Max Emerson is widely known for his popular Instagram account, which has garnered more than 770,000 followers worldwide. But now the social media influencer has gone behind the camera for his feature-film directorial debut, Hooked, screening tonight in partnership with NewFest, New York's LGBT media arts organization.
Written and directed by Emerson, Hooked tells the story of Jack (Conor Donally), a homeless queer teen who struggles in the dangerous world of sex work while seeking a better life with his boyfriend, Tom.
"When I was younger, I had a lot of issues with some of the things I had seen in the gay community," the 28-year-old told Billboard. I feel like it's kind of eating itself alive in a lot of ways. So a lot of the things I wrote were in a response to that.”
He says his Instagram persona has been a means to dive into deeper work.
“For the last couple years I've been doing the Instagram super-shameless comedy stuff to kind of build up a following so that I'd have a means of producing these things that mean more to me.”
Emerson was able to crowdfund more than $200,000 to get the film made, but it's more than a creative endeavor: Monday's premiere doubles as a benefit for New York's Ali Forney Center, which provides shelter and services for LGBT homeless youth. In addition half of the film's total proceeds will be donated to LGBT groups including AFC, Albert Kennedy Trust, the L.A. LGBT Center and Atlanta's Lost N’ Found.
“NewFest has a long history of supporting emerging filmmakers and community
partners,” said Robert Kushner, NewFest's executive director. Kushner says the Hooked screening "is an opportunity to celebrate a new voice in filmmaking, while shining a light on marginalized members of the LGBT community."
Watch the trailer for Hooked below.
Hooked screens June 26 at 6:30pm at New York's SVA Theater.
NewFest 2017: The New York LGBT Film Festival will be held October 19 to 24.