The Delta / notes
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Glass Eye Pix provided editing facilities for THE DELTA.

Since its completion in the Fall of 1996, THE DELTA has played in International Film Festivals including Toronto, Sundance, Melbourne, Rotterdam, Hong Kong, San Francisco and The London Gay and Lesbian Festival. It will be opening in late Summer in Theaters accross the country. Distributed by Strand Releasing.


I wrote The Delta ten years after I had left Memphis to go to college. I wanted to make a film about the particular hell of being a gay teenager, and I wanted it to be a melodrama, full of the high emotions and confusion I remembered as Adolescence. The film would also be about consequence. How does a boy hiding his own sexual identity affect the lives of the people he gets involved with? As he suffers, what kinds of pain does he cause?

As I continued working, my concerns expanded, and the strange, moody city of Memphis became a character in itself. In Memphis, blacks live one place, white's another. The city is as physically segregated as it was thirty years ago. I wanted the film to address the palpable tensions you feel there, but from the side, unexpectedly. Through the character of Minh -- half black, half Vietnamese -- race would move to the center of the story and take the viewer by surprise.

I wrote my first draft in New York, from memory and old experience. Before going on, I wanted to live in Memphis for awhile and find out how the city had changed. In March of 1995, I bought a car, and my producer Margot Bridger and I drove down to Memphis. The next six months were spent becoming a part of the city we found.

I met Thang Chan, who would later star in the film, at a Vietnamese pool hall that both opened and shut in my first few months back in Memphis. Thang was from Seattle, visiting some gay Vietnamese guys he knew living in a refugee-filled area of town known as the Hornet's Nest. He was a talker, a storyteller and a great flirt. We cast him in the film, and he moved in with me and Margot. Pre-production began and we spent our nights out scouting for the rest of our cast -- which usually meant hanging out in the clubs, parks and diners that were part of Memphis's Rave scene.

Soon, we had cast all the parts but Lincoln, the movie's other lead. To find a young man who was a natural actor, as well as someone who could handle the emotional and sexual issues central to the part, was difficult. We ended up meeting a very sweet, very vulnerable twenty-year old from rural Mississippi, and we cast him. But a week before production -- with the New York crew already in town -- the pressure of actually shooting a feature, and specifically one about a lost teenager, overwhelmed him, and he literally ran away.

We sent everyone home, and Margot, Thang and I went on the road looking for his replacement. Committed to casting a Southerner, we traveled to Nashville, spent a week investigating the scene in St. Louis, looked into possibilities in New Orleans and Atlanta. Eventually, we met Shayne Gray, a drummer from Little Rock, as he walked out of a bar in Memphis. In his first reading, he latched on to the character immediately. We cast him and he moved in as well. A month later, we started the five-week filming of The Delta.

In shooting as I had done in casting, I always tried to respond to the Memphis that was in front of me. I had a script and a story I wanted to tell, but I was also trying to document a place and a time, and a South that had not often been seen. Even beyond Elvis, Memphis has a cult status as a destination. While making The Delta, I tried to put as much of the sad, crazy things I saw and experienced there -- both in growing up and when I had returned -- into the film itself.

The Delta | cast | crew | notes | press | next project