SXSW: Ellen Page and Ian Daniel talk about their new series “Gaycation”

Charles Liu

On Saturday, actress Ellen Page and New York filmmaker Ian Daniel sat down for a keynote talk about their new show, “Gaycation,” the Austin Convention Center’s Vimeo Theater. “Gaycation,” which premiered March 2 this year, is a travel show that follows Page and Daniel as they explore LGBTQ communities around the world.

Before they discussed their show, Page and Daniel, both of whom are gay, started off speaking about their friendship, which sprung up when they met working at an eco-village in Oregon.

“[Page] radiated depth,” Daniel said. He remembered hearing about her Oscar buzz, but hadn’t seen any of her work when he first met her.

Page also said she quickly found a kindred soul in Daniel, and they have since become each other’s best friends.

That friendship bleeds into “Gaycation,” and that friendship helps ground the journey they take viewers on. Along their travels, Page and Daniel conduct interviews with gay people too afraid to come out, transgender individuals unabashedly proud of their identities and more.

“This is an opportunity that allows voices to be heard, to find out about the struggles that a lot of people have,” Page said.

She and Daniel remembered a moment they had filmed was the coming out of a gay Japanese man to his mother. They said they were surprised the man had requested that they capture the pivotal moment in his life, and they were moved by the raw emotions on display as the man’s mother ultimately reconciled her shock with her love for him.

Page and Daniel’s subjects aren’t the only ones who reveal their vulnerability – their job as the show’s hosts puts them in a vulnerable place, too.

In an episode shot in Brazil, the two interview an ex-cop who killed homosexuals, and Page and Daniel admitted they were frightened during the ordeal. When they told the ex-cop they were gay, he refused to look them in the eye. Thankfully, a bodyguard was present to protect them.

Much of “Gaycation” deals with more individuals who hate gay people. This aspect of the show can be attributed to Page’s “fascination” with homophobes. One memorable episode in the United States shows her confrontation with US Presidential candidate Ted Cruz, during which she spoke about gay rights.

“I am baffled by the hatred people have,” Page said.

Page and Daniel both said that the process of making “Gaycation” was one of balance. As filmmakers, they had to make sure the show was enlightening as well as engaging to viewers. They had to be fun as well as put their authentic selves in front of the camera. Page recalled filming the episode in Jamaica, where she debated whether to tell the Rastafari that she and Daniel were gay at the expense of losing good shots at a celebration because of her sexual orientation.

Though “Gaycation” brings viewers across the paths of many real people that are being oppressed, Daniel says it is not an objective work.

“We have a bias,” he said. “We’re not coming in as journalists.”

Both of them said they aim to convey the struggles of LGBTQ individuals around the world, and they hope they do justice to their subjects.

“Gaycation” is on Viceland every Wednesday at 10 PM ET/9 PM CT.