyone’s kind of full of shit, and everyone believes they’re right.”
Groupers can’t be called a thriller or a comedy, strictly, but it still contains elements of both. Cowan says: “One of the challenges as a singular filmmaker ... was explaining everyone else I brought in to help create the vision that it wasn’t going to be goofy. We were never going to admit to the audience that it’s a comedy. But there are plenty of things in there that are totally ridiculous and absurd that I would find funny. “
Still, Cowan recognizes that he had to “tread lightly” with some of this subject matter, especially as a straight man tackling homophobia as a theme. “I felt guilty throughout writing this, “ he says, “especially when I started casting it, about being a straight white male. I asked myself this numerous times: ‘who am I to tell this story about homophobia and homosexuality and what it means, and bullying and all that when I’m straight?’”
But he made sure to get feedback on the script from multiple gay collaborators, and said he made the changes suggested to him when it came to writing the two gay characters in the film.
One of them, he says (character name omitted due to spoilers), might cause some blowback, because he set out to make this character “kind of a colossal prick. If I didn’t, it would’ve been preachy.” He wanted to avoid making this character a victim, so anticipates that the only people to object to his characterization may be those hoping for a sympathetic survivor of bullying, rather than the character Cowan has created.
But Springs audiences can judge for themselves on July 28 at the local private screening, held at the Lon Chaney Theatre. Cowan will be on-hand to discuss the film and answer questions.
Should you miss that screening, there will be one in Denver at the Alamo Drafthouse the following day.
See the teaser trailer below: