Nestled along the Tickfaw River in Louisiana, John Schneider Studios sits on 58 acres. Established by former Dukes of Hazzard and Smallville star, John Schneider, the studios boast a large variety of locations, sound stages, and a post production house, and are geared toward independent films.
Maven Entertainment recently teamed up with Schneider and shot a portion of the movie Hate Crime at the studio. The film revolves around relationship and subsequent murder of a young gay man by another gay man, and the impact this event has on the families involved.
John and his real life son, Chasen Schneider, play father and son on screen in this film. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Chasen and his co-star Jordan Salloum:
FILM DUMPSTER: What can you tell us about the film?
CHASEN SCHNEIDER: It’s about two families that are torn apart by a hate crime, and about the consequences of your actions. I guess it’s about the choices that you make, and how they affect other people, and when you look back and think “what could I have done differently?”
FD: What can you tell me about your character?
CHASEN: I play Kevin. He’s a young college student who is in a relationship with Jordan’s character, Ray. He’s feeling conflicted because he loves Ray very much, but Ray, who is a closeted homosexual, wants me to keep our relationship a secret, and I’m not like that. I am proud of who I am, and I want Ray to be proud of who he is, and that causes a conflict between us.
FD: Jordan, what spoke to you about your character?
JORDAN SALLOUM: Well I thought it was tragic. I had extensive conversations with our director Steve Esteb about the fact that this guy could not be who he really was. Everything about the way he presented himself to the world was to hide who he really was. He’s just so fearful of his father disapproving his way of life that he’ll go to any measure to hide who he really is. I completely understand how important a father’s approval is to his son. I would do anything to make my father happy, and I totally understand how someone would go to great lengths to not disappoint their father. That’s definitely something I can relate to.
FD: Were you able to draw from your own experiences when trying to relate to the character?
CHASEN: Yeah, something that I did draw upon was that I know what it’s like to love someone, deeply, but they don’t love them selves. And often when someone doesn’t love themselves, they push away people who love them, because they think to themselves,” if this person sticks around long enough, they will discover what a bad person I am, and they will leave me, so I will push them away first.” And no matter how you try to show them that they are worthy of love, they push that away. So in that sense, I know what that’s like.
FD: How relevant do you feel the film is in regard to the challenges that the gay community faces ?
JORDAN: To me, this film is so important. First of all, I don’t know why everything has to be labeled; he is a homosexual, he is a heterosexual, he is a transgender. No, Raymond’s a son, he’s a brother, he’s a friend he’s a lover. He’s a person. I don’t know why people have to be labeled so strictly. I don’t know why you can’t accept them for being a person, and that this is just part of who they are. Another big part of this are the parents.This father’ s disapproval, completely ruins two families lives. Something so small as accepting your son for who they are could prevent so much tragedy. I think the film is very important in that sense.
FD: How do you feel the film is going to be received, given how polarizing the subject matter is?
CHASEN: That’s a good question. I think it will be received well by people that support gay rights, and anti-discrimination. I’m hoping it will make some people who are on the fence think, and it will make them see really at the end of the day, they just want to be loved like we all want to be loved. Jordan put it perfectly. Ray is just a person who just wanted to be close to someone, and just wanted to be confident in who he was. I’m thinking this movie will show people that hatred for something that other people can’t control just begets more hatred, and I’m hopping that someone who is conflicted about this can see this and look at their own son or family member and realize that you’re my flesh and blood, and I realize that I can’t let how I was raised change who you are. I think what this movie shows is that prejudice works on a systemic level, because individual prejudice just doesn’t effect the individual, but it effects groups of people. So I’m hoping this film will make people think.
FD: Can you talk about what kind of research you did into you rolls?
JORDAN: In preparation, I talked to people who were in similar situations, who were not comfortable in their sexuality. I’ve had friends that I was the only person they confided in that they were homosexual. I know I keep going back to it, but it is tragic that they can’t just be who they are. To me it’s as simple as that.
CHASEN: Similar to Jordan, I asked a few of my gay friends whether they had similar relationships, and their were a couple that had, and they told me their stories. I spoke with a friend in Newcastle in England, which is a very traditional place, and they would never kiss ion public, and he would get very anxious. I spoke with him about that type of shame, and how you can bring it upon yourself, and how it’s tough to be with someone like that, no matter how much you try. And Jordan and I talked a lot about what our relationship was, and what it was that we saw in each other.
FD: How as actors do you approach a film with such a serious tone while you’re on set?
JORDAN: I’m a very imagination based actor. On set, even with heavy material like this, I like to stay as loose as I can, because tension really blocks emotion. With the really heavy scenes, I’ll stay in it, even between camera and lighting set ups, but I just try to stay as relaxed as possible. When I’m in the scene, my emotions will go any where the scene takes them, and let the scene take me where it takes me. I just love working on material like this.
CHASEN: With film, it’s the magic of the moment. You’ve got to do your preparation. You’ve got to know what your character want, and why they’re doing what they’re doing. At the end of the day, when you get on set, you’ve just got to be with the other person. You’ve really got be listening and get out of your head. Before I get on set, I try to find some time and do some exercises that really let me connect with different parts of my body. I really think your body has wisdom, you know? It’s instinctual, and I think your on set, your intellect can get in the way of your instincts and your reaction. It can be really really difficult to get out of your head and let your instincts take you and connect with the other person.
Film Dumpster would like to thank Chasen and Jordan for taking the time to speak with us. You can follow Hate Crime on their Facebook page.