I had the opportunity to chat with award-winning writer, actor, and producer Jason T. Gaffney about his movie, Analysis Paralysis, as well as some of his other projects. This movie is Gaffney’s directorial debut and he co-wrote it with his father. In this rom-com the focus is on both mental health and on LGBT representation. Thank you to Jason T. Gaffney for answering all of my questions.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’m an out gay filmmaker who wears many hats. I write, produce, direct, and act in films. When I’m not making films I enjoy gardening, baking with my husband, and talking about owning a pet pig someday soon! (They have the cutest noses!)
How would you describe Analysis Paralysis?
Analysis Paralysis is a romantic comedy (emphasis on comedy) that follows the journey of a young man named Tyler who deals with extreme anxiety. He struggles with making choices and has to think up every single possibility outcome to the point where he leaving his house is a challenge.
Once he hits rock bottom, he enlists the aid of his therapist and decides to pursue a relationship with his cute neighbor Shane to fight his mental woes.
As you guessed it, starting a new relationship causes a lot of anxiety for Tyler, and we get to watch him battle his inner demons to win the man of his dreams.
What inspired this project?
I love making movies and I was looking for a way to make one without breaking the bank, and also without compromising on the story. Movies by nature are expensive because in order for it to look good, you need to give your crew the time they need to setup the shot beautifully. The more time it takes to get the shot, the more days you need.
I had worked with my dad, Ed Gaffney, on a handful of other projects, and so I called him up to try and brainstorm a few ideas and see if we could come up with something. He wanted in and we were back to co-writing!
During one of our brainstorming sessions he brought up a conversation he had with a family friend named Bill. Bill had told my dad that he struggled when making a business decision because he wanted to make sure he had figured out all the possible outcomes of anything he chose. This gave my dad an idea that maybe there was something here for a movie.
This sparked the idea in my brain about watching a person struggle with this common business ailment in their everyday life. We could basically film the same moment in time for the character while having different outcomes. This would save us time on setups and location moves without compromising the comedy or the story. Win-Win!
Could you discuss how mental illness and LGBTQ+ representation are handled in Analysis Paralysis?
A lot of LGBTQ+ characters in films experience conflict around their sexual orientation, or their sexual orientation is the punch line in a joke. Hollywood has gotten better about this over the last decade or so, but we still have a ways to go.
And don’t get me wrong! I appreciate coming out movies and stories. There is still a very real need for them given the current world climate, but we as a demographic are more than our coming out stories. We go on to lead rich exciting lives filled with goals and dreams just like everyone else.
So, in my movies and my books, I deliver stories where the LGBTQ characters have moved beyond any conflict surrounding their sexual orientation. I make rom-coms where the gay main characters get to be conflicted by the same zany hijinks that straight, cis characters have been dealing with for decades. Boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy wins boy, and they live happily ever after!
As for the mental illness, I was able to pull from my personal experience of having anxiety for this film. I amped up the anxiety and the thoughts that Tyler has to help bring a more comedic slant to it.
The reason that I chose to go the more comedic route is because most films that deal with mental illness and depression go the dramatic route. Yes, the issues are serious, but I personally don’t walk around in a somber mood all day. I experience all kinds of emotions including joy and laughter in between bouts of anxiety.
By making it a comedy, I hoped to make the story more relatable to people, which in turn will hopefully start a larger conversation about mental illness and the need for people to get help.
You co-wrote this with your father, what was that process like?
I love getting to write with my dad, Ed Gaffney. He’s one of the main sources of where my sense of humor comes from. We do a really good job of “Yes, and”-ing humor with each other. I say a joke, and he sees where it’s going, then adds a little flair to it, and then I see where he’s going with it, and I spruce it up a bit more. Then back to him and back to me until we feel that it is polished enough.
Writing this way has really helped us figure out which scenes need the most work and to be able to punch up the jokes to their highest potential. I’m also really grateful that he was a part of this process because he spearheaded the giant conflict scene toward the end of the movie with Shane’s parents (which was a ton of fun to film as an actor). It’s probably one of the strongest moments in the film. (Although the hilarious love scene between the two leads is another viewer favorite!)
I’m incredibly lucky to get the chance to work alongside my father and to have his support.
You also had other family members involved on the production side, how did this impact the project?
I think that it only made it stronger. I’m very lucky that I have not only a loving and supportive family, but we really communicate well with each other. Matt wore multiple hats such as producer, line producer, head of craft services, and assistant editor.
While he was doing that, my dad was helping by being my eyes while I was acting and rewriting on the fly what needed to be changed during filming.
I was super lucky to have my mom, New York Times Bestselling Author Suzanne Brockmann, help with pre-production by getting artwork and books cleared for filming. She also spearheaded the Kickstarter campaign, which helped make this film possible!
Then, in post-production, I had the privilege of working with my cousin Jack Gravina who not only edited the film, but helped compose and put together the music selections. I’m looking forward to working with him again soon!
(Another fun fact is that I actually used a bit of artwork in the set design from my Grandpa, Fred Brockmann.)
All of these people are incredibly talented, and we speak on the same wavelengths. Finding people who are fun to work with is hard, and I’m very lucky that I get to do this with my family.
My Pet Hippo Productions has the benefit of you and your husband Matt as the driving force behind their work. Could you describe the goals of the company and your mission going forward?
At My Pet Hippo Productions, we think the world is a far more diverse and interesting place than Hollywood blockbusters would have us believe. (Yes, Hollywood is starting to catch up, but not quite fast enough for our tastes!)
Our mission is to create high quality, exciting, and entertaining movies featuring a universe where:
- LGBTQ characters have leading roles that are never based on stereotypes
- The main conflicts of our LGBTQ characters aren’t created by their sexual orientation
- Female characters have roles that go beyond mother, wife, daughter, and/or woman-in jeopardy
- People of color have roles that are never based on stereotypes
- A limited budget does not mean a compromised product
Where can our readers keep up with everything you do online?
One of the best ways that people can stay in the know with what’s going on with me and my production company, My Pet Hippo Productions, is to join our newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/mypethippo
I actually have another feature film in post-production (which I co-wrote with my mom, New York Times Bestselling Author Suzanne Brockmann) called Out of Body. My co-star of Analysis Paralysis, Kevin Held, teams up with me to star in this film as well! You can find out more about it at our Indiegogo campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/out-of-body-a-feature-length-lgbtq-rom-com-movie/#/
I also have a podcast called The Bright Side with Kevin and Jason. Every week, Kevin and I take a look at a tragic event in history, and we find what good came from it. You can find out more about it here: http://www.thebrightsidewithkevinandjason.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @JasonTGaffney
And Instagram: @JasonTGaffney