We chat with Brandon Alexander III, left, writer and star of “First Period,” which parodies teen movies with a refreshing twist: The main teen girls are men in drag.
“First Period” is a cult classic in the making. The film has a laugh-a-minute script that parodies all your favorite teen movies with an odd and irreverent twist: The main teen girls are played by men in drag. Basically, it’s like “Square Pegs” if the girls had pegs.
But the movie is more than just jokes — it has a heart and unique sensibility that is at home with classic cult comedies like “Hairspray,” “Airplane” and “Spaceballs.”
Brandon Alexander III plays Cassie Glenn, a teen whose delusions of grandeur and plucky disposition help her navigate her new school with the blind confidence of Kanye West. She quickly befriends often-ignored Maggie (Dudley Beene), and the two concoct a plan to be popular. Besides playing the lead, Alexander also penned the script and helped produce the film. It’s a breath of fresh air in a sea of gay movies that look the same. As much as we love coming-out stories or the perils of gay prostitutes, it’d be nice if the focus was on filmmaking rather than the sexuality of its characters or creators. Luckily, that day just might be upon us thanks to “First Period.”
I took some time to talk to Alexander about the making of this unique film, gay cinema and the ins and outs of acting in drag.
Brandon Alexander III wrote ‘First Period’ and stars as its heroine, Cassie. (Photo courtesy ‘First Period’)
Christian Cintron: How did you get involved in this insane project? Brandon Alexander III: I wrote a short a long time ago called “Becoming A Woman: A Woman’s Story of Womanhood.” It was a parody of Lifetime movies, and I wanted to do it with my friend Dudley Beene because I had seen him act in several things, and I knew he was really talented. Sadly, neither of us knew how to make a film. Years later, Dudley came up with some money and asked if I could turn it into a feature film. We got together with his roommate Charlie Vaughn who was an experienced director, and all three of us sat down and said, “Let’s make a movie!”
(Movie poster courtesy ‘First Period’)
What was that process like?
It was a crazy stress-filled roller coaster of a dream come true! I mean, L.A. is the land of “everybody’s working on something,” so when we started working on “First Period,” I was super-excited to be making a movie with my friends and didn’t know if it would really be anything other than us just making a crazy, weird movie. We didn’t even know if people would like it or not, but we wanted to make something that could really show off all of our skills. I love the filmmaking process anyway, so regardless of the end result, I knew it was going to be fun.
This movie is like “Airplane” or “30 Rock.” It has jokes every five seconds. Did you set out to write a cult classic?
I don’t think anyone sets out to write a big blockbuster or a cult classic; I think the people that do tend to fall victim to their own ego. I think any real writer just wants their work and their voice to be heard. I just wanted to write something that was my style of humor, my voice and a story told the way I wanted it told. I just really wanted to make a weird movie for weird people to enjoy, and I wanted to do it with my friends.
What were some of your influences/inspirations when writing the script?
Well, I sat down and watched “Heathers,” “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club” and, of course, “Teen Witch” (one of my favorites). But I will always draw inspiration from “Strangers with Candy” and “Absolutely Fabulous.” Jennifer Saunders and Amy Sedaris will always be my inspiration. Two funny, insanely talented weirdos that go through life with a smile and a laugh. They’re my heroes. Which is kind of what I dedicated the movie to … all of my fellow weirdos out there.
How much of you is in Cassie?
Cassie is kind of what I wish I could be. She’s so bold, outgoing and fearless. I’m a total introvert, awkward and never overly sure of myself, but getting to play someone so different than myself, I get to let all of that out to play.
Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira, is less Mistress of the Dark and more Mom in ‘First Period.’ (Photo courtesy ‘First Period.’)
How was it having the Mistress of the Dark Elvira aka Cassandra Peterson play your mother? Amazing!! I never thought she would agree to do our film in a million years, but she did! She told me it was the funniest script she had read in a long time and loved the idea of it. It was so insane working with her because Cassandra isn’t what you’d expect from Elvira. She’s so nice, professional, genuinely caring and a fellow writer/improviser. She was a really good friend to me through the whole process since it was my first feature film as a writer/producer/lead actor. I can’t say enough amazing things about her.
What was the worst part of acting in drag?
The tight clothes and the shaving! I’m not a huge fan of shaving my face, nor my legs for that matter, and I had to do them both everyday. To make the cleavage look real, I had to wear a bra that was like two to three sizes too small, stuff them with socks and then stretch my skin upward to make it look like I had real cleavage. It was very painful. I didn’t mind the heels. They made me feel tall.
This film has great acting, writing and a high production value. Do you feel like it’s changing the face of gay cinema?
I don’t know, but I hope so. Gay cinema means a lot to me. I feel like for so long we’ve had to fit in this tiny little box of what gay entertainment is when we could all be so much more! I don’t see why gay cinema can’t cover other genres. Like an action film with a gay cop trying to save his kidnapped partner which is also his partner. See what I did there? We have so many genres and art forms when it comes to film, I would just really love to see what gay storytellers/filmmakers can do with them when they don’t have to limit themselves.
What’s next for you?
I have a few projects in the works. I have a video game coming out that I voiced a character in, I’m going to be guest-starring in some web series, I’m also working on a few future film ideas with Charlie Vaughn and one of them is sure to be a sequel to “First Period.” If we can get the money that is.
“First Period” is available on DVD and will be on Netflix streaming on Monday, May 18. For more from Brandon Alexander III, find him on Facebook and Twitter.