Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, May 27, 2002

"Iron Ladies," above, from Thailand, is the story of a gay volleyball team's journey to the national championships in 1996.

MTV’s ‘Real World’ provides
fodder for gay wedding movie

By Gary C.W. Chun

Norman Korpi prides himself as a button-pusher. He did it more than a decade ago when he outed himself on MTV as a member of the original "Real World" cast in New York City, and he's doing it again as a writer-director of a sneakily subversive video that sends up the reality television concept that drives "The Real World."

On the surface, "The Wedding Video" is an entertaining "mockumentary" of the making of Korpi's wedding video that shows all the real dirt on him, his hunky fiance, the wedding planners and the guests, while mixing Los Angeles actors and former "Real World" cast members from throughout the series' 11 years.

The video will be featured Thursday, the opening night of the Adam Baran Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, with Korpi and other invited cast members featured during a pre-screening reception.

Korpi and his partner/co-producer/cameraman Clint Cowen have struck up a TV deal with Warner Bros. in hopes of distributing "The Wedding Video" to a gay-themed television network being put together by HBO and MTV.

"The Wedding Video" started as an idea similar to "The Real World," Korpi said last week by phone from L.A. "My business partner and I had $30,000 between us, so we decided, Why not make a video about video itself?"

"Daddy & Papa" is a U.S. documentary looking at the dilemma of white fathers adopting black children. Both films will be shown Saturday.

Korpi had been shooting a wedding video for former "Real World" cast members Rachel Campos and Sean Duffy, who appear as guests in "The Wedding Video."

"Gay couples and weddings were becoming hot-button topics," Korpi said, "and I wanted to bring in a story line that even sophomoric straights could understand."

Korpi used the low budget to his advantage, as what was intended to be an elegant wedding buffet turned into a cheap "white trash" spread, complete with bologna loaf.

He said he and the "Real World" alumni gained a lot of on-camera experience while participating in the MTV series.

"It's improvisational 'dramedy,' and the network is very careful when they audition upwards of 60,000 people to find the right combination that can interact comfortably on camera," he said.

"And since we've all done this before, it was easy for us to make fun of it or add comedic elements to our on-screen characters. As 'The Real World' became this big cultural phenomenon, the whole notion of reality-vs.-perception blurred, where viewers think they know who we really are."

When shooting started three years ago, the bulk of the videotaping was done at a castlelike mansion in Beverly Hills that Korpi was living in while working as a commercial art director (one of his roommates has a comedic turn as a scheming wedding planner).

Of the "Real World" cast members assembled, Heather B. Gardner has a grand time with her role as a penny-pinching friend from New York who delights in finding out the shady truth behind Korpi's fiance.

"Also, when (bride) Rachel was on 'The Real World,' she was characterized as a bitch, so she played her character along those lines. And people who saw the video felt sorry for Julie (Oliver), because while it looks like she's delivering pizzas back at her Birmingham, Ala., home, she actually runs a successful dance program."

There are also in-jokes aimed at MTV.

"The date of wedding was set on Aug. 1st, which is the same date as MTV's first day of cablecast, and in one montage sequence, I used the music from the very first video MTV played, the Buggles' 'Video Killed the Radio Star.'"

Korpi began writing two months prior to shooting, constructing the dialogue his cast would give as on-camera testimonials congratulating the couple on their upcoming nuptials in front of cheesy floral backdrops.

"I showed the first edit of the movie in 2000 to a group of friends in Honolulu," he said. "The early concept was to have the video occasionally stop, rewind and freeze as the tape's editors made comments off screen. It ended up so disjointed that I then took eight months to reshape the story. After all that, I must admit I'm super-amazed and proud of how it finally came together.

"Overall, I think 'The Wedding Video' makes a nice swan song to the pre-digital home video era, when Generation X was the first of its kind to be recorded like this.

"It was always my intention to come out if I made 'The Real World' cast. I was a struggling artist at the time, I wasn't getting a Tom Cruise-sized salary, so who was going to really care? And to do it on a global network, that was great!

"But I wanted something more because, since MTV controlled the editing of the series, it didn't show that we were actually a little more proud of our achievements, and I wanted to do something that would comment on those experiences that we had through our involvement in the show.

"While 'The Real World' has become so successful, it's the components, it's us, that are still struggling even after doing the show," he said. "I'm just glad that I found my own particular voice in comedy and can add my own contribution to the history of gay pride."

Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

The film festival runs Thursday through Sunday at the Honolulu Academy of Arts Theatre. Admission is $6 general per movie; $4 for Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation members, except where noted. The schedule:


>> 5:30 p.m. -- Pupu-and-drink reception for the visiting cast of "The Wedding Video," followed by the film's screening at 7:30 p.m. (see story, right), with video short "Size 'Em Up"; $20.


>> 6 p.m. -- "Trembling Before G-D" (U.S.): A look at gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews.

>> 8 p.m. -- "Monkey's Mask" (Australia): A female private detective, hired to investigate the disappearance of a student, is drawn into an affair with the student's aggressively seductive teacher, played by Kelly McGillis. With film short "4 p.m."


>> 2 p.m. -- Mixed plate of short and humorous films, including "Glaadiator," "Ten Rules/A Lesbian Survival Guide," "Tango Para Dos," "Cyberslut" and the "Rick and Steve" series that involves use of Fisher-Price toys.

>> 4 p.m. -- "Ke Kulana He Mahu: Remembering a Sense of Place" (Hawaii): Documentary of Honolulu's mahu community screened at last year's Hawaii International Film Festival. With video short "Sina Off the Chain."

>> 6 p.m. -- "The M.O. of M.I. (Modus Operandi of Male Intimacy)" (U.S.): Blackmail and "who's conning whom?" are the themes in this drama about a sexy drifter who becomes entangled with a gay Texan couple.

>> 8 p.m. -- "The Trip" (U.S.): This broad comedy asks the question: Can true love survive between a gay activist and a "straight" diehard Republican in late-'70s Los Angeles?


>> 4 p.m. -- "Daddy & Papa" and "Oliver Button Is a Star" (U.S.): Two documentaries examine the dilemma of white fathers adopting African-American children and exploring positive alternatives for expressing children's gender differences. Free admission.

>> 6 p.m. -- "Treading Water" (U.S.): A woman, with her partner in tow, returns to her New England home to start a boat restoration business, only to face her mother, who denies her lesbian identity. With film short "Breaking Up Sucks."

>> 8 p.m. -- "Iron Ladies" (Thailand): Another former, popular HIFF entry, it dramatizes the real march of a volleyball team -- comprising gays, transsexuals and transvestites -- to the Thai male national championships in 1996. With film short "Jeffrey's Hollywood Screen Trick."

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