Earlier this year I received an email from a press rep for a surprising series, In Between Men. What was so surprising? The show was holding a red carpet premiere at TriBeCa Cinemas in New York, had enlisted minor stars like Michelle Clunie (Queer as Folk) and Chase Coleman (Boardwalk Empire), and boasted a sleek look, with glamorous New York locations and a kick-ass wardrobe from Marc Jacobs.
And I’d never heard of it, or its creator. Why hadn’t I heard of this show?
In Between Men is truly an anomaly in the web series world. A well-funded gay buddy soap, the show was written, shot and released in just a year by a virtual unknown in the industry, creator Quincy Morris. Since releasing its first two episodes, IBM has been covered by Queerty, Jezebel, Têtu, among others.
How did a New York professional and first-time filmmaker corral enough talented people for such a series, eventually inviting interest from premier gay network Logo?
"I know it’s amazing. But because I didn’t make films for a living prior to this, I don’t have a perspective how really amazing it is," Morris told me in an interview. "Everything that’s happened to it since its inception has come fairly easily. I’m getting a really bad first experience."
In Between Men tells the story of four young gay men in New York City as they deal with professional and personal struggles. The star is Dalton, an event planner who’s professionally successful but romantically not so much. His attractive friends, one of whom is bisexual, all have their issues (promiscuity, lack of self-esteem, etc.), but are linked together by being "in between," not "straight-acting" or effeminate.
"Whenever I’d go out, or whenever I’d turn on a movie or TV, I’d never see the kind of men I identify myself with," Morris told me about the impetus for the show. "I’d always see a one-dimensional, caricaturish, flamboyant, there-for-comic-relief gay guy, who’s not really the focus of the show but is somebody’s friend."
Morris wrote the show to let viewers know there are more types of gay men than clubgoers, Britney Spears fans or the opposite, the uber-masculine cops and warriors currently gracing cable shows.
"I wanted to demonstrate that gay men are men too," Morris said. "All the words that are associated with gayness are: weakness, being soft. You can listen to hardcore rap music and be gay. You can play golf and be gay. You don’t have to try to fall into stereotypes, which I think a lot of young people do."
By any account, IBM is quite an accomplishment for a first-timer. Morris not only had decent actors, but a forty-person crew, high quality costumes, original music, and twenty locations across New York – including an apartment over-looking the park – which he shot in twelve days.
How did he do it? Morris’ background is in theater, so he staged a reading of the original script, inviting potential investors and people who’d be able to help with production. By working connections, Morris got an anonymous investor, referrals to quality actors, along with discounts and favors from people with locations, studios and other services.
Not that there weren’t complications. Morris went through several cast changes, and had a couple of budget issues, including running out of money fairly quickly early on.
Morris, who is black, had a particular problem casting a racially diverse cast. One of the original boys was supposed to be black, but Morris couldn’t find the right actor. He made sure the series’ female lead, though, was black.
"Ultimately the story I wanted to tell wasn’t a black story," he said. "I can’t carry the burden. I can’t do everything."
Even before it aired, IBM attracted interest. Logo offered to buy the series for non-exclusive online distribution and invited him to pitch it as a TV pilot. But Morris, thinking the show fundamentally different from Noah’s Arc or Queer as Folk, didn’t want IBM to be pigeonholed. He’s currently pitching the show to a number of undisclosed networks. Morris thinks a network looking to rebrand itself, as Showtime did a number of years ago, might be interested.
"It has the potential to make a big splash. It has a lot of potential," he said.