Andrew Nackman’s poignant comedy drama Fourth Man Out takes a fresh look at coming out and the frustratingly sad, sometimes agonising dilemma faced by a gay small town car mechanic who just can’t bring himself to do it.
Evan Todd stars as Adam who finally decides the time has come when his buddies inform him his old girlfriends is back in town and tell him it’s time to reconnect.
Adam’s journey to truth hits man obstacles, and as we root for him, we recognise that life can get in the way of big moments.
We spoke with director and actor just after the film played the Inside Out Film Festival Toronto and headed for the Seattle Film Festival;
Evan, Adam is someone who is always just offside, holding himself back from being true. How did you put yourself so in his shoes?
I know what it’s like to be a gay kid growing up not wanting to be gay. You do feel just offside and you can’t really connect with people. You can only get so far because you are guarding a huge part of yourself. Then you come to terms with the fact that you are gay, and you discover a whole new depth to the relationships you have with friends and family.
There is a power and calmness that comes when you start living your life authentically, and I think the movie leaves off just as you begin to see Adam embrace that. It also helped that our off-camera dynamic was pretty similar. I was doing a movie with a bunch of really awesome straight guys with huge personalities.
Adam underestimates his friends and family who respond better than he expects. Why did he mistrust them?
I liked the script for so many reasons, but one of them was how true to life the coming out story felt. I think most people underestimate their friends and family when they come out.
It’s easy to put your fear onto other people – to villainize them, or expect them to turn on you. It’s an easy out when the truth is that you are just scared of what you think being gay means. Will it somehow fundamentally change you if you embrace it?
Of course there are really awful exceptions, but for the most part I think the majority of people are harder on themselves than anyone could ever be. There have been a lot of very moving and traumatic coming-out stories told on film. I’m glad they exist, but I’m also glad that times are changing and I get to be a part of one that feels so current and optimistic.
The film has so many emotional colours. How was it navigating them?
There were certainly a set of challenges to the film. The biggest one was that this was my first real film and I had no point of reference for what the experience should feel like.
I love that it was “frustratingly sad” for you to see Adam so afraid to say who he was. I think that is how most people feel when they see someone struggling to accept an aspect of themselves that they have been denying. It’s frustratingly sad, and it is something everyone can recognize and relate to in the movie.
You were realistic and natural. As a theatre actor, did making a film change the way you work?
This movie was like boot camp for me. I’ve never even been in a film, let alone as the lead in a feature. I have a lot of theatre training and feel very comfortable on stage playing especially with broad comedies.
You have 5 weeks to rehearse, be messy, and really craft a character and performance that you are proud of before anyone sees it. Movies are nothing like that. You rehearse and shoot the same day, out of sequence, and with only a few takes.
I never got to see any footage until it was already done so I have to admit it is hard to watch without wishing I could go back and do a few more takes. I learned a lot.
For one, everyone says “oh being on camera is just like the stage, you just have to be smaller”. That is the worst advice in the world. I’ve heard people say “if you feel like you aren’t doing anything, that’s perfect”. No. If you feel like you aren’t doing anything, than you aren’t doing anything, and nothing is actually happening!
The camera can withstand so much more than I thought it could. You just have to be that much more honest in every moment. Not smaller, just more honest. Sometimes I worry I fell too far into the trap of “being small”, but I still enjoy the movie and learned a lot from getting to see so many different actors work on set.
Also, I have started to think of takes differently. If you only have four takes, make them all equally honest but as different as possible. That way the editor has an entire palate to work with instead of just shades of the same color.
Andrew, the film is charming and funny with touches of real pain. How do you balance it and stay true to your intention and make it entertaining?
That’s one of the biggest challenges when making a comedy like this. But good comedies need some serious moments or else they can feel like just a series of jokes.
There definitely were a couple times on-set while shooting some of the more serious scenes when we weren’t quite sure if tonally everything was going to fit together, but we eventually found that if the audience care about the characters, then that balance in tone can be a really good thing.
Despite the positive outcome I came away feeling sad and I think it’s because you made certain the film was lifelike and so nothing is so easy.
That’s interesting! Well I don’t want to give away anything about the ending, so pardon my lack of specifics, but the movie as a whole is really the start of a new chapter in Adam’s life.
It took plenty of adjustments on his part and on his friends’ parts along the way, and their relationships definitely change by the end of everything. Despite Chris’s reassurances early on, things will always be different now, which is a bit sad when you think about it but also a great thing at the same time too.
Life isn’t easy if you aren’t conventional. Shows just how painful and anxious it can be coming out for someone who has lived a lie their entire life.
And especially in a town like the one in the story, where most of these people haven’t ever known a gay person so they have all these preconceptions and stereotypes that they’re expecting and Adam is pretty much the complete opposite of all of those. But hopefully people will watch this movie and see that friends and family can be much more accepting than you think.