About a year ago, Eric Rosen had a nightmare.
“I had dreamed that [then candidate] Pete Buttigieg was assassinated,” says Rosen. “I woke from it really shaken. I couldn’t lose it. At the same time, I was having these conversations online with people about Buttigieg, witnessing a very loud blowback from members of the LGBT community that he wasn’t gay enough. I got into a lot of dumb Facebook fights with people about his candidacy in a way that I usually don’t.”
The end result became the short film Netuser, directed by Rosen, nationally known for his work in theater, having served for a decade as Artistic Director of the highly regarded Kansas City Repertory Theatre (his tenure ended in 2018). Rosen’s 15-minute thriller features Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story) as an internet provocateur who puts himself and his family (Rosen’s real-life husband Claybourne Elder and the couple’s 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Bo) at risk through a thoughtless encounter on Grindr. Rosen packs a lot of nuance about the queer rights movement into Netuser, which concludes on a note both startling and sinister.
Elder, who in 2018 starred in Signature Theatre’s Passion, and whose recent starring turn in the Broadway revival of Sondheim’s Company was cut short due to the pandemic, enjoyed working with his husband on the project, though it came with a unique set of challenges. “I was child-wrangling our son and trying to be a supportive husband and also be an actor in the film,” he laughs. “It was a tricky dance for me, but we had a blast.”
Denis O’Hare’s involvement was akin to manna from heaven. “I’ve known Denis for a long time but never worked with him,” says Rosen. “He came over for lunch one day and was like, ‘What are you working on?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m writing this film. Who do you know who’s like you that I could ask to do this.’ He said, ‘Well, I would do it!’ So we went from something that we were going to shoot on iPhones to being able to raise a significant amount of money for a much bigger film. It became this amazingly complex thing thanks to Denis’s involvement.”
Netuser was originally slated to travel the festival circuit, but COVID-19 squashed that distribution model. So Rosen and his producers reconsidered their approach. Anyone who signs up by email will be sent a link to the film, which will have a limited release starting Friday, April 24, to enjoy for free in the comfort of their “stay at home” setting.
“We’ll press send on a button and it will go out to however many people are signed up,” says Rosen, noting that anyone can sign up during the initial two-week run and receive a link to watch. “Being innovative in this moment is necessary for artists, because we can’t rely on the old means of production to get our stories heard and seen.”
To sign up for the free Netuser release, visit www.netuserfilm.com.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!