July 4, 2018 at 12:41 pm PDT | by John Paul King
Outfest Opening Gala promises celebration, awards, and “Studio 54”

Studio 54 dance floor, 1979. Image Courtesy of Outfest.

The excitement is ramping up for Queer Cinema fans in Los Angeles with the approach of the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival.

Outfest is a Los Angeles based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equality by creating, sharing, and protecting LGBTQ stories on the screen – and the 2018 edition of their annual festival, presented by HBO, begins on Thursday, July 12, with an Opening Night Gala that promises to be an event to remember.

Taking place at the iconic Orpheum Theatre in DTLA, the Gala begins with a VIP pre-party at 6:30 PM.  Billed as “the legendary LGBTQ party of the summer” and “the see-and-be-seen event of the season,” it will include food selections from Shannon Swindle (James Beard semifinalist Pastry Chef at Tom Collichio’s Craft), who has asked some of his friends from the top restaurants in the city to join him in offering a taste of LA’s best.

At 8pm, the festivities move inside the theatre for the presentation of the 2018 achievement award, Outfest’s highest honor, presented in recognition of a body of work that has made a significant contribution to LGBT film and media.

This year’s recipient is Angela Robinson, a celebrated filmmaker and champion of LGBTQ rights, will receive the Achievement Award, whose storied career has encompassed teen spies, hot Cajun vampires, kinky comic-book creators, West Hollywood power lesbians and the world’s smartest VW bug, to name just a few.  In a time where women still only make up a fraction of directors, Robinson has carved a space for herself in both film and television, and frequently deals with LGBTQ topics in her work, such as “D.E.B.S.,” “The L Word,” “Herbie Fully Loaded,” “True Blood,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” and most recently “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.”

Outfest’s Executive Director Christopher Racster says, “Outfest has a long and important legacy of launching filmmakers’ careers.  I am incredibly proud that we have the opportunity honor an amazingly talented woman director whose career started at Outfest.  Angela has forged a unique path of success within the industry.  When jobs are hard to come by for women directors, Angela has blazed a path in high-profile television series, lauded independent films and major studio movies.  Her unique vision, her sharp humor, and her humanity are constantly on display in each move she makes.  Angela’s work is always fresh, intelligent and groundbreaking.”

Robinson remarks, “It is such an honor to receive the Outfest Achievement Award this year — I premiered the first short film I ever made at Outfest and every film I’ve made since. It’s a joy to be recognized by Outfest in this way so many years later.”

Following the award presentation, Outfest commences with its first official screening of the year – “Studio 54,” an eagerly-anticipated documentary by director Matt Tyrnauer (“Valentino: The Last Emperor,” “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood”) about the legendary New York nightclub.

According to the film’s synopsis, “When disco was the epicenter of popular culture, Studio 54 was the epicenter of disco.  Brooklyn-born college pals Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager took a former opera house and CBS studio (where ‘What’s My Line?’ and ‘Captain Kangaroo’ filmed), in what was at the time one of New York City’s sketchiest neighborhoods, and turned it into a dance palace known the world over. Extroverted gay Rubell and introverted straight Schrager (the latter giving his most extensive interview to date about Studio 54) were a powerful team — but the swirl of sex, drugs, celebrity, and tax evasion brought this phenomenon to an end, as did the advent of Ronald Reagan, the AIDS crisis, and the “Disco Sucks” backlash.”

It goes on to say, “But oh, what heady times there were during Studio 54’s heyday, which this vibrant documentary captures, mixing vintage interviews (Michael Jackson!) with reminiscences from the doormen, bartenders, and paparazzi who experienced the thrills and the beats on the dance floor and in the infamous balcony. There may never again be such a stately pleasure dome as Studio 54, but director Matt Tyrnauer […] observantly captures the hedonism and the hubris with the exacting eye that has made him one of this generation’s most fascinating documentarians.”

After the movie (approximately 10pm) is the Gala After-Party, set outside the theatre in Outfest’s reimagining of the Studio 54 setting.  There, you can grab a bite from one of the dozen participating restaurants – along with a glass of beer from Angel City Brewery, a glass from Barefoot wines, or a Finlandia vodka cocktail.

According to Outfest, “It’s all on us.  And don’t worry, you will be able to dance the night away.”

Tickets to the Opening Night Gala are limited, so act fast if you want to go.

And if you can’t make it, don’t be too upset – the festival continues through July 22, at multiple venues throughout the city, and will feature over 200 feature and short films (both narrative and documentary) as well as special events, discussions, and panels.

For tickets, schedule of screenings and events, and more information, visit here.



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