“One of my favorite films is Love Actually,” writer/director Rob Williams begins to explain about the inspiration behind the storytelling format he utilized for Shared Rooms, the latest feature to come out of his and longtime partner Rodney Johnson’s Guest House Films.
Both Williams and I happen to be based in Los Angeles, so it was fortuitous that we were able to meet in person to discuss Shared Rooms and Guest House Films as a whole – which took place over a Thai supper in Hollywood with the bustling La Brea Avenue traffic underscoring the interview.
Shared Rooms is the eighth feature out of Guest House Films, but the first with multiple storylines. “We had a lot of ideas,” Williams continues about the development of Shared Rooms. “I wasn’t quite sure where I was going to go with them or what I wanted to do with them, but then it just hit me — let’s follow the Love Actually model and have a holiday film with these different storylines that are separate but then it all comes together at the end.”
Two of these storylines were born out of personal experience – but with a twist. Williams and Johnson have a guest house (hence the name of their production company) that they have been renting out for a couple of years.
“It was fascinating,” Williams says of the experience. “We had all these wonderful, interesting people coming through. I thought this was a cool movie, but then I liked this idea of someone renting out his roommate’s room and the roommate didn’t know it and all of a sudden he comes home and they had to share a room because his room was rented out.”
One of the stories is about a longtime couple whose friends are starting to have children – something neither of them has any particular interest in having themselves. This changes when a nephew shows up at their door after having been kicked out of his house by his parents for being gay.
“My partner has a nephew who came and stayed with us for six months,” Williams says. “So what do you do when you’re a couple who’ve lived together just by yourselves and suddenly there’s another person in the house even though it’s family?” Williams goes on to point out that the nephew wasn’t actually kicked out of his house. That part was added for the film to raise the dramatic stakes.
The third story is about a Christmas Day hookup that becomes far more than that on several levels.
“I needed a third story that was a little more sexy and a little more fun,” Williams says. “And it was fun. I shot with those guys being totally naked for two days. And they were totally game for it.”
All three stories take place between Christmas and New Year’s. And all three stories converge at a New Year’s Eve party thrown by the longtime couple – with surprising developments.
Williams likens Shared Rooms with his earlier Make the Yuletide Gay in that it was a holiday film. (I had actually seen the latter film many years ago and was even more thrilled to meet Williams when I found out it was one of his films.)
Like Yuletide and most of the other Guest House films, Shared Rooms has a happy ending with a positive message so that you come out feeling good and hopeful about relationships and the world – which, at the risk of editorializing, is very much in need these days.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Guest House Films