Finding an actor who looked 16, could surf and was willing to do gay sex scenes was always going to be difficult.

But for Ed Aldridge, the writer, director and producer of new Australian feature film Tan Lines, the success of the project hung off the casting of his lead character Midget and he was determined to get it right.

Midget is a 16-year-old surfer and party boy who falls in love with the older brother of one of his friends and is forced to come to terms with his homosexuality. The film is described as a coming of age comedy.

After a year of searching for the right Midget, Aldridge cast Jack Baxter, a 16-year-old skater boy from Surry Hills who could surf but had no acting experience. He wasn’t too keen on the sex scenes, but Aldridge felt he was perfect for the role and managed to convince Baxter to sign up.

Jack was just the embodiment of Midget, which was quite scary, Aldridge said. He totally understood the script and the humour of it.

To make the film more realistic, Baxter’s real-life mates, also local skater boys, were cast as Midget’s friends in the film.

It was amazing to have this cast who were close friends already. They really enjoyed taking the piss out of each other and they all fitted the roles really well, Aldridge explained.

Now the film is finished and about to premiere in Sydney at a private screening on 13 July before hitting the world stage at the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival on 21 July.

Tan Lines was a five-year labour of love for Aldridge, whose previous work included making short films and commercials. It was funded by private investors and made on a shoestring budget, and that was exactly the way Aldridge wanted it.

Without people putting up lots of money there was no one demanding to have a say in how it was made, allowing Aldridge to retain 100 percent control.

Even if I did have lots of money to make it I wouldn’t have done things differently, he said, although he added there had been a few times when shooting on location around Sydney was done guerrilla-style because they couldn’t afford to pay for filming permits.

It’s been picked up by a gay and lesbian film distributor in North America and Aldridge is currently in talks with distributors for the local, European and Asian markets.

I sold it as a gay surf movie to begin with, although I hope it has more than just a gay audience, he said. I think people would appreciate it much more if it was sold as an art house film. But it’s a comedy and it’s a bit strange, so I can’t really expect people to take it massively seriously.

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