by Dan Smith
Matthew Stanton, creator of the locally based film “Memoirs of a Blogger,” premiering at the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival on June 26, wants to get one thing straight: His film is not a rip-off of Carrie Bradshaw and her infamous gal pals.
Sure, it’s about a young, bright-eyed woman who writes a popular blog about the social scene in the “fabulous” city of Detroit. But any resemblance to “Sex” is purely coincidental.
“‘Memoirs’ was not inspired by the ‘Sex and the City’ movies or TV show,” insists Stanton. “I can see the similarities, and it wasn’t until editing and we were putting everything together that I was like, ‘Wow. This is really like ‘Sex and the City.’
“Not that that’s a bad thing.”
Stanton, a recent graduate of the Wayne State University Media Arts and Studies program, is already making waves as an out local filmmaker. His previous films include “Digital Dating Game,” a documentary about the online dating scene, and “WMD,” a short experimental film critiquing four big topics: love, money, politics and organized religion. Both films have garnered awards at previous festivals, and with the acceptance of “Memoirs of a Blogger” to the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival, he may be looking at another accolade.
A longtime resident of Detroit, it was Stanton’s intention with his latest short to present the city in a fun, carefree light, as opposed to the notoriously darker slum that much of the country – if not the world – perceives it as. Appropriately, the settings and the cast are all locally based. It was shot entirely in the city of Detroit, and features many well-known local hotspots, including Atlas Global Bistro and Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub.
“So often you see Detroit in TV and in film depicted as impoverished and crime-ridden, which there is some truth to,” he shares. “But I wanted to show viewers that Detroit isn’t all doom and gloom; that there are fun places to go in the city that aren’t all bombed out and boarded up. There is a positive side to the city that I wanted to show when we only ever see negative.”
The film’s gossipy protagonist Alex, played by local actress Janine Cayou, is closely based on a friend of Stanton’s, who wrote a gossip blog about local celebrities and bigwigs. And like Alex, it made her a lot of friends – and enemies.
“I thought she had an interesting story to tell,” Stanton explains. “She’s a kind of socialite. She likes to drink and party, and she wrote stories about the social scene of downtown Detroit and it got her into trouble.
Those stories became Stanton’s 20-page screenplay and eventually. “Memoirs of a Blogger.”
“It’s a story of her life, and one of self-discovery.”
And no socialite, or city for that matter, could be truly fabulous without a sassy gay sidekick. Alex’s “best gay” Curtis takes that role, played by local gay actor Brant Gniewek.
But it’s no reason to pigeonhole Gniewek a la Newsweek’s recent controversial “Straight Jacket” article, which contended that gay actors can’t handle straight roles.
That claim, says Stanton, is “complete and utter bullshit.”
“It could not be farther from the truth,” he continues. “Anybody can play a role that’s presented to them as long as they are able to study and identify with the character and find the nuances of what they’re supposed to be thinking.”
The same goes for Stanton, who challenges himself to expand outside of the gay niche and explore all aspects of filmmaking.
“One of the things I was always taught in screenwriting and producing classes is to write what you know,” he says. “The best films and stories come from what topics and subjects you’re familiar with. It’s why so many gay filmmakers produce gay films. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but an experienced filmmaker should diversify the films they create, be creative and adventurous and take chances.”
“Memoirs of a Blogger”
7 p.m. June 26
Detroit Windsor International Film Festival
Wayne State University Law School, Detroit