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Clay Liford interview: on the making of SLASH and working with a stellar castIn a few weeks’ time (on November 11 to be exact) the Razor Reel Flanders Film Festival will host the Belgian premiere of SLASH, Clay Liford’s latest film. The coming-of-age story centers on two oddball teens trying to find a sexual identity for themselves and also claiming their voice as writers.

Wonderfully portrayed by a young and able cast (starring Hannah Marks and Michael Johnston) SLASH feels contemporary yet pure and honest enough to effortlessly capture the universal transition from child- to adulthood.

Did I mention all this happens through the lens of erotic fan fiction?

To mark the occasion, and also to shed light on the how and why of Liford’s ballsy film I was fortunate enough to sit down with the writer-director for a Skype interview. Check out our conversation below.

Looking back on the film’s inception, is there a particular personal experience that informed the creation of SLASH the movie?

It’s always something I’ve been aware of since I was pretty much a kid because I used to go to comic conventions and there was always an eighteen up room and I always wondered what was going on in that room but never had access to it. Then later on I obviously found out about the adult side of fan fiction and stuff like that. Really what happened was I wanted to do another high school movie but more from a younger perspective. My other films are high school films from the teacher’s perspective and I wanted to do a movie from more of a coming-of-age angle. I wanted to tell a story about not fitting in and not really connecting to your immediate peers and being ostracized for your interests.

Obviously things that I was interested in when I was that age are very different now. Now nerd culture is so inclusive, everyone’s a part of it … There is very little left that you can tell those kinds of stories with and really I kind of reminded myself of what’s like the last thing that’s still kind of marginalized? It made me think about, oh yeah, there’s slash fiction. That was just a perfect metaphor to tell a story about outsiders finding a place and finding a community of likeminded people … and it kind of makes it universal. Even though I didn’t write slash specifically when I was younger I was definitely into stuff that my immediate peers were not into and I always felt outside the loop there, so this film kind of scratches that same itch.

So the metaphoric potential of Slash fiction was immediately apparent to you?

It’s always been on the margins of everything that’s within my interests … it’s always been there. It was just a matter of finally turning around and kind of looking deeper at it and looking at the people and what kind of motivations are behind why they write it and why they do what they do. I think writers as characters are always a metaphor in and of themselves for people that are searching because writers are exploring and often exploring themselves. When you take that on top of the specificity of what he’s writing about and the sexual nature of it, I think it kind of takes it to the next level.

Continuing on the subject of writing. Something tells me that, given the care that went into crafting this script and the all-around attention to detail, there is an entire backstory to some or all of the sci-fi components, with everything from 'The Pleasure Gardens of Milliarcha V' to 'the Duke of Raggidi' somehow existing in more fleshed-out form in your mind or perhaps in earlier drafts of the script.

I definitely wrote a lot of pages to cover the backstory. I think it was really important since we couldn’t use a copyrighted character, which most Slash fiction is about. So we had to have the feeling of it being a well-known character and the way that’s accomplished is by the details and the backstory of the world. There was never really much more in the script itself but there were always pages and pages of just backstory that was written. Even to the point that now one of our producers had a digital comic book made of some of the character’s exploits … so there is definitely a world there. It was very important that the character was very iconic even though it’s a character we made up. The idea is that he’s instantly recognizable as the archetype he is so you can concentrate more on how we’re twisting the scene instead of trying to figure out what the scene is.

I’m a big believer in specificity when it comes to references. Everything had very specific terms attached to it and it kind of gives you the illusion of a world that’s perhaps a lot richer than the screenplay alludes to.

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