Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An email excerpt after seeing the film, Milk

Hi Bob!
Thanks for those catches on the website/email. I really depend on the feedback until the day I have a web designer.
Castro Theater, San Francisco on Sunday Nov 30th at 10am

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

GEN SILENT NOTES: Sheri and Lois

Sheri and Lois:
Married couple aging together in Boston, MA's South End.

Community oriented

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.

The home of Sheri and Lois in Boston's South End

But both women are very aware that life is changing for them. And life has 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.

Editing on the road

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

NOTES: Krysallis Hembrough

Stills are taken from raw footage for the documentary Gen Silent

Krysallis (KrysAnne) Hembrough
Age: 59
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?

Director Stu Maddux with Krysallis Hembrough during shooting for Gen Silent

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.

No one at this table was a relative.

Being abandoned by family is common for LGBT people and apparently KrysAnne is no exception.
KrysAnne was Kevin in this photo from the late 1970's

Since she became a woman five years ago her family has shunned her completely. Even with a terminal illness, no family members call or visits her.
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.

Director Stu Maddux shows KrysAnne Hembrough raw footage from their first shoot together

Aside from all the big discussions, I must say that her company and hospitality were wonderful and we have become very close in such a short time. I did indeed get to shoot her ride (see entry below).

Monday, December 1, 2008


The home of the next person to be profiled for Gen Silent

I am REALLY looking forward to staying a few days this week in the Boston home of KrysAnne Hembrough, a transgender woman about sixty-years-old.
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: