Shipping & Handling

Coming-of-age comedy Slash peeks into the world of erotic fan fiction

There's a really handsome guy, some total hottie of a stranger with lank hair the color of a raven's wing and tortoise-shell Warby Parkers perched on the bridge of his perfect nose, sitting near the table that Clay Liford and I are occupying outside of Thunderbird Coffee on Manor Road. And I'm kind of wanting to ship the two of them, this hottie and Liford, to conjure a romantic pairing between them, a desire-driven match replete with passion and power and porn.

I'm not the sort of man who'd normally indulge in such a thing, not even the fleeting thought of it, so what the fuck? I blame Liford. Because I've just previewed his newest cinematic feature, Slash, that's premiering at the SXSW Film Festival this year, and it's obviously affected my thinking.

Not surprising that Liford, the writer/director who's been at SXSW previously with feature films Earthling and Wuss, could render a narrative with enough impact to warp, at least mildly, someone's consciousness. But why would he choose to explore the OMG, awwwwkward world of erotic fan fiction?

"Back in 2009," said Liford, "I was commissioned by a film festival to do a short comedic bumper. A bunch of subjects came up, and one of them was two kids trying to log into a Harry Potter website and accidentally getting into a Harry Potter porn site. And that never went anywhere, but the initial idea stuck with me, because I grew up as a convention kid – I used to go to all the comic-book conventions and sci-fi cons. And there'd always be the room, this 18-year-and-up room, and I wondered what went on behind that door. And the idea of that wouldn't go away. And I figured it was enough for a short film. So I wrote this script, because I liked the idea of a collision between a kid, a relatively innocent kid just falling down a rabbit hole of weird erotica that happens to be based on things that are typically meant for kids. And I kept the Harry Potter thing, made the short film. But I wasn't happy with it just being a joke, so I developed a story about a 13-year-old kid who was confused about his sexuality and didn't have an outlet for it, and he's reading all this stuff on the Internet.

"For the longer version, I decided not to, ah, not to poke the bear cage – so we ditched the Harry Potter angle and I created my own property. In a nine-minute short, you need iconography that's already established; but for a 90-minute feature, there's time enough to do a little world-building of your own."

Austin Chronicle: The feature didn't seem especially comedic to me. I mean, there are a lot of funny moments, but it didn't seem like you were trying to make a funny movie. More like you were trying to make it true.

Clay Liford: I feel like all my comedy runs that way. If you look at it with one eye, it's a drama; with the other eye, it's a comedy. My last feature [2011's Wuss] is the same way – it's so dark in many ways.

AC: Not to give you a swelled head with the comparison, but Slash, the feeling of it, reminded me of Welcome to the Dollhouse.

CL: Ah, man, I love Solondz. Actually, that's the movie I made our two leads watch before we filmed. And Hannah Marks, our lead actress, it's become her favorite movie.

Narrative Spotlight, World Premiere

Sunday, March 13, 4:15pm, Topfer Theatre
Monday, March 14, 5:15pm, Marchesa
Tuesday, March 15, 7:45pm, Alamo South Lamar
Saturday, March 19, 11am, Topfer Theatre

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