Yesterday we had a little sit down with Colin Weil – the producer behind the new meth-centric documentary, Rock Bottom. Today we’re having a heart-to-heart with the film’s director, Jay Corcoran.
After the jump, read what Corcoran has to say about meth’s emotional effects, why mentoring may save gay communities and how gay people, including gay cable companies, simply don’t want to help.
If you’re in New York, head on over to The Quad to see the movie! You may want to eat first, because you really won’t be in the mood after.
Queerty: Why did you choose to do this project?
Jay Corcoran: I was just fed up with where a lot of guys in the gay community were going. After all that we’ve been through with the AIDS crisis and to witness or hear about people self-destructing, I was like, “Why are people doing this?” Nobody was really talking about it. They were just like, “Oh, you don’t want to know” or “Let people have sex and do drugs”. After a while, you’re just going, “These people are self-destructing! It’s not a healthy choice.” Yes, everybody’s free to make choices, but it almost felt like there was this new wave of the AIDS crisis happening again. I felt like I needed to do something and shine a light on this really dark area of our lives – whether it’s the sexuality or the drugs. I know it’s not everybody, but I think that we have to examine this and why so many gay men are spinning out.
QT: Somebody described meth as the perfect “post-AIDS” drug. Do you agree with that statement?
JC: I think it is, yeah, because it helps you forget and especially in part of our culture that are narcissistic and about being worshipped. I think for older gay men, especially, those who were once the life of the party, once they start losing their looks or once their bodies have been ravaged by the AIDS drugs, they can take meth and totally forget all the trauma of losing loved ones, of being thought of as a sexual pariah. They can take this drug and walk into a room with other people taking this drug and they’re all of a sudden back at The Roxy. They’re in hot demand. It’s all of that illusion.
QT: How does that explain people like J – the younger people?
JC: It also just reinforces that. For the younger people, it’s to be able to continue to be the hot guy at the party and prolong that. He can get up and do it and validates his narcissism. It’s the continued, [prolonged] validation.
QT: Almost everybody who spoke in the film mentioned the dissociation between love and sex in gay communities, but particularly in relation to meth. Do you think that somebody who is on meth can love?
JC: I’m not an expert, but my experience working with these people for two and half years: drugs and meth, addiction, is all very isolating. I think that while you’re on meth, it’s really hard to connect. You think you’re connecting, but you’re really not. It’s an illusion. I don’t think that you can really develop relationships and love and all of that while you’re on it. I don’t see how you can do it. It’s been really interesting watching these guys because the ones who are connected, who finally find a boyfriend or have a good support system, they tend to stay sober longer and don’t relapse as often. Once they disconnect, they tend to start isolating and using drugs again. I’m not saying it’s impossible [to connect], but it’s much harder.
QT: Everybody in the film expressed a desire for a deeper social connection. One doctor talked about how a lot of people who use meth feel uncomfortable in social situations, but I honestly don’t know anybody who does feel that comfortable in social situations, especially gay people, because there’s so much desperation for connection in our communities. How can we build a connection without relying on drugs?
JC: I really don’t know. That’s also another reason why I wanted to make this movie. Everyone can sit around and say, “Oh, our community sucks,” but I’m like, “Alright, there have to be ways that we can build communities.” We did it during the AIDS crisis, but all of a sudden with the protease inhibitors came, everyone said, “AIDS is over, I’m burned out, I can’t do it.” I think it’s taking some commonalities that we can use in our community and explore them and develop themâ€¦ I think that’s a real conundrum that everybody is facing. Do we mentor? How do you make social centers that don’t revolve around bars or sex? I don’t know what the answer is. It’s very hard to get people to go on a Saturday to the gay and lesbian center for a social or square dancing. But I think that we can’t stop trying. It’s also about building a community in your own way; it’s about taking the initiative yourself in your own way and trying to build relationships. I think if everyone does it in their way, it could help the community.
QT: One thing I’ve always been a big proponent of is intergenerational communication. Watching the video and in our conversation with Colin, he discussed how we are now have the first generation of gay men who are not dying of AIDS – it seems to me that maybe that’s not the best thing, because if these men are having their own crisis, they’re not going to do any good for the younger gays, but I wish there were a way to bridge that divide in a healthy way. Does that make sense?
JC: I think that it’s really about looking at the reasons why people have survived all this time and looking at why they’re doing it and getting them help so they don’t continue to spiral. I love the whole idea of mentorship, because both people benefit – the older person benefits by helping out the younger person and the younger person benefits from the experience of the older person. I would love to figure out some sort of mentorship within the gay community, but if you ever mention that to people, they’re like, “Get out of my way”. But there’s definitely value to it and there are ways of getting people connected in a diverse way. I really think that you can start small – do you own thing. Making [the] film is my contribution. I think if everyone can figure out their contribution. People have to be almost entrepreneurial in their ways of connecting and finding their niche within the community. There will never be a global thing. Do you think there will ever be a time when gay men aren’t narcissistic and thinking about their abs and their dicks and getting high? There will always be circuit parties and substance abuse, that will always continue, but hopefully there will be some healthier choices and programs that will be developed.
QT: This is going to sound like a very conservative question, which I suppose it is, but do you think we’re paying the price for the sexual liberation?
JC: Stonewall or the 60s?
QT: I’m talking more about post-Stonewall.
JC: I think it was always there – even back in the 50s, the bathhouses – the sex scene was really big. I don’t think we’re really paying the price of the 60s revolution, because it was always going on and men were always hedonistic. I think that [what] we’re paying the price [for] is our denial. That’s what’s really coming out – the denial and the indifference to each other and ourselves. I don’t think it’s a real sexual revolutionâ€¦.
QT: As I was saying earlier – there seems to be a desperation for connection. It reminds me of when you have to electrons that repel one another. It’s almost like everybody is trying so hard that they can’t even see past their own lust for connection.
JC: Right. Exactly. And then what happens is that you’re so guarded and so afraid of getting hurt, that you become even more uptight and so bitchy. Go to a gay gym and watch how people ignore each otherâ€¦
QT: Or objectify each other.
QT: This certainly is a really timely subject. Hopefully it won’t be timeless.
JC: It’s been a very polarizing film. We submitted to probably thirty gay and lesbian festivals and less than half accepted us. There are a lot of gay men out there who do not want to see this, do not want to see this projected, do not want this out there. I’m very heartened by the response from this release. It’s definitely not a universal thing. We’re even having trouble getting it seen on cable. I’ve had major cable companies say, “I love the film, but there’s no way I’m going to let my audience see this.” We’re still playing up against a lot, but I’m glad that we’re building up a little grass roots [support].