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Patrick Sammon on Codebreaker, his film about Alan Turing
MOVIES
by Victor Salvo
2013-03-29

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The award-winning docudrama Codebreaker will have its first officially sponsored private screening in Chicago April 9 at the AMC River East 21 Theater. The screening is a benefit for the Legacy Project, the Queer Film Society and Reeling.

Codebreaker tells the story of Alan Turing, the gay man credited with breaking the Nazi's "Enigma Code" to bring about the defeat of Adolf Hitler. Turing is also regarded as "the father of Computer Science."

Since being originally aired on British Channel 4 in the United Kingdom in 2011, Codebreaker has been seen by more than 2 million people worldwide through television broadcasts, special screenings, film festivals and a limited release in U.S. theaters. The award-winning docudrama Codebreaker will have its first officially sponsored private screening in Chicago April 9 at the AMC River East 21 Theater. The screening is a benefit for the Legacy Project, the Queer Film Society and Reeling.

Codebreaker tells the story of Alan Turing, the gay man credited with breaking the Nazi's "Enigma Code" to bring about the defeat of Adolf Hitler, who is also regarded as "the father of Computer Science." Since being originally aired on British Channel 4 in the United Kingdom in 2011, Codebreaker has been seen by more than 2 million people worldwide through television broadcasts, special screenings, film festivals and a limited release in U.S. theaters. Earlier this year, the film was nominated for Outstanding Documentary in the 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.

Victor Salvo—executive director of Chicago's Legacy Project, which is responsible for the Legacy Walk installation on North Halsted Street in Lakeview—recently had a chance to chat with Patrick Sammon, the film's creator and executive producer, who will attend the April 9 screening and participate in a special Q&A afterward. Sammon is president of Story Center Productions, LLC, a film production company in Washington, D.C.

He started his career as an award-winning television news reporter at two CBS television affiliates. After moving to Washington, he worked at Manifold Productions, a documentary production company based in Maryland. Before launching Story Center Productions, Sammon was president of Log Cabin Republicans, which advocates for gay rights in the Republican Party on behalf of its 20,000 members, from late 2006 until early 2009.

Victor Salvo: Hi, Patrick! I'm so delighted to get a chance to catch up before the screening. I wanted to thank you again for working so closely with us all these months to bring Codebreaker to Chicago for this special premiere.

Patrick Sammon: Hi, Victor! I'm really looking forward to presenting this important film to the LGBT community in Chicago. I'm pleased to be working with the Queer Film Society, the Legacy Project and Reeling on this special screening event. Chicago is an especially relevant place to feature Codebreaker. With Alan Turing featured on the Legacy Walk, I hope this film can further highlight his important story.

Victor Salvo: Absolutely. As you know, Turing was the inspiration for the Legacy Walk back in 1999, when I first read about him in Time Magazine. When I heard about the film and your passion for the man and this project, I knew we were kindred spirits. How did you first come to know about Alan Turing?

Patrick Sammon: I first came across Turing's story way back in 2004 at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. They had a very small display about Turing. His story immediately struck a chord with me. I put his name in a file folder full of film ideas that I was collecting. By the time I went to open my own production company in early 2009, my folder probably had 100 ideas in it. Turing's story quickly rose to the top of the pile.

Victor Salvo: That's understandable—it is an amazing story. But you weren't really a filmmaker. What motivated you to take on the difficult task of making a film about him?

Patrick Sammon: I was motivated to make the film for three reasons: First, it is an incredible story—something almost hard to believe. Second, it's an important story that everyone should know and appreciate. And third, I saw a market opportunity because there really hadn't been a film like this done about Turing's life and legacy.

Victor Salvo: Which is surprising, given his story's dramatic arc. But perhaps not, if you consider how history has mostly ignored Turing. What were the biggest challenges you encountered trying to get the film made?

Patrick Sammon:I decided in the middle of 2009 that I would try to get this film made. Eventually I brought on a London production partner. In the spring of 2011, Channel 4 in the United Kingdom got behind the project. I lived in London for six months during the production. It was an exciting process to get the film made. The hardest part was the financing—as with most business ventures.

Victor Salvo: You can certainly see British filmmaking's artistic sensibility in the production. Where did your most unexpected support come from?

Patrick Sammon: It has been encouraging to get strong corporate support to help get this film in front of audiences. Since Turing is the father of computer science, some leading technology companies wanted to get behind the project. Their support was pivotal in getting this film completed.

Victor Salvo: I was surprised—but delighted—to see Apple's Steve Wozniak in the film. I'm thrilled to see their willingness to embrace Turing publicly. What has been the general public's reaction to the film?

Patrick Sammon: The film has gotten a great reaction—all across the globe. More than two million people around the world have seen the film so far through television broadcasts, film festivals, special screenings and a limited release of the film in US theaters. GLAAD nominated Codebreaker for Outstanding Documentary in this year's GLAAD Media Awards.

Victor Salvo: That's wonderful—and certainly deserved. Have you encountered any resistance or rejection from people because of the film's message?

Patrick Sammon: There hasn't been any rejection of the film's message. You can't watch the film and not be affected by Turing's story. He's a great inspiration. One of a kind. Viewers appreciate his amazing contribution to our modern world and helping turn the tide of World War II. And viewers are also infuriated by the way Turing was treated. His life was destroyed because of Britain's intolerance for gay people. It's a terrible tragedy and a grave injustice.

Victor Salvo: I think people who don't know what happened will be horrified. Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers who want to take on LGBT content?

Patrick Sammon: LGBT people are often deleted from history. It's important for these stories to be told and appreciated. Filmmaking is a difficult path. Aspiring filmmakers need to bring an appreciation for the business side of filmmaking. Unfortunately, it's not enough just to have a great idea. You need to understand dollars and cents. And you need to have a clear strategy for building an audience.

Victor Salvo: You certainly do. My best friend, Richard Knight Jr.—who is the president of one of our hosting co-sponsors, the Queer Film Society—was the director of the gay version of A Christmas Carol called Scrooge & Marley, which, it so happens, was co-produced by Tracy Baim, owner of Windy City Times. That came out a month after the Legacy Walk was dedicated. Richard and I were both working on our respective projects at the same time so I got to see the mechanics of filmmaking close-up. It is all so amazingly complicated and costly. I really admire what you have achieved with Codebreaker. Do you have any plans for another film?

Patrick Sammon: Yes. I'm working on several ideas now. Most of my time is still spent distributing Codebreaker. However, I have started developing other ideas. Some are documentary ideas. And others are dramatic narratives. I can't give details yet, but stay tuned for the next chapter!

Victor Salvo: Can't wait! Looking forward to seeing you on April 9!

Chicago's Legacy Walk is home to the only bronze commemoration of Alan Turing's life and legacy in the world that actually says he was a gay man. The film screening came about because of Patrick Sammon's awareness of the plaque and Salvo's interest in the film.

Codebreaker will be screened for one night only on Tuesday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the AMC River East Theater 21, 322 E. Illinois St. Admission is $20.

Tickets to support the work of the Legacy Project, the Queer Film Society and Reeling are available only online, in advance. Go to legacyprojectchicago.org/Codebreaker_Sponsors.html for more information.

Earlier this year, the film was nominated for Outstanding Documentary in the 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.

Victor Salvo—executive director of Chicago's Legacy Project, which is responsible for the Legacy Walk installation on North Halsted Street in Lakeview—recently had a chance to chat with Patrick Sammon, the film's creator and executive producer, who will attend the April 9 screening and participate in a special Q&A afterward. Sammon is president of Story Center Productions, LLC, a film production company in Washington, D.C.

He started his career as an award-winning television news reporter at two CBS television affiliates. After moving to Washington, he worked at Manifold Productions, a documentary production company based in Maryland. Before launching Story Center Productions, Sammon was president of Log Cabin Republicans, which advocates for gay rights in the Republican Party on behalf of its 20,000 members, from late 2006 until early 2009.

Victor Salvo: Hi, Patrick! I'm so delighted to get a chance to catch up before the screening. I wanted to thank you again for working so closely with us all these months to bring Codebreaker to Chicago for this special premiere.

Patrick Sammon: Hi, Victor! I'm really looking forward to presenting this important film to the LGBT community in Chicago. I'm pleased to be working with the Queer Film Society, the Legacy Project and Reeling on this special screening event. Chicago is an especially relevant place to feature Codebreaker. With Alan Turing featured on the Legacy Walk, I hope this film can further highlight his important story.

Victor Salvo: Absolutely. As you know, Turing was the inspiration for the Legacy Walk back in 1999, when I first read about him in Time Magazine. When I heard about the film and your passion for the man and this project, I knew we were kindred spirits. How did you first come to know about Alan Turing?

Patrick Sammon: I first came across Turing's story way back in 2004 at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. They had a very small display about Turing. His story immediately struck a chord with me. I put his name in a file folder full of film ideas that I was collecting. By the time I went to open my own production company in early 2009, my folder probably had 100 ideas in it. Turing's story quickly rose to the top of the pile.

Victor Salvo: That's understandable—it is an amazing story. But you weren't really a filmmaker. What motivated you to take on the difficult task of making a film about him?

Patrick Sammon: I was motivated to make the film for three reasons: First, it is an incredible story—something almost hard to believe. Second, it's an important story that everyone should know and appreciate. And third, I saw a market opportunity because there really hadn't been a film like this done about Turing's life and legacy.

Victor Salvo: Which is surprising, given his story's dramatic arc. But perhaps not, if you consider how history has mostly ignored Turing. What were the biggest challenges you encountered trying to get the film made?

Patrick Sammon:I decided in the middle of 2009 that I would try to get this film made. Eventually I brought on a London production partner. In the spring of 2011, Channel 4 in the United Kingdom got behind the project. I lived in London for six months during the production. It was an exciting process to get the film made. The hardest part was the financing—as with most business ventures.

Victor Salvo: You can certainly see British filmmaking's artistic sensibility in the production. Where did your most unexpected support come from?

Patrick Sammon: It has been encouraging to get strong corporate support to help get this film in front of audiences. Since Turing is the father of computer science, some leading technology companies wanted to get behind the project. Their support was pivotal in getting this film completed.

Victor Salvo: I was surprised—but delighted—to see Apple's Steve Wozniak in the film. I'm thrilled to see their willingness to embrace Turing publicly. What has been the general public's reaction to the film?

Patrick Sammon: The film has gotten a great reaction—all across the globe. More than two million people around the world have seen the film so far through television broadcasts, film festivals, special screenings and a limited release of the film in US theaters. GLAAD nominated Codebreaker for Outstanding Documentary in this year's GLAAD Media Awards.

Victor Salvo: That's wonderful—and certainly deserved. Have you encountered any resistance or rejection from people because of the film's message?

Patrick Sammon: There hasn't been any rejection of the film's message. You can't watch the film and not be affected by Turing's story. He's a great inspiration. One of a kind. Viewers appreciate his amazing contribution to our modern world and helping turn the tide of World War II. And viewers are also infuriated by the way Turing was treated. His life was destroyed because of Britain's intolerance for gay people. It's a terrible tragedy and a grave injustice.

Victor Salvo: I think people who don't know what happened will be horrified. Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers who want to take on LGBT content?

Patrick Sammon: LGBT people are often deleted from history. It's important for these stories to be told and appreciated. Filmmaking is a difficult path. Aspiring filmmakers need to bring an appreciation for the business side of filmmaking. Unfortunately, it's not enough just to have a great idea. You need to understand dollars and cents. And you need to have a clear strategy for building an audience.

Victor Salvo: You certainly do. My best friend, Richard Knight Jr.—who is the president of one of our hosting co-sponsors, the Queer Film Society—was the director of the gay version of A Christmas Carol called Scrooge & Marley, which, it so happens, was co-produced by Tracy Baim, owner of Windy City Times. That came out a month after the Legacy Walk was dedicated. Richard and I were both working on our respective projects at the same time so I got to see the mechanics of filmmaking close-up. It is all so amazingly complicated and costly. I really admire what you have achieved with Codebreaker. Do you have any plans for another film?

Patrick Sammon: Yes. I'm working on several ideas now. Most of my time is still spent distributing Codebreaker. However, I have started developing other ideas. Some are documentary ideas. And others are dramatic narratives. I can't give details yet, but stay tuned for the next chapter!

Victor Salvo: Can't wait! Looking forward to seeing you on April 9!

Chicago's Legacy Walk is home to the only bronze commemoration of Alan Turing's life and legacy in the world that actually says he was a gay man. The film screening came about because of Patrick Sammon's awareness of the plaque and Salvo's interest in the film.

Codebreaker will be screened for one night only on Tuesday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the AMC River East Theater 21, 322 E. Illinois St. Admission is $20.

Tickets to support the work of the Legacy Project, the Queer Film Society and Reeling are available only online, in advance. Go to legacyprojectchicago.org/Codebreaker_Sponsors.html for more information.


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