By Jim Farmer

His first visit to Swinging Richards wasn’t planned, but it proved to be a life-changer. Gerald McCullouch – famous for his long stint on the hit TV series “CSI” as well as the “BearCity” movies – was in Atlanta for a screening of a short film he made and got talked by his younger sister into going to celebrate at the landmark strip club. 

His visit there was an in-your-face introduction. “I was blown away,” he admits. As he got to know the employees there, one suggested he make a film, because the club and its dancers were rich for storytelling. McCullouch later met Matt Colunga, another of the club’s dancers, and fell into the environment, knowing a film was in order. 

McCullouch didn’t realize, though, it would take so long. He started filming before he got offered the lead role in the original “BearCity.” He put the Swinging Richards project on hold and after “BearCity” (and its two sequels) got offered a role on the New York stage in “Daddy,” later a film that he starred in and directed as well. Those projects took him away for several years, but when he was back in Atlanta, he had the time to finish it. Released in 2017, “All Male All Nude” was a success and achieved notoriety for its cast, especially Colunga. The original, that premiered in Atlanta as part of Out On Film, generated a lot of buzz and was eventually picked up by Breaking Glass Pictures. Now McCullouch has a follow-up: “All Male All Nude: Johnsons,” which follows Colunga opening a new club in Florida called Johnsons and learning the ropes of dealing with his staff and meeting expectations of a new customer base. “Johnsons is Matt’s baby, and he got so much recognition from the first film,” says McCullouch. “He is the catalyst for the new movie.”

One of the things McCullouch had to do when making both movies was to develop trust with the dancers. “I wanted people who were engaging and willing to be open on camera. ‘CSI’ was such a hit that it was an easy in for me with most guys. The second film was the same process. I wanted to see what stories could complement each other. I also wanted the second to have more diversity in it.”

One element that has surprised and moved McCullouch is the camaraderie among the dancers, both at Swinging Richards and at Johnsons. “There are different kinds of people doing this – single dads, people following their dream. I found the family unit that is formed in the clubs is not like anything else. It’s very unique, and these guys really are a family. I am attracted to the kind of family unit Matt creates. I think the first film was a love letter to – and a celebration of – Atlanta and this is a love letter to the new club.” 

“All Male All Nude: Johnsons” screens at 9:15 pm on Thursday, October 3 at the Midtown Art Cinema as part of Out On Film. McCullouch, Colunga, and dancers from the film will be in attendance, followed by an after-party at TEN Atlanta. 

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Certainly a Thrill(er)

By Jim Farmer

When Joseph, a gay and rather shy young lawyer, decides to visit Fire Island, he realizes that he has paid a visit offseason. His trip doesn’t go as planned for him. Looking for things to do, he winds up having a casual sexual experience and witnesses a murder in the new film “Last Ferry.” 

Written by Ramon Torres – who also stars as Joseph – and produced by his real-life partner Mike Karp, the film is a tense thriller but one that has a sense of humor as well. The film premiered at the BFI Flare Festival in London earlier this year and has been a staple on the LGBT film festival circuit, with Atlanta one of its final screenings before it hits VOD.

Torres got the idea for the film as he was working on two other projects. When he had visited other LGBT film festivals, he generally saw three kinds of movies – documentaries on the AIDS epidemic, coming of age/coming out stories and a campy horror movie. But there didn’t seem to be a vocabulary for other stories. “The closest was ‘Stranger By the Lake,’ which was a thriller and all the characters were queer,” he says. “There really weren’t that many character studies that elevated what the queer experience was or could be. I wanted to write something that filled that void and paid homage to some of the previous styles of thrillers.”

It took Torres a year to write and then he and Karp did table writings and tweaked the script a bit. Torres took out some supplemental characters and also revamped some of the scenes with the killer, so the audience doesn’t know too much too early – and so the killer was more intimidating He also wanted to slow the movie down, give it some visual dialogue and let Fire Island be a character in the story. It was important, as well, not to wrap everything up with a bow either.

The character of Joseph has reached a point where he is ready to take some chances. “Joseph – on one level – hasn’t explored his sexuality and this is something I grew up with too,” says Torres. “When you are young and go on dates, you learn about what it’s like to do all this. I was in the closet so I could not have these experiences until after college. Mike also had that experience. Joseph hasn’t really figured out what the community is like or where he fits. Fire Island seems like the Gay Disneyworld – it’s a place where you can go and explore your sexuality. But Joseph is also very by the book. When we discover he is going and taking a risk, he goes not having made a rational decision, going at a time when Fire Island is not in its prime. He is confronted with a world he didn’t expect.” 

Having been together for a while, Torres and Karp have found a way to work together and thrive personally. The two are looking forward to coming to Atlanta, a place they have visited before and enjoyed, and discussing the film with audiences. 

“Last Ferry” screens at 9 pm on Friday, October 4 at Out Front Theatre Company as part of Out On Film. Torres and Karp will be present at the screening.