Michael McQuiggan, Programmer for FilmOut
Fernando Garcia, Co-director, "Leather and Grace"
Beth Accomando, KPBS Arts and Culture Reporter
Related Story: Midday Movies: FilmOut
CAVANAUGH: FilmOut, San Diego's LGBT film festival kicks off its 15th season tonight at the Birch Northpark theatre. Beth sat down with the programmer, Michael McQuiggan and Fernando Garcia.
ACCOMANDO: Remind us of FilmOut's origins. It grew out of a thesis project for Joe Farrelli at San Diego State University.
MCQUIGGAN: Joe started it as his thesis. I think it took a year or two for him to get nonprofit status. Once he did, he did FilmOut for two years. Then another organization from L.A. came down. Joe and I got together and we worked for them for a few years. Then we decided we wanted the control of the festival. So FilmOut was relaunched in 2004.
ACCOMANDO: And have the festival's goals changed over the years?
MCQUIGGAN: No, it's basically we just want to bring film as art sto-San Diego. That's pretty much the goal.
ACCOMANDO: And you're also striving not just to reach out to the gay community, but you would like to get a crossover audience.
MCQUIGGAN: That's correct. That's why we do the monthly films and the quarterly marathons. The monthly screenings and the marathon all-day festivals have been more successful in crossing over than the actual festival.
ACCOMANDO: What are the challenges of putting on a festival these days? People have so many more choices in terms of how they watch films.
MCQUIGGAN: Yes, it's definitely more challenging. Especially here in San Diego. If there's any shred of sunlight, people won't go to the movies during the day. And as far as LGBT cinema, every film festival in San Diego has a tract of LGBT films now. So it's not like we would just specialize and concentrate on having LGBT cinema brought to our festival. Now every festival has a gay tract. So it's all over the place now.
ACCOMANDO: So what you are looking for when you're selecting films for the festival? Is there a criteria that you follow or are you looking for a particular kind of diversity or range of films?
MCQUIGGAN: I'm also looking for diversity and range for sure. This year alone we received 350 submissions, so when I'm watching a film, I can usually tell right away if it's going to blow me away. In addition to that, I probably watched 600 films a year. So I pretty much can tell right away when something is going to fit in. And I don't like to dumb down the festival. I like to have films that are original, off the track, and in your face and actually make you could a little bit.
ACCOMANDO: So this year, how many films will you be showcasing?
MCQUIGGAN: We'll be screening 35 films over the five days from all over the world. Every genre is represented. This year, I was a little disappointed because there weren't as many horror films, but I did manage to find one short film that we're screening that is kind of in your face and has a little bit of gore and graphic violence.
ACCOMANDO: Different from that would be your opening night film, a teen comedy called GBF. Why did you pick this one?
MCQUIGGAN: It is the film that everybody -- all other LGBT film festivals are screening opening or closing night. Usually we would do something for a big splashy comedy for a centerpiece, but there's been so much positive buzz for this film that we decided to -- we're trying to reach out to our younger demographic. So we're hoping that this film will bring the 20-year-old audience to the actual festival.
ACCOMANDO: Let's hear a little bit.
(Audio Recording Played)
NEW SPEAKER: The hottest new trends sweeping schools worldwide is the GBF.
NEW SPEAKER: GBF?
NEW SPEAKER: Gay best friend! Every celebre has one, so every teen girl needs one! And pretty soon all the frontrunners will be battling it out for my attention.
ACCOMANDO: You also show locally made films. Tell me about leather and grace.
MCQUIGGAN: I always want to support local San Diegan filmmakers. Everyone in the cast is pretty much recognizable from the San Diego LGBT scene, so I wanted that right away.
ACCOMANDO: I wanted to play a little bit of the video. Before I do, I'd like to get Fernando Garcia who is the director of the film to get us a description of the star in this who is Grace Towers, a local icon here in San Diego. And because we're on radio, I'd like to know if you could give us a description of what she's like.
GARCIA: I describe her as an androgynous drag artist. One of her prominent features is that she has a beard and I think that's very distinct. She's bald. So she'll typically have like a faux-hawk hair-do, and various color styles, gold, red, platinum. And it's very tight outfits, leather, short shorts, harnesses. And of course the high heels and the boots.
(Audio Recording Played)
GARCIA: It's kind of a music video that incorporates her artist abilities to dance, and we also incorporated some bit of a story or narrative. It's literally a story about an uptight guy but in a shirt and tie, businessman who walks into a leather bar. So here comes Grace who kind of reels him into the bathroom to give him sort of a rehabilitation.
(Audio Recording Played)
ACCOMANDO: When you were directing this, what kind of a visual look or style did you want the video to have?
GARCIA: I was trying to go for a much lighter tone than what I'm used to seeing from other leather BDSM oriented videos. I noticed that there was some common trend to want to portray that very overall sexual and just dark and deviant. And I wanted to show this to my parent, like my mom, so I wanted to not go that route.
ACCOMANDO: It also seems to have a very high glamor slick look to it also.
GARCIA: Yeah, a lot of it is also from Grace's input. She likes to be colorful, she likes to flare out.
ACCOMANDO: Yes, she does.
GARCIA: We did a segment where she gathered dozens of her friends, and we all spray painted them in black and we laid them out on the floor and here comes Grace spray painted in gold.
ACCOMANDO: Michael, FilmOut is going to be giving a posthumous award to someone who shocked America repeatedly with a series of audacious wars in John Waters films, Devine. Why did you decide to give this out this year?
MCQUIGGAN: This year, I was, like, from the films we're showing, there has to be some kind of a tie-in. We did approach John waters but he wanted $10,000. So let's just go with Devine. So we're just going to present that to the producer of the film prior to the screening.
ACCOMANDO: And the film you are showing is a documentary, I am Devine.
MCQUIGGAN: It's Jeffrey Schwartz, who directed the documentary based on William Castle. It's just interviews with family members, coworkers, people that worked with him, knew him, and actual footage of Devine himself. And it just goes from childhood up to his death.
ACCOMANDO: Let's hear a little scene from the documentary. This is a montage of people trying to sum up Devine.
NEW SPEAKER: Devine was dangerous. Part outlaw, part serial killer.
NEW SPEAKER: Who wants to die for us!
NEW SPEAKER: I do!
NEW SPEAKER: She was sexy and monstrous and terrifying.
NEW SPEAKER: He was breaking the rules of drag and defying them by wearing stuff people would never wear. He took it to a level of an earthquake.
NEW SPEAKER: I am Devine!
ACCOMANDO: How did you first get introduced to Devine, and what impact did that have on your life?
MCQUIGGAN: Oh, this is kind of fun. Believe it or not, the person that I knew first from the whole John Waters troupe was Edith Massey. I was in high school, and I kept reading all these articles on the egg lady and what not, and I didn't put anything together. But the first John Waters film that I saw was Polyester in the theatre with some girlfriends of mine. And from then on, I was hooked. I was sneak out at night, drive into Boston and go see Pink Flamingos, and Desperate Living.
ACCOMANDO: And Odorama, which is where you would scratch and sniff during the film.
MCQUIGGAN: If we were able to acquire 20,000 card, we would have screened Polyester. Someday, maybe.
ACCOMANDO: What do you think Devine's impact was on mainstream society? Eventually with films like Hairspray, she got better known.
MCQUIGGAN: Everyone that I knew in high school and college, and my friends were all straight, and they were into Devine as much as I was. So I think there's more of an iconic impact now, 25 years later than at the time. I think Hairspray crossed out, and then some other films started push that way in that direction. So it's almost hip to know who Devine is now.
ACCOMANDO: As more gay films are being made, films and festivals are better able to deal with issues that might be divisive in the community. Cruising raised a lot of complaints about its depiction of gay leather bars. Now James Franco and Travis Matthews revisit this film.
MCQUIGGAN: In 1980 when they were filming, there was supposedly 40 minutes of hardcore footage that was shot and it was lost. So Franco and Matthews decided to reimagine what those 40 minutes might be. It's interesting, and we're screening it with Fernando's film, and we're also screening it with two other short films that night, adults only, and ritual. So it's going to be a nice 18-plus 10:00 PM to midnight screening. We have Fetish Men SD bringing their whole organization to the screening. So it's going to be a little bit of insanity. And there'll be a Q and A after.
ACCOMANDO: And are there any other films that you might want to highlight some something that might get lost in the shuffle?
MCQUIGGAN: One of my favorite films for the festival this year is Jane Clark's Methhead. It's brutally honest, it's incredible, it's well-directed, and it's the most honest depiction of meth abuse and addiction that I've ever seen.
(Audio Recording Played)
NEW SPEAKER: Look at my baby brother. His insides are rotting because he's been smoking and sorting, God knows what else. He can put cleaning fluid in his body. And on top of that, he's detoxing. That alone would have killed a stronger person. But he's clean. He's finally clean. I wish that you guys would just give him a fighting chance to stay that way.
MCQUIGGAN: That's actually playing right before. So there's going to be some pretty powerful screenings.
ACCOMANDO: What are film festivals like this for you as a filmmaker?
GARCIA: Yeah, completely, totally. This is a great opportunity to have a project filmed to the larger community. And it's -- for people to get to see it and have a fun time.
ACCOMANDO: Will Grace be there?
GARCIA: For Grace Towers who is the alter ego for Anthony Diaz who is the codirector of the music video, she's actually having a ball up in San Francisco at a place where she's able to fully express her artistic abilities with other artists as well. I'm sad she won't be able to attend the premiere. But I guess I'll try to represent her.
ACCOMANDO: I'll miss her not being there, she was the inspiration for Deconstruction of a Drag Queen, and she's quite amazing. Thank you both for being on the show.