Inside the LGBTQ Film Festival Celebration in LA – The Hollywood Reporter

1982 – when LA’s LGBTQ Film Festival was born, that same year Make love, Best personal and Victor / Victoria released – exotic content on screens is mostly scarce and what does exist is often hard to access.

Outfest’s 40th anniversary cuts this year, and gay content is easy to find on television, especially on broadcast sets, while on the cinema front, Universal will release its first studio set first with an all-LGBTQ main cast, Bros.

But even with the soaring amount of weird content accessible from one’s couch and at the multiplexer – “We have a lot to choose from in entertainment. It’s not just an indie film [anymore]’, said Outfest CEO Damien S. Navarro – LA’s weird film festival continues to hold a vibrant place in the life of Los Angeles and its LGBTQ community and is finding new ways to develop and stick with the entertainment industry.

Outfest kicked off its 40th anniversary festival last night, July 14, with the premiere of Billy Porter’s transgender story. Anything is possible. Other festival highlights – which run until July 24 and will feature more than 200 titles and 42 world premieres – include a free two-episode screening of the new Amazon Prime series A tournament of its own (July 19); documentary premiere All Man: The International Male Story (July 16); a screening of the 20th anniversary of Far from heaven starring Julianne Moore (July 17) and the film closing night Surname / Surnamea horror photo of Blumhouse set in a conversion therapy camp.

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Parade at the Orpheum on the opening night of Outfest, July 14, 2022.

Shutterstock for Outfest

In addition to all the live screenings, the 11-day festival (presented by Warner Bros. Discovery and IMDB) also includes the Trans, Nonbinary and Intersex Summit on July 23 featuring the writer. / activist Raquel Willis; a chat with horror icon Clive Barker (who is receiving Outfest’s inaugural Maverick Awards) on July 17; and a comedy night at The Ford that included Margaret Cho and River Butcher comics. “I’d say, you know, how do you fight when you’re bullied by comedy, but by comedy that gets them right back,” Navarro said, certainly referring to those Ricky Gervais’s anti-transgender comedy last year. and Dave Chappelle.

In addition to hosting a summer film festival, Outfest hosts the Outfest QTBIPOC Fusion Film Festival each spring with stories that highlight people of color; manage the free OutMuseum streaming platform; run a scripting lab; and preserving the films through its Heritage Projects program. (The first film to be preserved by Outfest was the 1986 TV series Farewell eyes starring Steve Buscemi.)

Back in 1982, Outfest started under a different name, the Gay and Lesbian Media Conference, initiated by four UCLA graduates. Over the years, its leaders and programmers have included acclaimed photographer Catherine Opie (first video programmer), Kim Yutani (now director of programming at Sundance) and Kirsten Schaffer (now is the CEO of Women in Film). In 1987, the festival opened with Mala Noche by Gus Van Sant, who said, “My entire career background comes from this festival.” Over its four decades, honorees have included everyone from Tom Hanks and Rita Moreno to Lee Daniels, Joey Soloway and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. In 2018, two-thirds of all content shown at Outfest was by filmmakers who were transgender, people of color or women.

Navarro – who joined in 2019 as chief executive officer and first person of color to head the organization – added to CHEAP about the festival’s pandemic axes, the role of a quirky film festival in 2022, and the group’s relationship with entertainment companies including Netflix.

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From left, Outfest executive director Damien S. Navarro, former festival director Larry Horne, Outfest artistic director Faridah Gbadamosi on opening night.

Shutterstock for Outfest

So, what was it like to do carnival during the first two years of the pandemic?

[During the pandemic], we are doing the drive. We were at Calamigos Ranch [in Malibu] out on the field in the beautiful forest. In fact, to this day, people still say it’s one of their favorite experiences. Last year, opening night at Hollywood Forever and we went back about 50%; we did virtual about 50%.

How does it fit into this 40th anniversary festival?

As for the show, it’s all the bells and whistles you’d hope for in a big anniversary year. We’re back with all of our nostalgic favorites, like the Ford and Ace Hotel and of course the DGA – which I will say, when I first got on board, I didn’t quite realize the magic that [the DGA] helps so many storytellers and filmmakers see their work featured there.

Looking back on the first 40 years of the festival, what are your thoughts?

You basically have four PhD students who want to create a conference and cover all topics at a time that the gay community is facing as it is getting more involved in the entertainment industry. mind. The good part is that it evolved into Outfest and all its shows and all its tentacles. The bad news is that we still have the [same] conversations. And it’s annoying, like when we look at things like upside down Roe v. Wade and anti-transgender bills and “Don’t Say Gay”. You’re like, “How the hell it’s been 40 years and our community, for all the great things we’ve done, is still coming back here, talking about inclusivity, talking about rights access, talk about our rights being taken away? “

Why does Outfest also run a streaming platform, OutMuseum?

That’s because of stories like this widower, in his 80s in the rural South, who filled out Outfest’s financial hardship form to get his free tickets online. It’s anonymous but we only ask for a little bit of information so we can track it for funding purposes. And he said, “You know, I’m married to a woman. I lost my wife. I have been closed all my life. I never knew I would have online access to something like this festival.”

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The cast of Blumhouse’s Surname / Surname, a horror film set inside a gay conversion camp; it takes place the closing night of Outfest 2022.

Blum’s house

How do you see the role of an LGBTQ film festival in 2022?

We talk about our role now serving three distinct audiences. First, it’s audiences who are craving a different kind of community experience that isn’t a bar or a nightclub. For filmmakers, they’re having a harder time than ever – so [about] programming is increasing. And finally for streamers and studios, it’s about holding them accountable and meeting their ERGs. [Employee Resource Groups] and their corporate social responsibility teams, and said, “You can’t just do a press release anymore, you’re going to support this.” We are happy to receive that resource and we will make sure it is our responsibility to ensure that it reaches the users.

Can you elaborate more on this latter point and how Outfest interacts with Hollywood?

Netflix is ​​a great example. Netflix has appeared on the headlines. Obviously there are things from their leadership that I think we would all say they could have done a lot better. But they also screened movies and distributed movies like Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, which we have many of our board members and community members behind. And they also announced this huge fund of artists in which they have publicly said, “We will be channeling millions of dollars at that time into the community to help solve a number of crises including, agency crisis. So we see this all the time with companies. You know, what’s happening here may not be what’s being reflected here. We reached out to Netflix, whom we had no support for, and invited them to bail out the entire writer lab, a show that has been around for so many years. That’s great, but one of the challenges is, you get cast in the script room, you have a mentor, you can introduce an action in your movies in some creative way. . But other than that, when we listen to what support screenwriters really need, it’s money to live in LA, to do interviews for the writing studios, to stay long enough. They cannot buy. So, starting last year, Netflix underwritten all submission fees for all content, and then we also gave away $10,000 to two of the fellows. This year, we’re giving each coworker $5,000. And the stories we heard from those two [2021] personally is that they have put their first job. They stayed here. So that’s just an example.

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