FilmOut's 13th Season Is Underway- What's New?
San Diego's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival
FilmOut, San Diego's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival, kicked off its 13th season over the weekend at the Birch North Park Theater and there have been some changes. The festival has moved from April to August, has added workshops, gave out its first Lifetime Achievement Award, and is now spread over two consecutive weekends.
FilmOut began in 1999 as the thesis project of SDSU grad student Joe Ferrelli. Last year the festival attracted 6000 attendees and screened dozens of shorts, features, and documentaries. This year, the festival hopes to increase those numbers as it screens 60 titles. This past Sunday, FilmOut gave its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award to director Randal Kleiser. His groundbreaking 1996 film "It's My Party" had a 15th anniversary screening followed by a Q&A and then an acting and directing workshop.
On Friday, there will be a focus on horror, something festival programmer Michael McQuiggan has made a regular part of FilmOut since "Hellbent" created such a stir back in 2004. McQuiggan says that horror films like "Zombies of Mass Destruction," have attracted the largest crossover crowds at the festival. This year, "Earthlings" and "Bite Marks" will represent the horror genre.
Coming up on Sunday, there will be a shorts program featuring the experimental film "Alone," made by Russell Sheaffer, who got the filmmaking bug while at San Marcos High School. He made "Alone" while in the masters program at NYU. The film is silent and was shot on 16mm black and white film. He says he made the film after moving to New York and feeling very isolated in the big city.
Another short screening this coming Sunday is "Johnny and Lyman: A Life Together." Filmmaker Paul Detwiler was initially interested in making a documentary on John Dapper and Lyman Hallowell because they had both worked in Hollywood during the studio heyday. But as he got to know them he was impressed by their successful long-term but non-traditional relationship. So the film ended up as a portrait of their relationship and a documentary advocating social change.
The closing night film on Sunday is "The Green." Jason Butler Harner stars as Michael, an English teacher at a private high school. But his life is turned upside down when he's accused of "inappropriate behavior" with a male student.
Russell Sheaffer is the director of the experimental short, "Alone," screening Sunday at FilmOut. He grew up in San Diego and made the film while in the masters program at NYU. He is about to start the PhD program in communications and culture at Indiana University.
Paul Detwiler is the director of "Johnny and Lyman: A Life Together," screening Sunday at FilmOut. He came out to San Diego from the Bay Area to attend grad school at SDSU, and has been a Marine Science Instructor at San Diego Mesa College for the past 5 years.
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CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. The Film Out film festival is going through some changes in its thirteenth year here in San Diego. Its focus is still on movies by and about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, but the timing is different. Film Out usually runs in April for one week. This year, the festival is taking place in August and run enforce two weekends. And Film Out will honor its first lifetime achievement award winner this year. Joining me to talk about the changes and movies, are my guests, programmer are Film Out, Michael McQuiggan.
CAVANAUGH: Russell Sheaffer is the director of an experimental short, alone, which is screening Sunday at Film Out. Hi Russell.
SHEAFFER: How's it going?
CAVANAUGH: And Paul Detwiler is the director of Johnny and Lyman, a life together. It's also screening on Sunday. Hi Paul.
DETWILER: Good afternoon.
CAVANAUGH: Michael, what was the turn out like for the opening weekend for Film Out?
MCQUIGGAN: We were probably off about 30% from last year when we had the festival in April.
CAVANAUGH: And is that because people didn't know to look for it in August?
MCQUIGGAN: No, we have had a lot of promotion. So I don't think it was that. I actually think that it was the month of August that people didn't attend as much as we thought -- we had hoped to attend.
CAVANAUGH: I see. Why did you originally make the changes to move it to August from April and to make it on two weekends?
MCQUIGGAN: Finance. We push today back a few months because it takes about $75,000 to produce the festival. And we needed to raise more sponsorship money. So that's why we decided to push it back into August and not compete with any other film festivals that happened to be going on at the same time in the U.S.
CAVANAUGH: I see. So far that strategy --
MCQUIGGAN: I think having 80-degree weather all weekend was the factor why people stayed away for at least the films that were during the day. The evening films seemed to do well. Upon the lifetime achievement award did well, and opening night did okay. That was my first sign that we were a little off, when opening night didn't sellout.
CAVANAUGH: You mentioned that you have a new thing this year. You have given out a lifetime achievement award. To whom did this first lifetime achievement award go?
MCQUIGGAN: We've been wanting to do a lifetime achievement award for a few years. But we were never sure who we should honor first. What happened was this year, one of our sponsors is mom's pharmacy, and they deal with HIV drugs. So their a major sponsor, and they wanted us to include a film that dealt specifically with HIV and AIDS, and the film that I chose was it's my party. And it just so happened that it was having its fifteenth year anniversary. And just by chance, one of our other sponsors, live magazine, based in Palm Springs, had a contact with Ronald Kleiser, they contacted him, and he responded immediately, accepted, and that took maybe 48 hours to put together.
CAVANAUGH: And really brings a lot to the festival to have an award ceremony like that. In addition to the other successful films, Mike, I know that horror films seem to be a really good crossover genre for Film Out. Why do you think that is?
MCQUIGGAN: I wasn't sure about that initially. We started doing horror in 2004. And the horror films are doing really well. We would have more of a crossover audience. Sole we continued to show -- at least one or maybe two counting shorts every year since then, and they do really well. So this year we did two features.
CAVANAUGH: Ah, ha. And I know that you're screening some horror films this weekend. Is that right?
MCQUIGGAN: Yeah, I'm excited. This Friday we're showing two. One is called bite marks, and it's a vampire comedy. A lot of gore. If you're into the blood and gore, you'll have a good time and laugh your ass off. And the second film is more geared toward Sci-fi, but there are elements of horror in it, and a little bit of gore. And it's a beautiful film, well shot, well directed and acted. And it's one of my favorite films at the festival.
CAVANAUGH: You're talking about earthling?
CAVANAUGH: We saw clip from earthling. A young woman named Judy tries to understand mysterious things that have been happening to her since she lost her unborn child in a car crash. She experiences strange connections to other people she's never met before, but they seem to know her.
(Audio Recording Played).
CAVANAUGH: That's a clip from earthling that is screening on Friday at Film Out. The film festival here in San Diego. Now, Film Out is showcasing some student and local San Diego work on Sunday. Let me bring in filmmaker Russell Shaffer. His short experimental film is called alone. Alone is shot in black and white, and it's a silent film. Why did you make those choices for this movie?
SHEAFFER: I think digital filmmaking has its huge perks that are coming about in the industry. And it allows filmmakers, independent filmmakers to make material that wouldn't otherwise be made. I just finished directing a documentary called the forgetting game. And that wouldn't have been possible. But alone came out of a time when I just moved to New York, and there are people everywhere, but it's very lonely. And I was sitting in a class, and they handed us a role of film and a camera and said go shoot a film. And I saiding oohing, I want to take this film that I'm having and translate that and create an experimental narrative where you could just remove all the extraneous details.
SHEAFFER: And so color wasn't important, sound wasn't important. And so by removing those elements of traditional film making, I was able technically to create the same feeling, hopefully. And you can watch the film and decide for yourself.
CAVANAUGH: Right. That's a wonderful explanation though. I wonder what do you like about showcasing your film at an LGBT festival like Film Out?
SHEAFFER: I have to say, I think the support system that's set up in queer film festivals like Film Out, and the other ones that have hosted alone so far has been phenomenal. It's such a great place to experiment for me, and to really put your film in an environment that's just really supportive. And in a community that's really supportive. And I've got to give credit to Film Out and other film festivals like Film Out that provide that environment for their film makers.
CAVANAUGH: For a young film maker that's starting out and trying to take risks the way you did with this film, it's good to have that kind of support.
SHEAFFER: It's phenomenal.
CAVANAUGH: Paul Detwiler, you teach marine biology at Mesa College. You thought you'd be making a nature documentary, but you wound up with this documentary called Johnny and Lyman, a life together. It's about a couple who have been together for more than a half a century. We do have a clip of this film. In this clip, they discuss what makes for a successful relationship.
(Audio Recording Played).
CAVANAUGH: That's a clip from the documentary Johnny and Lyman. A life together. Director is Paul Detwiler. He's here with us. We're talking about the Film Out festival. Would you say that your film advocates for social change?
DETWILER: I wouldn't say advocates as much as presents the audience with a situation they can critically evaluate. And maybe cast light on the situation they may not our or perspective they may not have considered. So in a way, I have a point of view in the film, of course. But it's for the audience to decide how to respond to it.
CAVANAUGH: How did you meet Johnny and Lyman?
DETWILER: Oh, a mutual friend of ours had friends that lived in the same apartment complex in the uptown district. And he came to us and he said you've got to talk to these guys. These guys went through the -- they worked all through the Hollywood studio city, with Ellie Kavan, with Joshua Logan, with Coppola, they're so interesting. And in the course of interviewing and talking to them, we found really the story with -- that really had the most bearing on what we wanted to do was their story of their relationship.
CAVANAUGH: Right, right Johnny and Lyman, along with the film from Russell Shaffer, Alone, both screen on Sunday, at Film Out. Michael, let me go back to you. As Film Out grows, this is the thirteenth year, are you finding a more diverse selection of films to choose from?
MCQUIGGAN: Oh, yeah. This year, my assistant programmer, Anna pines and I, received over I think 325 submissions from all over the world. And pretty much every genre is represented. Always. Of this year, they're trying to seem to be -- they trends seem to be romantic comedies. So that was a lot of our programming this year. But every genre is represented at Film Out.
CAVANAUGH: How do you sort through all that?
MCQUIGGAN: I've been doing this for so long that I figured -- I think I watch about 600 movies a year, including short films. So I watch every single movie from beginning to end so that I can say I've actually watched it. So what happens I just -- I can usually tell within the first 30 minutes of feature films if it's something that the San Diego audience will connect with. Of but I'm also looking at -- I'm constantly looking at other film festivals all over the world to see what films they have selected, and if it's something that hasn't been on a radar, they send it to me and we send in a screener.
CAVANAUGH: I don't want to leave out the in fact that Film Out also has workshops. You had a workshop with your well of time achievement award winner. You also have other workshops along with the screenings of the films. Why?
MCQUIGGAN: For us, we're lucky because woo have our film festival at the birch Northpark theatre in Northpark, and they have a lot of rooms upstairs that we can use for workshops and lectures and so it's -- in the past when we have had workshops, at other. Includes. In the past people had to drive to the workshops, but here roots right there. You can just walk upstairs. So usually the workshops are always well attends, and that makes the film makers and the actors happy. A lot of the -- want to connect with the filmmakers and actors and ask them questions. And the one we had this past weekend went extremely well.
CAVANAUGH: That's part of the film festival importance right?
CAVANAUGH: I want to tell everyone San Diego's lesbian gay, bisexual, and transgender film festival continues this Sunday at the Birch Northpark theatre.