Getting the Gay Green Light 

(April 2, 2012) 

Photo Credit: David A. Lee
Getting the Green Light: LGBT Movies in Hollywood Today Panelists (L-R:) Charlie David, J.D. Disalvatore, C. Jay Cox, Stacy Codikow, Ari Karpel (moderator) Maria Lynn, Andrea James, and Christopher Racster. Not shown: Glenn Gaylord.   

The economics of producing gay- and lesbian-themed independent movies are tougher than ever. While the 1990s and early 2000s saw an influx of LGBT films, more recent changes in the financing and distribution of independent movies in general- and gay- and lesbian-themed ones in particular - have hampered production.

This was the topic of a recent panel discussion sponsored by the Guild’s Gay & Lesbian Writers Committee, Getting the Green Light: LGBT Movies In Hollywood Today, which examined the viability of producing gay and lesbian films in the current moviemaking environment.

The panel featured Wolfe Releasing president Maria Lynn, Outfest director of individual giving Christopher Racster, writer-director Glenn Gaylord (upcoming Leave it on the Floor and I Do), producer JD Disalvatore (Elena Undone, A Marine Story), actor-writer-producer Charlie David (Mulligans, Judas Kiss), Power Up Films founder Stacy Codikow, writer-director C. Jay Cox (Sweet Home Alabama, Latter Days) and Deep Stealth Prods.’ Andrea James (Transproofed). Out of the discussion came some important advice for writers and filmmakers dealing in LGBT themes.

For obvious reasons, the presence of name actors such as Annette Bening and Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right) and Ewan MacGregor (Beginners) make it easier to find distributors for films with central LGBT themes and characters. Keeping budgets extremely low – in the $200,000 range – can be another plus.

But writers also have to mine new dramatic territory. Twenty years ago, issues around "coming out" and AIDS still tended to dominate gay-themed movies. “We have to find other subjects involving how gay and lesbian characters live their lives. That’s a big shift,” says WGAW Gay & Lesbian Writers Committee Chairman Gary Goldstein. “Writers have to think more outside the box and take things to the next level.”

The thrust of the recent committee event was to encourage writers to embrace LGBT themes and characters even if they perceive them to be less commercially viable. “It’s a very tough marketplace,” says Goldstein. “At the same time, some larger distributors like Focus Features (Brokeback Mountain, Milk) or Roadside Attractions (Albert Nobbs) have managed to keep their release schedules dotted with a number of meaningful LGBT films. There’s a market for strong, provocative movies. But it’s about finding distributors and effective ways for these films to be seen.”

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