Guillermo Gomez has Asperger’s Syndrome — and a director’s credit. He’s hoping for more of them.
There was, it turns out, a surfeit of Charlie Chaplin in young Guillermo Gomez’s life. Not only did the budding filmmaker watch the silent classics as a kid, he supplemented them with Sesame Street, in which actress Sonia Manzano, who portrayed Maria, did slapsticky bits as Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
Well, it shows. Gomez used the Mission and the Castro as his backdrop for Poster Boy, a 22-minute silent romp in which the Chaplin- or Harold Lloyd-esque main character, “Stuart, friend to all,” is chased or ambles at slightly speeded-up motion throughout San Francisco’s neighborhoods.
Gomez, 35, debuted his film at this month’s Scary Cow Film Festival, the in-house expo of Scary Cow Productions, a San Francisco indie film co-op. His black-and-white silent film played at the Castro Theatre — which, of course, hosted them the first time around when it opened in 1922. Like those films, Gomez’s features high-energy piano music (by local composer and player Tom Shaw), high-contrast footage, broad acting and comedic styles with plenty of semaphore-like gesticulations, and signboards in ornate text.
Unlike its forebears, however, Gomez’s film features a character attempting to distract a cop by stating, “Look — over there! White nationalists!” or fomenting a mix-up by dressing as a bear and meeting “fellow bears” in the Castro.
Gomez has what he refers to as an “advantage” when directing a film: Asperger’s Syndrome — an autism-spectrum condition that can lead to shyness, social awkwardness, and obsessive tendencies. Gomez’s claim that this puts him a leg up is novel, but explainable: “I am very clear about what I want in terms of performance,” he says. “I already envision the film as it’s going to play in my head.”
More than most people, Gomez is at home in the editing bay, assiduously whittling together his film. And, in this film, there’s lots of chasing. Stuart, portrayed by local improv actor Michael Davenport, is shocked to find his doppelganger on a poster — hence the title Poster Boy. Stuart’s doppelganger, by the way, is a leather-clad twink being led on a leash by none other than Sister Roma herself. People chase him. He runs. A gorilla, at one point, gets in on the action.
Hilarity, as they say, ensues.
Also ensuing, Gomez hopes, will be some jobs. He’s been an independent contractor for a wedding and event video company, and done editing duties for a documentarian. He’s worked a bit of late with the California Department of Rehabilitation “for more help finding the right kind of job for me.” And, via his recent filmmaking, he may have found it.
He recently landed a paid position doing post-production work for a small local movie project. He’ll be charged with tasks such as copying files from the camera cartridge onto the hard drive and organizing them all — painstaking work that will save the film’s director editor a ton of time and hassle. It’s also the kind of detail-oriented job for which Gomez feels his Asperger’s really does give him a leg up.
So, perhaps Gomez may yet have a happy ending in his own personal movie. “I think,” he says, “that things are looking up.”