In honour of Pride Month, we are thrilled to present an interview with Liam O’Connor-Genereaux, a talented and passionate filmmaker who has embarked on an extraordinary journey with his low-budget film, The Butterfly Queen.
Join us as we dive into a candid conversation that highlights both Liam’s creative aspirations and the vibrant spirit of Pride.
1. Tell us how The Butterfly Queen came about
This is such a tough question, every time! Short answer: I wanted to tell a love story about friendship. There are so many films about the struggle for ‘true’ romantic love. That’s like, one of the most lauded forms of cinema. But friendship, in film, is usually treated much more superficially.
It’s either taken as a given, and difficulties in the friendship are played for laughs or it’s relegated to a B or C plot. And at least for me, my platonic relationships have been just as meaningful, difficult and life-changing as falling in love. So I wanted to make a movie about that. In the woods. With monsters and portals and a dragon.
2. What do you think this film will mean to the LGBT community?
I think Kade Pintado (they play Casey, our non-binary cartoonist/sheep farmer) said it best: “Queer people can have adventures too.” This is a fantasy adventure film about friendship and forgiveness that just so happens to feature LGBTQ+ characters. Because it isn’t a story about the struggle of being trans or gay, it leaves the characters free to be their full, queer selves without leaning on those identities to move the plot.
The LGBTQ+ community has been a huge part of the fantasy genre (since forever), both as creators and as fans, and I think it’s really cool to be able to see more LGBTQ+ characters existing unapologetically in fantasy spaces.
3. How did you manage to shoot the film on such a small budget?
The community support. We filmed the movie on the farm where I grew up, and pre-production was done in my home community, so we were able to punch way above our budget in terms of locations, materials and other in-kind donations. Neighbors let our crew sleep in spare rooms, the local mechanic built us a Mad Max style truck in his spare time (and then was our stunt driver).
I also made a point of writing the story specifically for the resources I knew we could get access to. For instance, we were able to build a nightclub in my parents’ barn using donated lumber. Our amazing art team (lead by Art Director/Producer Seana Testa) created our fantasy characters and magical world primarily using trash and other materials we were able to get for cheap or free. It took a ton of work, but it paid off: every screening we go to, people want to know how we made the art.
4. The LGBT community is one of the most underrepresented in film – how do you think we go about changing that?
I think it starts behind the camera. If you’re making a film, hire your queer friends. And as audiences, we need to seek out those films with strong LGBTQ+ representation, because at the end of the day, Hollywood is going to put money where the tickets and streaming sales are.
I think one thing we can do, all of us, is introduce some of the awesome LGBTQ+ cinema that does exist to those of our friends who might not know (or realize they know!) any queer or trans people. Way too many people think of LGBTQ+ folks as scary or other, and for some of those people an honest filmic representation of an LGBTQ+ character can let them see how we’re all just human. It’s a lot harder to stoke fear about a group of people once you feel like you can identify with them.
5. How has the reaction been to The Butterfly Queen from individuals outside of the LGBT community?
Pretty much everyone who has seen the film likes it, and what we hear over and over is that they love the heartfelt fairytale and the strength of the friendships at its core. Some audiences miss that it’s queer at all, and that’s OK! They interpret the characters through their own expectations, and still enjoy the adventure. Most cis/het audiences have really appreciated the LGBTQ+ elements that they spot, and Casey as a reluctant hero has really resonated with people of all identities.
6. One we ask everyone at Movie Metropolis, what is your favourite film?
The Boxtrolls! It’s fun, it’s tight, it’s funny and gorgeous. It doesn’t do everything perfectly, but everything it wants to be good at it nails. 10/10.
7. And another, what’s your favourite cinema snack?
I’m a Nerds Rope fan. It’s the perfect combination of crunchy and chewy.
8. If you had to pick one LGBT film that shows the progress made in cinema, what would it be and why?
I’d choose this year’s Egghead & Twinkie. It’s a queer road trip buddy comedy about a gay Asian-American teenager coming out to her family and best friend. It’s about finding and recognizing love and self-love, stretching your wings and being true. Its commentary on racial and sexual identity is deft and moving. But I think what is so inspiring is how confident it is. It makes no apologies, it’s wicked fun and it’s a really good film about one of the ways that life just is. It was made by Gen Z folks, and it absolutely shows in the very best ways. It’s still in festivals – try to catch it if you can!
9. What’s next for your career?
Well, we’re going to take The Butterfly Queen as far as we can, to as many people as possible. SOHOME Horror Pride is coming up June 29th – July 2nd. You’ll be able to stream The Butterfly Queen from anywhere in the UK. Next we’ll be streaming worldwide on August 12th (for exactly 24 hours!). You can sign up for a link on our website, WalrusDice.com. Next on the horizon: I’d love to make a film that leans a little more towards sci-fi. Still keep the relationship magic, but maybe do something in space…
10. What advice would you give for any budding directors looking to break into the world of film-making?
Start filming. Make some shorts, shoot some TikToks, create anything, find the stories you want to tell. And if you think that making longer movies is what you want to do, keep an eye towards building up your network early. Make friends with the people in your circles who might be able to donate a location, or their time, or even food.
Be a positive community member. Do people favors. Get to know your local business owners – a lot of times they’ll give you a discount on stuff you need, but it’s important to have those connections established well before you make any asks. Making a feature is really, really hard, and you’re probably going to need help from everyone you know. If you love it, do it.
Behind the scenes images courtesy of Vero Baldauf
Film stills courtesy of WalrusDice Productions LLC
Don’t forget to check out more interviews at Movie Metropolis.