EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK
The gay short film DARE made a huge impression on audiences in 2004 with its story of Ben (Adam Fleming) and Johnny (Michael Cassidy), lustful teen crushes, and forbidden gay love in high school. DARE played over 50 film fests, was released as the lead film on gay short DVD compilations around the world, and then eventually became a Sundance feature.
Now, writer and producer David Brind and director Adam Salky have done something unprecedented. They’ve brought back the very same cast and creative team from the original short film 15 years later for THE DARE PROJECT, a continuation of Ben and Johnny’s story. And we’ve got an exclusive first look at the trailer.
Here’s the original 16-minute short film, for those who haven’t seen it or want a refresher.
Writer and producer David Brind spoke to Towleroad about the origins of the 2004 film, and the decision to try and put together a sequel. In THE DARE PROJECT (trailer below), Ben and Johnny, now in their early 30s fortuitously run into each other at a party in Los Angeles after not seeing each other since high school. Is their connection still alive, and what do they do about it?
“When I first wrote the DARE short in film school in 2003, I had no f**king clue what I was doing,” said Brind. “My professor told me to write from the heart and the gut. So I wrote about ‘Johnny.’ Everyone in the world has their own ‘Johnny,’ the elusive one that seemed untouchable, that made you feel so intensely you thought you would die. ‘Johnny’ existed for me. Though there was no blowjob or swimming pool. There was, however, champagne and Parliaments, and a spinning, swirling perfect kiss with the most beautiful rebel bad boy ever. And that’s where DARE comes from.”
“I wasn’t Ben,” Brind added. “I was a closeted (sort of?) popular kid. But there was play practice. I was the star, he was in the chorus because he got kicked off soccer for smoking. And a sleepover after. This experience was mind-blowing for me. Not because I was fetishizing the straight guy—though that’s a real thing. But because for the first time in my life, I believed that connection with someone I desired was possible. That even if it ended here with ‘Johnny,’ something else unexpected would arise. It gave me hope. Thrill. Excitement. And yes, a bit of sadness.”
Brind said that after understanding the fan base that the original DARE had developed over the years, he decided to try and continue the story he had begun.
“15 years later, I decided to revisit this world with THE DARE PROJECT,” Brind added. “Our legions of fans—13.5M views on YouTube while being suppressed from search by them, but that’s another story—demanded a sequel. They wrote Instagram messages. Like Jack from a small village in Ireland. Jack is 17. He’s gay. He’s suicidal. He wrote to tell me that he watches DARE over and over when he’s feeling like he doesn’t want to live. Because it brings him hope. And that’s more worthwhile than any Netflix or HBO deal could ever bring me.”
Of the sequel, Brind added, “Ben isn’t 17 anymore. And he’s a lot more like me now. He’s good at what he does. He’s successful in his way. He’s more confident. He’s out. But he’s still been unable to find intimacy in a real way. A real and constant struggle for LGBTQ people, especially in the age of Grindr (which is in the new film) and Instagram ‘influencers’ aka hot guys in underwear.”
“Johnny isn’t 17 either,” Brind continued. “And he’s no longer the arrogant bad boy of high school hallways. Life has gotten more complex. And when Ben and Johnny meet for the first time since high school, they talk about it all. And of course, they get back in the pool…”
There’s also a new star, Adam Hagenbuch (Fuller House).
“It was really hard to revisit this world,” said Brind. “I needed to get it right. To give the fans what they wanted, but also what they NEED. Which means twists and turns, easter eggs, sex appeal, one-liners, but also questions of existential angst, lack of purpose, the perils of intimacy as a gay man. The DARE world has never been about a gay guy chasing a straight guy. As a professor at USC, I see everyday how the world has become so sexually fluid in many ways. More and more of my students are non-binary or bi or trans or simply unclassifiable.”
“THE DARE PROJECT is about connection,” Brind added. “What happens if there’s someone out there that makes you feel so alive that it’s addictive? And what happens if you are of potentially differing sexual identities? And in 2019, who really gives a shit—you’re just two humans. That’s who Ben and Johnny are. That’s what this short is about—moments of connection in a disconnected world. Letting our fans and our community know that there is no right path—just a series of choices and moments. I’m not a blue-sky kind of guy. I like to keep it real. And always a little dark. I like to play off tropes, and then unmask them. But everything DARE will always end in hope. And the promise of what’s next. “
THE DARE PROJECT is available starting midnight to rent and buy on Tuesday, 9/24 at dareshortfilm.com but before that, the filmmakers would like to give Towleroad readers a look at the exclusive premiere of the trailer, right here:
Brind and Salky are also in discussions with Alan Cumming’s production company Club Cumming Productions about developing THE DARE PROJECT into a series. In the clip below, Brind and Salky talk about deciding to make the sequel and its fans offer some thoughts on what it means to them.