Straight to Hell, a period comedy written and directed by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes and produced by NYFA Filmmaking alum Furaha Bayibsa, screened last month in North Hollywood. Barnes attended the 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus in 2016; Bayibsa attended one year earlier.
The short film is a comedy about Christian gay conversation camps, and deals with very serious LGBTQIA+ issues in a humorous yet thoughtful way. Straight to Hell stars Bendan J. Shannon, Justin Selig, Noah Der, Gracie Lacey, and Collin Lapinsky.
Straight to Hell began as Barnes’s thesis film while at NYFA. “One of the key driving forces for the film’s style, from choices in the script to choices in music, came from cinema from the 80s—more specifically, from the world of John Hughes,” says Barnes in an artist’s statement for the film. “The way Hughes’ storytelling captures the suburban teenage American experience in a fable-like, classicist body of work that stays true to the tradition of Hollywood romance and adventure was influential on the approach to make the story a comedy rather than a rough-edged, literal presentation—not to say those stories are not needed.”
Finding the right tone was important for Barnes. “At the heart of this film is a storyline that is tragic and unjust,” he continues in his statement on the film. “Comedy was used as the vehicle to tell that story. As absurd as conversion therapy is, is how absurd the comedy in the film was designed to be.”
Damon plans to donate all the proceeds the film earns that week to nonprofit organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which uses litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy to fight hate and bigotry in our society.
The film screened at the Laemmel NOHO Theater in North Hollywood from September 20 – 26.
New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes on his film and encourages everyone to check out Straight to Hell when they can!