In a world where gay-themed stories and films are fighting against the odds to reach mainstream audiences, underground filmmaker TS Slaughter takes the more bold and brazen approach of using satire to convey his message. Shrouded in mystery and hidden behind a pen name (“TS” is an homage to poet and playwright T.S. Eliot and “Slaughter” cleverly references the director’s first film) director TS Slaughter certainly doesn’t pull any punches in his stories of queer underdogs and flawed stereotypes.
TS Slaughter is a classically trained theatre actor, opera singer, and musician, but the director first made his foray into film in 2005. After meeting producer and friend Paul Serrano, TS Slaughter enrolled in the New York Film Academy’s boot camp and began work on his first script.
“It had to be a feature,” states the director/writer. “And it had to be horror, because horror always sells. Even if it’s really bad!” The resulting film, Skull & Bones, is a gay-themed slasher set in New Haven, Connecticut. “We picked New Haven to show the vast divide,” says Slaughter. “It’s the story of queer underdogs getting revenge on the hoity-toity.”
Though it was meant to poke fun at stereotypes, many audiences didn’t quite get the joke at first. However, the fledgling satirical film gradually gained due praise and caught the attention of Ariztical Entertainment, who released the project to DVD two years after filming. This taste of success inspired TS Slaughter and Paul Serrano to partner on their next project, The Gays.
Taking valuable audience lessons from Skull & Bones, Slaughter approached The Gays more directly. “It’s in your face, raunchy, perverted. But it’s also completely satirical about anti-gay stereotypes,” explains Slaughter. The director carefully weaves in an element of self-awareness too, effectively letting the audience in on the joke this time. “Having [the character] Kevin be in the bar with Alex and being an aghast onlooker was important. Kevin becomes the stand-in for the standard straight audience member.”
For fans of perverse underground gay-themed films, The Gays will have a surprisingly familiar feel. TS Slaughter cites filmmaker John Waters as his, “biggest hero of underground film.” Waters, who is best known for works such as Pink Flamingoes, Female Trouble, and the more mainstream, Hairspray, inspired Slaughter’s approach to dialogue in his latest film.
“[Waters’] dialogue is so memorable. You make so many friends in this life, but if you can quote Waters you’ll make many like-minded friends,” says Slaughter.
Focused on delivering perverse and satirical works to audiences worldwide, TS Slaughter is concentrating his efforts on getting the attention of film festival programmers. Slaughter, however, finds himself straddling a thin line where festivals are seeking LGBT stories, but are still squeamish about featuring raunchy and satirical pieces. Referencing the same struggles John Waters faced early in his own career, Slaughter explains, “This is the new 1972 for subversive gay filmmaking. These are satirical works, but taking post-liberated views.”
Even if the festival programmers don’t warm up to him, Slaughter intends to keep on trying. Right on the heels of The Gays, Slaughter has a collection of scripts featuring stories of pre-adolescent sexuality, closeted and sadistic drill sergeants, and bullied kids exacting their deadly revenge on homophobic classmates.
Remember, TS Slaughter doesn’t pull any punches.