Michael McQuiggan, Programmer, FilmOut San Diego
James Valdez, Filmmaker, "Fallen Comrade"
Related Story: 14th Annual LGBT Film Festival Kicks Off Wednesday
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. San Diego's 14th annual LGBT film Festival called Film Out opens this week. Since last year's festival the don't ask don't tell policy in the military has been repealed. A federal appeals court struck down prop eight and Pres. Obama has announced his support of same-sex marriage. Here to tell us how this momentous year for the gay community is being reflected in this year's Film Out selections are my guests. Michael McQuiggan of Film Out San Diego is my guest. Hi, Michael, good to see you.
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Good to see you too.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And James Valdez is a filmmaker from San Diego director of the short film Fallen Comrade is here. Hi, James.
JAMES VALDEZ: Hey, what's going on.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Michael it's been as I say a big year for the gay community how was the festival making, how are you marking these events?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Well this year it's been a little bit nuts because the last festival was only nine months ago. So we've done two festivals within a year. So, we move the festival up from August to this May because well, you know anytime there is the slightest bit of sun in San Diego, people will go to the beach instead of going to the movies. So, we moved it up to me after Memorial Day so we figured most people would be in town and then they could come to the movies since it is hopefully, I'm counting on May gray.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay all right. Now I know last year the festival faced some financial challenges. How is the sponsorship of Film Out doing this year?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: The sponsorship is up this year because we have some really motivated board members who were committed in helping us raise additional sponsorship dollars. So we are happy to say that we're going in to the festival with a surplus.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, wow, okay so it has really turned around.
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: It has.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So the festival opens Wednesday with Cloudburst if you could tell us a little bit about this film I know that it boasts talented veteran actresses.
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Cloudburst stars Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker. Essentially it is a road movie about these two senior citizen one that is in a nursing home and Olympia Dukakis goes to break Brenda Fricker out of the nursing home. They decide they're going to drive to Canada where same-sex marriage is legal and along the way they pick up a hitchhiker. It is about pretty much a road movie about what happens on this journey. It is really funny. It's really raunchy and every four letter word that you can imagine comes out of Olympia Dukakis's mouth.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This surprises me.
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Yeah it's really entertaining and it's really well done and I had to beg to get it and I'm very proud that I did.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Very good and you also be showing Sordid Lives at the festival this is an older female was made in 2000 why did you choose that?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: We do, we screen monthly films and Sordid Lives is one of the most requested titles, so it was always in the back of my mind that we were going to screen it at some point. Additionally we also always like to honor a filmmaker with a lifetime achievement award and so well I thought maybe let's see if Jill Shores, the writer-director of Sordid Lives was available he was so we decided to honor him with a lifetime achievement award and then we like to screen one of their films and of course Sordid Lives is a huge cult favorite and so that's where we went with that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what guests do you have coming?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Well it is hosted by an A-list female impersonator called Dixie Longator, who is a really funny stand up comedian and in addition to that she's also the number one Tupperware salesperson in the United States.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: No way!
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: So she incorporates that into her act. So she's going to doing our show, and then we're going to award, honor Jill with this award and then we have cast members Beth Grant, Ann Walker, Rosemary Alexander from the cast of Sordid Lives attending too. So that will be a really fun night.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there any connection between Tupperware and Sordid Lives?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Well no not that I'm aware of. There might be, well I will say it's kind of trailer trashy, so maybe there might be some Tupperware in a scene that I'm not aware of.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Gotcha. Now you like to mix old titles and new titles. Why do you like to do that?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: I always want to show something that is at least a decade old so that it can be experienced by a new audience. So there are a lot of people I'm sure have seen Sordid Lives on DVD but I'm sure have never seen it with an audience in a theater. I like to do that every year to bring some old-school back to the festival as well.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay now there will be some San Diego filmmakers present. You will be screening That's What She Said from the San Diego-based company Daisy three pictures. The film played at Sundance earlier this year. Can you tell us a little bit about the film and the history this company has with Film Out?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Sure, the company was started by Carrie Preston is also the director and she's one of the leads on True Blood. And it's also executive produced by Mark Holmes and James Vasquez and they've probably made about four or five films between the three of them and we've screened off than I filled out. He was in Ready, Okay, Feet of Clay and 29th and Gay. And so that's what she said we were lucky to get because it is fresh from Sundance and it's really raunchy. It's really funny. It takes place in 24 hours in New York City about two best friends and the women they meet along the way during the night and it is basically, it's not really an LGBT film per se. There are some supporting characters that are lesbian in it, but we just want to support local San Diego film makers.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: They were on the show before the film went to Sundance and very excited about it. It's a big deal.
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: It is
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And part of the festical is showing a short film Fallen Comrade by James Valdez and here he is. James, so this is your first film. Tell us what it's about.
JAMES VALDEZ: Yeah it is I guess my first film. Well this is a story about the bond between two soldiers and kind of the impact after one soldier is lost in combat.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: No, I'm just, and what motivated you to make this film?
JAMES VALDEZ: Well I'm also a soldier, besides a film student. I served four years active duty and I'm in the reserves. And when I was deployed I lost a friend when I was deployed and it kind of opened my eyes to kind of see that some of these soldiers stories should be told, so the story is actually a mix between fiction and also experiences that I've had in the service.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, when you, as a former soldier, when you see, before we hear a scene from your movie, when you see movies about war and combat and things of that nature, do you say well, that's really well done. Or are they often missing something?
JAMES VALDEZ: Sometimes both. Also being kind of like in the film world, too, I'm like well that's not really how that works, where you can see tactically where a film kind of emphasized in something that is correct or if they just kind of fake it. That's kind of the benefits of being on both sides.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And we do have a scene, here so let's hear seen between two soldiers in James Valdez's film Fallen Comrade.
SOLDIER 1: What's up?
SOLDIER 2: Just checking up on him. How is your foot?
SOLDIER 1: I've been worse.
SOLDIER 2: You're going to be fine. I can tell.
SOLDIER 1: That's your dog tags, they smoke guys for that
SOLDIER 2: Really?
SOLDIER 1: I don't wear them. I'm a soldier, not a dog.
SOLDIER 2: You really think that (inaudible) I think they make me feel more like a soldier if anything.
SOLDIER 1: Right.
SOLDIER 2: (Inaudible)? I'm Alex.
SOLDIER 1: Julian.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's a scene from the short film fallen comrade directed by my guest James felt as and I'm speaking with James Valadez and Michael McQuiggan of Film Out San Diego and we are talking about the 14th annual LGBT film Festival that starts on Wednesday here in San Diego. Now as I said in introducing you, James, you're from San Diego but you shop this in LA. Was it difficult to make?
JAMES VALDEZ: I had challenges, yeah. We shot it in four days back to back.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Four days?
JAMES VALDEZ: Yeah, and also we were geographically kind of follow for the place. But, yeah it was fun. I think the biggest challenge might've been just making sure I guess kind of making sure everyone is accounted for once again from one location and making sure we are all on the other one.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Great, just the logistics of it, right?
JAMES VALDEZ: Yeah.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Your active duty in the military you are now a reservist did you have to get clearance from the military to make this film?
JAMES VALDEZ: Actually had to get some sense of clearance, yeah. I did have to reach out to Army public affairs in Los Angeles to make sure that I wouldn't be going beyond any sort of things that I'm not supposed to do or anything like that. Yeah, so I did have to reach out to make sure that everything in there is things I could do and resources I can use.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So, what is it that you wanted to tell this particular story? Is this something that has been overlooked by other filmmakers?
JAMES VALDEZ: I think so because we never really see or experience kind of relationship between two soldiers in the ranks. And I guess what I wanted to do is kind of explore that and hopefully in the future I can delve into in the future or something but yeah.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How important is it for you to screen at a festival like this?
JAMES VALDEZ: It's really important to me for this being my first film, it's really interesting to hear audience feedback and their reactions and I really, like, this is our third film Festival that we are going to play at and it's really cool.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to go back to Michael for a minute. Earlier this year we had sort of a discussion on our website about whether there's even a need for film festivals that focus on a particular ethnicity or a particular culture. Can you think of a time when the LGBT community is so well represented in the film community that you don't need something like Film Out?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: No, Film Out will always have to be here in San Diego, otherwise I would say of all, we are showing 40 films over the five days and I think maybe I know That's What She Said got distribution, but more than likely these films won't get any theatrical exposure in San Diego. So we will keep the festival as long as people keep coming, the festival will always be in San Diego.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now are there any other titles that you would like to highlight, perhaps a smaller film that might get lost in the shuffle during this festival?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Definitely our closing night film is a world premiere called Nate and Margaret and it's about a relationship between a 19-year-old gay man and a 52-year-old straight woman. And it's based, you know, the woman is trying to become a stand up comedian and he is just experiencing his first time telling and left. So it's about that. So it's a comedy drama, and we are proud to have the well-prepared that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I know that you're a big genre films and then you've been very ambitious in your programming outside of the film festival itself. You are doing 12 hour film marathons on horror and sci-fi. Most of these events not only carried her to the audience the Film Out but also reach out to what is perhaps you could say is a broader mainstream audience. Why is that important for you to do?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: It's important because they want to you know just keep branding the name filled out and we want to offer in addition to the LGBT film Festival we want to offer San Diego all different types of genre filmmaking because there really aren't too many theaters here in San Diego that showcase Chandra filmmaking. So when we do the sci-fi or the hour or the monthly films, we kind of crossover. So we're kind of just looking for film to kind of Brandon bring out all types of people.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Them actually that was actually started by San Diegan Joe Fraley who started as a thesis project at SDSU. Is he still involved?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: You know he was my mentor and he's a good friend of mine and I probably, we talk a few times a week and for sure text message and any time that I'm in a crisis I can call Joe and I'm like help me, what do I do with this? So yeah he still involved.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What you see in the future of Film Out? Any changes or new additions?
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Ultimately I would like the festival to keep growing as far as the number of days. My goal is that it should be a 10 day festival. So hopefully when the economy bounces back in a year or two or maybe sooner we will be able to have a 10 day festival or I should probably say we can eventually go to 10 days.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay all right. Well I've been speaking with Michael McQuiggan of Film Out San Diego. James Valadez who was the director of the short film Fallen Comrade and that's going to be screened at Film Out San Diego. The 14th annual film festival begins on May 30 and it runs through June 3 and you can see the films at the Birch theater in North Park I want to thank you both very much.
MICHAEL McQUIGGAN: Thank you.