Guest House Films

You’ll play the lead and you’ll produce it with us! They said. (Or maybe I said?) I thought they were insane. I’d never produced anything before in my life. I’d acted a lot and been on a bunch of sets but I didn’t know jack shit about producing. And to be honest, it scared me that they seemed to think I knew more than I did. It made me think they might actually be crazy. But as it turned out, Rob Williams and Rodney Johnson of what is now Guest House Films knew more about me than I did.

I had met them when I was selling pens. Yes. Pens. Writing instruments. I know everything there is to know about pens. Which ones are made where, and how. The intricate process of how fountains pens are made. What metals are used. I could go on. Anyway, Rob or Rodney, I’m not even sure which one anymore, came into the store I was working at to buy a gift for the other one. They had seen me in Gone, But Not Forgotten and we got around to talking about movies. I discovered that they were both writers. Eventually we became friends and I remember talking to Rob about this script that he’d had for a while called Long-Term Relationship. He asked me to read it. So I did. And I loved it. It was a fresh take on the rom-com genre and the lead characters were TOTALLY GAY! From my perspective, at this point in time, we were just starting to have more LGBT films out there. This was 2005 or 2006. I remember also loving that the characters being gay felt rather secondary to the story. It was really about these two guys trying to build a long-term relationship with each other. It was sweet. And funny.

Someone told Rob that he should make the movie himself and make me the lead in the movie. Pretty sure that someone was me. In any event, the acting part of it was a no brainer for me. But when I was suddenly struck with co-producing for the first time ever, I honestly wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. Would this turn out to be the blind leading the blind? Fuck. It helped that Rob and Rodney started out so organized. This was something I hadn’t thought of. Throughout the process of making Long-Term Relationship, I think we all went through a pretty quick and steep learning curve. The ins and outs of making Long-Term Relationship were actually very dramatic at times. We had to deal with some pretty intense situations during production. But this isn’t about any of that. Because by the end of it all, the point is that Rob and Rodney had their first movie and Guest House Films was born.

I just want to jump forward to 2018 for a minute. Rob and Rodney of Guest House Films just released their most recent movie, Happiness Adjacent. This marks the ninth film of Guest House Films. NINE! Just stop and think about that for a minute. What a prolific pair these two are. It’s been inspiring to me in so many ways and probably the only reason I was able to discover that I even had the capacity to be a filmmaker myself.

After Long-Term Relationship, we went on to make Back Soon the next year which was a supernatural drama. I was also cast in this one and had to shave my head and everything. And again, I was one of the producers. It turned out to be a very different experience than the romantic comedy we had shot previously. By this point, Rob and I had developed a shorthand between director and actor, and so had Rodney and I as producer and producer.

As the years went on and we went on to make 3-Day Weekend, then Make the Yuletide Gay, and then Role/Play, I began to find a fascination in both Rob and Rodney as writers specifically. I had always had a thing for writers but never really thought of myself as one. I just never thought I had the skill or ability or whatever the hell to think I could do it. I’d always gotten in my own way. But meeting and working with Rob and Rodney had made me grow. Evolve. I was no longer just thinking of myself as an actor anymore. I saw myself as more and that included as an aspiring writer.

I had this idea for a drama about this gay guy who ends up with custody of a little girl.The story came to me in a flash, and I thought, if I don’t get this out now, it’ll be lost forever. This was my chance to really see if I could actually write - and find out if I even liked it. I spit out the script in three days. I was like a maniac. I took time off my pen job and everything so I could just stay home and write. I called it Stick Figures. It was the first time I’d ever actually written something from beginning to end and could call it a real story. I had dabbled before but never really took a crack at it other than my own sporadic journaling that occurred with the frequency of a restrained Trump tweet. But now here I was with a full screenplay.

Rob and Rodney were both so sweet. They agreed to read it. And Rodney gave me some really great notes and was very encouraging. They told me how much they liked it. I remember Rodney telling me that I had an understanding of three-act structure by instinct which was a good thing. This really made me feel like maybe I could do this. Rodney told me that I should keep writing. Do it more and do it often because I was already a writer. This meant more than he’ll probably ever know.

I’ve since gone back and re-read this script - that particular draft. It’s crap. Haha. The draft that I sent them was an absolute mess. And yet, they were so wonderful and motivating and encouraging and didn’t make me feel like I’d just written this amateur shit first draft which I clearly had. I’ll never forget this. I would go on to revise the screenplay a number of times and try to get it on it’s feet. I brought on a director and tried producing it myself. It never happened. And looking back, I’m kind of glad that it didn’t happen because my sensibility has changed and solidified as my own filmmaker. I also owe this to Guest House Films.

When Rob and Rodney opened up Guest House Films, they called it a Totally Gay Production Company! and it was and still is. They knew the kind of movies they wanted to make and had a voice that needed to be heard. I didn’t realize this at the time but as I watched Rob and Rodney grow as filmmakers and build this production company together, I was also growing. They helped me realize that I too had a voice and needed to find it.

We were working on or had just finished Role/Play, a movie I was acting in opposite the man that would eventually be my husband. I had been talking to him about going back to school and finishing my undergrad degree. So I did. Things started to change a lot for me then, I just didn’t know it yet. I would go on to graduate, then go on to grad school, open my own production company, and direct my first feature film. But it all started when I made that first decision to go back and finish my undergrad studies. When I told Rob and Rodney about my going back to school, I remember Rob telling me that he was proud of me. Those words made me feel like I had just been given the thumbs up by someone who had guided me and mentored me to where I was today. They both had.

Although I don’t see Rob and Rodney much anymore, I think of them often. We now live in different cities. And life happens. But I wanted to use this post this week to express my gratitude to the guys that helped shape my future as a filmmaker to what it is today. They motivated me, encouraged me, and believed in me even when I didn’t. Guest House Films has gone on to make more movies, open a distribution arm, and even offer script coverage services. As I venture on this new path as a writer/director who is now exploring his own voice,  I owe it to the guys that made me know this was even possible.

So Rob and Rodney, thank you.

ALSO - since it’s the holiday season. Check out their two holiday flicks, Make the Yuletide Gay, and also Shared Rooms. Trailers below.


Matthew MontgomeryComment