Denis Theirault expands his short film I Am Syd Stone into a web series format that he’s releasing through OutTV. The titular character (Travis Nelson) is still an actor. But in this iteration, he works in an independent film that’s shooting in a small city with a nice hotel. That hotel closes its kitchen early to the disappointment of a fellow guest, Matt (Benjamin Charles Watson). Syd recommends that Matt order a screwdriver. And they eventually get a table and talk about what work would take them to this specific city. It shocks Syd that Matt has no idea who he is and has no idea that he and a bunch of people are shooting a movie in town.
These are strange waters for Syd, dangerous ones especially for someone hiding his sexuality. People who watch this kind of stuff know where this is going. This means that the trajectory here is for Matt or the universe to get Syd out of the closet. The series takes their conversation from the bar to the pool to Syd’s hotel room where Syd does the talking. Most of his lines are about getting out of his potato farming small town and getting as many jobs as he can. An old man discovers him – there’s a lot of subtext here, if we can call it that. And that off screen man turns him into a model and eventually acting in some dystopic teen film series about dinosaurs.
People who saw the original short film called it sad, perhaps to the point of cloyingly sad. That’s an emotional range unreachable to your truly’s icy heart. Maybe it’s that or maybe this series needed to do a lot more in developing its supporting character, a common yet valid complaint. Despite Syd’s status as an ex-matinee idol, he still feels like a small-town white gay man. One should write what they know, sure. But there’s too much focus on that angst although the series can spread that wealth equally. It could have given Matt, an out Black gay man, a bigger back story. The same goes for Syd’s girlfriend Rachel (Daiva Johnston), existing within Syd’s lies.
It’s also understandable that the point in a lot of fiction is to build familiarity within characters who were, at one point, strangers to each other. However, some characters here cross professional lines. The hotel’s bartender, Marsha (Shelley Thompson), refuses to serve Syd after drinking too much. But there are ways to refuse to serve a sad, closeted drunk without turning her into some tough loving auntie. This series has better casting than the original short, especially with Nelson as Syd who is better at passing for straight that Thierault was. File this under series where the actors can’t elevate a lacking script, especially one where a gay man in a closet gets his predictable epiphany.