John G. Young always wanted to make a film set in Schenectady.
And with “bwoy,” the Rexford native’s latest feature film, he has.
“Bwoy” was filmed in the Columbia County town of Germantown, but it takes place in the Electric City.
“There’s a bleakness in Schenectady that’s really powerful and provocative to me,” Young said. “In the winter, there’s towns of grey and brown. I know that a lot of things have changed in Schenectady, but I wanted to capture that sense of loneliness.”
That sense of isolation is a key element of “bwoy,” a low-budget independent film about a middle-aged Schenectady man named Brad and his online relationship with a younger Jamaican man named Yenny. (The film’s title is Jamaican slang for the word boy.)
“I don’t want to sound disparaging, but I find that kind of environment a more engaging environment to create stories in,” explained Young, who also scripts his films. “When I create stories, I want to set them in environments that support those stories.”
“Bwoy” explores issues of race, class and sexuality against the backdrop of a cold upstate New York winter — the type of winter Young experienced growing up in Schenectady County.
Tonight, Young plans to attend a 7 p.m. screening of “bwoy” at Proctors’ GE Theatre. The screening is open to the public ($5 admisssion), and will be followed by a brief Q&A with the director.
“Bwoy” stars one of the bigger names Young has worked with — longtime actor Anthony Rapp, as Brad.
Rapp was a member of the original cast of the hit musical “Rent,” and currently stars in the latest incarnation of “Star Trek,” “Star Trek: Discovery,” where he plays Science Officer Paul Stamets, the first openly LGBT character in the history of the franchise.
More recently, Rapp made headlines when he accused actor Kevin Spacey of making sexual advances toward him when he was 14.
The 54-year-old Young graduated from Niskayuna High School in 1981.
Growing up, he spent a lot of time in Schenectady — his father worked at General Electric and his mother served as the music director at First Reformed Church in the Stockade — and considers the city “my city, more than any other place.”
Today Young splits his time before New York City and an old farmhouse in Schoharie County. He is a visiting assistant professor of screenwriting and film at Purchase College at the State University of New York.
“I love being in the countryside,” Young said. “I find it really exciting and really rejuvenating.”
As a filmmaker, Young is not a household name, and he’s unlikely to become one.
But his films have been critically acclaimed, with The Village Voice calling his debut, 1995’s Adirondack-set “Parallel Sons,” “one of the best independent films of the decade.” “Bwoy” has also received positive notices, with The Village Voice describing it as “an elliptical, troubling study of sex, race and grief online.”
“Bwoy” is Young’s fourth feature-length film.
Like his earlier films, “bwoy” is a small-scale LGBT-themed drama, although Young doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as an LGBT filmmaker.
“I like to think that a good film is a good film is a good film,” said Young, who is gay.
When making a film, it’s important to ask “what’s the story you’re telling and why are you telling it,” Young said. “When you’re making smaller films and taking personal and financial risks, if the movie you’re making isn’t provocative, then what’s the point?” In the end, the best way to reach people and make an impression “is to make a personal film.”