A working relationship can be like a romantic relationship. Set aside the sexual politics and you are focused on whether or not your interaction with someone else makes you a happier and better person. It can also end you. Thankfully, the professional relationship between writers Jason Karman and Gorrman Lee (who also served as story editor) on the film “I Really Like You” was much more benevolent than the story’s two main characters Michael (played by Steve Bradley) and Brandt (Garrett Black). Michael’s pursuit of Brandt has fatal consequences, while Karman’s pursuit of Lee as a writing partner gave new life to this tale. The 2014 drama/thriller is one of the most frightening of the genre because of its believability. The darkness in each person has the potential to be exorcized or cultivated, and in the action of “I Really Like You” the two writers collaborated to display the fragility of that decision in the characters. Using a commonplace venue but presenting circumstances that become more twisted and the story unfolds, Lee and Karman peel back layer after deceptive layer until a surprise ending shouts to the audience that the only thing they can rely on is that they don’t know where the story will lead.
Jason Karman is a Vancouver-based screenwriter and director whose short films have screened at festivals in Brazil, Hong Kong, Australia, across Europe, United States and Canada. He has a very specific point of view, making films from both an LGBT voice as well as an Asian voice. Jason was already aware of Gorrman’s notoriety as a writer in Canada when the two met at an event put on by the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters in Vancouver. With an idea for a new film already brewing in his thoughts Karman states, “Having worked with Gorrman as a story editor on a previous film, I jumped at the opportunity to work with him again to develop the story of ‘I Really Like You’. His sharp insights, thoughtful notes, and natural instinct for story and structure allowed us to hone in on the themes and character arcs that I wanted to explore. The film would not have been the success that it was without having Gorrman hammering on the story with me.” Although Jason would see the film through its production and release, Gorrman’s hectic TV schedule would only allow his involvement in the writing process.
As with most positive relationships, our counterparts challenge us to become better, which is precisely why Karman persuaded Lee to join him in writing this script. He did not disappoint. Lee recalls, “I questioned everything about the scripts. I was beginning to fear that Jason thought I hated the project! It was a kind of tough love. I looked at everything with my own expertise and would tell him what wasn’t working, offered new ideas, a new structure, and told him where he should be focusing. It’s true with writers as with many professionals in production, you cannot exist without honesty. We had to be brutally up front with each other in order to create an exceptional script…and I feel that is exactly what we got. The plot of the film and the characters are very unique and fresh. Nothing is ever completely new in a film but your presentation of it and the motivations of the characters can be, and ours definitely were in this story. I’m very proud of it.”
“I Really Like You” follows Michael, a loveless and lonely man who runs a diner that’s known as a casual hook-up spot. As he begins closing up for the night, Michael finds himself drawn to a late customer, the handsome and innocent looking Brandt. There’s just something about Brandt that reminds Michael of a past love. As Michael and Brandt bond over food, Michael thinks back to how his past love, Colby, rejected him, and the outcome of that relationship. After Michael shows Brandt his shoe collection (in truth, a collection of shoes he’s taken from his past loves) they have a casual tryst in the bathroom. When Michael asks to see Brandt again and is rejected, all of his loneliness and anger begins to resurface. What happens next is unexpected and will require you to view the movie to find out.
The story depicted in the film is far from what was the original idea of the story, but the dark romantic tone was the essence which both writers were committed to retain. With the proper intent and drive written into a character, a writer can explore almost anything. Gorrman and Jason are certainly not violent people at all but concede that they have both experienced the pain that comes with unrequited love. This is what allowed them to access and explore the motivations and following actions of the characters in this story. For “I Really Like You” it all came down to identifying what Michael wanted, what hurt him, and how he wanted to fix that hurt; his drive and his intention. Once that was nailed down in an authentic way, it was safe for the writers to explore the darker and more violent impulses that drove him. If the writing is exceptional and done correctly, this should make it easier for an actor to channel the authenticity as well without having to go to a method acting place (a potentially dangerous and sometimes unreliable prospect for everyone).
“I Really Like You” received tremendous accolades, but was lauded nowhere more than at numerous festivals which understood and reflected an aspect intrinsic to the storyline including: Boston LGBT Film Festival, Shanghai Pride Film Festival, Rio Festival Gay de Cinema, Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Inside/Out Toronto Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, as well as many others. It’s worth mentioning that the film is at heart a very gripping action/drama. While Gorrman finds himself most comfortable with Science Fiction, he is an immense fan of the attributes of the action/thriller and the opportunities it affords a writer like himself. He notes, “The action/drama genre is certainly one of my favorites. There’s a latitude and broadness that the genre affords. ‘I Really Like You’ is rather character driven but still has the mystery and excitement of a more action-oriented thriller. What drew me to it, and what I bring to it as well, is the need to externalize the drama. That’s what good action/drama/thrillers should do: come up with a complex inner struggle and have interesting and compelling ways to externalize those conflicts. “I Really Like You” is all of these things and embodies the concept of “edge of your seat” viewing…all created courtesy of Gorrman Lee and Jason Karman’s clever writing.