In the world of entertainment, the path to success is often a winding one, marked by unexpected twists and turns. Jordan Firstman’s career is a testament to this notion, as he transitions from the writers’ rooms of irreverent comedies to the spotlight of indie cinema. In this article, we delve into his journey, his creative collaboration with director Sebastián Silva, and the intriguing themes explored in their latest film, “Rotting in the Sun.”
From Writer’s Room to Instagram Stardom
For eight years, Jordan Firstman honed his craft in the writers’ rooms of beloved comedies like “Search Party,” “Big Mouth,” and “The Other Two.” However, his career took an unexpected turn when his Instagram content started gaining viral traction during the pandemic. In a humorous twist of fate, he found himself discussing recreational drugs while sitting in a corporate office wearing nothing but a pink beach towel and cowboy boots. It was a moment that encapsulated the duality of his journey: the transition from behind-the-scenes writer to an internet sensation.
As the pandemic raged on, Firstman’s followers seemed increasingly interested in his humorous takes on everyday life, often overshadowing his desire to explore more profound and personal topics. He humorously recalls a time when everyone seemed fixated on banana bread, a reference to one of his viral clips where he humorously played the role of a publicist for the treat. But now, at 32, he’s embarking on a new phase of his career—one that combines his earnestness, childlike charm, and a desire to address more complex subjects.
A Creative Collaboration with a Twist
Firstman’s journey into indie cinema took an unexpected turn when he crossed paths with director Sebastián Silva. Their collaboration, which culminated in the film “Rotting in the Sun,” draws inspiration from their real-life meeting, a meeting that was anything but conventional. In Mexico City, Firstman encountered Silva, a man with a peculiar personality who initially seemed distant and critical. Their interactions were tinged with tension, bizarre sexual encounters, and an element of antisemitism. It was a complex dynamic that laid the foundation for their creative partnership.
Silva, who was grappling with a creative crisis and self-medication with ketamine in Mexico City, saw something intriguing in Firstman. He recognized Firstman’s Instagram fame and questioned him, asking if he felt embarrassed by it. This encounter sparked the idea of exploring Firstman’s personality through the lens of someone who didn’t particularly like him. It was an art project born out of exposure hangover—a unique perspective on fame and self-image.
The film “Rotting in the Sun” blurs the lines between reality and fiction. Firstman and Silva portray dramatized versions of themselves, with Silva navigating a creative crisis in Mexico City and Firstman arriving on the scene, exuding optimism and sharing his less-than-stellar art. The movie’s commitment to hyper-realism led to daring choices, including unsimulated sex scenes and a long nude beach shot featuring an astonishing 29 penises.
The 30-day shoot pushed both actors to their limits. Scenes requiring near-drowning experiences had them confronting riptide-heavy waters without stunt doubles. Whenever Firstman’s character was on drugs, he himself indulged in those same substances, adding an extra layer of authenticity to his performance. The process was a journey of introspection, one that left him more confident as an actor but also deeply impacted as a person. He reflects, “I knew we had something really special, and that I was also damaged from making it.”
Navigating Stardom and Strikes
As Firstman now steps into the spotlight with his first starring role, he does so during a period of historic double strikes, as a member of both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA. “Rotting in the Sun” premiered at Sundance in January, secured distribution with Mubi, and received an interim agreement. However, the actor acknowledges that the process was far from easy, given the backdrop of industry strikes. He emphasizes the importance of allowing artists to talk about their hard work while recognizing the significance of the ongoing strikes.
In the world of indie cinema, where budgets are modest and creative risks are embraced, Firstman’s journey from Instagram fame to indie film stardom serves as a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of entertainment. His collaboration with Sebastián Silva has resulted in a thought-provoking film that challenges conventions and explores the complexities of identity and self-expression.
As Jordan Firstman continues to navigate the intersections of creativity, fame, and authenticity, his story reminds us that the most unconventional journeys often lead to the most intriguing destinations. In a world where the line between reality and performance blurs, he remains unapologetically himself—an artist who doesn’t shy away from addressing both the humorous and profound aspects of life.