The New Twenty - A Film by Chris Mason Johnson


Director's Statement - Chris Mason Johnson

On the GAY/STRAIGHT mix:

In THE NEW TWENTY I depict gay/straight friendships between young men that are free of the homosexual panic jokes and unrequited love conflicts that usually dominate the screen. The fact is, gay/straight friendships (minus the drama) are more and more common for young adults, especially the urban and educated. We may not have reached a “post-gay” moment yet (Prop 8, anyone?) but we’re getting there. The casual attitude toward gay/straight bonding for characters like those in THE NEW TWENTY might be summed up as: what’s the big deal?

And yet, despite my insistence on the easy-going nature of this mix, I knew homophobia had to play into my story, since our brave new world does have its share of it. Something that runs so deep must leave a trace, but what kind of trace? The answer came in two ways: first through my antagonist, "Louie," the older venture capitalist who helps young alpha-male "Andrew" launch his new career, and who is blatantly if amusingly homophobic; the second through the more subtle discomfort my male characters express without necessarily knowing it, through humor. In other words, homosexual panic used to lead to violence, now it leads to jokes.

On TOPICAL relevance:

The characters in THE NEW TWENTY are ready to move on and grow up, even if they don’t know it yet. As it happens, their ironic and somewhat tortured self-involvement coincides with what we now see as a particularly ugly chapter in America’s financial markets history (two of the principal characters are bankers). For some time now our country has been encouraging its best and brightest to go into banking, and that’s not always a good thing, to say the least. In THE NEW TWENTY my characters struggle with life choices that feel empty or cynical, but they are not heroes, and they don’t know how to fix their lives or get out of the trap. Perhaps luckily for them (in their fictional future), the whole financial edifice comes tumbling down just a couple short years after the story ends. A supertitle at the head of the film - “2006” - locates this narrative in the very recent, but very different, past.

On the ENSEMBLE form:

I've always been drawn to ensemble or multi-protagonist films. For me, stories with a cross-section of characters and multiple viewpoints have a kind of existential poignancy that strikes a nerve. Good ensemble stories suggest how small, how mortal, how interdependent we all are. They contextualize characters more fully within a social reality. They show how characters are controlled by environment as much as they are driven by individual will. TV has an advantage over feature films when it comes to fleshing out ensemble stories with multiple plotlines (because of the longer running time), but there's something very special about a good ensemble feature and I hope there's still room for them in an ever more comic strip dominated marketplace.

THE NEW TWENTY is an ensemble drama about five friends nearing thirty who've remained close since college. Their extended family has outlived its usefulness. It's time to move on and move apart. Leaving that first circle of friends is like leaving family. It's not always easy. THE NEW TWENTY is what the title suggests: a rather late coming-of-age story.