Case Study: Never Ever Without A group of gay boys discover their identity in the gay scene of Amsterdam.
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Case Study: Never Ever Without

A group of gay boys discover their identity in the gay scene of Amsterdam.

Laurens Zautsen (23) is in his last year of the Audiovisual Media course at the HKU in Utrecht. During his education he has written and directed short documentaries and fiction-films. His stories focus on a variety of people who are searching for themselves and their own place in society. Productions range from multi-media installations, fiction, online content to documentary.

"Making this documentary has been a personal victory."

08 maart 2019

Codes and squads

“Being a young homosexual from Limburg I was very surprised when I entered the big gay-scene in Amsterdam for the first time. I didn’t feel very comfortable because of the shady behavior between gays. Boys of my age almost acted like teenage-girls to each another. I was confused because I thought that this community embodied tolerance and acceptance, especially because the outside world with all the homophobia (hello mister Nashville) isn’t always our best friend.

But it turned out to be different. Even between gays I sometimes didn’t feel safe. Young men could be very mean to each other. When I walked through the club I felt that I was being judged all the time. Sometimes older men would approach me and tried to make a move, even when I wasn’t interested. When I made this clear in a friendly way, they would continue flirting.

It came clear to me that even the gay scene had certain codes and ways of behavior that made it easier to ‘survive’. And one key-element to feel more comfortable in this world is having strong friendships with other people from the community. When I was in the club I used to see these ‘squads’ of boys who entered as a formation. I saw that their confidence was partly based on the fact that they were together. Nobody could harm them.”

Friendship in a judgmental environment

“In my second year of the HKU we had to make a film based around the theme ‘family’. At that point I was still very hooked by the gay-scene and I already had this idea of making a film around a group of gay boys. In my opinion they could serve as a family themselves. I was convinced that I wanted to show the other ‘nasty’ side of the gay-scene. I wanted to make the audience question the behavior.

At that point I didn’t know my main-characters yet. Together with my producer I started to go to clubs and have small chats with visitors. I also met some people from the scene that I already knew and asked them if they knew a group of friends that were really close. Then I found Dïego, the symbolical mother of the group. I started to see him and his friends a couple of times and their bond hooked me.

When I chose them as my characters for the film, it became clear to me that my actual motivation to make this movie wouldn’t become the center of attention. Instead it would be their friendship. Within the scene, the boys could rely on each other when somebody else would make a nasty remark or annoy them. Outside the scene they could also give each other support when one of them would get confronted with homophobic reactions from strangers. So instead of showing a quite negative perception, I showed a solution to feel comfortable there after all.”

The production

“I made this movie together with Stephen Kearney who did his specialization in documentary and was fascinated by my motivation to make this film. Since I had a fiction background myself this was very helpful. I was relieved to direct this film together, also because of the fact that I was personally involved within the entire story and Stephen could be more objective. The film was shot by Ward Trommelen with who I worked with before. Iisa-Noora Leppänen was responsible for production, a Finnish exchange-student who studied at our school for half a year.

We followed the boys for twelve days and shot them in their home-environment and at parties. Our first shooting day was at funhouse, a party where people can walk around in any way they feel comfortable. This includes SM-outfits, jockstraps or even naked. We had to follow our main-characters in a crowd of 500 shirtless men. It was crazy. After one night of clubbing we even slept in the same apartment because we wanted to film them the morning-after.

Stephen was responsible for the edit. During this process we skipped quite some material, also parts of the personal background of the boys. We decided we wanted to tell a story that was more focused on the story of the group. Even though all 8 boys had a different background, they found the same meaning within the friendship. Their group is a safe space for them to express, explore and develop their identity. And this connection goes beyond the parties.”

A mental journey

“Making this film was also a mental journey for myself. As I wrote before, I had quite a negative perception of the gay scene when I started filming. The boys mirrored my own behavior and made something vital clear to me: my experience was partly based on my own lack of confidence. Since I didn’t feel completely satisfied with myself at that point, I was always convinced that it was the scene that did the harm, but perhaps a part of the problem was my own responsibility. After the film I met a new group of boys who welcomed me to their circle. Together with their support I started to work on my self-love. So although the documentary itself got a very different message at the end, for me this process has also been a personal victory.”

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