Last Friday was the most hopping night yet at the popular bar Alfa in Xingfu Cun.

The party was an unusual combination of casting call and fundraising event for indie director Moxie Peng’s newest project: My 17 Gay Friends.

Eighty percent of the night’s cover charge went to support the production.

Attendees had the choice of being a judge or trying out for a role in the film. Judges were given masks to protect their identities and limited to choosing only two candidates.

More than 300 people showed up and raised 13,000 yuan, bringing Peng a step closer to his goal of 76,000 yuan.

Moxie Peng, 26, has already produced five films, the most notable of which are Gone (2011), Tiger Lily (2012) and Micro Search (2012), a documentary featured on the landing page of iQiyi.com and viewed a million times.

Director Moxie Peng

Director Moxie Peng

My 17 Gay Friends is Peng’s sixth film, and his first to take advantage of crowd funding through Dreamore, a Chinese crowd funding site allows anyone in the world to back a project in exchange for rewards set by the creator.

“Every backer’s name will be shown at the end of the film,” Peng said. “We also opened our casting to the crowd. Keeping our backers involved in this project is an important part of making this film.”

As on Kickstarter, the US’ most popular crowd funding platform, projects that fail to reach their funding goal within the allocated time will not receive any money.

“The platform can help you get started, but you still have to work hard to achieve your funding goal,” Peng said.

“I knew someone who hoped to raise 120,000 yuan to travel the Earth while shooting a film. In the end, he raised 140,000 yuan. It was very exciting,” Peng said.

Peng grew up in rural Hunan Province and loved telling stories as a child. He spun yarns to entertain his neighbors when they were playing mahjong.

His latest story is an avant-garde short that digs into Beijing’s gay scene.

“Most gay films are gloomy, dark and depressed,” Peng said. “I want to show the optimistic, light-hearted side of gay life.” [vc_single_image image=”3581″ image_size=”full” frame=”noframe” full_width=”no” lightbox=”no” link_target=”_self” shadow=”no” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]
The planned 20-minute film will offer glimpses into the lives of 17 of Peng’s friends, showing their personalities, living situations and love lives.

The film takes lighthearted jabs at many of the stereotypes and labels that cut across gay society, such as concepts of femininity and masculinity.

It opens with one gay relationship that is breaking down in its fourth year. After years of compromising, the couple has to come to terms with the fact neither wants to be the “man” in the relationship.

The dispute comes to a head on Halloween night, when they fight over which of them will dress as Snow White and which as Prince Charming. In the end, one dresses up as Snow White and the other as Snow White’s evil stepmother.

With their relationship in shambles, the two talk to sister Zhixin, who knows everyone in the gay community and offers comfort and advice.

The film’s Dreamore campaign began in October and closes later this month. Shooting is scheduled to begin in January at 10 locations across the city.

“It’s hard [for indie films] to play at the cinemas, but I guess more people will get to see it when we put it online,” Peng said.

Anyone interested in supporting the project can follow its Weibo account at @my17gayfriend, or by donating to its campaign on Dreamore.

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