Opening the 28th annual Austin Gay And Lesbian International Film Festival is one of the funniest and heartwarming comedies of the year, FOURTH MAN OUT. Adam (Evan Todd) chooses the occasion of his 24th birthday to come out to his friends, a group of borderline stereotypical guy guys who like to drink beer, pick up chicks, and watch hockey. They always thought Adam was one of them, and now with this new development they find themselves challenged to make sure he still feels like he is.

A film that’s more about a group of people than a singular person, Andrew Nackman’s story looks that the dynamics of friendship and how far people will go if you ask them. The relationships between the guys are at once universal and completely unique. These are men asked to step out of their comfort zone who respond in a way only best friends could. They even do their best to get Adam laid. It’s funny, it’s endearing, and it’s just a darn good movie. I had a chance to speak with Nackman a few days before the film’s screening at aGLIFF about the development process and finding the perfect balance for getting this film to the widest audience possible.

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BEARS: So how did this story come to you, and what got you excited about it?

Nackman: One of our producers Jed Mellick sent me a script by this writer Aaron Dancik and I loved the premise of it, partly for the universality of that and the fact we felt it was a story message that could be told in a way that would appeal to any type of audience.

BEARS: this feels like a story that is very much of this moment. I mean, I’m a little older than you, so I didn’t get to have the experience of someone I care about coming out to me when I was in high school or shortly after. People just didn’t do that back then. Or they didn’t do that in Catholic High School, I don’t know. They didn’t do it to me. But I feel like your film touches on the amazing strength that is available when we open ourselves up to the ones we care about most, and that is so much easier today. Is that something you were aware of as you worked on the film?

Nackman: We spent about a year further developing the script with Aaron, and I just noticed that whenever I would mention the plot of it or the idea of it, any friends of mine – high school, college, Family, any type – just to get reactions, people always seem to jump in with some type of similar story that they experienced. So it seems like the reason why I wanted to make this movie I could see in the reactions of other people, they could identify with our story.

BEARS: Is there anything specific from those conversations or your life that made into the film?

Nackman: there is probably one experience that I can think of — a high school friend of mine when he came out and the way my friends and I discussed it amongst ourselves. … how far friends will go to support each other, so I took ideas from that. But it was a collaborative process. We took ideas from our producers, from our lead actor Evan who played Adam. They were great bringing in their own experiences as well.

BEARS: One of the common story lines of LGBT films is the ‘coming out’ story combined with the ‘coming-of-age’ story, I like to call it the coming-of-gay story, it’s a film that we see a lot because it tells an important universal story and one that is different for each person. However I feel with your film we’re seeing a different side of that, because we are actually experiencing this film not through the point of view of Adam but through his friends.

Nackman: That was really important to us, making this story balanced. The way we talked about it ourselves during the writing process was that it starts off as Adam story but once he comes out, after that, you can argue it’s just as much Chris’s story or his entire group of friends because there’re so many scenes where Adam’s not even in it, and it’s just his friends trying to figure out what to do with this. We felt like that’s a more interesting story to tell and it hasn’t really been done that much.

BEARS: The foursome is a character in itself, the character that goes through some issues, and has to adjust and figure out how it fits in the world with this new information.

Nackman: Totally. Totally agree.

BEARS: I always find these films that are playing LGBT film festivals but have just as much appeal and are often playing non-niche festivals as well some of the most interesting because you never know how audiences are going to react, and whether they respond differently at different kinds of fests. What has your experience been?

Nackman: We honestly didn’t know what to expect. We’ve done really well at each of the festivals, people have laughed when we think they’re supposed to laugh, so the reaction has really been as good as we could’ve hoped for. And I think one of the goals of making this movie was to make a film about the subject matter but tell it in the way in which audiences who wouldn’t normally go see that kind of movie, would want to go see it, and really enjoy it.

BEARS: It seems to me that the most important factor in the success of this film is casting. You have a great ensemble here with some up-and-coming names that people will recognize from television like Chord Overstreet from “Glee” and Parker Young from the inexplicably canceled before it’s time “Enlisted,” how did you bring them all together?

Nackman: One of the biggest things I was worried about ahead of production, with four guys like that, they have to feel as if they’ve been friends since childhood. That has to come across on screen. In most situations in casting you don’t get to audition all four guys together and see how they interact, you have to cast them individually and make your own best guess as to whether they’re going to mesh. We had great casting directors, Karlee Fomalont and Erica A. Hart, who really helped out a lot and really understood the script, and brought actors to us that really fit for the roles.

BEARS: Did you have any rehearsal with them?

Nackman: We shot in Albany, and they arrived about two days before, originally I hoped for more rehearsal time, but I think it ended up being the perfect amount because we had two days just to get into it. We ran through several scenes and talked about the characters, it was kind of the right amount where they all felt comfortable working together and starting to feel comfortable in those roles and it wasn’t too much where you couldn’t figure out something new on set.

BEARS: The characters all seem to really be having such a great time on screen. Were there any scenes where it was hard to get through because people were laughing so much?

Nackman: Any scene where it’s the four guys hanging out together. There was a lot of improv in those scenes, every take was a little different, that always keeps things fresh, so even on the fourth or fifth take people are still laughing. Like the scene where they’re watching the hockey game. They just ended up being so comfortable around each other that they acted like the characters.

Fourth Man Out place September 10 as the opening night film for the Austin Gay And Lesbian International Film Festival at the Alamo South Lamar. More information and badges are available at www.agliff.org.

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