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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

UF student Skyler Kern and alumnus Jonothon Mitchell teamed up to write, produce and direct the raunchy comedy "The Row," which debuts tonight in Weimer Hall Room 1064 at 7 p.m.

The film features college pressures and the battle of belonging while highlighting the taboo of being gay in the Greek community.

"Being homosexual in the Greek community is something that exists and something that can exist almost harmoniously with the fact the Greek community isn't very accepting of homosexuals at all times," said Mitchell, 25, writer and main actor.

Using some of his own experiences as a gay fraternity brother, Mitchell said he wanted to convey the difficulties of sometimes feeling like an outsider in his fraternity. He also wanted to shed light on the stereotype not always given to a gay man.

"As member from a fraternity, I'm not all glitz and glitter and ‘Sex and the City,'" Mitchell said. He said sources on campus don't always gear their efforts to all kinds of gay men.

This past spring, Mitchell wrote an article for the Alligator explaining his disagreement with Pride Student Union portraying gay men in a stereotypical way. The story received a range of reactions including extremely negative responses, he said.

"I wanted to show a somewhat accurate portrayal of just one person's experience of being in a frat and being openly gay," he said.

Ricky Carter, 21, president of Pride Student Union and an English and film and media studies major, withheld his view on the story but said he thinks the film is a great step forward for the LGBTQ community.

"I personally believe that talking about a certain subject brings to light someone's reality," he said.

Carter said he hopes that Mitchell will create something that shows gay stereotypes in a gay-positive light without being exaggerated. Even though Pride has already co-sponsored events with the Greek community, he thinks it's still a relevant topic.

"I'm supportive and sure that every person in Pride is supportive of any LGBTQ filmmaker," Carter said.

Director and producer Kern, 22, telecommunication production major, said he wanted to shoot the movie because it was something that wasn't done before.

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"I'm OK with providing the outlet to push the envelope into uncharted territory," Kern said.

He said it is important to talk about gay individuals in the Greek community but also wanted to start off his film-making career taking strides into different directions.

Kern said he hopes to get laughs from the viewers while they also find appreciation in the storyline. He thinks comedy is the best route for the movie's subject matter because it's the easiest way to relate the truth.

"Through comedy, even if you're not 100 percent okay with what's being said, it's easier to understand and come to terms with it," he said.

Kern said he met Mitchell while participating in Dance Marathon last year in March. Mitchell pitched him the idea for the movie, and he immediately agreed.

Completely shot in Gainesville, production began in May and ended in July. They filmed at locations ranging from local bars to wedding boutiques, Kern said.

All the main actors in the movie are UF students or alumni. After failing to find an actor for Tyler, the main character, who is a member of Delta Alpha Kappa, Mitchell agreed to play the part.

"I saw too much of Jonothon in the character that it got to the point where no one could deliver the lines like he could," Kern said.

After filming, the duo prepared the film for festivals such as the Florida Film Festival, the Boston Film Festival and the Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. They will continue to send the movie to festivals after the debut.

"The cool thing, I think, about ‘The Row' is it's not solely focused on the homosexual aspect of it," Mitchell said. "I think the overall message is that life in college is hard."

The movie includes the pressures of long-term relationships, the hopes of losing your virginity and the trials and errors of figuring out friendships, he said. Students have to manage dealing with daily life on top of school and fitting in.

"We all go through college, no matter the playing field," Kern said.

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