A gay Massachusetts-based filmmaker will release his new LGBT-themed feature film, which he produced for the unheard-of sum of $400, to YouTube in late May.
Director Josh Cox, 20, based the new film, Summer of Mesa, about two young women who fall in love on Cape Cod during the summer of 1985, on a short film that he produced a few years back. That short garnered more than half a million views on Youtube.
The feature, like the short, focuses on the romance between Lily, a summer visitor to Cape Cod, and Mesa, a local resident. Cox is a native of Cape Cod, and leveraged his local connections in order to film there.
"I've never made any film for any amount of money," explained Cox, who called upon friends and acquaintances to act in Summer of Mesa. "It was a lot of reaching out to locations I would drive by, or looking through real estate listings and asking the owners if I could just come by and film something."
Summer of Mesa's $400 budget "was for equipment, transporting people and feeding people," he added.
Cox had dropped out of college in Massachusetts in order to work in the film industry in Los Angeles, a path he ultimately realized was not working for him.
When he conceived the Summer of Mesa feature, "taking a break from where I was [professionally], and taking a break to tell this story, it felt like it would be more fulfilling to go home."
Cox's feature tells the same story as the earlier short subject, albeit with a lighter, more positive tone. He said that the film's characters were reflective "of where I was at that particular moment," drawing inspiration from his time spent on Cape Cod.
"My connection was really deep with that landscape," he said. "It's such a beautiful place to set a story."
Although he drew from his own experiences, he made the lead characters female since he finds female characters easier to write for and about.
"I've been so much more inspired by women," Cox said. "That goes with my identity, I guess. I've been surrounded my women my whole life. I've come to understand them and they've come to understand me."
He got additional aesthetic inspiration from the 1983 French drama A Nos Amours, he said, further leading him to set Summer of Mesa in 1985, a time when characters would not be utilizing technology as shortcuts to communication.
"I hate watching something and suddenly a text message just pops up on the screen," Cox explained. "For my next film, I'd like to set it in the 1960s. I don't think I could ever make anything set in the present day."
Getting Summer of Mesa distributed was a long and difficult road, he recalled.
"This has been a tremendous learning experience, not having anybody around me who knows the right thing to do," Cox said. He researched numerous distributors who had handled films that were similar to Summer of Mesa, but was met only with "lots of waiting," he added. "And then, COVID happened."
Ultimately, since at least Cox's outlay of cash was minimal by feature standards, he put the film on Youtube, where the film stands a good chance of being seen by audiences.
"Six months ago, I never thought I would do that," he said. "Now, I'm really happy with that decision."
Cox is currently sheltering in place in Massachusetts, trying to determine his next steps, be they returning to school or trying to launch a new film project resulting from a more "conventional path."
No matter which direction he goes, Cox said, "I definitely want to continue exploring [both] queer narratives and what the faces of queer characters look like."
Summer of Mesa debuts on YouTube on Friday, May 22. See www.youtube.com/JoshCoxFilm.