Friday, July 12, 2013

VOTE for The Royal Road Now!

I'm very excited to report that my new film project, The Royal Road is up for Project of the Week on indieWIRE!

Even though the Kickstarter campaign is over we can still win a free digital distribution consultation with SnagFilms (and the prestige of triumph). Plus, if we win Project of the Week we move on to compete for Project of the Month and a possible consultation with the Tribeca Film Institute.

Please click thru to VOTE RIGHT NOW for The Royal Road. It really only takes a moment and will be super helpful to me and the film.

And speaking of Kickstarter... I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for the inspiring generosity of our MANY supporters. Our crowd-funding campaign for The Royal Road ended at Midnight on July 10th with a grand total of $24,038 with contributions from a whopping 424 backers! In addition to these funds I'm very happy to say that many more people also contributed to the project via our fiscal sponsor, The San Francisco Film Society — adding another roughly $2,500 to that total.

Which reminds me — if you know of anyone else who might still want to contribute it is not too late to give via the Film Society link right HERE.

I'm really excited to put the funds to use towards the next steps of production (three more shoots, finishing the script and voiceover recording are all on deck). In fact, I will be in Los Angeles next weekend to do a shoot there during Outfest!

I promise to keep everyone updated as the project progresses. And we'll be fulfilling all the Kickstarter rewards as swiftly as we can.

Please be sure to come LIKE our official Facebook page and/or follow me on Twitter! You can also click thru to subscribe to my personal newsletter (I promise it is only quarterly or so).

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Online Panhandling for My New Movie

Still from The Royal Road

I recently explained the Latin phrase carpe diem to one of my daughters. Parenthood is packed with these wonderful opportunities — the pure joy of countless emotional, intellectual, artistic experiences shared so intimately. The gentle conveyance of basic bits of knowledge, that one has accumulated from mere longevity. And in these moments (completely predictable, of course) we as adults are doing as much of the learning as the children.

Seize the day — I am reminded. Seize the day. Nearly ten years have elapsed since I completed my first feature film, The Joy of Life. It is time to make my new movie!

The Royal Road is a lyrical new film contemplating butch lesbian desire, nostalgia, Casanova, a history of the Mexican-American War and so much more.

The Royal Road has already received generous support from the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Herbert Family Filmmaking Grant, as well as from many individual donors. However, it is also clear that the time has come to reach beyond conventional grantmakers to find the funds to fully bring my vision to life. And so, I am now turning to my friends, my colleagues, the likeminded appreciators of the special kind of filmmaking that I feel so compelled to create and to watch.

Without further preface, my request is a simple one. Please contribute as generously as you can. This is a wonderful opportunity to be a patron of the arts and I promise not to let you down. If you've liked any of my previous work (or if you have an affinity for experimental, unconventional, non-traditional cinema and storytelling) please click through to donate now )and to read more about the project) — the campaign ends at Midnight, Wednesday, July 10th. Here's the link (and please share it with friends if you can and urge them to join you):

Thank you so much!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

575 CASTRO ST. Harvey Milk Day Update

I have two exciting bits of news to share about my short film, 575 Castro St. today.

Harvey Visits the 8th Graders
First and foremost I just have to share that I had the opportunity to present the film to the 8th Grade class at Brandeis Hillel Day School this afternoon and had a fantastically inspiring experience with the kids talking about Harvey as the gay (and Jewish) hero that he was. Here in California, the law that set out May 22nd as Harvey Milk Day also encourages public schools and educational institutions to conduct suitable commemorative exercises.

In my introduction to the film I spoke a bit about who Harvey was and how had asked me to make this short film for the Milk website back in 2009; and then asked the kids to think about why Harvey was so focused on how important it is for people to come out.

I confess I brought along a box full of HRC equals sign buttons to hand out to the kids afterwards — yes, I have some political bones to pick with HRC but the ubiquitous and highly meaningful symbol was too valuable to resist. It was incredibly moving to see most of the kids pinning the buttons to their jackets and backpacks without hesitation, and to know that they and their generation are literally making the world safer for LGBT people.

For any of you California educators out there — I have a great little double-sided one-page hand out you can use to present the film to your class as a Harvey Milk Day activity next year. You can use the handout to guide the discussion and show the film directly at the 575 Castro St. page or the Sundance Screening Room YouTube page (just send me a Facebook message and I will get you the handout).

Watch at the Sundance Screening Room & Elsewhere
I’m also proud to share that there is a brand new opportunity for everyone to see the film by visiting the Sundance Screening Room YouTube page where it is being freshly showcased for Harvey Milk Day.

As always, San Franciscans and visiting tourists can view the film in the most perfect venue I could ever have imagined: The HRC Action Center & Store which is located at the now legendary address of Harvey Milk's old Castro Camera shop (yes, that would be 575 Castro St.).

Working with our awesome GLBT Historical Society the HRC folks have created a wonderful historical display about Harvey Milk and Castro Camera. A prominent part of the display is an installation of my film, 575 Castro St. exhibited on a continual loop, with a set of headphones so you can listen to the soundtrack while you watch.

Of course the most amazing thing about this is the fact that not only was my film footage shot at this address (in 2009 when it was the empty Castro Camera Store set of Gus Van Sant's Milk) but the audio of Harvey Milk talking about his wishes in the event of his assassination was also recorded in this very room (not upstairs in his apartment as fictionally depicted in Milk).

Big continuing gratitude to everyone at, the GLBT Historical Society, HRC and also the Harvey Milk Foundation for their ongoing work maintaining the legacy of Harvey Milk.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

In Defense of Vito

 My response to Mark Adnum's "Skeletons in 'The Closet'" attack on Vito Russo's The Celluloid Closet in today's Huffington Post:
Oh, Mark. This is such a willful misinterpretation of the book on so many levels. Vito's critique was of the many ways that mainstream cinema intentionally represented gay characters in limited stereotypes (it seems like you are either making an intentional effort to misunderstand his meaning or you are really just not grasping the nuance). Your implication that Vito was some kind of internalized homophobe who didn't appreciate nellyness and effeminacy is absurd. On the contrary, you leave out one of the most significant aspects of his thesis which explicitly addresses this and places him squarely as the feminist progressive he was. 
In discussing early buddy films (and specifically the relationship between John Gilbert and Lars Hanson in Flesh and the Devil) Vito writes: "The primary buddy relationships in films are those between men who despise homosexuality yet find that their truest and most noble feelings are for each other. There is a misogyny here that goes beyond simple hatred for women and things feminine. If the truly masculine man hated women — in the sense that he trusted only men as true friends — what then would be his reaction to homosexuals who are perceived to be "like" women yet are in fact male? It would be even more violent, it seems, for gays are the manifestation of what stands between men's complete love of other men and their acceptance of women as friends. Always wary that they might appear too effeminate and therefore queer (like women), men have never been granted the full emotional potential they might have had on film." 
The Celluloid Closet has become the "Bible" that it is because it was ambitious, took a broad view of the landscape, had a straightforward thesis and was brought ought widely by a mainstream publisher. Vito's fundamental objective was to draw attention to the fact that we deserved better portrayals of queer characters on screen (especially by Hollywood, hence his limited treatment of non-American films — and, as you surely know, he did address this in the second edition which includes reflections on Almodovar, von Praunheim, Visconti and other European directors). Through his life and work he made significant contributions towards that goal and deserves the respect and admiration he has earned. It's great to see you mention all these other wonderful LGBT film books which are also must-read contributions to the field (although I would also argue that Parker Tyler's approach to his material in Screening the Sexes is a taste I have yet to acquire). Subsequent (post-Celluloid Closet) titles also really worth reading include Richard Dyer's Now You See It; Ray Murray's Images In The Dark, Andrea Weiss's Vampires & Violets and Boze Hadleigh's The Lavender Screen.
Jenni Olson LGBT filmmaker and film historian (and author of The Queer Movie Poster Book and The Ultimate Guide to Lesbian & Gay Film and Video)

Sunday, March 03, 2013

TED2013: Inspired

My dear friend Tom Rielly has been urging me to attend the TED Conference since 1995. I'm very happy to say that I was finally able to attend this year (thanks to Tom's generosity, ingenuity and kindness). It really was a once in a lifetime experience which was utterly inspiring on many levels — especially creatively. I feel a renewed energy for my current film project, The Royal Road and gratitude for all the super smart and brilliant folks out there trying to make the world a better place.

Highlights of the week included the following TED Talks: the former Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm making the case for jobs and clean energy; the surprisingly smart and super articulate Bono talking about his work on global poverty reduction; photographers Sebastiao Salgado and Camille Seaman; Tesla/Solar City founder Elon Musk; the teenage scientists Taylor Wilson and Jack Andraka; L.A. urban gardening activist Ron Finley and Australian math geek Adam Spencer.

I also especially enjoyed Phil Hansen on creativity arising out of limitations; Freeman Hrabowski on education; deep sea squid researcher Edith Widder; the young Kenyan inventor Richard Turere; Mohamed Jemni's WebSigns ASL avatar translator and Alex Laskey on reducing household energy use and his organization, OPower. As well as the musical performances of the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, Amanda Palmer and Ji-Hae Park.

Most of these are not up on the TED site yet but keep an eye out for them in the coming weeks.

In addition to the amazing array of TED Talks I was especially excited to experience the TED Fellows program of up and coming thinkers, activists, artists and innovators. You can find out more about the TED Fellows program — including how to apply — right here. I also got to meet and talk with tons of interesting TED attendees. The guest list is as impressive as the line-up of speakers.

Next year's conference will take place March 17-21st in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Click thru to find out how to apply.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Family Movie Tip: The Rabbi's Cat

Just wanted to share a movie tip for January. From the awesome folks at GKids (who released the wonderful family film, A Cat in Paris) comes the US release of The Rabbi's Cat. The film is opening in San Francisco at the Landmark Theatres (click to see which theatre) and in Berkeley at the Shattuck — on January 18th. This charming, smart and funny movie is an enjoyable family film for kids 10 and up (it does have subtitles so for the younger ones you will have to do some live translation). Starring a philosophical feline who aspires to have his own bar mitzvah (so he'll be able to marry the rabbi's daughter), this hilarious film is beautifully animated and is as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. Check out the trailer below, get out to see the film on the big screen and also check out this great GKids DVD Guide for more unique family friendly movie options.