Q&A: Anthony J. Caruso

I chatted with Director/Actor Anthony J. Caruso about his life and his new film “Brotherly Love.”

 

Q: Talk about your childhood, where you grew up, etc

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I had a pretty normal childhood. My parents were
married for 43 years. Stable home. Had a house with a yard and a dog. Except for the
fact I was gay, I fit right in. 😉�

Q: When did you know you wanted to be in the Entertainment industry?

I was always drawn to it, but it was never a career path that was seen as an option. I
was sent to a college prep school where you were expected to go to college, get a
“regular job”, get married and have your 2.3 kids with a white picket fence. Any sort of
artistic job wasn’t encouraged. So I was on that path and going to college in Wisconsin
to be an actuary, even though it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.

But when I was going to go to orientation, I went to my parents in tears. I told them I
didn’t want to go to school, but I wanted to move to LA to be an actor. Rather than
explore that option, they convinced me to go to school since I had a good scholarship.
My mom told me that if I still wanted to “do this acting thing” when I graduated, then do
it, so I went to school but never really found a career path that enjoyed me. I wound up
getting a degree to be a high school history teacher, since I love kids and history, but
had no desire to teach. So my last year of school, I took all fluff courses in order to
graduate and worked as a bartender to save money to move away to pursue acting. It’s
ironic, because, after Brotherly Love, all of the projects I’ve worked on are biopics and
period pieces, so I’m putting my degree to use in a different way.

Q: I’ve looked over your IMDB credits and you’ve been an Actor, Producer, and
Director. Which job is the hardest and why?

I don’t know if any one is harder than the other, but I feel acting poses the most
challenges for me as a perfectionist because I have the least amount of control. As a
producer, it’s more behind the scenes and deals with the business end. It’s also more
collaborative so there’s less pressure on me. Directing gives me not only the most
creative control, but I have to have my hands involved in all areas of production, so I
feel a sense of all-around control. But as an actor, well, sometimes I never even see
what I give the camera. I’m there to give the director what they want and everyone
moves on. I might even want to do another take because I didn’t like what I just did, but
they can say no. My performance is then left to the editor, who can make or break your
performance, but yet I’ll be the one judged. I may even be cut from the film. So I just go
to the premiere and pray that I’m happy with the end result. For some actors, that’s
great, but for a perfectionist like me, it can be nerve wracking!

Q: What is your film “Brotherly Love” about?

It’s about a Brother in the Catholic Church who struggles with his vow of celibacy. Does
he have to be single in order to help people? Then he meets a guy, falls in love and
then has to make a big decision.

Q: Was is tough starring AND directing in it?

You lose a little bit of the collaboration that an actor can have with a director, so you
have to be extra prepared and very well-rehearsed to know what you feel are the best
decisions. Plus, I have to go back and look at the footage to make sure I’ve given the
camera what I needed. That takes up extra time, and when you’re working on a
shoestring budget, time is money.

You see a lot of writer/directors, but you don’t see many director/actors. I didn’t realize
until after filming that people would be looking at my acting performance under more of
a magnifying glass because I directed myself. It’s as if people know it’s harder, so they
immediately look to see how well I did. I’m glad I didn’t know it at the time, but it was
surprising to me. In music, there are a lot of singers who write and produce their own
music, even playing guitar or piano while performing, and that’s OK, and, in film, to have
multiple jobs behind the camera is also OK, but for some reason, once you put yourself
on screen, there is extra judgement. I’ve never been one to live by other people’s rules,
so I wouldn’t change a thing, but I also didn’t really know there was a rule to be broken,
either.

Q: What was it like working with the local Texas cast and crew?

Amazing. Austin has such a great film community with a lot of talented people. There is
a real collaborative feel and isn’t nearly as cutthroat as Hollywood. Access to equipment
is limited, so if you need to borrow something, just return it with a six-pack of beer and
all is well with the world. Smaller markets don’t get the credit they deserve, but Austin
has consistently been a great place to film.

Q: I love ALL the “Golden Girls” mentions. Why was that put into the film?

Thanks! I was excited to put them in. This is an adaptation of the novel “Seventy Times
Seven” by Salvatore Sapienza. The novel was set in the 1990s, and had a lot of 90s
pop culture references which I cut when I brought it up to modern day. Seeing how The
Golden Girls are still a prevalent part of gay culture, I thought it was fitting to carry that
to the adaptation. A

Q: If you’re an actual fan of the show, which Golden Girl is your favorite and why?

I’m a huge fan of the show. All of the Golden Girls props you see in the film are things I
own. (Or used the film as an excuse to buy them.) And I have to go with Rose, because
that’s my nickname. I’m a nice guy from the Midwest who has a bunch of crazy stories
about my colorful Italian family, but I also tend to miss a thing or two from time to time.
I’ll say something and my friends will roll their eyes and say “OK, Rose…” I instantly
rethink the conversation because I know I just missed something.

Q: What has been the response to the film so far?

Positive. I’ve been able to tour the country on the film festival circuit and hear audiences
laugh and get their feedback. But I’ve also been able to hear how the subject matter
touched them. To say the LGBT community’s relationship with Christianity has been
strained is an understatement. So to put out a film where it’s saying it’s OK to be gay
and keep your faith has sparked something in a lot of people. Some reviewers saw this
as a “missed opportunity” to make this film a referendum on the church but I wanted to
elevate the conversation to the next level. That movie has been done before and I felt it
was time for a new film to be made. LGBT persons of faith aren’t seen in film and this
was a chance to bring this underrepresented group to the forefront. By doing so, it’s
really made for a deeper, more heartfelt response to the film.

Q: Are you excited that it’s been released?

Absolutely! This was the little film that could. We had $50,000 to shoot a feature film in a
small market. Seeing how this is my first feature, no one would back me financially, so I
paid for it largely by myself. I had all sorts of hurdles and roadblocks thrown at me
before, during and after production. So to be here now and see the reach it’s gotten, I
can’t be anything other than grateful.

“Brotherly Love” is available now on DVD and Video On Demand!

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