You might know Q. Allan Brocka as the creator of Rick and Steve, a groundbreaking queer sitcom that helped get Logo off the ground. Or you might know him as the director of the Eating Out films. Or you might be able to learn about him through any one of the TV and film projects he’s working on. But however you know this queer auteur, you’d probably never guess that he grew up as a shy kid on Guam, quietly absorbing what seemed then like forbidden culture.
Brocka was my guest recently on The Sewers of Paris, a podcast where I talk to queer people about the books, movies, TV and music that changed their lives. I’ve been following Q. Allan Brocka’s work for years, ever since I saw the premiere of the first Eating Out movie at Frameline, San Francisco‘s queer film festival. And it was a delight to learn that despite his subversive, naughty, occasionally-raunchy body of work, Brocka is himself totally approachable and down-to-Earth.
We started by talking about his childhood in Guam, and his early exposure to LGBTQ cinema — particularly John Waters — when he was in college. For most of his childhood, he was raised by a single mom, and was largely isolated from mainstream American culture. Instead, he gravitated towards community in religion, joining a 7th Day Adventist church as a child before persuading the rest of his family to join.
He got snippets of television, including the subversive kid’s comedy show You Can’t Do That on Television and the sci-fi anthology show Amazing Stories. Both shows fostered Q. Allan Brocka’s imagination, as well as a drive to push at the boundaries of the rules.
That’s maybe why John Waters was such a revelation to him when he arrived at college. As a freshman, he met a drag queen named Galaxina Novatron, who when Brocka said that he’d never seen a Waters film, told him, “we have to have a movie-watching binge.”
Looking back, he said, “I was transported to another world.” Movies like Pink Flamingos and Hairspray and Multiple Maniacs showed him just far an adventurous filmmaker could go in creating a vision that challenged mainstream culture. And so, that shy kid who was afraid to even say dirty words like “butt” was working on a community college show called Q Queeribus Unum.
It was around this time that he also changed his name. He started going to LGBTQ community groups, and was afraid that people would hear his given name — Quenton — and word would get around about his attendance. So he started going by Q. Allan, and it stuck. “I’m gay and I changed my name,” he told his friends as he came out to them.
But it was the Eating Out series that truly made a name for him. It began with a class assignment. “There was a cute guy in class and I wanted to make him read a gay sex scene,” he said. “That was the inspiration for it.” So he wrote a short script about a straight guy who pretends to be gay to get close to a girl who wants to convert him. “He did great!” Brocka recalled of the straight student.
Eventually, Brocka met a producer who knew from experience that if he made a gay film with two frontal nudity scenes for $40,000, it could make at least $60,000 in DVD sales. They dug up the old college script, shot it, and it wound up becoming a huge festival hit, grossing more than $2 million and spawning multiple sequels.
These days, Brocka’s working on a variety of TV and film projects about which he can only reveal a few tantalizing details. But if his mighty inspirations and his past success are any indication, we’ll be obsessing over his latest work before long.