Out writer, actor and producer Jay Paul Deratany is also an award-winning attorney who has been voted one of the top 100 lawyers nationwide.
He was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Best Theatrical Play in 2011 for Haram Iran, which was produced in Chicago, Los Angelesand will be produced in London.
In 2017, he created another play called The Civility of Albert Cashier, about a female-born individual who wanted to fight in the Civil War and identify as a man.
In addition, Deratany has recently won a case versus Lutheran Social Services involving 2-year-old Lavandis Hudson, who died in the foster-care system. Deratany has continually fought against DCFS ( Department of Children & Family Services ), entering into contracts with private companies.
This has inspired his latest script, Foster Boy, that was partially filmed in Chicago this past December; the film stars Matthew Modine and Lou Gossett Jr. He sat down to talk about his passion for the new project with Windy City Times.
Windy City Times: You are originally from Michigan?
Jay Paul Deratany: Yes, a long time ago. I have been in Chicago for 30 years and still live here. I am just back and forth with the filmmaking as it is taking off.
WCT: How long have you been married?
JPD: Just over a year. I proposed to my husband the day that gay marriage was passed.
WCT: Did you always want to be a writer growing up?
JPD: Yes. I wanted to be a writer or an actor. In the '80s, everyone got a law degree, so I got one. After practicing for over 20 years, I ran for office. I lost after a bad breakup with an ex, then I started writing.
I found a story about two boys that were going to hang for being gay, soI wrote a play about it. I realized it was my calling. I like writing human rights stories from the LGBT perspective. I wrote it then gave it to David Zak, who called me back in a few weeks. He wanted to see if I was open to rewrites and wanted to direct it.
I went back for my MFA in screenwriting in California. Here I am three movies later!
WCT: You are GLAAD-nominated…
JPD: Yes, for the play Haram Iran.
WCT: How was your experience with writing The Civility of Albert Cashier?
JPD: It came along really well. It was hard because I put so much into it. The director did such a great job. Now we are trying to get it to the next level on Broadway or at least a regional theater. I think it has a good shot.
WCT: How did this new film happen?
JPD: I was practicing law 15 years ago and a case came in about a foster kid who was sexually and physically abused. I researched if someone could collect against DCFS and it turns out they give their contracts to private companies for foster care. We have wound up privatizing foster care in this country.
I won that case, then got several cases like it afterward. I was appointed by Gov. Quinn to the DCFS board, but quit after a year because they won't make any changes. They want to have meetings to applaud one another, meanwhile hundreds of kids are killed each year.
It is difficult for LGBT people to adopt or foster children even though it is getting better. My husband and I are trying.
Private companies are making billions on it. I think it's wrong and decided to write a screenplay about it. It is a human-rights issue.
WCT: Is it specifically gay-related?
JPD: Yes it is. A lot of the foster kids are gay or LGBT. Many of them identify as trans. I don't know why that phenomenon is, but part of it is because there is a lot of machismo in these communities and the gay kids are kicked out of the house or abused. The abuse in the foster system is often with LGBT children.
WCT: Why did the story in the film Foster Boy resonate with you?
JPD: Because I was working on these cases and it broke my heart. I wanted to change the system. I want to stop the privatization of foster care out.
WCT: What is the plot of Foster Boy?
JPD: It is a foster boy who is raped and abused by an older foster kid. It is inspired by true stories with three of my cases put together. There is a lawyer, not me, who is corporate, a highbrow prick, and forced to take the case. It is partially based on race relations, the boy is Black and he's white. They have to get to know each other. Neither trusts each other.
They come to know that this private company has placed this sexual predator in the home with the children. They make money on each placement so they want them to fail. It is contrary to what it should be.
WCT: What was the journey from your pages to the movie?
JPD: I wrote the story when I was earning my MFA. It was an assignment from professor. He thought the script needed some work, but it was good. A friend of his was a producer who's passion was foster kids. He introduced us. We worked on finding the funding and off we have gone.
WCT: How long was it filmed in Chicago?
JPD: Three days. I wanted it to be a Chicago story. It was important. I made the crew come here!
I want more film in Chicago. That is one of my goals.
WCT: You have a restaurant in Saugatuck?
JPD: Yes. It is called The Kirby. It's a bed and breakfast. It is two blocks from The Dunes.
WCT: I interviewed Max Adler for the movie you wrote called Saugatuck Cures.
JPD: He's still a good friend. I wish more people would have bought it. We blew it with the name. People didn't recognize it and it goes alphabetical on the video list. It is making money, but not a lot of money!
WCT: So this is your third film. Do you have more in the works?
JPD: I want it to be a little lighter next time. I want to promote Albert Cashier.
WCT: That could be a movie.
JPD: I actually wrote that as a series. I am hoping my agent can get that somewhere. It would be 10 episodes. It would be Albert's wife through the Civil War and afterwards.
WCT: It could time-jump.
JPD: There would definitely be some time jumps. It is kind of like Olive Kitteridge meets a Civil War story. I may do some rewrites. It's always a process.
Foster Boy, directed by Youssef Delara, is currently being submitted to film festivals to find future distribution.