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MTV’s ‘Real World’ provides
fodder for gay wedding movie
By Gary C.W. Chun
Norman Korpi prides himself as a button-pusher. He did
it more than a decade ago when he outed himself on MTV
as a member of the original "Real World" cast
in New York City, and he's doing it again as a writer-director
of a sneakily subversive video that sends up the reality
television concept that drives "The Real World."
On the surface, "The Wedding Video" is an
entertaining "mockumentary" of the making
of Korpi's wedding video that shows all the real dirt
on him, his hunky fiancé, the wedding planners
and the guests, while mixing Los Angeles actors and
former "Real World" cast members from throughout
the series' 11 years.
The video will be featured Thursday, the opening night
of the Adam Baran Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, with
Korpi and other invited cast members featured during
a pre-screening reception.
Korpi and his partner/co-producer/cameraman Clint Cowen
have struck up a TV deal with Warner Bros. in hopes
of distributing "The Wedding Video" to a gay-themed
television network being put together by HBO and MTV.
"The Wedding Video" started as an idea similar
to "The Real World," Korpi said last week
by phone from L.A. "My business partner and I had
$30,000 between us, so we decided, Why not make a video
about video itself?"
Korpi had been shooting a wedding video for former "Real
World" cast members Rachel Campos and Sean Duffy,
who appear as guests in "The Wedding Video."
"Gay couples and weddings were becoming hot-button
topics," Korpi said, "and I wanted to bring
in a story line that even sophomoric straights could
Korpi used the low budget to his advantage, as what
was intended to be an elegant wedding buffet turned
into a cheap "white trash" spread, complete
with bologna loaf.
He said he and the "Real World" alumni gained
a lot of on-camera experience while participating in
the MTV series.
"It's improvisational 'dramedy,' and the network
is very careful when they audition upwards of 60,000
people to find the right combination that can interact
comfortably on camera," he said.
"And since we've all done this before, it was easy
for us to make fun of it or add comedic elements to
our on-screen characters. As 'The Real World' became
this big cultural phenomenon, the whole notion of reality-vs.-perception
blurred, where viewers think they know who we really
When shooting started three years ago, the bulk of the
videotaping was done at a castlelike mansion in Beverly
Hills that Korpi was living in while working as a commercial
art director (one of his roommates has a comedic turn
as a scheming wedding planner).
Of the "Real World" cast members assembled,
Heather B. Gardner has a grand time with her role as
a penny-pinching friend from New York who delights in
finding out the shady truth behind Korpi's fiancé.
"Also, when (bride) Rachel was on 'The Real World,'
she was characterized as a bitch, so she played her
character along those lines. And people who saw the
video felt sorry for Julie (Oliver), because while it
looks like she's delivering pizzas back at her Birmingham,
Ala., home, she actually runs a successful dance program."
There are also in-jokes aimed at MTV.
"The date of wedding was set on Aug. 1st, which
is the same date as MTV's first day of cablecast, and
in one montage sequence, I used the music from the very
first video MTV played, the Buggles' 'Video Killed the
Korpi began writing two months prior to shooting, constructing
the dialogue his cast would give as on-camera testimonials
congratulating the couple on their upcoming nuptials
in front of cheesy floral backdrops.
"I showed the first edit of the movie in 2000 to
a group of friends in Honolulu," he said. "The
early concept was to have the video occasionally stop,
rewind and freeze as the tape's editors made comments
off screen. It ended up so disjointed that I then took
eight months to reshape the story. After all that, I
must admit I'm super-amazed and proud of how it finally
"Overall, I think 'The Wedding Video' makes a nice
swan song to the pre-digital home video era, when Generation
X was the first of its kind to be recorded like this.
"It was always my intention to come out if I made
'The Real World' cast. I was a struggling artist at
the time, I wasn't getting a Tom Cruise-sized salary,
so who was going to really care? And to do it on a global
network, that was great!
"But I wanted something more because, since MTV
controlled the editing of the series, it didn't show
that we were actually a little more proud of our achievements,
and I wanted to do something that would comment on those
experiences that we had through our involvement in the
"While 'The Real World' has become so successful,
it's the components, it's us, that are still struggling
even after doing the show," he said. "I'm
just glad that I found my own particular voice in comedy
and can add my own contribution to the history of gay