ITVS Hosts Queer X-Change for LGBT Filmmakers

Posted on June 24, 2009

As part of ongoing efforts to bring young and emerging talent to public television, ITVS recently hosted an invitation-only event for four filmmakers from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Each were nominated by veteran producers who attended 2007’s LGBT Filmmaker Summit, a meeting that addressed issues related to the LGBT community. The ITVS Queer X-Change was hosted by the Programming Department's Richard Saiz and Jonathan Archer and featured a case-study from ITVS-funded filmmaker Johnny Symons, who gave feedback to the presenters along with ITVS-funded filmmaker Charlotte Lagarde. Attendee Andy Blubaugh offers his take below.

I'll admit, I was skeptical when I was invited to the Queer X-Change, an event aimed at encouraging emerging LGBT directors to produce for public television. My own film, THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM, seemed like a stretch for public television, both in its content and its execution. Worse, I had become wary of the effort that's required to even be considered for ITVS funding. The Open Call process, while rewarding for the films that make it through, is arduous and time consuming. I wasn't sure if I had it in me to try again. But when you get an invitation to attend something like this, you don't hesitate. You pack your bags, burn a ton of DVDs, and get excited.

  

As we gathered at the ITVS headquarters in San Francisco, I started to get nervous. Was I even ready to show my project in front of these people? These were, after all, the most important decision makers in public television that I've ever been in a room with. I felt outgunned.

It didn't help that the first presenter was Keith Wilson, whose project IN THE FAMILY seems like a slam dunk. His premise: return to his home in the south as an openly gay man, and investigate the day to day life of his brother-in-law, a practicing member of the Ku Klux Klan. This movie could be shot on VHS and it would still be among the most amazing films you'll ever see. Next up was David Barclay Moore, pitching his film HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE BLACK CHURCH. Moore was elegant in his description of the connections between homophobia and faith, as well as the sacrifices made by queer people of color who feel that the church has no room for them. This isn't a subject that I know a lot about, and Moore had me hooked. 

After lunch we heard from Christie Herring, whose film THE CAMPAIGN looks at the front lines of the fight against Proposition 8. Now, despite being a gay man, gay marriage is not an issue that I'm passionate about. So when a preview for a film about this issue actually brings me to tears, you know that the director has done something special. As for my own presentation, I think I did okay. It' hard to gauge when all you can hear is the blood pounding in your ears. After each presentation, ITVS staff offered guidance and pointed out what each project needed to to do to succeed.

Senior Production Manager Annelise Wunderlich gave insight into what it takes to satisfy the objectives of public television. Her explanation of the ways that ITVS works with the various streams of PBS programming helped me to look at the organization in a new way. That application process—labyrinthine as it had seemed to me as an outsider—isn't a roadblock thrown up to keep independent directors from reaching their goals. To the contrary, it's one of many ways that ITVS acts as a bridge between us indies and the audiences we want to reach. Am I still skeptical? Maybe a little. But what the Queer X-Change made clear was that if a film like mine (or Keith's or David's, or Christie's) can make it onto public television, it will be due to the efforts of ITVS. 

- Andy Blubaugh Filmmaker of THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM

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