“The Expanding Horizon”
A 16-year-old asks his drug dealer classmate for an unusual request.
The Expanding Horizon originally took place on a high school boys soccer team in Southern California. In pre-production, I realized how difficult it would be to assemble a group of talented athletes or work with a high school. Instead of abandoning an idea I really loved, a dark coming-of-age tale about a teenager who sacrifices future opportunities out of shame for revealing a secret desire to his teammate, I decided to simplify the production and focus on how one uncomfortable interaction based on shifting power imbalances could change the lives of two young men forever. The film is designed to withhold and slowly reveal information, taking the audience on journey far from their expectations when the film begins; when James looks over at Derek in class and Derek winks back at him, we're setting up viewers to think they're in for a familiar LGBTQ+ dynamic between the protagonists - James has a crush on Derek, he yearns for him, they end up together. By the end, the audience should feel that they've entered murky territory just like both characters. James not only feels embarrassed and ashamed for revealing a desire to someone that clearly doesn't understand it but also realized he could gain economic power over Derek, who struggles with the responsibility of engaging in violence with his classmate for money. Neither are good or bad, but two humans motivated by desire, power, and security. The film is also meant to leave people with their own interpretation of James's motivations; some see him exploring a sexual kink he learned about on the internet; others see a tactic for dealing with personal shame or trauma. Audiences at Oak Cliff and Indie Memphis even read it as a religious and political allegory. Ultimately, the film falls in a tradition of coming-of-age narratives about being at the edge of adulthood but in the context of a society that champions self-fulfillment, believing in yourself and dreams, and anything being possible. But what about confusing feelings, trauma, taboo desires, and shame that would be far from appearing on a college application or resume? The Expanding Horizon the complicated relationships, dynamics, and experiences we're expected to explore on our own.