Welcome to a queer, gritty, scary, sexy, cinematic trip! Inspired by real events in 1990s New York City, You Can’t Stay Here follows aspiring art photographer Rick (Guillermo Díaz) as he spends his days and nights cruising in Central Park.
It’s New York in the early 1990s: The AIDS crisis hangs in the air and cops are targeting gay men in well-known cruising spots. This doesn’t stop the introverted Rick from capturing hot moments of strangers with his camera. But when he witnesses a murder, his voyeuristic adventure quickly turns into a feverish nightmare. The mysterious killer fixates on Rick, not only wanting to invade his deepest thoughts but also his bedroom. What if the only chance for redemption from childhood traumas and demons lies in the hands of a killer? Rick is drawn into a dangerous and sexy game of cat and mouse with the magnetic killer that leads him to question his own sanity.
Director Todd Verow has provided an artistic statement on what inspired the film and what he is trying to achieve:
“During the Covid pandemic I heard that the Ramble (the notorious cruising area in New York’s Central Park that featured prominently in William Friedkin’s film Cruising) was jumping. I went there to investigate and indeed it was full of queer people engaging in all sorts of intimate activity (not all of it sexual). Most of the cruisers were wearing masks which only intensified the eye contact and intimacy. We had been locked-down, curfew-ed, and burned out on Zoom sex and the harsh coldness of Grindr, Scruff and other hookup apps. We needed physical contact (or at least proximity) with other human beings. These all-night bacchanals were unhindered by the police who had briefly retreated and barricaded themselves during Covid and Black Lives Matter protests.
“During this time Guillermo Díaz was in New York City working on a TV series. He contacted me saying he was a fan of my work and wanted to make a film with me. I was a huge fan of Guillermo’s work, especially his portrayal of La Miranda in the 1995 film Stonewall, and messaged him back immediately. We got together for lunch and talked for hours. I told him about my recent experiences in the Ramble and how I wanted to make a film about cruising there. He liked the idea.
“I wrote the script for You Can’t Stay Here in a couple of months with my writing partner James Derek Dwyer. While I was writing I made several trips to the Ramble and got to know a lot of the regulars there including the Raccoon Man (who does not cruise in the park. He just hangs out there with his raccoon friends), the Businessman and others. I wanted the film to take place in the early ‘nighties’90s. Before social media and smart phones and during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. When homophobia (both external and internalized) ran rampant. The script is loosely inspired by real events during that time but also on the timelessness of cruising and the otherworldliness of the Ramble itself.”
“Real life cruisers rarely, if ever speak. Everything is conveyed through their eyes. Guillermo’s eyes convey so much (I could photograph them all day). Cruising is not so much about the sex. That is one important thing that I wanted to convey with You Can’t Stay Here. Yes, sex does happen, but that is not the prime motivation for cruising. It is about the possibility of sex. Entering a timeless world where sexual energy permeates the air and cruisers of all ages, social, economic snd racial backgrounds mingle and coexist. Cruising is not about having a quickie, fast anonymous sex. It’s not about getting off. It’s about prolonging that primal state of arousal. Feeling that real emotional and spiritual connection to other human beings. As Rick says ‘When I cum I’m done.’ The last thing you want to do is have an orgasm. That snaps you right back. Forcing you to stumble back to mundane reality until the urge to cruise inevitably returns.”
About Todd Verow (Producer/Writer/Production Designer/Cinematographer/ Director/Editor, Actor)
Todd Verow was born in the town of Bangor, Maine in 1966. He made short experimental films and worked as a cinematographer for Gregg Araki and Jon Moritsugu before making his feature film debut with Frisk in 1996. Starting his own production company Bangor Films, Todd has directed over 35 award-winning features and numerous shorts, establishing himself as the most prolific auteur emeritus of the New Queer Cinema. His films have shown at film festivals all over the world including Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Outfest, Hong Kong, BFI FLARE and SXSW. He has had retrospectives in New York, Paris, Madrid, Thessaloniki, Berlin, London, Sydney, and New Delhi. Fiercely independent, Todd Verow produces his films using whatever money he has. He was one of the first filmmakers to embrace video as a cheap and easy means of production famously declaring that “film is dead” way back in 1997. He proudly describes himself as an underground film maker in the tradition of his idols George and Mike Kuchar, Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith and Andy Warhol.
About Guillermo Diaz (Executive Producer/Producer/Actor)
Many know Guillermo Díaz as Huck in his many seasons on the ABC hit series Scandal. Recently he can be seen in Universal’s romantic comedy, BROS along with his directorial debut on the independent feature entitled Dear Luke. Other recent work includes NBC’s Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Díaz became a household name many years ago after starring as “Scarface” in the cult classic film Half Baked. He also appeared in other indie films including: Party Girl, Stonewall, 200 Cigarettes, and appeared in studio Features The Terminal for director Steven Spielberg and Cop Out opposite Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. In addition to his feature film credits, Díaz is well-known for his many seasons on Showtime’s award-winning series Weeds, where he played the role of Guillermo, as well as his comedic performances on Chappelle’s Show for Comedy Central. He was also a series regular on the NBC drama, Mercy, guest-starred opposite Lena Dunham in HBO’s GIRLS. Guillermo, and on Broad City, and High Maintenance. He can be seen with Britney Spears in her video I Wanna Go and in Beyonce and Jay Z’s video Run alongside Sean Penn and Jake Gyllenhaal. Guillermo made his directorial debut with the documentary short film Valley of the Undocumented which was produced by Russell Simmons and Mark Zuckerberg for Immigrant Heritage Month. Born and raised in Washington Heights, NYC he currently resides in Los Angeles.
You Can’t Stay Here will enjoy an exclusive run at NYC’s IFC Center starting January 5, with in-person Q&As from Todd Verow + Guillermo Diaz. Full info is available here.