The Perfect Boys Next Door: Director and stars discuss sex worker cautionary tale

The talent from two favorite Australian films from last year, “Lonesome” and “The Winner Takes It All,” now have new projects.
Director Craig Boreham, director of “Lonesome,” reteams with star Josh Lavery for the short film, “The Perfect Boy Next Door,” which is a kind of “cautionary tale” about a sex worker. Kevin (Lavery, who also wrote the script), is traumatized by an encounter where a client tied him to a bed against his will. He processes his emotional pain by sitting for an interview on a true crime TV series, where the event is re-enacted. (Manuel Kornisiuk, from “The Winner Takes It All” plays Kevin in the re-enactment). 

Boreham and Lavery spoke with PGN about their nifty new short.

PGN: What inspired “The Perfect Boy Next Door”?
JL: We are in the age where everyone is obsessed with getting famous. And everyone is obsessed with true crime documentaries, all this murder porn. I thought it would be funny to merge those things together.

CB: We are both into true crime and trashy, trashy TV shows. I was really drawn to that, and I liked the mixing of lightness and darkness. It was fun to play with comedy and horror elements. But also looking at the ’90s and early ’00s representation of queer stories, and the murder-porn landscape, and shows like “Forensic Files.” Whenever they had a queer story, it was really salacious or titillating in an, I guess, exploitative kind of way.  We wanted that tone in the film and use that as a device and mess with that trope. 

PGN: The film deals with issues of truth and memory. Can you talk about how you addressed the themes of trauma?
JL: I think it’s a funny idea that in these last moments, Kevin is not thinking about his family or how he is going to get out of this, it was, “They are going to make a show out of this?”

CB: I really like playing with memory, and “Who is the storyteller?” — having this possibly unreliable narrator and messing with what is real and what is not. We are inside [Kevin’s] head the whole time.

JL: I think he knows this TV show is not the greatest thing. He tries to make articulate points about sex work, but he is cut off by the interviewer. They don’t want grand statements; they want to get to the horror of it all. 

PGN: There is a performative aspect to Kevin, when he is performing sex work, or performing for the true crime series camera. Can you talk about how Kevin hides his reality?
CB: He is a very performative character. He is someone controlling his own representation to get fame or as a sex worker. There is this constant underlying desire for celebrity. When he is arguing with his boyfriend about if he should do the TV show or not, he knows it’s bad to drag himself through it, but the potential for a moment in the spotlight is greater than that.

JL: I liked the meta-ness of that as well, a performance within a performance and a show within a show. 

PGN: What can you say about our fascination with true crime and lurid stories as well as people cashing in on their trauma?JL: If anything, it’s poking fun at it. We’re all guilty of it — consuming it or buying into it.

CB: We live in this “Insta world” where celebrity is as close as your phone and it’s an interesting shift in the way people are able to broadcast their lives and we’re playing with it in a lighthearted/horrific way.

JL: You go on Instagram and people are doing crazier and crazier stuff for views. So, how far would you go to be famous?

CB: Being captured by a serial killer as a potential achievement!

JL: This is my moment. This is how I made it! 

PGN: After the sexiness of “Lonesome,” “The Boy Next Door” is very discrete, with little to no nudity. Was that a deliberate decision and why? 
CB: It’s a different story. “Lonesome” was about sex and the way it was used by gay men in different ways — be it currency or just intimacy. The short film will live in a different place, so we were aware of how far to push that, so it finds an audience.

JL: In the initial scene when Kevin is tied to the bed, we discussed being naked, but with festivals, we decided on a jockstrap. I also liked that in those old shows the dramatic reenactment the real-life person and the reenactment character look nothing alike, so that was very intentional to have this big hunky man who looks absolutely nothing like me. In his head Kevin thinks, “This is who I want to play me.”

PGN: Are either of you “Perfect Boys Next Door?”
JL: [Laughs.] I know Craig is not. I can tell you that.

CB: I’m definitely not. I have a checkered history. We were definitely drawing on our own experience of the world in there. Most of my work does in some way, but that’s all I’ll say. [Laughs.]

Manuel Kornisiuk who appears in the reenactment scenes of “The Perfect Boy Next Door,” is also a musician (going by the name Manúk), and his new single, “Overstimulated” was released last month on all music platforms. The upbeat three-minute song describes looking for real love with intention. In a separate interview, he spoke about the short and his new song.

Manuel Kornisiuk in ‘The Perfect Boy Next Door.’

PGN: Let’s first talk about “The Perfect Boy Next Door,” which, like your previous film, “The Winner Takes It All” casts you as a kind of sex worker. Are you feeling typecast?
MK: I think it’s just my life so far. I’m really new in the movie scene. It is just how I’m cast. 

PGN: Acting seems to be a side hustle for you, as you are more known as a singer. Can you talk about your music career?
: I have been doing music most of my life. I grew up doing music in festivals in my hometown [Santa Rosa, in Argentina] but then I stopped. When I arrived in Sydney in 2020, I started up again. I’m working with producers. It is what I have wanted to do most of my life — more than modeling, more than acting, more than anything it the world. I am grateful that I can do it professionally.

PGN: “Overstimulated” is a dance track. Is that the genre of music you prefer? 

MK: I love soul music mostly, R&B, and jazz, and anything connected to that. I have released a couple of songs before, but this one is establishing a pattern of what I want to do. The ones before were more experimental. Now I have found my style.

PGN: “Overstimulated” suggests we should not settle when we look to settle down. What influenced this song about commitment and connection?
MK:  Yes, definitely. In both life and in the gay community, it is hard to find true connections and authentic people — especially now, with social media and dating apps. I am singing about not settling for less than what you deserve and what makes you feel good. You need to get to know yourself. When you are in your early 20s and start dating, you don’t know yourself well, so that process of getting to know yourself and after, you look for something or someone who makes you feel good.

The cover of Manuel Kornisiuk’s (Manúk) new single, “Overstimulated.”

PGN: “Overstimulated” feels written from the heart. Is it based more on an emotional experience than an actual experience?
MK: I don’t write from personal experience. I write based on ideas about what I believe and like. Everything I write will be related to love, or trust, or values, because I like that. It is not specifically about situations that happened to me. When I try to write about something that happened to me, I can’t. The content of my music is what I feel and truly believe, but it is not based on situations like heartbreak. My brain doesn’t operate like that.

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