Interview: Todd Flahety – Chrissy Judy

Best described as a dark comedy about the snags of two gay friends trying to maintain a friendship, ‘Chrissy Judy’ has not only been a favorite of film festival attendees around the globe over the past 12 months, but opened doors for its star, writer and director, Todd Flaherty.

In this exclusive interview to coincide with the film’s North American release in select theaters tomorrow, Friday, April 7, including Laemmle Noho in L.A., Cinema Village in New York and Reading Cinema Rohnert Park, and On Demand, Digital and DVD this Tuesday, April 11 by Dark Star Pictures, Flaherty describes the process of writing the complex tale, its inspiration and why we all need a Judy.

When did you hatch the idea for ‘Chrissy Judy?’ Really interested in how long it took to come to the screen?

Todd Flahety (TF): I started writing the film in 2018. I had just left my home of 13 years in NYC to pursue a romance with a man in Philadelphia, which is where the idea of Chrissy’s character came about.

I had been toying with the idea of writing a film about queer friendships and chosen family, and it seemed like the perfect time to explore that. I was set for production with another creative team in the fall of 2019, but our funding fell through once the pandemic hit and put us on hold for another year. We shot the film in June of 2021.

And how many drafts did you go through?

TF: Honestly, I probably had about 20 drafts. Most of those were just little changes here and there. The original script was 116 pages, then that whittled down to 103, where it stayed for a while. Right before production, knowing the limitations of our budget, I made final cuts and the shooting script was a tight 85 pages.

What changed along the way? I’d be intrigued to know if you toyed with different tones?

TF: The main thing that changed was a few characters got cut down to only having one scene. I really tried to employ the method of  “show not tell” to really strip things down and get to the heart of these two characters. The tone always lived in the grey, uplifting and funny at times, heartbreaking and uncomfortable at other times.

Were you always intending to direct too?

TF: Yes. I had a very clear vision and tone for the film that I wanted to execute.

How difficult was it wearing such hats on the film?

TF: It actually wasn’t difficult at all. Working alongside my brother as my cinematographer made it a dream. We have a shorthand that makes it easy to work efficiently without sacrificing artistic vision. And the actors were all such a dream to work with, both in front of and behind the camera.

The characters – any influences there?

TF: I like to think there is a part of me in each of these characters. I have been a Chrissy and a Judy in a few formative relationships in my twenties. Samoa is the human I aspire to be. And Marcus is the a**hole I will never admit to being.

And why do we all need a Judy?

TF: What is life without a little messy adventure? That’s what this particular Judy offers up.

Tell me about your cast. How did you know them?

TF: I was really blessed with this cast. I met Wyatt doing a reading of a play in New York many years ago, and when it came time to cast Chrissy, I asked him to read and he accepted the role on the spot. I wrote the role of Marcus for Joey Taranto and the role of Samoa for James Tison, who are dear friends of mine, so they had no choice but the play those roles.

Have doors started opening as a result of the film’s success?

TF: Slowly but surely. I just got to act in a beautiful film with an Oscar and a Tony winner, which should release in the next few months. That was incredible! And I just finished writing my next feature which, thankfully, a few producers are interested in.

Creating art is my life’s force, so I don’t plan on waiting for any doors to open to continue building my career…I’ll keep opening my own.

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