Geniune-ity: Anthony Gibson the Film Guy

By Savannah Peykani

21-year-old Anthony Gibson sits outside in freezing (for Southern California) November weather, blowing his nose between stories and coughing around memories. Cyber A Cafe closed early, kicking Anthony and myself out into the cold night air. Anthony smiles as he packs up his stuff to relocate; these things can’t be helped sometimes.

His curly, long, brown hair is rustled, like a bird’s nest. Anthony ditches his signature headband for today, letting the curls exist as they please. There is an overall bird-like quality to his features: long nose; small, bright eyes; the way his mind seems to flutter from thought to thought, with tangents taking over any order or sequence to his storytelling.

That’s what he loves to do most, tell stories. Tonight he gets to tell the most intimate story of all.

“I was the film guy,” Anthony says. “In high school, if you talk to anybody they would have said, ‘Oh, Anthony’s the film guy.’”

Anthony’s infatuation with film didn’t just sprout up overnight; it began long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

“Film really started for me with my best friends, Seth and Jared — we made our own version of ‘Star Wars.’ We called it ‘Star Battle,’” Anthony informs me. “Seth actually just left with his girlfriend to go to China; they saved up to go travel the world. Two nights before he left, we were all together and of course we were like, ‘Let’s watch ‘Star Battle!’’ It’s funny because when we did it, we just did it for fun, but now watching it, it’s like, now I’m watching … the beginning of something.” Pause.

Since Zotfest last May — UC Irvine’s annual student film festival and the first time I remember officially meeting Anthony Gibson — I had only interacted with him in whispers; a wave here, a “hey, how’s it going?” there. Nothing too personal. To me, he had only ever been my friend Chloe’s smiley boyfriend. That’s why, walking into our first formal interview at Cyber A, I had no real expectations, but many (false) assumptions. As far as I knew, he was yet another white man, wealthy enough to live at home in Aliso Viejo and afford tuition at UCI for potentially five years, who liked making spellbinding, puzzling films.

Currently a fourth-year literary journalism and film and media studies double major, Anthony knows who he is, what he wants, and where he is going. Yet I can’t help but pause for a moment here and be a little skeptical. I remember that he too studies journalism and knows what makes a good story. How genuine is Anthony as he filters through his own memories? How does Anthony define “genuine-ity” as he so eloquently puts it?

At this point, genuine nature involves Anthony’s passions: film, writing and thinking.

Thinking? I can’t help but ask; that’s a rather offbeat passion.

Anthony laughs. I can’t tell what Anthony has more of: chuckles in his body or curls in his hair.

Anthony is the type of guy who can sit alone all day and just … think.

About what? Anything, everything.

Zen Buddhism, the myth of Adam and Eve, why there is so much green in the movie “Fight Club,” Prague, Jack Kerouac, Lord of the Rings, New Zealand, racial issues brought up in East of Eden, assumptions, disability services, his own privilege, how to not make “whitey happy” in his films, shame, discomfort, fear of failure …

Everyone has eccentric, possibly far-fetched childhood dreams; goals you set for yourself when life felt smaller and when reality and imagination were the same things. Then puberty kicks in and tragedies strike and your skin gets tougher and, seemingly overnight, all of those dreams evaporate … Well, not for Anthony. Last year, Anthony studied abroad in New Zealand for five months, just as his nine-year-old self dreamed of over a decade ago. Why New Zealand? Because of Lord of the Rings, of course.

“My whole New Zealand experience was like I threw all these clothes into this hamper and I’m still going through this laundry basket, finding all this past experience, figuring out what it meant to me and how it’s shaped me. Now, I feel like I’m more okay with following my dreams than I’ve ever been. And more okay with being uncomfortable, because when I’m not comfortable, that’s when I grow the most.” Anthony’s memories and self-reflection take over.

I look on as Clandestine, Anthony’s latest Zot Film project, shoots one of its final scenes at Humanities Gateway.

Merced, the film’s effusive executive producer, hand-picked Anthony for the role.

“Anthony’s the star!” laughs Merced. “I worked with him last year and when I read this role I thought, ‘We had to get him!’ He’s humble, sincere, subtle and he comes from a true place when he’s acting. I believe that he’s got an honesty about him.”

I watch as the climactic moment ensues in which Anthony’s character, Nate, reveals himself as an undercover cop, arresting his lover Karina, who is actually a drug-dealer. Tensions are high once the director calls action.

“This is an intimate scene and there’s a lot going on,” says Anthony. “It’s a battle between what I, well, what Nate, wants and what his responsibilities are. It’s an intense entanglement about feeling trapped, forced to do something you don’t want to do.”

Anthony forgets who he is momentarily. Where does Anthony end and Nate begin?

“Anthony,” executive producer Merced calls out, “can you step back into the scene?”

Looking over, I see Anthony kicking the wall, getting angry. His eyes stay averted, focused. I realize immediately that he never really left the scene.

“How do you tap into emotions like this?” I ask him. “You always talk about how important being genuine is. How can you be genuine while also being an actor?”

Pause.

“I do my best not to think about it in terms of ‘me performing,’” Anthon replies. “ I just focus on the moment and do it.”

I press him for more.

“But how do you do it?”

Anthony shrugs.