Breaking into showbiz ain’t easy.
Fortunately, aspiring filmmakers and actors have more opportunity than ever to get a project off the ground thanks to streaming services like YouTube and inexpensive yet high quality film tech.
Yet the creative freedom of the digital age has also created an onslaught of content, especially LGBTQ themed content as we, apparently, have a LOT to say. Instead of having trouble locating queer entertainment, viewers now have so much it’s hard to know where to begin. So we put our ears to the ground and searched for the hottest, must-see queer content, mostly from up-and-comers few have heard of yet. Who knows who will become the next Barry Jenkins or Dustin Lance Black?
These ten all came to out attention recently. But this list is hardly meant to be definitive. Please send us your own nominations of new talent in the comments section below.
While the quality varies, they all show promise, so make sure to check out these awesome, queer shorts & series.
1. Dropping the Soap
Comedy queen Jane Lynch executive produces and stars in this farcical backstage romp about a soap opera about to go down the drain. The cast of Collided Lives has long taken their employment—not to mention, their dubious talent levels—for granted, when a new Executive Producer (played by Lynch) steps in to revitalize the show. That comes as pretty bad news to the show’s closeted lead, played by comedian Paul Witten. Dropping the Soap features a host of recognizable comic talent, including Witten, John Michael Higgins, Missi Pyle and Suzanne Friedline. Full of acidic humor and sexual subtext, it brings on laughs in heavy doses.
2. First Date
Writer/director Mike Winsten takes on the smartphone dating culture with his short film First Date. Set in San Francisco, the movie lampoons the age of nonstop phone usage as two guys try, awkwardly, to complete a first date. Of course, insecurities plague both guys, as do friends, who demand dick pics of both. First Date makes a few subtle and very funny observations about modern dating, including that some guys might confuse the yearning need for love with rabid horniness.
3. Last Will & Testicle
Writer/actor Byron Lane based this comedy series on his own life—frightening as it may be. Last Will & Testicle chronicles the struggle of Will, an openly gay man diagnosed with testicular cancer. With a cast that includes noted character actors Beth Grant and Sam Pancake, Last Will and Testicle makes fun of its premise at every turn with irreverent, caustic humor. Last Will & Testicle has already picked up a cult following, which includes actor Stephen Fry and the late Carrie Fisher. Testicular cancer may not sound like a great source of laughs, though the series proves that yes, even ball cancer can be funny.
4. Papa Rainbow
Queer rights in China get little in the way of discussion, though writer/director Fan Popo would have it otherwise. His latest documentary Papa Rainbow, examines the reaction of Chinese fathers to having LGBT children. Chinese culture might have stronger ties to tradition and protocol than American culture, though even rigid male and female roles cannot deter a parent from loving a queer child. Papa Rainbow recently debuted as part of the programming launch for Revry, an online streaming service.
5. But She’s My Best Friend
This sit-com follows the queer Laverne & Shirley-style relationship of Joey & Christian, a pair of gay roommates living in West Hollywood. With each episode running about five minutes, But She’s My Best Friend never overstays its welcome, and the writers keep the jokes coming at a rapid fire pace. Ongoing story arcs also add interest. A good looking, mixed-race cast also adds to the appeal, as does the chemistry of the two leads, played by Joey Hernandez and series creator Gabriel Joseph. Joseph and Hernandez make Joey & Christian into a pair of bitchy, superficial queens, albeit with a tender friendship that makes them at least somewhat redeeming characters.
6. First High
Author/filmmaker Tyson Anthony spearheads this soap opera about the African-American queer experience. Set in Charlotte, NC, First High centers on a group of queer, African-American 20 and 30-somethings dealing with love, sex and substance abuse. Directed with unusual flare and style, First High often feels like a web series Quentin Tarantino or Spike Lee could have made. A sexy cast and plenty of full-on nudity add another layer of interest. With an ongoing story arc, First High plays like a sort of video web novel, making it refreshingly original and very binge-worthy.
7. Paper Boys
This San Francisco-based drama series takes the unusual step of adding a fantasy element to enhance the plot. Young artist Cole (played by series creator Kyle Cabral) moves San Fran after a nasty break up and discovers that drawing images in his sketchbook have a way of foreshadowing future events. The supernatural flavor doesn’t get in the way of actual drama though, and rich production values help capture the beauty of the City on the Bay. An assured lead performance by Cabral makes Cole into a relatable character, and while funding issues have put the show on hiatus, the available episodes of Paper Boys still make for thoughtful viewing.
8. The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo
The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo has already picked up a loyal fanbase, courtesy of some very funny writing, and some technical polish. The LA-set show revolves around hapless gay dude Caleb (played by Brian Alvarez), and his equally goofy circle of friends. No doubt, many-a-viewer will relate to Caleb’s going struggles with finances and dating, though the series’ sense of humor make Caleb and his issues a source of humor rather than pity. The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo also scored a Queerties Award nomination for breakout web series this year. Though the first season as wrapped, the continuing popularity of the show should encourage Alvarez to get to work on season two.
9. Love is All You Need?
This short film raised eyebrows when it debuted in 2011. The dystopian, satirical premise helped earn the short a reputation, enough so that it got the feature treatment in 2016. Love is All You Need? imagines a world where 90% of the population is actively queer, and where society teems with hostility toward heterosexuality. As teenagers struggle with coming out as straight, the film examines bigotry, violence and religious justification for hate. Though a satirical piece, Love is All You Need? goes for a serious approach rather than a humorous one, resulting in a powerful, subversive and haunting film pleading for social tolerance in a whole new way.
10: Old Dogs & New Tricks
Though this web series has run its course, it still holds enough laughs to make it worth watching, even now. Old Dogs & New Tricks follows the misadventures of 50-something LA talent agent Nathan, and his fellow middle-aged cohorts. As residents of West Hollywood, and as showbiz tradesmen, they begin to question their relevance in a youth-obsessed culture. They also continue to struggle with everyday issues like sex, dating and of course, getting older. Along with notworthy guest stars like Ian Buchanan, Patrick Bristow and Greg Louganis, Old Dogs & New Tricks boasts substantial technical polish, fine acting and some fantastic humor. Who says an old dog can’t still have fun?