Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Thanks for those catches on the website/email. I really depend on the feedback until the day I have a web designer.
We saw Milk yesterday at the Castro Theatre. The place was packed at 1pm on a Monday. When we walked out people were flocking to the repeal 8 petitions outside. There was a sense of continuity as I watched Joe sign a petition under that huge marquee surrounded by people half his age and others almost twice his age. I wanted someone to take his picture in B&W like those that we saw in the film because...I felt a part of a history that is OURS. What must those younger people feel. They must want to be the next Milk. Secretly, I want to be the next Milk too and take a lot of encouragement that he started when he was 40.
I gave KrysAnne a video camera. I hope you'll shoot something fun for Christmas if you both get bored. I'll be calling. Talk to you then!
Monday, December 8, 2008
Married couple aging together in Boston, MA's South End.
This was a fascinating interview. As much as the gay history that Lois and Sheri shared it was the shock and anger we ALL felt as they reminisced. Some of the personal stories they shared on camera for my current documentary Gen Silent included:
- A Boston magazine that published the names of suspected homosexuals in the 1950's
- FBI agents following them at the rallies they organized in the late 1960's (they took pictures)
- Friends who were mothers still losing custody of their children because they were lesbian as late as the 1970's
Just as fascinating is their life today. Lois is a real estate broker. Sheri continues to run a bed & breakfast out of their beautifully restored home. It is a treasure that they have spent a good deal of their lives restoring.
always been changing for Sheri and Lois. This film hopes to show just how much change their generation has gone through- from being beaten for who they are to now being openly married.
Experts who I have interviewed say that all this change taught many LGBT people to adapt very well and the more you can adapt, the better your later years will be. Lois unexpectedly revealed a side of her adaptability. She has obviously considered the possibility of being in a nursing home someday with an abusive caregiver who discriminates against her because she is gay. A situation that our gay elders are reporting more often. "I have been open for many years but I would hide again if necessary to survive."
Even more common is the fear of abuse from other straight elders.
They spoke of an acquaintance who was shunted to a nursing home, became more closeted because its unwelcoming surroundings. He withdrew and died a short time later. The details of what happened to this man seems to be a bit of a mystery in Boston's LGBT elder community. I'll be asking around.
I don't know how I would be doing this film without friends in Boston to stay with. Oliver and Glen have let me set up an edit station on in antique secretary in their living room! If you look closely you can see my Canon XH-A1 camera, hard drive, my reels and probably whatever coffee or tea I'm drinking at the moment on a airline napkin I kept from the flight out. It's warm here and outside it's about 20F.
Shooting HD out of town without regular access to an HD monitor is tough. I've learned that checking focus is critical in this format and I'm starting to recognize soft focus HD footage on my laptop monitor. But what we really need is a huge HD Plasma screen above this secretary. :)
Saturday, December 6, 2008
M/F Transgender woman living with a terminal illness
I had the priviledge of staying with KrysAnne for about three days last week to capture her day-to-day life for our documentary Gen Silent. The film is capturing how much harder life is for LGBT seniors than the rest of us- so much harder that some people go back into the closet rather than face discrimination from people they now depend on to care for them.
I'm still getting comfortable with calling KrysAnne a "senior" because she is only 59-years-old even though the AARP now lets you join when you are 50! I'm not sure why I don't like it. Probably because I'm 43 and it hits too close to home. My mind wants to push off the words senior and elder as far away from me as I can. Somewhere out there after 70+ maybe?
But when I set aside my personal feelings, I strongly believe that her story shows how transgender folks deal with aging alone, in her case, with a terminal illness.
When doctors diagnosed her with lung cancer a year ago they gave her a year and a half to live.
But only in the past month has KrysAnne begun developing a support group after years of being alone.
She worked for days preparing a thank-you dinner for them.
When she has reached out in the past, they return her cards with comments like this one:
The most stunning part of our time together was the moment KrysAnne showed me several returned cards like this one from different relatives. And yet she remained in good spirits telling me about them.
There are many other problems that transgender seniors face that I was unaware of. Primarily they revolve around making sure that you are treated as the sex you have chosen: making sure the hospital places you in a room with women or the caregivers aren't shocked by your body (your genitalia). It's tough. Right down to making sure your chosen name is on your grave marker. Krys Anne is a Vietnam veteran who plans to be buried at the Massachusetts National Cemetery.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Single and without close family ties, she has volunteered to talk to us for my current documentary, "Gen Silent" about her struggle to find people to help her through a terminal illness. You may think from from the picture above that money would solve all that for her- but not so. I will be staying with her to capture as much of the ups and downs as possible.
Despite her terminal illness, she remains a delight to be around and the energy in this home is great. BUT, I'm not posting any more pictures until the shooting begins on Wednesday!
In the meantime... KrysAnne is still driving, and I can't wait to get shots of her in this:
Saturday, November 29, 2008
This is Sea Ranch Lodge. It was our get away before having to caring for Betty, an absolutely charming 86 year-old mother who still lives in Joe's family home in the bay area. She is in the middle stages of Alzheimer's where her short-term memory simply no longer exists. We're not talking about forgetting what happened a few minutes ago. We're talking about forgetting what she said at the beginning of a sentence before finishing it. Roughly 20 times an hour she asks whether or not she still has a haircut appointment. "Haircut appointment 2pm" is on a kitchen chalkboard, in her daybook, and out of our mouths constantly. It is really not a frustration- more a rhythm.
The time together has been good for Joe and I and given me a small understanding what primary caregivers like Lawrence Johnson face. The big difference is that we get to leave.
There are other considerations, like laying out clean clothes so she doesn't wear the dirty ones by accident, finding purses, taking pills, getting Betty to finally feel that she is in a safe place at night and stops getting up from bed. It ended at midnight last night and that's pretty darn good.
I think the only scary part is that she turns up the thermostat about every ten minutes because she feels cold. We have found it up to 85 degrees this weekend and WE are the one's who forget to check it about every 5 minutes. A special thermostat is on the list to buy this Christmas!
I overheard her saying to a relative on the phone, "it must be tragedy- these people who have no-one to take care of them." Her condition will eventually worsen to the point where family can no longer provide adequate care. But at least this one weekend has not been as bad as we expected.
Even the rhythm of asking the same questions seems to stop occasionally. But after a few silent minutes I'm now in the habit of asking, "Did you know that you have a hair appointment today?"
Monday, November 3, 2008
Lawrence has been showing me how hard it is to be the primary caregiver in a gay relationship. He's been lucky enough to find a very accommodating assisted living place for Alexandre. The previous ones he looked at gave them both anxiety about merely holding Alexandre's hand or feeding him, i.e. being judged and getting a different level of care. Some of the places they looked at were simply not welcoming. But their relationship here is not only understood by the staff, Lawrence's well being is important to them as well.
Personally, I've been made aware how important it is to have a primary caregiver- someone who is solely your advocate- no-one else's. And if you think it's something that money can fix, think again. Your best hope for not dieing early and unhappy seems to be having your primary caregiver be that person who cares most deeply for you, loves you, and will go to bat for you unconditionally.
Straight people have it much easier because many more of them have children, long-term relationships or are not estranged from families because of judgements against their sexuality.
What do LGBT folks do all our lives? We learn to turn to our friends for help or simply pay someone to care for us.
But when it comes to the person who will be my primary caregiver in old age, MY advocate and protector- forget it. I now can't imagine even my best friend or anyone I could pay any amount of $$$$ advocating for me the daily, hourly way Lawrence does for Alexandre.
Lawrence is the guy who makes sure there's fresh water in ALEXANDRE's water pitcher, that ALEXANDRE's television is working properly. God forbid, if ALEXANDRE were ever neglected or abused Lawrence would be marching down the hall to the director's office. But most importantly ALEXANDRE has someone who makes life worth living.
Could a best friend or anyone you could pay maintain the same day-to-day devotion?
I happen to be reading a book on the final days of the billionaire Howard Hughes. He was surrounded by five full-time caregivers but died horribly: dehydrated, malnourished and weighing 90 lbs. You can't help but wonder if his fate would have been different had any of those people in the room been a loved one.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I'll be so glad to get home about midnight tonight after a week in New York and Boston researching subjects for "Gen Silent" (working title).
There is no shortage of seniors with stories to share about the unique hardships of growing old LGBT. I'll be back in less than a month to begin shooting. But now I must get ready for the DVD release of another project Trip to Hell and Back.
Trip Harting's memorial is at the end of this week and there will be a screening of the film after the service. That should be interesting. I've already had one woman who was in the film tell me that I am profiting from Trip's premature death and that she is holding her own service for Trip rather than come to this one. That hurt a lot for about an hour. I kep reminding myself that the last thing Trip said to me was that he wanted a screening at his memorial service. That's all that matters.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I've just wrapped up three-days at one of the most interesting conferences that I've been to in a long time. The subject matter sounds extremely boring- LGBT aging. But the fact that the organization SAGE had a conference on this topic sponsored by AARP (including a keynote address by AARP's president) shows how much public awareness is growing of our LGBT seniors and their unique problems.
It certainly makes me feel that there will be an audience for "Gen Silent", our current documentary on LGBT seniors going back in the closet because of a lifetime of fears and struggling with discrimination.
Two resounding conclusions out of dozens of insights:
1. Every public agency in this nation that deals with aging has a mandate to provide adequate services for ALL seniors, yet LGBT seniors are not reaching out because of lifelong fears of discrimination. Many times those fears are justified with care givers, agencies or even fellow seniores they find themselves saddled with. They are dieing earlier than their straight counterparts, lonlier and with a lower quality of life.
2. If you want a "happy old age" start early learning to adapt to new situations and have a sense of humor. Early being in your twenties!
The interesting thing is adapting is a skill that many LGBT seniors were forced to learn early on because of the amount of discrimination around them.
I have been to so many conferences that lost me to a sightseeing trip at the point that there were no interesting panels going on. SAGE in New York had so many intriguing sessions going on concurrently that this conference could have easily been spread out over the week.
Bob Linscott Stu Maddux
Thank-you to Cathy Renna of Renna Communications, the public relations organization working with SAGE for allowing me access to the conference to research and interview potential subjects for "Gen Silent" even though I had no crew or camera in hand- yet.
Also to my friend, Bob Linscott at the LGBT Aging Project for allowing me to share his hotel room. I'll be trying to find funding for this project once we have footage to show people. In the meantime, places to stay, frequent flyer miles and rides from friends have made this project possible.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The second man (above) has been the primary care giver for his aging partner. He believes the only thing that saved him from suicide was reaching out for help. Today he seems vibrant and full of life.
I’ll try to meet with both again tomorrow to learn the details of their lives and hopefully. I need to be meeting more people. I fear leaving next with only two solid situations to shoot when I come back.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I began research on my next documentary yesterday and I feel very alone. I got on a plane by myself for an overnight flight to Boston where no-one was waiting for me and set up my base of operations in a small cabin behind a friend’s house.
All that is refreshing. It’s nice to get out of the house and find solitude. What’s lonely about it is that I am here for no other reason except to create something from scratch. I’m not going to a festival for a job well done or to visit family or with my partner on vacation. I alone will make something from nothing using my skills and experience. And not knowing where it all will take me gives me pause.
I walked to the grocery store here in Jamaica Plain to buy milk, bread and cereal and will work out of this little cabin for a few days. Tomorrow I begin pre-interviewing potential subjects about aging in the LGBT community. Tonight, I am jet-lagged and sore from carrying equipment through airports and subways.
It is at times like these that I wonder, who do I think I am kidding? I’m just a wannabe filmmaker. It’s just me and a camera. No crew anymore. No network to pay me. But I quickly remember how many times I’ve had this feeling of self-doubt before and how many times I have had the feeling of success at the other end of a project. I have faith in myself.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
After much soul-searching, I've decided to make my next documentary about LGBT seniors who were forced to hide when they were young- now forced back in the closet as they grow old.
They fear not getting adequate care and being judged by others at the very point they are most vulnerable.
care workers quoting the bible to them when they are bed ridden.
straight seniors harassing them in the nursing homes where they live.
"The most common reaction, in a generation accustomed to being in the closet, is a retreat back to the invisibility that was necessary for most of their lives, when homosexuality was considered both a crime and a mental illness. A partner is identified as a brother. No pictures or gay-themed books are left around."1
I hope to show younger people just how necessary hiding was to survive when this most important generation was their age.
-the woman forced to eat her driver's license when police raided the gay bar she was in or LGBT -groups in the sixties spied on by the FBI are just two examples.
We will share these most hard to believe stories from these seniors themselves.
"Within this culture, lesbian and gay people concealed their sexual orientation. They feared physical and emotional abuse; rejection from family, friends, and religious communities; and job loss. Additionally, they faced harsh persecution, institutionalization, and incarceration. Many viewed themselves as abnormal and suffered shame and anguish over their same-sex attractions. Hiding the truth of their sexual orientation from themselves or others, many entered into heterosexual marriages despite the uncomfortable knowledge about themselves, and some had children. Others cautiously or recklessly sought same-sex relationships. Many entered or were forced into reparative psychotherapy to be cured of a “severe and pervasive emotional disorder” and to alter their sexual orientation." 2
The film will center around several LGBT seniors struggling to age successfully alone or with their partners.
"Elderly heterosexuals also suffer the indignities of old age, but not to the same extent. There is something special about having to hide this part of your identity at a time when your entire identity is threatened. That’s a faster pathway to depression, failure to thrive and even premature death," says, Dr. Melinda Lantz, chief of geriatric psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. 3
The film will conclude with a look at what a handful of agencies are doing to help.
I'm grateful to my close friend, Bob Linscott, at the LGBT Aging Project in Boston for patiently watching me come to the conclusion that this issue must be my next undertaking. I will be spending much time over the next few months in Boston and New York researching and shooting with the hopes of having a rough cut by Spring of 2009.
1,3 The New York Times October 9, 2007 Aging and Gay, and Facing Prejudice in Twilight
By JANE GROSS
2 Invisible Individuals — LGBT Elders By Florence Gelo, DMin, NCPsyA
Aging Well Vol. 1 No. 3. P. 36
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Not an easy thing to do. I absolutely had no time to grieve after Trip passed away last Thursday before I was forced to pick up the edit where I left off. I'm under a deadline to get the new/shorter/tighter version on my documentary about him: Trip to Hell and Back out to festivals that have been asking for it since it won a grand prize award at the Rhode Island Intl. Film Festival earlier this month.
Hearing and seeing the subject of my documentary in that repetitious, mind numbing fashion that only editors can understand is not easy. His face and picture play over and over again as I adjust each edit. It's not so much haunting for me. More like...I'm in prison. I am never, ever going to be finished with this thing and now more than ever I need to be.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
I had to get out of the house. There’s enough drama there for a year wrapped into one day. Trip, the subject of my documentary, seems to be fading faster than all of us expected. My partner has a elder abuse situation going on with his mother. I had an hour and a half Skype session with a client in my un airconditioned office. So I come to the Coffee Table in Silverlake and find myself surrounded with tables full of people talking theories about editing and documentary- actually one person at each table is doing all the talking. The rest are listening. This is a very common phenomenon in Los Angeles. Sometimes people talk extra loud about their project so everyone else can here. I don’t know if it’s conscious on their part or not and I have at least one dear friend who does this when we “do lunch’ together.
Do any of them ever stop talking long enough to get close to their subjects? I’m sitting here alone, drained, sipping a Diet Coke kind of the example in the room of what happens when you do.
I always tell my subjects that creating a documentary will be a life-changing experience. Yes.
I’m still cutting down this film drastically (45min- 28 min). No story elements are lost so far and the pace is dramatically improved. I see now that I was reacting to all those past projects for networks that wanted incredibly fast cutting. For once I had wanted to create something with a slower pace as seen on PBS. Right now I have a happy medium.
Once all the patches are made in the timeline (the audio has been the most difficult) I’ll be anxious to screen it before an audience rather than individuals. It was a completely different set of feedback seeing it with a crowd of people. Our opportunity may come with a special screening here in LA that Trip has requested before he is too ill to enjoy it.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
I am amazed at the level of acceptance that Trip has about the news that he has six months to live.
I knew that I was getting honest answers from him about faith and acceptance when I interviewed him earlier this year and that he has undergone a lot of faith tests in his life. I can tell that each one of them, from a past bout with cancer to facing life in prison has given him valuable experience now that he faces this latest challenge.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Trip to Hell and Back won the Grand Prize for best short documentary at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. I’m very encouraged at a time when everyone on this project needs it most. Trip was elated when I called him at the hospital. It was the one bit of good news on one of the worst days of his life. And the festival had no clue that Trip was sick so we don’t feel it was a… “pity prize”! My surprise makes more sense when you read my earlier entry about how brutal the premiere was for me.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Trip Harting, the subject of my latest film, Trip to Hell and Back, has been diagnosed with a form of inoperable liver cancer that will likely prove fatal in the next six months. The diagnosis was the culmination of a week’s worth of hushed updates among myself and Trip’s closest friends leading up to the documentary’s premiere in Providence, Rhode Island, where Trip was scheduled to attend. He had apologized to me several days earlier for not being able to make blog entries as we had planned because of flu like symptoms.
By the day preceding the premiere, Trip was forced to cancel his appearance to undergo a biopsy. Roughly a dozen of his friends arrived at the premiere from around the country not knowing the news. It was Trip’s request to say nothing until after the screening in order to keep the mood of the evening positive. I made a vague apology to the audience, but by early evening his friends had found out something was seriously wrong.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The latest documentary that I am working on is for a client in Sarasota, Florida. For both of us, it was our first attempt at working on such a long-form project (60 + min.) without the producer being in the same city as the editor.
The film tells the story of Amancio Corrales, a young latino female impersonator who was the victim of a hate crime in his hometown of Yuma, Arizona.
Using Xprove on line review and approval we have had nothing but a good experience. Our productivity has improved dramatically because there aren’t review sessions in the edit bay. It is greener because gas isn’t spent transporting people or even a DVD. And I have to say, that anxiety of watching a cut with the client right next to you is not missed. It has been clear to me for some time that remote editing will replace the traditional client-editor experience in a dark room, with a basket of candy on the monitor. Keep the basket. I’ll take the chance to grow my business globally.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Trip To Hell and Back just got another rejection from a gay and lesbian Film Festival. This makes three important GAY film festivals that we were in last year with Bob And Jack’s 52-Year Adventure that do not want this latest film. It is very discouraging at the moment the rejection email comes in, but I pretty quickly understand that this latest documentary just isn’t gay enough for them. The main character happens to be gay and the film maker is gay and the topic of Crystal-Meth addiction is one that hits home to the gay community. But, being “gay around the edges” is not good enough. Honestly, I figured it would be this way but because of my relationship with LGBT festivals after my first film, it would have been foolish not to try there first.
We are still in the early submission stages and actually still making important changes to the film. I think this tells me to target the mainstream festivals. The festival that we are premiering at, Rhode Island International Film Festival, has a gay program within it, but preferred to run this film in its mainstream section.