Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your film! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about its premise, and what inspired you to bring this incredible story to life?
Joseph Sackett: Thanks! Yeah, we’re so excited for people to see it. Homebody is about a little boy who gets to live as a woman for a day when he sends his spirit into his babysitter’s body. It’s kind of a genderqueer Freaky Friday. I expanded the story from a short film I made a couple of years ago called I Was in Your Blood. That short is about a little boy who falls in love with his babysitter. Although, of course, this is like a nine-year-old’s version of love, so it’s not "I want you, it’s more "I want to be you." And at the end of that short, he has a dream about going into her body. I didn’t have any intention of expanding that short into anything bigger. But I really enjoyed writing and working in that world, remembering how much I loved my babysitters as a kid. And then at some point, I thought what if we did the Being John Malkovich version of the story where instead of just dreaming about going into his babysitter's body this little boy actually gets to do that. All of this definitely comes from my own genderqueer childhood. I always felt somewhere in between being a girl and being a boy, but definitely didn’t have the vocabulary to understand that at the time. And, as with so many queer kids, I experienced a lot of shame and negative feedback from my peers about my gender expression. So that genderqueer part of myself was something that I actively suppressed for most of my youth. Sometimes, filmmaking can be like therapy, and I think in a lot of ways Homebody is me processing those complicated emotions from my childhood, and also having some fun in this playful, wish-fulfillment fantasy space.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in balancing both the writing and directorial duties, and how do you feel that this may have benefited and/or challenged you as a filmmaker?
JS: This was a very collaborative project. I’m not someone who gets married to any given line being delivered exactly how I wrote it. For me, the script is a blueprint. It’s a starting point for the collaboration, it’s not set in stone and it’s definitely not gospel. Once you start working with your team, it changes and evolves and usually gets better as you get more minds thinking about it. Colby Minifie, our lead actress, and I had several script meetings even before we started rehearsing. She had so many great ideas about how to reword dialogue to sound looser, more natural, more organic. And I was super grateful for her input. Some of my favorite lines in the movie happen in voiceover when Johnny’s consciousness and Melanie’s consciousness are talking to each other inside of her head. The ADR sessions where we recorded that dialogue with Colby and Tre were very improvisational which allowed them to come up with stuff that was way better than anything I could’ve written.
BD: What do you hope that viewers will take away from the film, and what makes film such an important medium through which to connect with other characters and their stories?
JS: I’m definitely a happy ending kind of person, so I hope the movie leaves audiences feeling good, uplifted. As a queer kid, I experienced a lot of emotional turmoil. I think most humans in general experience turmoil as kids. For better or for worse, the angst of growing up and figuring out who you are is a fairly universal experience that we can all relate to. I wanted to honor how difficult and confusing it is to be a young person, but I also wanted to celebrate the thrill of self-discovery and of transgressing gender boundaries. And, you know, I wanted to make an entertaining movie. Something fun that people would enjoy watching. There’s something primal about identifying with a protagonist and experiencing a story vicariously through them. I remember when we were developing this project my cinematographer, Laura Valladao, and I watched a number of body swap movies like Being John Malkovich and Big. And I remember reading this article that was saying there are so many movies about body swapping, because the fantasy of experiencing the world through someone else’s eyes is one of the deepest and most basic pleasures of cinema. Pretty much anytime you watch a movie, at some level you are identifying with at least one of the characters, feeling what they feel along with them. So, movies like Homebody make very literal that desire we all have to try on someone else’s skin, to feel what it’s like to be another person.
BD: You have quite a talented cast and crew working on the production. What can you tell us about their creative process in bringing the film to life?
JS: Yes! It’s so true. I’ve felt really grateful throughout the whole process of making this movie to be working with such an amazing group of collaborators. There was a very close-knit, family vibe on set which I think is partly due to the fact that a lot of us have worked together in the past. Colby and Tre, our two leads, were also in the short film, so they’d played versions of these characters before. Our production designer, costume designer and I had worked together on three other short films, and this was my 8th collaboration with our composer, Ariel Marx. But a lot of the credit for how smoothly the set ran goes to our producer, Joy Jorgensen. She really fostered an environment of trust and mutual respect. I mean, you can govern with love or you can govern with fear, and this was definitely a production governed with love. In my opinion, people do their best collaborative work when they can take ownership over their piece of the puzzle because they feel safe and know they’re a valued member of the team.
BD: Are there any other upcoming films or projects that you would care to share with our readers?
JS: Yes, we just started early pre-production on my next movie. It’s a queer sci-fi rom-com called Cross Pollination. It’s about an alien on Earth struggling to pass as human, but then things get complicated when he falls in love with a man and gets knocked up. It shares a lot of themes in common with Homebody like gender, sexuality, self-discovery/self-authoring. But because it’s this genre mash-up of sci-fi and rom-com, we’re painting with a very different set of brushes. There are spaceships and abductions and drag queens and first kisses and an alien birth. We made Homebody on a pretty small budget, so I was definitely aware of our limited resources as I was writing it. With this next project, I gave myself permission to go bigger, get weirder, and throw a little bit of everything I like into the blender.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Homebody and your other projects?
JS: I’m going to be honest about my elder millennial status and admit that all things social media are a little out of my comfort zone. That being said, we are keeping our Instagram updated with news about the movie and you can follow us @homebody_film. You can also follow me @joseph_sackett or the production company @killjoyfilmsde for updates about the next movie!