The internet is probably leading us all to a tragic end. We all know this. Yet, here we all are, scanning the characters and pixels of your most favorite website, blissfully digesting content like some kind of designer drug. If some is good, more must be better.
“A generation of young gay men are affected by an online obsession,” explains up and coming filmmaker Gage Oxley. “It’s leading us to massive self-esteem issues.”
Oxley’s award-winning short film, This World We Live In is a gripping drama that examines the tragedy of mixing perceptions of masculinity with modern technology. Starring Jack Parr, This World We Live In offers a riveting 15-minute glimpse into the world of an image-conscious young man, struggling to keep his own demons at bay and simply fit in with the other guys.
“I believe film is such a powerful tool to help and support people who are struggling,” Oxley says. “To have a platform to base these challenging discussions off of is crucial for difficult and taboo subjects, like mental health and sexuality.”
Oxley represents the new generation of filmmakers, born into an age of technology and interconnectedness that is completely foreign to filmmakers who have come before him. Oxley uses the reality of the world around us almost as a supporting character, with dialogue delivered by thumbs and the subtle blue glow of mobile screens. He still manages to maintain, however, a sense of human-ness to his work by directing us away from the electric machines just enough to focus his storytelling on true-to-life hot button issues like mental health and addiction.
“I first became fascinated with film, more specifically the creation of film, around eight years old,” Oxley recalls. “I do also think living in the same city of Leeds, UK, where Louis Le Prince made the first films nearly 130 years ago also had an effect on me as a young filmmaker.”
A far cry from Le Prince’s Roundhay Garden Scene, Oxley’s latest short film acknowledges that modern-day courtship requires more than a quiet stroll in the garden. As Joey (Jack Parr) embraces his own sexual desires, he is simultaneously being crushed by questions of masculinity and social acceptance among his peers. Using drugs as a coping mechanism, this 22-year-old who seems he has the whole world in his hands quickly begins to lose his grip.
“I really felt it important to weave in the ‘lad culture,’ which is quite damaging for young men struggling with their sexuality, who worry about losing this masculine front,” explains the director.
A surprising little film from the opening scene, Oxley also delivers an intriguing and open-ended conclusion to his story.
“We purposely kept it rather uncertain for a number of reasons,” Oxley says. “We wanted to engage our audience in discussion and debate, as from that comes the opportunity to raise their potential concerns in a safe environment. Equally, I believe it is rather open-ended because I think while Joey’s story may have been told, there’s room for further exploration of this story.”
You read that right. Possibly the most thrilling surprise about This World We Live In is that it is the first part of a series of short films in the works from Gage Oxley and his producers at Oxygen Films, Beth Fallon and Sian Carry.
“Our series of short films, entitled ‘Odyssey’ commemorates the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK this year,” Oxley explains. “Each short film explores a different theme and genre through interconnected characters, so I would definitely say while the end is quite uncertain in This World We Live In, there’s definitely stories still to be told from it.”
The end, it would seem, is only just the beginning.