He’s a successful indie filmmaker, so why haven’t you heard of him?
He’s written and directed three beloved, moneymaking romantic comedies and has created a web series that has gleaned over 56 MILLION views – the equivalent of eight more feature films worth of content. He’s the darling of film festivals. He has mastered one of the most difficult of all movie genres: romantic comedy. So why haven’t you heard of J.C. Calciano? Maybe because he’s a self-contained mini-studio that caters to a small but loyal LGBTQ niche audience.
Calciano was enjoying a successful career as a freelance producer when he decided to stop working for other people and hire himself to write, produce and direct a gay romantic comedy. He’d moved to Hollywood 17 years earlier and was producing films and TV programming. He thought, “I came to Hollywood with the dream of making a movie – I’m 45 years old and haven’t done it yet – it’s now or never.” He quit his job at a popular TV network and embarked on pursuing his dream. Calciano wrote, produced and directed a modest little feature, “Is It Just Me?,” that became the first of his hits. “I have to admit, it was both exciting and scary to make a film that was 100% mine. If it had been no good, I’d have only myself to blame,” says Calciano. “
This first hit led to a second, 2011’s “eCupid” with Morgan Fairchild. The budgets were getting a little bigger, and his reputation was growing within the LGBTQ community as the filmmaker who makes sweet, happy movies about hot guys who find love. The third hit was his biggest so far: 2014’s “The 10 Year Plan.” “I was learning so much with each film, especially about the importance of building each story on honest human emotion. I want to make positive films with relatable characters.” Calciano makes movies with universal themes like love, compassion, community and friendship. “I think that’s why people enjoy my movies: they see themselves in the characters, and empathize with what those characters go through.”
A big reason for Calciano’s success is that he self-finances his films. This contrasts sharply with Hollywood studio films that often chase trends by trying to guess what people want. Calciano trusts his own instincts and makes the movies that he enjoys and wants to see.
His latest film leans a more on the “comedy” part of romantic comedy. It’s a flat-out farce called “Steam Room Stories: The Movie.” “Steam Room Stories” is Calciano’s YouTube web series with a colossal 56 million views. The movie is part fantastical 80s sex-farce with a dash of Mel Brooks and John Waters zaniness. “I just wanted to try to make people laugh for 90 minutes. I also wanted to make a film that expanded gender roles. In this film, sexuality is fluid, with no judgment or hang-ups about labeling people. It’s good old-fashioned fun.”
“Steam Room Stories: The Movie” also features a terrific performance from the iconic Traci Lords. “Traci is deliciously evil in the most hilarious of ways,” says Calciano. “She steals every scene she’s in!”
What’s next for Calciano? His movies are crossing over to new audiences beyond the LGBTQ niche, and his sharply observed, good-natured type of storytelling seems perfectly suited for the new Hollywood of Netflix, Amazon and Apple. Is he interested in making something for a wider audience? “My audience IS wide,” says Calciano. “I know my stuff shows up most often in the ‘gay rom-com’ niche, but these movies are about real people falling in and out of love. The characters may be gay, but the emotions are universal. My goal is to continue making films that cause people to see themselves, know themselves, forgive themselves, and love themselves. You can do that on any budget with the right story and the right actors if a studio wants to come on board and help me with that – that would be awesome.”