There’s one way to come out of a closet. Open the door and step out.
Augustus “Gus” Hinton knows that. He’s done that.
The gap between knowing what to do, however, and developing the inner strength to take that step — into the light — is a broad, dark expanse when you’re young and about to alter the course of your life.
Hinton, a University of Wisconsin-Stout alum, lived in that shadow world throughout his teenage years in La Crosse. Before he came out as gay while in college, he wished that he had a way to cope with his situation, even something imaginary to make the pain go away for a while and help build his mettle.
Helping provide a coping mechanism for others is why he’s created “Closet Combat,” a short animation about a closeted teen. The main character deals with his challenging social interactions by imagining he can fight his way out of them.
“While in the closet, I felt like I was constantly dodging bullets. Almost any social interaction could put me in a position where I had to lie, deflect, escape and outsmart in order to not ‘blow my cover,’ ” Hinton said. “It was necessary for me to think of these as battles that could be won. It was the only way I could feel victorious and in control. Almost everything else about being in the closet felt like a loss.”
A professional animator who graduated in 2015 from UW-Stout’s animation and digital media program — then called entertainment design — Hinton began working evenings and weekends on “Closet Combat” in 2018 as a personal side project.
After finishing the first three-minute episode, he entered it into film festivals across the U.S. to help gauge its potential impact. He recently proudly announced on his YouTube channel that “Closet Combat” will be in seven film fests.
“I put a lot of work into the piece and felt proud of the result, but I still can barely believe it. It’s blowing my mind. I’m pretty darned excited,” said Hinton, who works on contract as an animation/motion designer for the Seattle office of Slalom.
He is in the process of moving to Minneapolis after previously working as a motion designer for Weber Shandwick in Seattle.
He plans to attend the Minnesota Webfest, which will be held at the Mall of America, Thursday, Sept. 23, to Sunday, Sept. 26, as well as virtually.