I can't ever remember not being in love with the movies. I am by no means a cinema expert, but I know that movies have always been a guilty pleasure. As a young lesbian, there were very few movies I could relate to, but I learned early to read between the lines, and find strong women wherever I could.
One early TV movie still has an impact on me today, In the Glitter Palace ( www.imdb.com/title/tt0076187/combined&, starring Barbara Hershey. It's a campy over-the-top lesbian TV movie for sure, but I can still remember watching it, at age 14, on an old tiny black-and-white TV in my bedroom.
As I grew older, slowly more films became available, including Personal Best (1982 www.imdb.com/find; and one of my all-times favorites, Desert Hearts (1985, http://www.imdb.com/find?q=Desert+Hearts+&s=all).
As Vito Russo en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vito_Russo and B. Ruby Rich www.brubyrich.com/, among others, have documented, queer cinema started to really take off around this time.
As a fan, I loved having more choices in the movies, even if there were so few good lesbian films coming out each year. As a journalist, I really can appreciate the different way a film tells a story. My first foray into non-journalism work was producing a play based on a book I wrote, Half Life www.amazon.com/The-Half-Life-Sgt-Hunter/dp/1456461923, in 2005. Bev Spangler adapted it, and we did a fun 18-show run. I thought maybe I would eventually do a movie from the story, but that proved difficult to do. (It was a story about lesbians in the pre-DADT military.)
Luckily, I happened on a project in 2008, producing a film adaptation of playwright Claudia Allen's Hannah Free hannahfree.com/. It's about two women together all their lives, separated at the end by family. Wow, what an experience that was. I learned so much, including how difficult making movies is. Well, difficult is one part of it. But mainly it is about the money. We did the film ultra low budget, but it still has not broken even. Our stars, including Sharon Gless www.sharongless.com/, are fantastic, and the film is available in North America and multiple other countries. It was a blast to do, but I thought I could never do that again.
Well, never say never. I am always up for leaping off cliffs for another challenge. This time, it's a completely different gay film, based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Ellen Stoneking, Richard Knight, Jr. and the late Timothy Imse penned the beautiful script for Scrooge & Marley, and we shot the film in May in Chicago. Acclaimed out actor David Pevsner portrays Ben Scrooge while former SNL star Tim Kazurinsky appears as the Ghost of Jacob Marley. Other stars include Rusty Schwimmer, Bruce Vilanch, Megan Cavanagh, Ronnie Kroell, David Moretti, Richard Ganoung, and JoJo Baby.
My fellow journalists are quite curious how I made this leap to movies. I am not quite sure how it worked, but I do find that it is another form of storytellingand project management similar to running a newspaper. There is payroll, actor negotiations, finding crew and equipment, finding locations, and juggling about 100 things at once for the brief shoot. It is 20-hour days and lots of food and snacks for hungry crew and cast. And if you are lucky, there is a little film magic thrown in to make it work.
We are now in post-production, and because this is a holiday movie, we have a very quick deadline. So we have launched a Christmas in July fundraising campaign through Indiegogo, and are hoping that other LGBTs, and our allies, see the value of telling our Christmas stories through a gay lens.
To support the Indiegogo campaign, see igg.me/p/124360 .
www.scroogeandmarleymovie.com is our Web site and www.facebook.com/ScroogeAndMarley is our Facebook page. We also have a benefit Thursday, July 26, 6-9 p.m. at 3160 Cabaret (3160 N. Clark), where several scenes in the movie were shot. Guests will have a chance to win exclusive Scrooge & Marley merchandise and will be treated to music from the film performed live by cabaret entertainers Becca Kaufman and Dick O'Day (alter ego of Richard Knight, Jr., co-director and co-writer of the film), who appear in the movie. The trailer and never-before-seen behind-the-scenes photos will also be shown. The event is free, but donations will be requested.
There are many new ways to make independent movies, and these online campaigns can really help put the projects over the finish line. Telling our stories is one important way we change society. Yes, we need laws, we need positive court rulings, and we need progressive political leaders. But to shift society further we also need to change the cultureand we can help do that one movie at a time.
Tracy Baim is publisher of Windy City Times. www.windycitymediagroup.com