Hunting Season is Logo’s provocative new web series
AfterElton: We’re talking with Jon Marcus, the man behind Hunting Season, the new web series airing on Logo and it’s based upon one of my favorite blogs from the early 2000’s, The Great C*ck Hunt. Jon, how did we get a 2003 era blog into a web series in 2012?
Jon Marcus: I’m so glad that you were a fan of the original blog, that makes me really happy to hear. I too was a fan of the blog. It started in ’06 and then continued through, I believe, ’08, and in the middle of that period, somewhere around 2007-2008, there were three gay television networks that all started out. Logo was one of them, obviously, and one called Here! and one called Q. Seeing as how I was working in television at the time I decided that one of these gay networks would need a marquee series that would have everybody watch it. And all my friends wanted to watch a show about gay men, single gay men in New York City.
Everybody was watching and loving Queer as Folk at the time, but that series was not set in New York, I think conspicuously. We wanted to tell a story about gay guys in New York and so I wrote to Alex, the guy who kept the blog and asked him– even though he was anonymous– would he be willing to talk to me about turning the blog into a show. I loved the characters.I loved Alex’s voice. I thought he was as smutty, but he was also really funny and really smart. I thought that there was something about the way that he was so unabashed and shameless about his sex life. An unrepentant slut.
A lot of people that I know are like that, and certainly I had a phase like this. We all went through this period in our twenties of, you know, being quite taken with the complete availability of hot single gay men in New York. But I think that there’s real shame that accompanies that period for a lot of people. People don’t like to talk about it, and here was Alex writing gleefully about all the sex he was having. A lot more sex than I had, certainly, but I really identified with him and sort of felt great about the fact that he could just reach out and celebrate it and make it okay. Alex just flings open a second closet door that I think a lot of gay men have about being sexually active. So I fell in love with the material, and we talked about turning it into a show. Ultimately, those three gay networks were not in a position to make it– or didn’t want to make the kind of show I wanted to make for them. So I put the blog aside and went on to do other things.
Fast forward to 2010 and I was just finishing up a project and looking around at all the web series that people were making. People were really exploring. It was kind of the wild west as far as stories that weren’t being told on regular television, characters you weren’t seeing, a free form to sort of connect directly with an audience and not worry about all the gate keepers that there are in the entertainment industry.
And most importantly the technology had caught up and people were learning how to watch shows and videos online in a way that they hadn’t quite in such numbers before.So I decided that I wanted to get back to my indie roots and take this project that I had loved so long ago, turn it into a series and put it out directly on the web.So I found a writer to work with me, Adam Baron, who was a former intern of mine at Killer Films many years ago. We had stayed in touch and he was then a contributing editor to Butt Magazine, which I’m a big fan of.
AfterElton: Oh, I’m familiar with it!
Jon Marcus: (Laughs) He’s a really talented writer. We worked together on creating scripts out of the blog. I knew very clearly what characters I wanted to adapt and how I wanted to flesh them out. I also had an idea of how to present Alex’s character and the kind of brutal honesty and shamelessness that he had. I wanted to try to position that character for a much broader audience than the original blog. The blog was popular, but I hoped to be expanding the audience with the web series.
We worked for several months at putting together scripts for the show and figuring out how long it would take to tell the stories we wanted to tell. We worked very hard to not to revert to stereotypes. We wanted to give our characters as much dimensionality as we could and really flesh out the world of single, sexually active gay men. That’s something that is a little bit of a third rail in entertainment. Something that people are a little afraid of. We wanted to be risky and talk about it. We didn’t want to make a show that was just about sex, but we wanted to show people who were living full lives that sex was a part of.
Hunting Season doesn’t skimp on the sex or the nudity with the handsome cast
AfterElton: Few stories that are being told about gay men these days are so unabashedly sexual as what you’ve done. Obviously Queer as Folk did it, but they had a pay cable network behind them. Did you worry that being so blunt was going to limit your market? Or did you think there was an untapped market to go after with full frontal nudity and rather graphic sex scenes?
Jon Marcus: To be honest with you I didn’t really know. I knew that that was the biggest risk that I was taking with the project. I think that in some ways I’m still finding out the answers to that.We had an audience really embracing this and there’s still a lot of people to see it and check it out. I think there’s a lot of fear around gay sex specifically and, as I said, there’s a second closet door, especially in public representations where people don’t want to air their dirty laundry for a larger world that includes a lot of people that don’t like and respect gays and lesbians. I think it’s a little scary to say “hey, here’s an honest representation of some people, and we hope that other people who aren’t living this way will embrace it.”
So for me there was a real political statement, a personal artistic political statement, in making a show like this and taking a risk like that. I do hope that people are able to embrace it, because I know that it’s a little scary.
AfterElton: I see a lot of people saying ’this is what sets the movement back’ — because people think we [gay men] are just a bunch of whores. And these are the same people in my mind that want to ban go-go boys at pride parades. But this is a part of life, isn’t it?
Jon Marcus: It is a part of life, and I think that we won’t have full equality until everyone stops saying you can only show this part of our lives and that part of our lives and it’s ok for everybody to just be who they are.I remember watching the film Milk. There was a reminder there that the history of gay rights and every advance that has been won has been surrounded by other gays who don’t want to ruffle any feathers, who are afraid of the backlash that comes from doing something sort of new. I feel like I’m okay with any reaction that people have to it, but I feel very strongly about the statement that Hunting Season is making.
AfterElton: I noticed that you seem to take great pains to make point that straight men talk about their sex life in the same way that gay men do. That was appraent in those workplace scenes in Hunting Season. Was that a deliberate move on your part?
Jon Marcus: It was very deliberate. “Hot Sales Guy”, which is the character’s name that Alex works with, is somebody who’s talked a lot about in the blog.I set them in a much more specific setting than the blog did, but I think that there is a real relationship that some gay guys have with straight guys. I wanted to portray that, and there’s a few places in the first three episodes where the show very carefully tries to say out loud, “we’re not the only ones doing this.”
Even in the opening sequence there are straight people kissing and hanging out in New York.Straight people get horny in in the springtime too.We just happen to be telling a story about a gay man, but this experience that he’s having is not necessarily just a gay experience.
Alex eyes a “suspicious package” in the subway.
AfterElton: One possible drawback with setting Hunting Season in a major city is you have people saying, “Look, it’s just New York and L.A. gay guys that act like this. It’s not a universal truth.” Did you think that was going to be a problem, or was New York just the natural setting because that’s where the blog took place?
Jon Marcus: Well. You know, that’s an interesting question that you raise. I felt very strongly that this show had to be set in New York. There’s certain things about this experience that I hope are universally acknowledged, and then there are also certain things about it that I feel are in fact very specific to New York City. I will just admit I’m a New York City man, and I’ve lived here for almost half my life.I love it. It’s my favorite city in the world. There are things that only happen in New York City because of the high concentration of people that come here.
The professional fields that have their centers here and so many people who are very smart and very good looking. They are all out on the street all the time interacting….you come into contact with your fellow citizens in New York on public transportation and on the busy sidewalks in a way that is a little bit unusual for the rest of the country. So I do think that– and the sheer size of the city as well– breathes a certain amount of additional value for what the experience of being a young gay man is like. I don’t it’s 100% unique, but there is something about it that is very special to me that I wanted to portray. To the extent that people maybe don’t relate to that, um, that’s definitely a possible reaction, but I hope that people might look at it and say, “wow that looks very special” and fantasize about what it might be like to live there and experience it. Hopefully the show can serve a little of that up.
The cast is highly diverse.
AfterElton: You have an exceptionally good looking cast. And also highly diverse. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the blog, but you put that in there, didn’t you? I mean, you got a very racially diverse cast and even different body types.
Jon Marcus: Thank you for saying that. Nothing that happened was accidental. I knew that I… the guy Alex who blogs in real life is white, and I’m white, and I think that for me to be very honest about the specificity the story that I wanted to be telling I knew that there was a certain degree of whiteness that was gonna to be in the show in its DNA.I don’t claim to speak for anyone else’s experience, but it was also important to me that the show really contain the diversity of what life in New York City is like.
I have a very diverse group of friends both in terms of body type and race and ethnicity and religion and politics and all the ways you can have diversity. That’s one of the things, again, that New York offers. My life in New York is much more diverse than my life in other places has been.
I had an amazing casting director named Billy Hopkins who helped me put together this cast.He cast the original pilot for Sex in the City and a lot of my favorite movies as well. All the casting breakdowns that we put out when we went out to find actors, the whole show was cast trying to specifically say we wanted to see people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. We really tried to find the best people and adapt the characters to fit the best actors that we found. T.J., we had him scripted as Asian-American, but in the casting I was open to absolutely any combination that we could find that I thought delivered the right acting ability.
Ben Baur is Alex, the exceptional looking, unabashedly sexual lead
AfterElton: Your lead, where did you find him? I’ve been following him on Twitter [@BenJBaur] and he seems very fresh.
Jon Marcus: Thank you, I love Ben Baur. We did auditions in New York and saw a lot of people, and then we reached out to take submissions from Los Angeles as well. Ben was living in Los Angeles at the time and his agent submitted him to the casting director who pointed out Ben’s head shot to me. I just looked at it, and I looked at Billy, and I said, “God that’s what Alex looks like in my head, I hope this kid can act.”
We arranged an audition over Skype with him. We read him over Skype and had a long, long meeting. He was fantastic and really natural.He just immediately embodied who I wanted the character to be.
AfterElton: The fact that you were going for such a bold sexual representation with full frontal nudity– did you find that limiting on who was willing to come out for the roles?
Jon Marcus: Yes, absolutely. We got a lot of feedback from agents and even from actor friends of mine. That they would have auditioned for it, but it was a little scary to be in a role that required nudity. Especially for the part of Reese who just appeared in episode four for the first time.He’s written as an actor.The character is actually an actor and somebody who might appear on a CW show. That’s a very particular type that The CW always casts.It was a very, very, very hard search to try to find people who looked like they were up for role like that. Because they really could be go up for a part on a CW show, and they didn’t want to have a record of being nude on screen.
We had to search a little longer for that roll until we found Tyler French. He’s a relative new comer, and I’m really fantastically pleased with him.
The pairings are enthusiastic, so you’re never aware of the actor’s sexuality
AfterElton: So we’ve got all of these actors not only naked, but being quite intimate with each other. I’m curious do you have any straight guys acting in this?
Jon Marcus: I do, actually.I obviously cast all of these rolls without regard to anyone’s sexual orientation. I didn’t ask anyone what their orientation was and mostly I didn’t know until/unless somebody said so in their audition, without being asked.For the most part, I just didn’t know and picked the best people for the roles. After sort of getting to know them I discovered that the four best friends that play the leads are all out gay actors, which I’m thrilled about. But a lot of the love interests and people who are having sex on camera actually are straight in real life.
AfterElton: That’s fantastic to hear that they jumped right into that. It is a bold statement not really seen since Queer as Folk. How did you manage to get my bosses at Logo to bite on this show– now that it’s running on Logo in its pixelated form?
Jon Marcus: (chuckles) To be honest with you, I had not expected them to bite on it, and I wasn’t working very hard at it. They saw the show in its finished form as we were promoting it and getting ready a few weeks out from our launch. There were a couple of people there who fell in love with it and really, really believed in it. They came to me and we worked out a wonderful deal for them to acquire and present the show. I’m really excited that they found their way towards embracing the show because it started its life as something that I wanted to make for Logo in a vision that I had for what a gay channel could be.It’s just the most exciting, gratifying thing to have them come and embrace the show this many years later after I was able to make it.
AfterElton: Do you see being able to make a season two of Hunting Season?
Jon Marcus: I would love to make season two. You know I paid for this myself with very, very little money.I called in favors left, right, and center, ones that I had no right to ask.It took literally a village to make this show. I honestly just can’t afford to pay for season two myself. So I hope that season two happens. I hope that we are able to demonstrate a big enough audience. I hope that enough people purchase downloads that we can bank a little money and pay for season one and get season two started. I hope that sponsors potentially come on board and aren’t too afraid of the material to want to help us get it made, and it would be nice to have Logo or a comparable network or any large company that has a distribution arm be able to help us do that.The stories in the blog that we have covered in season one really are about the first month of the blog, so some of the beloved characters that people got to know from the blog haven’t even made an appearance yet. We really would love to keep telling the story.