If you’re a gay man who hasn’t seen The Outs yet, you should probably get your homosexual license revoked. Since premiering in March, the web series has become a critic’s darling, garnering attention everywhere from Huffington Post to MTV, who’ve all praised it for its honest depiction of gay 20-something life. Made up of equal parts humor and heart, the show follows two gay men — Mitchell, who’s played by series creator/writer/director, Adam Goldman, and Jack, portrayed by actor Hunter Canning — as they navigate life after their difficult break up. Along for the ride is Mitchell’s best friend, Oona (Sasha Winters) and an assortment of other oddball characters, all of whom are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale TV landscape. Funded primarily through Kickstarter, The Outs recently aired their season finale and are returning with a bonus Hanukkah episode in early 2013. I met with the brains (and face) behind the show, Adam Goldman, to discuss the making of the show and what it’s like to be a gay man today. (Spoiler: It’s weird.)
Thought Catalog: So I guess I want to start from the beginning, what you were doing before The Outs.
Adam Goldman: I worked in advertising for a while, I didn’t like it very much and it wasn’t treating me very well. And so I sort of jumped ship there and did a couple of independent projects. Then I was temping. I was basically just scraping by.
TC: How long did it take from the conception of The Outs to the actual filming of the first episode?
AG: I conceived of it a couple years ago, I wrote one scene of it and I forgot about it. And then my ex reminded me that I had written it, and that became the last scene of the first episode.
TC: Thanks to your ex!
AG: Yeah, really! We started planning it in November of 2011, shot the first one in January and February, I think, and it premiered in March.
TC: I feel like it had a quick rise. I know that you guys got a lot of funding on Kickstarter, right? And then you surpassed your goal and added episodes because of that?
AG: It was always gonna be six, we just wanted to make sure that we had the funding. We basically did, we’re cutting it down to the wire, but yeah. So we said if we hit twenty thousand bucks, we do a special Hanukkah episode, so we packed on a seventh episode.
TC: Were you surprised by the response?
AG: Oh, completely. I mean, we did two Kickstarters; the first one had like 49 people, the second one had 500. It was somewhere between the second and third episode, people started paying attention. There’s a really sweet scene at the end of the second episode where the two guys are cuddling; for a lot of people, I think that sold them on the show. That was like, ‘oh, there’s like a tenderness here, it’s not just like a sketch comedy show’ which is great, but it’s a different thing. We’re trying to tell a story.
TC: That’s funny, because I think I remember that scene, was it where “Lover’s Spit” plays? That was the moment where it hit me hard. You just put that song on anything and I’m sobbing.
AG: It happens to be a beautiful cover of it by a friend of mine, and I said this very early on to The Huffington Post — when was the last time something online made you feel anything that wasn’t a cat video? For us, it’s that moment of you see them and you’re like, ‘oh there’s something really genuine there.’ Basically, we’re not fucking around, and that was the moment for a lot of people where I think it kind of crystallized.
TC: It always stuns me how great it looks — the cinematography and how professional it looks. Did you already have a team placed? How did it come about?
AG: I showed the scripts to my friend Jay Gillespie who is our super talented DP. He’s straight and I was like, ‘This is gonna be a little gay for you, but I’m trying to work on this thing, and if you’re interested, we’d love to have you along. And he was like, ‘No, I’ve never really read anything like it, and I’d love to be involved.” And he wanted to do more scripted stuff, he’s done a lot of documentary stuff. And so he was on board with it. Initially, we didn’t know if he’d be there for all six episodes, I thought I might be working with a different DP every time, and then every episode would have its own look. We were all so proud of it that he stuck around.
TC: How did the casting come about? Was it always understood that you would play the lead?
AG: You know I asked you to play that role.
TC: No you didn’t.
AG: I Facebook messaged you.
TC: You’re literally blowing my mind right now. No you did not.
AG: I did! I’ll pull it up right now!
TC: Are you kidding me?
AG: No no, I’m totally serious. A lot of people are like, “it’s so about you” but I didn’t write it with myself in mind. I just couldn’t find anyone who wanted to do it more than I thought I would be capable of it. I really don’t want to act anymore. I grew up acting and I studied acting a lot but it was not something where I wanted to do it. I’m going to find this.
TC: That’s so funny. I wonder why I didn’t respond.
AG: I was just some homo at that point, so you had no reason.
(Adam pulls up the Facebook message. He’s right, he asked me to play Mitchell but I didn’t write him back. LIFE IS WEIRD. ANYGAY.)
TC: I could’ve been you!
AG: Yeah, so I didn’t write it for myself, but it was like there are only so many actors in Brooklyn who can be somewhere on time, and Sasha [Winters] who plays Oona was like, ‘You have to do it.’ So I did it. And other than that, we found the guy who plays Jack, Hunter Canning is in War Horse, and I met him through a friend, we sort of have been orbiting each other for a while. He’s amazing, and he said he would do it as long as it was gonna be good, it was like, yeah, okay, we’ll try.
TC: You basically do everything. You wear a lot of hats, don’t you?
AG: I don’t do everything but I wear a lot of hats; I write it and I direct it and I edit — I’d say I edit half of it, and then our DP and I hang out in Harlem at his apartment and edit the rest of it on his giant screen and we will hang out there and do that. I wear a lot of hats just because I love doing it all; the last thing is just to get paid for it. It’s like, I’m doing what I want to be doing; there’s just no money in it right now, so we’re just figuring that out.
TC: How long does it take for each episode to get made?
AG: Six weeks. People online expect these things to come out every week because of television and because web stuff is like, ‘We’ll shoot it on our phone, whatever!’ No. Everybody we work with has a job, and Hunter who plays Jack is in War Horse, he only has Mondays off. Everything we shot with him was on a Sunday night or a Monday. We’re actually making it as fast as we can.
TC: That’s a good problem to have though.
AG: Absolutely. You say it’s a quick rise with the show and that’s true in one sense, but in another sense, we’ve had all year. I think that’s allowed us a little bit of longevity there; other shows that have come and gone in the time that it took us to put out an episode, they’re flicks and then they’re gone. That’s not to say we’re better or worse than them, it’s just an advantage we’ve had that there’s a slow burn and we have time for people, for the fans to come to us and get caught up. And that’s part of what I love about the show is that you can go, ‘Oh I remember when I saw the second episode, what was going on in my life when I saw it?’ That’s what I love about TV and longform storytelling is that you get to grow with people over time.
TC: How much of the show is autobiographical?
AG: Not much. Certain aspects of it are, but that breakup is not my breakup. I don’t have anything in my life that resembles that.
TC: Have you had people coming up to you and asking, “is this about me?”
AG: A few. When people meet me, they think they’re meeting Mitchell sometimes and it’s not accurate; I have like eight percent more game than Mitchell and I’m a bigger nerd than he is. There are these little things, but the heart of the show is not about any relationship that I’ve had. What did it for you about the show?
TC: I’ve read about why you did it and just this idea of, ‘Why wasn’t there a show like this on television? I don’t understand it.’ I had that feeling too, and I felt like with The Outs, it came out and I was just like, well duh. It felt so obvious to me. But the fact that it hadn’t been done was so shocking and so bizarre, and it’s obviously really refreshing because I relate to a lot of it. It’s not my life, but it’s definitely most like my life than anything else on television, especially the tenderness. I think that’s really important, and that’s why the “Lover’s Spit” scene did it for me. You don’t really equate gay men with tenderness at all, and that’s so not what that’s about. Gay men can be super fucking tender, tender in ways that are pretty intense.
AG: Well because a lot of the time, in pop culture, we’re props, and so there’s no room for your ‘prop’ to be tender. If he’s a clown — and again, I keep coming back to this, I love Modern Family, the guy on Modern Family is literally a clown. He dresses up like a clown. We don’t want it to be a gay show because that doesn’t mean anything; I want it to be a good show. But until the focus shifts and you have central characters who are gay who aren’t there just to make you chuckle, that’s not progress. It’s tricky.
TC: I like that all the characters can be unlikable. I think that’s great because we can all be dicks. Just because there’s this softer side of gay men doesn’t mean we can’t also be dicks.
AG: It’s so funny that you say that because I feel that way too, but people online, just a lot of the stuff that I read — ‘Mitchell’s the worst! I hate him…’ I find that relatable, and you do too. For these people who are throwing stones — not in a bad way, they still like the show — I’m like, ‘Do you think you’re never a dick to someone?’ It’s funny.
TC: That being said, that sense of longing that existed between Mitchell and Jack — especially when Jack came over because Mitchell was wasted and he left — I think that’s so real. I feel like there’s been so many times with exes for me where maybe it’s because I’m naturally a shy, reserved person and I can’t stand rejection, I will never put myself out there with an ex. Mitchell retreating from that, that is also really real to me as well.
AG: That’s my favorite episode, not just because of the emotional stuff but because it’s shorter than most of the other ones and it’s quiet, there’s no music until the very end, and there are these weird fairytale themes that run through it, sort of by accident, where Mitchell’s got the red cardigan on. To me, the longing of that episode, that speaks to so much of the show and so much of my experience, and with exes and people who you don’t know yet. The whole episode takes place between 3 and 5 a.m., and that’s when the world has inverted itself. I’m really proud of that episode because I feel like we captured that in a fun way, just that sense of the witching hour and nothing as it should be and anything can happen in that time. You can sleep with your ex, you can do whatever.
TC: What is your plan next for The Outs?
AG: It’s just the Hanukkah episode at this point but hopefully that will leave people satisfied, and if it turns out that it makes sense for us… we’re still barely paying people, everybody’s basically doing it pro bono. If it makes sense to make more online, we will. It’s a tricky nut to crack. We want to give people more, and even if it’s a different show, I feel that if we take the creative team, we can make something special and different.
TC: Have you gotten interesting fan letters?
AG: A lot. What’s surprising about it is how global it is. Japan, Malaysia, Germany, Spain, China, just everyone. It’s amazing. There was almost a deal with some people online where they wanted to buy the show from us for an embarrassingly low amount of money, and part of the stipulation… the deal was that they would lock it down and it would be in the US. We were talking to these people, I think, right after the second episode came out, and I got a message online from Jamaica that said, ‘Thank you for making this, it’s the only gay thing in my life.’ And I was like, I’m not taking that away from that person. Aside from whatever else with the deal was, I can’t wall if off like that. One of the great things about being online is that it’s everywhere… everywhere except India, for some reason, India can’t access Vimeo.
TC: Do you have a day job right now?
AG: No, the show is my job. And it’s like, I’m paying myself out of my savings from when I worked in advertising, and the Kickstarter sometimes pays my health insurance, but at a certain point, the show got picked up by The Huffington Post the day after I was really bummed out. I had a conversation with my mom and she was like, ‘Are you okay? Do you see anyone? Do you have friends? How are you doing financially?’ My friends have been incredibly supportive of the process, but I told her, ‘it’s an active choice now, I’ve decided to make this.’ I was really bummed about it. And then, right at that moment, the next day, it was, ‘Oh hey, do you want news coverage on the biggest blog on the internet?’ And then things really took off.
TC: The press has been really kind to you; every week, it’s a new clip or something. It’s refreshing to see your show get more attention than a lot of the other horrible gay stuff that’s on TV and the internet right now — even though I know those “bad shows” deserve a spot too.
AG: Yes, gay people deserve bad TV too. But I was talking to Eliot (Glazer) about this, and it’s true, more is not necessarily better. You have to look at the facts on the ground, which are that there’s not a lot of representation of gay people. If you’re gonna put something else there, it is going to color the way that people think about all of us. That doesn’t mean that we have to pretend to be something that we’re not; it just means we better make it good and make it honest. That’s why a lot of us who aren’t circuit boys want shows like that. More importantly, you grow up in America and if all you see is The New Normal and Partners, you feel like, am I a bad gay man if I’m not going clubbing and I’m not having unprotected sex and I’m not doing coke? The truth of the matter is you’re not, because you can’t categorize people like that. But the only narrative that you have to grow up with is being the coked out, dancing whore. It’s just really important that everybody’s making something so that there are different things to see, so that you don’t grow up being, ‘what the fuck is wrong with me?’
TC: Do you think that in New York, there’s necessarily a big gay community? I don’t think there is.
AG: I don’t think there’s a big straight community either.
TC: There’s probably not a lot of community period.
AG: You find people you’re gonna find on OkCupid and you let it ride. What’s your experience been?
TC: I think there’s a lot of egos involved, a lot of sizing up and comparing. We live in New York, so there’s this idea that we’re supposedly the crème de la crème. We’re gay guys living in New York, we have to have something to show for it. We’re here for a reason… we all have our things that we’re proud of! It’s weird because I think that Metropolitan is one of my favorite bars, but it can be just as cunty and cliquey as some weird bar in Chelsea. Just because we’re the more alternative set doesn’t mean that we’re any nicer or welcoming.
AG: For better or for worse, you’re already part of the alternative set if you’re a fag. Beyond that, I’m already a minority, which minority within the minority doesn’t rub me the wrong way? I think for bookish, the spectacled writer types, where am I to meet people? It’s a tricky balance. There just should more. At the end of the day, there just should be more.
TC: It’s fun to feel like you’re part of this new wave and creating something though. At the end of the day, what is your main hope for The Outs?
A: Well, here’s the deal: we set out to make six episodes, we made them. We made them in a way I’m really proud of, that everyone’s really proud of, and it’s picked up steam and engaged people in a way that we never anticipated; we never would’ve had the balls to anticipate. Anything that happens from here on out is icing on the cake. To me, it’s a job well done, we’re gonna make the seventh episode, and that’s gonna be really good too. It’s gonna give people, I think, what they want. And if it goes to TV, then I would die a happy man. If that doesn’t happen and we make more online for people, then that would be great too, if the business model becomes clear for us. I would rather make the six episodes that we wanted to make, make them as well as we made them, and have people look back and be like, ‘God, that show was good’ and pass it along to their friends in this not-that-crowded media space, then make another twenty of them. Because why not? Good stories have endings. We’ve left our characters in a place that is satisfying to me. I don’t know where the next chapter for them ends, and until we figure that out, that’s an open question.