CHRISTOPHER SCHAAP | FILM INTERVIEW
Filmmaker and actor Christopher Schaap of Prom King, 2010 chats with Suryatapa Mukherjee about black and white romance films and being a prom king.
I read about the idea for the movie coming from you scribbling the title on a wall.
Yeah – so, I was in Prague. I was studying there. That’s actually where I met my producer. Well, we studied abroad in Paris first – studied French film in Paris and Czech film in Prague. And there is this very famous wall there, the John Lennon wall. It’s essentially free for vandalising but in a way where people write inspirational things. And they graffiti art, and they graffiti “Love is all you need,” Beatles lyrics, etc. And I thought it would be very, very funny if I wrote “Prom King, 2010” on there. Because I was Prom King, 2010.
Oh, congratulations on being prom king! That’s amazing.
[Laughs] Thank you, thank you!
You’re the first prom king I’ve ever met.
Oh my god! That’s exciting. It’s an honour. No, no, it’s – I’m sure my character is much more obsessed with that title than I am. But thank you. I was very happy when it happened in my senior year of high school, which was many years ago.
You should be! So, do you relate to the character in the movie? Is it based on yourself?
I think the best way to answer that is I took qualities in myself and then exaggerated them in Charlie. So, I have always been a romantic. For Charlie, it’s his sole driving factor. It’s this black and white romance that he gets from black and white movies. I have seen the movie so many times. And I’m so aware that he is a very flat character. So, I’m just getting sick of Charlie.
Now when I’m talking about Charlie, I feel like I’m trying to remove myself even more – make myself seem super cool and like I don’t care about things. No, we’re very similar. He has a lot of naive perceptions about romance and dating that I had when I started off in the dating scene.
The storyline is very interesting. I completely get that whole idea of romance that we learned from the media; and then being queer, we don’t really see ourselves in that. Did you feel that way as well, that you were struggling to mix the two of those things?
Yeah, totally. I was very privileged in that I came out when I was 16 and there was no issue whatsoever. I do think there is something hopeful in the representation of someone who has grown up being accepted. And when they do start experiencing gay culture, they almost feel alienated. They feel like they identify with very normal things. In their mind, normal is hetero-normativity – something that they’ve picked up from romance films. So, someone who almost feels they don’t like the things that make gay culture unique.
In Charlie’s mind, it’s the drag queens and what he perceives as hypersexuality and all that stereotypical stuff. He feels that those things are not compatible with his idea of romance. And I think that’s something a lot of people could identify with and it’s something I hadn’t seen in a film, or especially in an LGBT+ film. You see characters who were either subjected to this tragic adversity – which is what happens to a lot of people and I’m so glad that movie has been made. But I feel like I have seen that movie many times. Or the sassy sidekick – the comic relief. Obviously that’s not related to an LGBT+ movie, that’s just a character as a prop. I wanted a character that hopefully people could identify with and also find a little sense of hope in.
Prom King, 2010 is one of 10 feature films competing at this year’s Iris Prize. Info: www.irisprize.org