The Loneliest Boyband is a new short written by Natalie Fält & Arne Gjelten, Fält directing and Gjelten starring as a boyband-obsessed young man named Dusty who can't help but break into dance most anywhere he goes. Over the course of the film, we see Dusty step outside the comfort of the Backstreet Boys shrine of his room and into the real world, as he embarks upon a date set up online to go get spaghetti.
The film is charming, sweet, and actually shows off some really impressive breakdancing from Gjelten, who we sat down with to learn more about what prompted the making of The Loneliest Boyband and how much of the world captured on camera was taken from his real life.
Take a look at the film, then read our chat below:
What inspired you to write this film? Does it draw from real life - are you actually a Backstreet Boys fan?
Of course! Though in high school it felt a little scary to be “out” about the hormonal attraction but I have since come to terms with it. I choreographed a boy band dance number for Mario Diaz’s midnight party Full Frontal Disco and Natalie came to film it. At first we were making something in the style of MTV’s True Life, which it still kind of is, but we wanted to get more into the character. To explore what people run from, what their delusions say about them, and what would happen if we made a piece about sitting in all that and staring it in the face.
Is the experience of getting stood up also something you drew from real life?
I don’t know that I’ve ever been stood up as totally as Dusty has, but his willingness, or desperation, to throw himself into such a vulnerable situation is impressive. I admire his putting himself out there in such a big way, shopping for a new outfit and getting a table at a nice restaurant, all these traditional, old world customs that would make me so anxious to do. He’s a braver man than I.
Did you learn to dance for this - or is it a passion you've had for a while?
I’ve always wanted to be a backup dancer. In high school I’d come home after play practice and watch 106 & Park and try to learn all of Aaliyah’s choreography. After moving to LA to be an actor, I went on a date (who actually showed!) to one of Ryan Heffington’s classes at the Sweat Spot. Ryan changed my life. I started training weekly at the studio and he ended up casting me in his Lady Boys troupe. He put me in my first wig and heels and I performed in his recitals. It was a very different world then; we weren’t talking about gender and sexuality the way we are now. I’d been dropped by agents for not being able to “turn off the gay” in the casting room, etc. and dance became a means to explore and celebrate performance in a new way. I did videos for Fitz and the Tantrums and Pharrell, and last year I got to work with Ryan on a short film for Kenzo which was such a beautiful, full circle moment.
How'd you find your director?
Natalie and I met through a mutual friend but really got close when we worked together on a short film called Garbage. I knew she would be the perfect person to production design that movie and she made this genius, early 2000s fantasy that was emblematic of the characters’ obsession with nostalgia and inability to move forward in their lives. It was perfect! She has an encyclopedic knowledge of film, down to their title sequences and palettes, and I’m so excited to be a part of her move from designer to director. She brings her taste and wit to life in her characters as well as the places they inhabit.
What are you hoping people take away from the film?
I’ve felt the impulses to hide and perform in equal measure; a tension that creates fantasies that are just as real and complicated as life. I think, for queer people especially, the practice of imagining a different kind of life for yourself, one where you’re able to take the stage and own this vision that other people might not even be aware of is very resonant. Also, go on dates! Even if it doesn’t work out it’s far braver to be the one who makes the reservation than the one who blows it off.