Next up in our CoHo Residency series is Quinn, a short film created and directed by Xzavier Beacham. In this fictional character documentary, follow Quinn, a Black man who challenges his own sense of self by heading to the sex store for the first time to buy a new toy. On the way, we traverse the weight of manhood, manhood’s expectation of Black men, and how we can experience life differently, all the while choosing to be exactly who we are along the way.
We sat down with Xzavier to learn more about his process, what it’s been like to be a CoHo Resident, and how Quinn came to be.
Xzavier, tell us a little bit about yourself as an artist. What kind of art do you make?
Art that makes you think.
How long have you been creating art?
For fun? Most of my life. In a technical sense, how me and my friends act around each other could be a kind of art if you decided to record it. Kind of like performance art in real-time.
So you’re a living artist!
Yes. I’ve never put a word to it, but yes. Cool.
How did you first hear about the CoHo Residency Program?
I helped one of the 2021 residents, Andrea Vernae, do her piece last year (SOMA), bouncing off ideas for stuff, listening to songs, took pictures for it, so I’d already known what it was. Then, Phil approached me and asked me – we weren’t talking about the residency per say, we were just hanging out, and I told him about a project, or an idea for the project, and Phil was like, “When you moving? Would you come back up here if you could make that project?” And I was like – YES. That’s easy. Yes.
What made you decide to become a resident at CoHo? Was it the opportunity to present the project?
That was the 2nd thing. The first thing was, I thought it was dope that Phil would even bring it up. The means of giving something to somebody… he just heard about the project and straight believed in it. For me, it was like, to honor that gesture which you don’t have to give as a human being, of course I’m going to come back, of course I’m going to give my time to you, to CoHo, to this partnership, to this idea, and it’s going to be dope as fuck.
Tell me a little bit about your piece, Quinn.
What it was (I don’t know what it will be later), what it was originally was a short film about three different characters, you meet them after they’re all finishing a picnic in a park. You hop in the middle of this conversation where you the main character of the short film was just in his bedroom, and he’s just typed in “How to anally masturbate” on google, and before he hit “Search”, it cuts, and it goes into the present day where they’re at a park, and he’s telling the story about what happened when he started to look it up. And then one of his friends interjects and says, “Man, that’s gay as hell,” and the other friend is like, “How the fuck is that gay?” and they start getting into this conversation about it. One stance is that the idea of doing that to yourself is somehow gay, that you have a lust for men or a want for men because you’re doing that to yourself, and then the other stance is, how could that be considered a homosexual act when you as a man have a G-spot in the back of your ass. You can’t sit up here and deny that, it’s just fact, it’s just there, boom, it’s your prostate, boom. So, the means of stimulating that is a means of self-exploration. It has nothing to do with a man, it has everything to do with yourself. So these things clash, and the character I decided to make a documentary about is the character who’s in between that. You see that conversation go from one place to the next, and at the end of it, they’re all calling each other on the phone on a split-screen, all having the conversation with each other, arguing about it again, and then it just cuts. BUT. That’s what it was.
What it turned into after I got here is something different. Life occurred. I got a job, started working, started doing my thing… and I thought about it. I posted pictures on Facebook and on a casting website and a friend texted me and was like, “Whoa. Do you think this would be difficult to cast in Portland?” and I was like – How? Of all places to do anything, this subject matter, you’d think this would be the place to do it.
And he brought up the point that I was asking Black men to do it. Think about where you’re acting. You’re an actor there, you would know how many available people there are in that town who could act in this role. And I was like… hmmm. So friends and people I had talked about it with, talking about the subject matter in general, they would always say, “Black men can’t do that.” Or if we were talking about the film, they’d make a joke about it or be like, “I don’t know, Bro…” and in my mind I was like, this is the exact reason I’m doing this. To touch on what you said about being a “living artist” – In these conversations, I can objectively take all of that and then look at it and be like, I’m going to make something to answer this question. There’s a living wall that exists between said thing and said thing, and I want to be here to say, “Let me show you what that actually looks like”. Even if you say, in defense of your manhood that may be slightly fragile, because it exists in your mind and not in the reality of the world – if you defend it and say, “I wouldn’t do that” – Cool. But you’re still under the spell of knowing that a Black man did that, and they looked like me. I wonder what else I could do? When you see someone do something different that looks like you, that you never thought you could do, you start to think about stuff that you could do too! You might say, well I wouldn’t do that, but I ain’t never been to the sex store. I wouldn’t do that, but I might think about trying something completely different, something people don’t expect out of you that you might have always wanted to do, opening doors of inspiration possibility.
Where did the title “Quinn” come from?
In the short film, the character’s name was Quinn, but in general, nowhere specific. It doesn’t have any super-duper relevance. I could say some deep shit, like, oh my uncle’s name is Quinn, but it doesn’t matter. In the sense of not being afraid to explore knowledge, that’s definitely a mirror image in that way. My uncle Quinn in real life, he is not afraid of exploring knowledge. Quinn in my film has that same drive. My uncle inspired me in that way, because the character in the short film, he’s like that, he’s not going to stop learning some shit, not stop exploring.
Where did your inspiration for your piece come from?
In my own life, like when I went to a sex store for the first time, my experience was like – Oh shit. I didn’t realize you could do all this shit in here. So when I walked past the section with the male toys, I was like – oh! These things exist! The difference between Quinn and I, I’m not one of those people who says why. I say why not. The sex store kind of sparked some of this, because when it came to how I wanted to film it, I was like, I know how I was when I first went to the sex store for the first time. Granted, I’m a why not person, so I wasn’t in there being like, Oh this looks weird… I was like, Ohhhh shit. Ok ok! I was interested in a bunch of shit vs. being like I’d never do this. As far as the conversation though – I’ve had this conversation with a lot of men, even before going to the sex store and exploring myself. Guys are weird, man. We’re weird, and not in the way that everybody is weird, but in the way that it’s a societal, cultural norm. To be considered a man’s man or a player or a mac, that’s layered cultural man shit. You have these types of conversations with other men, they either clam up, or you get somebody be like, yeahhhh. When I went to Canada for the first time, I overheard a conversation about experiencing an orgasm through anal stimulation. Afterwards, I started to look into it, looking up the broader question of what else you could do as a male? I didn’t know you could experience an orgasm like that? This started me down a rabbit hole. Then I moved to Portland, and I was already an open-minded person, but then when you live in open-mindedness… shit happens. You start wondering how many people think differently than the norm. Then you think about how big the world is, and how small we are compared to the universe, and you might as well define you and your inner peace however you’re going to define it, and then move the fuck on.
What’s it been like working with the other residents?
Truthfully, scattered. We’re all on Zoom, and I think because I don’t live here, and because what we’re doing is so different… when we check-in, we want to talk about life, then we bounce ideas off each other or we talk about the project we’re doing. It’s more of a celebration of people, pushing towards ideas vs. a conversation about, then time goes by, a week goes by, you have another meeting… so it hasn’t been like, a cooperative pool of ideas back and forth. It’s more been like a support system. I felt supported the most in that way. That’s what I needed. You never know where you’ll be in a couple of years or where someone else will be in a couple of years, and you might be like – hey, I’ve got something. I need you for this thing. In that way, I thought it was dope because it felt like a club you’re going to always be a part of. Something you can always look back on.
What kind of technical elements are you utilizing for this piece?
It’s a fictional character documentary, so the character is the one making the documentary, but it’s not as if he’s ever done it before. I am dumb. Or just talk strange, lol. He hasn’t done this before, that’s the point! It’s not as if he’s actually good at it. He isn’t good at it. He does it with a camera and a backdrop in a real-world confessional style. Also, there are different stories being told, three of them. I use the technical tool of interviews, interviews that I had with different people, not necessarily about the film, but about the topic of manhood, what it was to them personally, what they thought about self-exploration or anal masturbation, and what stories they have when it comes to sex.
What do you hope audiences will take away from your show?
- Don’t think you can’t do what you think you can do.
- Black men or people in general, you don’t have to stick to a specific structured reality, a monolithic character that you have to abide by. You, as a person, can choose to define you however you choose to define, whatever walk of life you choose. This is your life. You have to live in a space where you either choose to accept yourself or hate yourself because of things that you believe. Be at peace with who you are, just not in objection to others.
Quinn is a short film and will be available to stream on any internet-connected device from May 27th at 12:00 AM through May 29th at 11:59 PM. Tickets are all Pay-What-You-Can and are on sale now.