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Instastud Max Emerson Gets Down to Business for Hooked

Instastud Max Emerson Gets Down to Business for Hooked

Max Emerson
Photo by M. Sharkey

The social media darling talks LGBT homelessness in his new film project and how 'raising awareness' only goes so far.

Model Max Emerson grabs headlines every week--and for good reason. No doubt the Internet loves whatever the stud serves up, from chiseled shirtless selfies on his Instagram @maxisms to YouTube comedy spots like "Max's Underpants." More than a quarter-million followers later, the young actor, singer and writer plans to add director to his credits with his feature film Hooked, a drama following the stories of young homeless LGBTs.

Surprised to see a serious socially conscious work from the man who taught us all how to hide our visible penis line? Don't be. The film is partly inspired from Emerson's book Hot Sissy: My Life Before Flashbulbs, an autobiographical tale about growing up closeted in southern Florida. The response to the e-book from young readers pushed Emerson to take action.

"A lot of these kids are getting kicked out," he says. "I find where I can't respond to every single story I get, so I turned everything into this project."

Emerson launched this fall an Indiegogo campaign to raise $150,000 for the film. On Nov. 12, the campaign had tallied $155,985 in donations.

"It was definitely a squeaker," he said. "I'm thrilled so many people reached out with all of their help. It's a great reminder to not pay attention to the trolls and to have faith in the community I'm entertaining on a daily basis."

Emerson says he will share all the film's profits with multiple LGBT shelters and organizations around the country, including the Ali Forney Center in New York.

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"The film is about more than raising awareness, but raising real money," he says. "I just wanted a way to get the money directly to the people who needed it."

Emerson turned to grassroots fundraising after becoming disillusioned with more corporate charity work in the LGBT community.

"I got frustrated with the 'awareness' efforts from a lot of charities," he says. "None of the money raised went to the cause. Some of these charities have so many marketing and overhead costs. There are a few--not all--charities that essentially throw multimillion-dollar drug-fueled circuit parties for 'charity' where I question their efficiency.

"And then I realized that the choice of being frustrated about it was pointless."

So was born the Hooked campaign, which in its final days garnered support from LGBT icons like Steve Grand, George Takei and more. Social media gave Emerson his platform, and he dismisses any confusion between his tongue-in-cheek posts and his activism.

"On social media, you have to be a little shameless for your followers," he says. "But that way, I don't have to bow to some producer. People know my qualifications. There's an element of rebranding in there, but the work will speak for itself. I wanted my audience to have a message."

The campaign may have found a home online, but the film's story started much earlier--in fact, Emerson worked on the concept around the time of his novel.

"Honestly, I wrote this thing after walking in on my boyfriend having a threesome," he says, laughing. "Not to point fingers, but there is a little bit of this hedonism in the gay community out there when we could be addressing real problems. Homophobia may have put these kids on the street, but it's problems in our own community that keeps them there. I want this movie to inspire change for our community going forward."

Leveraging that hedonism into real social change has been Emerson's greatest tool in advancing the discussion of LGBT homelessness--something he has experienced in his own way.

"When I was 19, I was cut off financially after I came out," he says. "I moved in with my boyfriend at the time, but I was just up stuck in a bad situation. I've never personally been on the streets, but I definitely know what it feels like to not know where home is."

His film promises to show even more as protagonist Jack, a young homeless hustler making his way to New York, and boyfriend Tom tangle with married closet case Ken.

"In the end, it's really Ken's story as much as Jack's," Emerson admits. "The process of him coming out to himself and accepting who he is--that's the real challenge."

Donations can continue even after the campaign "officially" ended Nov. 8 on the Indiegogo site. Emerson says that $150,000 is the "bare minimum" to make the film, and that the real work is just beginning.

"There's a production meeting where we will decide exactly what the roles will be," he says. "Then we reach out to our creative team. After that are some meetings with more potential corporate sponsors. Casting will probably start in January or February."

In the meantime, Emerson will still deliver all the sexy thrills his fan base has become thirsty for--though he hopes many will understand the importance of this project.

"I'd like to ask my followers to be patient with me, as I'll be doing sponsored posts in the next six months," he said. "All profits will go directly toward the production budget for Hooked."

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