It’s the Rainbow Youth ad that’s gone absolutely viral; a kiwi bloke stands in a farm paddock eating a pie, which he accidentally drops. His reaction is one that we’ve heard too many times “ugh gay…”.
Nigel however, get’s called out for his casual homophobia by his mate who tells him “Look bro, unless that pie is a man who loves another man, then it’s not gay.” Muzza backs him up and Steve, sipping his cup of tea against the fenceline breaks the news to Nigel that he happens to be “quite gay”.
It’s an absolute gem of an ad and nothing before it seems to have had such an immediate impact on casual homophobia here in Aotearoa.
“I think people are already acknowledging how they’re catching themselves out,” Director Jamie Lawrence tells me.
It seems people are quite quickly changing their behaviour and it’s what the team behind the ad set out to do. Inspired by kiwi ads – like everyone’s favourite ‘ghost chips’ – using humour seems to make it socially acceptable to call people out for their problematic behaviour.
It’s a team that donated their time to work on the ad, recognising the importance of changing attitudes and targeting middle New Zealand men, particularly in the rural areas.
“That was a different way in to the story, subverting the expectations of what a gay man is supposed to look like, sound like and behave like,” says Jamie.
“We did a lot of work trying to cast the right guys and we did some workshops with the four guys who were happy to volunteer their time.”
During a read-through the actors just organically found themselves in the right roles, Jamie says there was a lot of improv and working hard to get every little aspect right.
“I was excited about going to work for that reason, working with great actors who could have some fun with the material.”
He says there’s been an overwhelming positive reaction to the ad and Steve’s definitely became a bit of a fan favourite.
It’s no surprise that Jamie’s found himself working on an ad campaign that’s making changes in the world.
He’s passionate about film and says he wants to use the medium to raise consciousness in some way, about the things that he cares about.
“I always go back to the very first time that happened for me, when I saw American Beauty at the cinema and I was an impressionable thirteen year old. I’d never seen anything like it, you get to this scene where Lester Burnham is jerking off in the shower and you’re like holy shit what the hell am I watching, it’s so offensive.”
He thought he’d leave the cinema but convinced himself to stay. “By the end of it, it packed a massive blow and I think that was to do with my relationship with shame and understanding what that was and what that meant for me… I thought if I can do that for other people, what American Beauty did for me, then that’s working towards me following my calling or following my heart – how ever you want to articulate it.”
Jamie’s first film was about two women who fall in love at a time when that wasn’t socially acceptable. He remembers a woman approaching him to thank him for telling stories like hers.
“Ever since American Beauty I’ve been really aware of why I want to make films, which is to connect with people, make them feel like they are ok in their own shit and that they’re not alone and that they matter.”