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Outfest

Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival celebrates its 40th birthday

Outfest celebrates with a huge lineup of more than 200 LGBTQ+ films & will run from July 14 to 24 at venues across Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES – As it celebrates four full decades of bringing the best in global queer cinema to Los Angeles, Outfest’s 2022 edition will present a huge and wildly diverse lineup of more than 200 queer films from 29 countries, including an impressive 42 world premieres, all spread over an exciting 11 days this month.

Anything’s Possible (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Kicking things off on July 14 will be the Opening Night Gala and Billy Porter’s directorial debut Anything’s Possible, the sweet coming-of-age romance between trans girl Kelsa and her handsome classmate Khal during their senior year of high school. The world premiere screening will mark Outfest’s return to its longtime Opening Night venue, the Orpheum Theatre in DTLA, after a three-year hiatus wrought by the pandemic. 

Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

More world premieres at this year’s Outfest will include the documentary Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story, which follows competitive skateboarder Leo Baker as he balances the gendered world of sports, transition, society and skate culture in the leadup to the 2020 Olympics; the UK feature Phea, a modern and politically resonant lesbian spin on the Orpheus myth, starring singer/songwriter Sherika Sherard; Art and Pep, which follows the true story of life and business partners Art Johnston and Pepe Peña, creators of the iconic Chicago gay club Sidetrack (which is also celebrating its 40th birthday this year); and comedian/musician Scout Durwood’s feature directorial debut Youtopia, in which Durwood accidentally becomes the leader of a hipster millennial cult after a bad breakup.

God Save the Queens (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Outfest 2022 also returns to Hollywood’s Ford Theater for one of the festival’s most popular components, Outfest Under the Stars, this year combining screenings with live performances over three nights. First up on July 21 will be a sneak peek work-in-progress showing of Unconventional, the latest series from Emmy-winner and Outfest favorite Kit Williamson (EastSiders), about eccentric, queer Palm Springs siblings who attempt to create a new kind of family, with cameos from the likes of Kathy Griffin, Willam Belli, Laith Ashley and Beau Bridges. Next at the Ford on July 22 comes the dragstravaganza God Save the Queens, a feature comedy starring RuPaul’s Drag Race superstars Alaska Thunderfuck, Laganja Estranja and Kelly Mantle (who’ll also perform live before the screening) as struggling Los Angeles queens in crisis who find themselves together at a group therapy retreat. The film boasts appearances by a cavalcade of queer faves like Drew Droege, Honey Davenport, Michelle Visage, and Manila Luzon. Capping things off at the Ford on July 23 will be I Have to Laugh: Comedy Night at the Ford, a live stand-up showcase featuring the cast of Outfest 2022 selection Queer Riot, including Margaret Cho, River Butcher, Brad Loekle, Akeem Woods, and Daniel Webb, all followed by an assortment of gut-busting short films.

Framing Agnes (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

As usual, Outfest’s hallmark will be its presentation of some of the most award-winning and well-received LGBTQ+ selections from the world’s top film festivals this year, many in their first public screenings in Los Angeles. From Sundance will come the Finnish female coming-of-age story (and Sundance Audience Award winner) Girl Picture; the Lebanese female thrash metal band documentary Sirens; the Brazilian family drama and female love story Mars One (Marte Um); and the innovative Chase Joynt doc Framing Agnes, which tells the true story of a Los Angeles trans woman who in 1958 boldly took part in a UCLA sexuality study. From the Berlin International Film Festival will come the Teddy Award-winning Brazilian film Three Tidy Tigers Tied a Tie Tighter, about a trio of young queer friends in the working-class suburbs of São Paulo; gay film fest favorite François Ozon’s latest, Peter von Kant, a remaking of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 classic The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, featuring cinema icons Isabelle Adjani and Hanna Schygulla; and the stylized gender-norm-busting 1950s fantasy Please Baby Please, featuring cameos by Demi Moore and Mary Lynn Rajskub.

And from Tribeca will come the much-anticipated documentary All Man: The International Male Story, which tells the story of the revolutionary gay menswear mail-order catalog International Male; the Danish thriller Attachment, in which Maja and Leah’s love story takes a dark turn rooted in Jewish folklore; and the Austrian sports drama Breaking the Ice, in which ice hockey team captain Mira’s uptight life gets shaken up by freewheeling new team member Theresa.

A League of Their Own (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Among the many other Outfest 2022 highlights will be its Legacy Centerpiece, a 20th anniversary screening of Todd Haynes’ Far from Heaven with live appearances by Haynes, star Julianne Moore, and producer Christine Vachon. Outfest’s Episodics section will include an advanced look at Shudder’s forthcoming queer horror history docuseries Queer for Fear; a free sneak peak of the upcoming Prime Video series A League of Their Own; and the first episode of writer/producer Des Moran’s new series halfsies, about six Black half-siblings who re-enter each other’s lives after a death in the family. Outfest’s always intrepid Platinum section will this year include award presentations to Clive Barker and Big Freedia, as well as a host of cutting-edge screenings and the Platinum Alchemy Party at Catch One. The ever-popular roster of Outfest shorts programs will this year include a whopping 15 different categories, including the perennial festival favorite Boys Shorts. And the Trans, Nonbinary & Intersex Summit on July 23 will feature three back-to-back programs and a keynote by writer and activist Raquel Willis.

They/Them (Courtesy of Outfest LA LGBTQ+ Film Festival)

Capping off this year’s Outfest will be the Closing Night Gala at The Theatre at Ace Hotel, showcasing the world premiere of the queer and trans teen horror film , in which a masked intruder lurks in the shadows of an already scary conversion therapy camp. The film features Academy Award-nominated writer John Logan in his directorial debut.

Outfest 2022 will run from July 14 to 24 at venues across Los Angeles including the DGA Theater Complex, Harmony Gold and REDCAT. For the full lineup and tickets, visit outfestla.org.

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Outfest

Outfest FOMO? Where to still catch the best of Outfest 2022

Your exclusive guide to making up for your inexcusable absence at L.A.’s LGBTQ+ film festival

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LOS ANGELES – Maybe you had other plans. Maybe you had Omicron angst. Maybe you forgot. Whatever your reasons, you’d be right to be kicking yourself now for missing Outfest’s triumphant 40th edition, which just wrapped its 10-day July presentation of cutting-edge LGBTQ+ entertainment, including more than 200 films, over 40 world premieres, and dozens of red carpets and parties, all attended by more than 30,000 people. But no, not you. 

While we can’t recreate the uniquely festive vibe of Outfesting for you, we can give you the exclusive skinny on where you can still catch many of the best films from Outfest ’22. Just a few years ago, you would’ve been mostly S.O.L. after Outfest was finished, having to wait months for a small handful of the festival’s best selections to eventually appear for quick runs at L.A. arthouse theatres. But thanks to the acceleration of everything virtual during the pandemic, many of the top titles from this year’s Outfest will be available soon on your favorite streaming device – and some already are.

NOW ON STREAMING SERVICES, OR COMING SOON

This year’s Outfest opener, the world premiere of Anything’s Possible, Billy Porter’s fun and groundbreaking directorial debut starring Eva Reign and Abubakr Ali in a trans-inclusive high school romance, is already streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Also already on Prime Video via its Mubi partnership is Moneyboys, first-time writer/director C.B. Yi’s gorgeous and moving depiction of a young man from the Chinese countryside navigating the physical and emotional complexities of Beijing sex work. The Todd Haynes masterpiece Far from Heaven, which celebrated its 20th anniversary at Outfest 2022 with a screening attended by Haynes, star Julianne Moore, and producer Cristine Vachon, is currently streaming on Prime Video and several other services, including Apple TV, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

Eva Reign and Abubkar Ali in Anything’s Possible, Property of Amazon Studios, © Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

Coming to Netflix on August 11 is Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story, which chronicles pro skateboarder Leo Baker’s brave quest to make space for himself in the sport as a trans man. Directed by Nicola Marsh and Giovanni Reda, the film had its world premiere at Outfest and picked up the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature. Another Outfest 2022 crowd pleaser, winning the Audience Award for Best Episodic, was the Samantha Lee-directed interabled queer romance series Sleep with Me, which will debut on Filipino streaming service iWantTFC on August 15.

They/Them, the LGBTQ+ conversion camp-set horror flick co-starring Kevin Bacon and directed by John Logan that had its world premiere on Outfest’s Closing Night, comes to Peacock on August 5 as the streaming service’s first-ever original feature film. A little further down the road on December 1, the fascinating Pat Rocco Dared, directed by Bob Christie and Morris Chapdelaine and exploring the life and important work of longtime L.A. entertainer, activist, and erotic filmmaker Pat Rocco, will come to Vimeo on Demand.

VIRTUAL SCREENINGS AT UPCOMING FILM FESTIVALS

Though it was virtually nonexistent as an option just a few years ago, savvy cinema lovers can now catch certain Outfest films after the festival is over via the virtual platforms of other festivals around the country. Your window for watching will almost always be brief, so it’ll take more planning than with mainstream streaming services – but it’s a welcome second chance to catch some great films that would’ve otherwise been much more difficult to ever see again.

Fortunately for us, this year’s edition of CinemaQ, Denver’s LGBTQ+ film festival, will soon be offering virtual screenings of several excellent fresh-from-Outfest films during its August 11 to 14 run. These include Unidentified Objects, the reality-bending queer road trip movie that picked up both the Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Performance in a North American Narrative Feature and the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at Outfest; Jeannette, which follows the courageous but complicated journey of a Pulse Nightclub massacre survivor, and garnered a Documentary Feature Honorable Mention at Outfest; All Man: The International Male Story, which traces the sexy and influential history of International Male magazine; Chase Joynt’s Framing Agnes, a hybrid documentary revolving around an outspoken trans participant in a 1950s gender study at UCLA that’s already receiving 2023 Oscar buzz; Loving Highsmith, a portrait of famed lesbian novelist Patricia Highsmith; and Mama Bears, about a community of Christian mothers of LGBTQ+ children who fiercely advocate for queer rights. 

A few weeks later from August 24 to 28 at aGLIFF Prism 35, Austin, Texas’s LGBTQ+ film festival, virtually screening will be A Run for More, a moving doc that follows trans Latina political candidate Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe as she runs for office in a less than fully friendly Texas district.

Though apparently not yet scheduled, several Outfest standouts will almost certainly screen virtually at additional festivals later this year, including the poignant, funny, and terrifically-acted gay buddy story Chrissy Judy from writer/director/star Todd Flaherty; Outfest Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Documentary Feature Sirens, which follows the members of the only all-female thrash metal band in the Middle East; and the sweet doc Art and Pep, about the longtime owners of iconic Chicago gay bar Sidetrack. Upcoming festival dates should be announced soon on these films’ linked sites.

COMING TO L.A. THEATRES (HOPEFULLY)

As L.A.’s arthouse movie theatre landscape continues to dwindle, these days only the very cream of the Outfest crop stands much chance of ever seeing theatrical releases around town. The most promising among these is the incredibly powerful Nelly & Nadine, Magnus Gertten’s stunning documentary about two women who met in a German concentration camp and wound up spending the rest of their lives together, for which Wolfe Releasing is planning a late 2022 theatrical and streaming release. 

Nadine Hwang and Nelly Mousset-Vos in Nelly & Nadine, © Auto Images

Another strong local theatrical contender is Dos Estaciones, the winner of Outfest’s Grand Jury Prize for Outstanding Screenplay in a North American Narrative Feature. The story of struggling rural Mexico tequila factory owner Maria and her affection for her new employee, the film will open at NYC’s IFC Center on September 9, so an L.A. run will hopefully follow. Please Baby Please, a fellow Outfest jury winner (for Outstanding North American Narrative Feature) about a newlywed couple whose sexual identities are awakened when they become the obsession of a greaser gang, will reportedly be released in theatres this fall.

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Outfest

Outfest ends its 40th with “They/Them” horror film starring Kevin Bacon

“They/Them” debuts Friday, August 5 on Peacock after its Outfest debut

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"They/Them" starring Kevin Bacon (Screenshot/Peacock)

LOS ANGELES – The LGBTQ+ film festival Outfest ended its 40th anniversary Sunday with Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan’s horror film “They/Them” starring Kevin Bacon.

The film, Logan’s directorial debut, is set in an LGBTQIA+ conversion camp. Bacon and the rest of the cast walked the red carpet, speaking and talked about the importance of this queer/horror mashup, how representation in all genres is necessary and the pure fun of this also being a good old-fashioned slasher film.

“They/Them” debuts Friday, August 5 on Peacock after its Outfest debut.

From KABC:

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Outfest

Blow your mind with today’s hottest Queer TV- 2nd annual OutFronts

Queer television is here, and it is just getting started to shine.  Buckle your rainbow belts, this unicorn is ready to fly

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WEST HOLLYWOOD – Back in the day, getting a whisp of any queer media, whether it was a short “gay” movie or a quick queer themed storyline, was hard to come by. Sure, there was OutFest started in 1982 by some UCLA students. Roseanne kissing a girl, a lesbian wedding on Friends, and Ellen’s bursting media’s mind before it crashed and burned her.

Not anymore. OutFest has made that clear with its second annual OutFronts, a four-day hybrid festival. Queer television is here, and it is just getting started to shine.  Buckle your rainbow belts, this unicorn is ready to fly.

The festival combines free-to-view virtual panel discussions with ticketed in-person events as part of the Los Angeles area’s Pride season. The festival kicks off on Friday June 3rd and extends through Monday, June 6th. It features episodic premieres, advanced screenings, and both in-person and virtual discussions with the talent from some of the most exciting LGBTQIA+ programs available on television today.    

The in-person festival events include:

  • QUEER AS FOLK presented by Peacock  This is the world premiere screening of the new Peacock series, a vibrant reimagining of the groundbreaking British series exploring a diverse group of friends in New Orleans.  The program includes a panel talkback with cast and creative team.
  • “Love, Victor” presented by HULU and DISNEY+  It is the show’s third and final season, and OutFronts is proud to show the premier episode of the season!  The program includes  “Love, Victor’s” showrunner and young cast present to discuss the impact of the show’s run, what we might expect from season 3, and bid a farewell to the groundbreaking series.  
  • QUEER FIREFIGHTERS ONSCREEN AND IRL Queer firefighters on TV sit down with their real-life counterparts to discuss being queer and saving lives. The in-person discussion will include Ronen Rubenstein (9-1-1: Lone Star), Brian Michael Smith (9-1-1: Lone Star), Traci Thoms (Station 19), others.
  • LEGENDARY   LEGENDARY is the groundbreaking competition series now in season 3 on HBO Max.   The OutFronts program includes LEGENDARY host and MC Dashaun Wesley will conduct a talk-show style look back at some of the most earth-shattering moments from the show’s history, and a candid talk about all the unfolding drama of the current season.

The virtual events include:

Topic panels  

  • Presented as virtual panels, these panels cover hot queer television topics. These include exploring social media influencers who have used their clout to cross over into the acting world – with Gigi Gorgeous, Kalen Allen, and Boman Martinez-Reid. Another panel looks at “TV’s Queer Pioneers”, with actors who were among the first to regularly appear as three-dimensional queer characters on television, including Wilson Cruz, Amber Benson, and Jane Sibbett. A panel looking to create the next icons spotlights actors who have created some of the most impactful queer characters of recent years, including Harvey Guillen (WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS), Javicia Leslie (BATWOMAN), Brandon Scott Jones (GHOSTS), and Vico Ortiz (OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH).

Series panels  

  • Presented as virtual panels, these programs feature discussions of hot shows and their new season offerings:  a talk on SyFy and USA Network’s CHUCKY moderated by Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller, with CHILD’S PLAY franchise creator Don Mancini and cast members Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Zackary Arthur, and Bjorgvin Anarson; a one-on-one career-spanning conversation with comedy legend Paula Pell upon the release of GIRLS5EVA season two on Peacock; a discussion with the cast and creators of Freeform’s MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM in advance of the series’ final season; a talk with GENTLEMAN JACK creator Sally Wainwright and actor Lydia Leonard; a focused conversation with the queer talent and characters from Showtime’s smash-hit YELLOWJACKETS; as well as panels featuring talent from HBOMax’s SORT OF and THE SEX LIVES OF COLLEGE GIRLS, VH1’s RuPaul’s DRAG RACE, Prime Video’s HARLEM and THE WILDS, The CW’s TOM SWIFT and THE 4400, and HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL – THE SERIES from Disney Plus and Disney Branded Television.

The inaugural year of OutFronts saw nearly 70,000 participants from across the globe. This year should see even more. “It’s inspiring to know that one festival couldn’t possibly cover all the wonderful LGBTQIA+ stories being told on television today,” said Outfest’s Director of Festival Programming, Mike Dougherty. “The OutFronts by no means represents an exhaustive account of all that is queer in TV, but they do gather a multitude of brilliantly talented queer artists and allies whose diversity of perspective and experience are on full display in these funny, entertaining, and emotional conversations. I can’t wait to share them with the world.”

It’s time to join the Queer Television Fandom community, whether you want your seat to be in a happening LA theater, or in your own living room, your piece of the rainbow awaits! See you at OutFronts 2022!

All panel discussions will be free of charge to view online and via Outfest’s OutMuseum platform. The OutFronts are presented by IMDb and media sponsors are The Los Angeles Blade, ABC7 Los Angeles, Clear Channel Outdoor, Edge Media, KCET/PBS SoCal, Pride Media, Queerty, Rainbow Media, Autostraddle, and Variety. RSVP and view the full calendar of The OutFronts programming at theoutfronts.com

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Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more. He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine. He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] .

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Outfest

Los Angeles Outfest 2021 film festival, a glittering success

Both Outfest the festival and Outfest the organization are successful case studies on how a business can grow, evolve and thrive.

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Damien Navarro courtesy of Outfest

LOS ANGELES – That’s a wrap! Outfest closed out its 2021 festival Sunday August 22 at The Orpheum Theatre with a colorful celebration. The night was a glittering success, a happy reminder of pre-covid times and a credit to the leadership of Outfest’s bold new executive director, Damien Navarro.

The Closing Night Gala featured a screening of the documentary feature, Fanny: The Right to Rock, and a live reunion performance from Fanny and her band – the first all-female rock band to release an album with a major label back in the mid 1970’s.

Oscar nominated actor Elliot Page also appeared via video message to accept Outfest’s Achievement Award. Page, who came out as transgender last December, praised the film festival for “an incalculable amount of positive change and transformation in this world.”

Page confessed to the Outfest team “I don’t know that I’d be sitting here without the work that you’ve done and continue to do and the space and the platform you’ve created for so many voices and stories to get out there and to reach people.”

Outfest is a really big deal. For up and coming queer filmmakers it’s a lucrative career launchpad and networking goldmine. For hot indie feature films, it’s a festival must-stop and a respected laurel for the poster. For the city of LA, it’s an incredible week of films, panels and programs, and for the queer community its a vital fighter in the battle for more LGBTQ+ representation in media.

Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival is the largest LGBTQ+ film festival in the world. Founded in 1982 by a couple of UCLA students, its soon to celebrate its 40th birthday. This year’s festival ran from August 13-22 and featured full length feature films such as the incredible film ‘Firebird,’ short films, panel discussions, outdoor festivities, indoor screenings (for vaccinated attendees) and exclusive online festival programming – that extended through till Wednesday, August 25.

But Outfest the organization is more than just the film festival, it’s also an educational resource, and a programming-laden Eden for queer artists. The groundbreaking organization now boasts many branches. Outfest Forward is a development program for underrepresented artists to build their entertainment careers.

The Netflix Fund for Creative Equity recently invested $100 million in The Outfest Screenwriting Lab, a valuable incubator for new talent. Outfest works to nurture, promote and celebrate the incredible work of LGBTQ+ creators.

Both Outfest the festival and Outfest the organization are successful case studies on how a business can grow, evolve and thrive. Extending outreach and investing in future LGBTQ+ storytellers has been one of the largest pushes made by the bold new executive director, Damien Navarro. 

In 2019, the board of directors of Outfest took a giant step forward in hiring Damien Navarro as executive director. Damien Navarro is a native Angeleno, start-up entrepreneur, cinephile and urban farmer. He boasts an impressive resume, a well tended garden of startups, consulting firms and businesses. 

Navarro began his career as an entrepreneur, founding and then later selling his digital marketing and tech consulting agency. Fresh out of college and eager to create content, Navarro founded Earthbound Media Group with a group of friends. Fifteen years passed and the company was suddenly working with huge house-hold name brands. 

Eager to get back to creating content, Navarro changed the name to Brighter Collective and sold off his first company. From there he founded The Institute, a marketing, fundraising and consulting firm. Navarro also served as a faculty member at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film & Media Arts; and yes, he ran Monkey Business Farms, the Laurel Canyon micro-farm, with his husband, Adam.

Navarro’s position at Outfest comfortably sits at the intersection of his multifaceted career, which must have made him an obvious pick for executive director. “The reason I chose this next career move was to challenge myself,” Navarro said on a phone call with The Los Angeles Blade. 

Navarro said he has not only grown as a leader, but as a queer person. His almost two years with the company were a time of great reflection and introspection not only for him, but for the company as well. 

When the landmine of Covid hit Navarro saw the catastrophe as the perfect opportunity to bring in his skills and expertise as a leader in the business world – evaluating what works, what needs changing and then moving forward with the confidence and assurance of a seasoned businessman. “You really realize that culture plays a role in any business,” Navarro shares, “the culture is the way you impact change. Working with the board, with investors, with the community.” thus began Navarro’s process of adapting the culture of Outfest to become “a culture of change”. 

When Navarro began at Outfest much of the programming had gone unchanged for years. The evolution and expansion of many Outfest programs had stalled because of a lack of funding or lack of support. Nose to the grindstone, focused on funding and just staying open, Outfest had gotten caught in the hamster wheel many nonprofits and many arts organizations find themselves in. 2020 provided the time for revitalization.

Here’s how Damien Navarro did it. Navarro said “step one is to breathe.” Before enacting any changes, big or small, Navarro recommends finding presence in the present, grounding yourself and saying “today we’re okay.” For step two, he evaluated all the programs currently in place and asked “does this still meet the intended mission or impact?” For step three, he made changes. 

For Navarro, the most important improvement was for the film festival and its programming to reach new communities. His goal: have Outfest reflect all of Los Angeles, “not just West Hollywood.” The festival has taken strides to connect with previously unrecognized talent in previously unexplored (underprivileged) neighborhoods, cultivating the next generation of filmmakers.

This year, in the short film programs, Outfest will be awarding three $5,000 cash awards to the Short Form Jury Winners to be announced later. “It’s not enough for us to give stars and certificates,” said Navarro, “we have to put real money in the hands of the filmmakers.”

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Renowned queer film fest goes global with ‘Outfest Now’

New streaming platform features movies, series, and much more

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‘God’s Own Country’ is one of many queer films featured on Outfest’s new streaming platform, Outfest Now. (Photo courtesy Orion Pictures)

When John Ramirez and Stuart Timmons started an on-campus gay film festival at UCLA in 1979, they would not have been able to imagine that, 41 years later, it would be showcasing the work of queer filmmakers right in the living rooms of people around the world.

Known since 1994 as Outfest, the festival was officially founded (under the accurate but unwieldy name of “The Gay and Lesbian Media Festival and Conference”) in 1982 and has been a fixture in the cultural life of LGBTQ Los Angeles ever since. Now grown into a non-profit global arts, media and entertainment organization, it not only continues to offer two annual world-class queer film festivals in LA every year (Outfest and Outfest Fusion, which highlights diversity in the LGBTQ community by featuring the work of people of color), but lives up to its stated mission – to “create visibility to diverse LGBTQIA+ stories and empower storytellers, building empathy to drive meaningful social change” – through mentorship, education programs, a screenwriting lab, workshops, fellowships, a robust Young Filmmakers Project and more.

In addition, the organization partners with the UCLA Film and Television Archive for a Legacy Project, the only program in the world dedicated to the archiving and restoration of LGBTQ films, which has to date established a collection of more than 41,000 items “and growing.”

As if all that important work were not enough, Outfest has expanded itself once more by taking on another operation – and in so doing, has also expanded its reach by entering the quickly proliferating industry of streaming entertainment.

Outfest Now, which launched Oct. 20, is the festival’s very own streaming platform, touted in their official description as “a year-round, always-on destination to meet the increasing demands for fresh storytelling with new perspectives within the LGBTQIA+ community.” What that means is that subscribers get access to a “carefully curated collection” of feature-length and short-form narrative and documentary films, episodic series, and exclusive conversations. It represents a creative vanguard of queer voices along with a celebration of the community’s legacy.

What it also means – and what makes the new platform significant – is that Outfest has made itself accessible to global audiences. For the first time, the content the organization offers can easily reach viewers anywhere, bringing stories, both true and fictional, that express diverse LGBTQ experiences from all across the community and elevate the visibility of many unrepresented identities and voices. Much of this material never finds commercial distribution; it makes a tour of the festival circuit and then struggles to self-market in the digital world, never gaining the opportunity to reach many of the viewers that might need to see it most. Outfest Now changes that dynamic and bridges the gap, which is good for the film artists, whose work becomes available to a much-expanded audience. And because they get to see that work, which they would otherwise never have seen, it’s good for the audience, too.

There’s another benefit embedded in the deal, as well, and it’s arguably the most important of all in terms of long-term effect. As the first mission-driven platform of its kind, Outfest Now’s revenues go directly to Outfest itself; that means anyone who subscribes will be helping to support and sustain the festival’s year-round programs – including its work in promoting and enabling the work of LGBTQ+ film artists around the world, in nurturing and enabling the talent of new and exciting LGBTQ+ storytellers, and in preserving and archiving the legacy of queer cinema for future generations.

As Outfest Executive Director Damien S. Navarro puts it, “By subscribing, you are giving back while also gaining access to an ever-rotating exhibition of the best in queer cinema, television, music, stage and digital content – all handpicked for you, by one of the most renowned organizations in the world.”

Such support is more vital to the organization now than ever, perhaps. Like all non-profit arts organizations, Outfest has been hard hit by the COVID crisis. Thanks to digital technology, the organization’s 2020 summer film festival in Los Angeles was able to go on, as scheduled, through virtual presentations and a handful of socially distant live events (such as drive-in screenings), but with no end in sight and no certainty of how the long-term disruption of a global shutdown will impact the future of film and television content, shoring up support for the future is essential.

The organization’s director of digital strategy, Tarah Malhotra-Feinberg, stresses the importance of staying ahead of the curve, telling us, “Outfest is doing vital work to increase representation, access and visibility across underrepresented and marginalized communities, which is more important than ever right now. Outfest is embracing technology and innovating its business model; that’s why we continue to lead during the pandemic.”
She also points out, “These aren’t just great queer stories. This is some of the best content I’ve ever seen, full stop.”

Outfest Now offers subscriptions on either a monthly or annual basis. It’s affordable ($5.99 a month, with a 10 percent discount on the yearly option), at a time when many potential audience members might be keeping a careful watch on their budget, and it includes not only access to a year-round selection of content from Outfest’s diverse library of short and feature film titles, but also episodic series, curated collections, and live streamed events – such as conversations with creators, casts and crews every Tuesday, and watch parties every Thursday, “presenting a year-round supplement to the content that is sorely lacking in the community,” according to Outfest’s official publicity. Subscribers can customize their own experiences with a personalized watch list, on-demand viewing, the ability to download for offline viewing and the same kind of simple navigation that has come to be expected as standard for any leading streaming service.

Among the major film titles available on launch are the critically acclaimed, BAFTA-nominated “God’s Own Country,” Outfest LA’s 2017 winner “Saturday Church” (starring Indya Moore and Mj Rodriguez of “Pose”), Jonathan Lisecki’s Spirit Award-nominated “Gayby,” and the Emmy-nominated series “Razor Tongue,” created by and starring Rain Valdez. In addition, there are curated film collections grouped under such categories as “Family Matters,” “Coming Out and Coming of Age,” “Brief Encounters,” and – just in time for your seasonal entertainment pleasure – “HallowKWEEN.”

While it’s true that the selection available at launch might seem a bit slim in comparison to streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix, there are plans to “exhibit an ever-growing rotation of contemporary as well as historical works,” in the words of Farhaad Virani, Outfest board member and Associate General Counsel at Amazon Studios, so subscribers can rest assured that a steady stream of new and exciting queer content will be coming their way each month.

If you’re looking for a full listing of the line-up available, you can find it by going to the platform’s website – outfestnow.com – and clicking on “browse.” While you’re there, you can find out more details about Outfest and its mission.

And, of course, you can also subscribe, making yourself an official supporter of one of the most respected and influential LGBTQ+ film festivals in the world, right from the comfort of your own couch.

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Arts & Entertainment

A reinvented Outfest set to bring LGBTQ cinema into the age of social distancing

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Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein star in “The Nowhere Inn,” the opening night selection for Outfest LA Under the Stars (Image Courtesy of Outfest)

For Outfest, the show must go on.

Despite the continuing pandemic, the renowned Los Angeles’ LGBTQ film festival will kick off this week (on August 20), even without being able to host its comprehensive roster of screenings at the usual in-person venues. Instead, the fest will move online, allowing supporters, subscribers, and even just fans of world-class LGBTQ cinema access to more than 160 participating films – among them, 35 world premieres, 10 North American premieres and four US premieres.

This is great news for the many Angelenos who look forward annually to immersing themselves in the fresh, diverse, and exciting new features and shorts offered by Outfest since its humble but ambitious beginnings at UCLA in 1982. Even better news, perhaps, is that not all the screenings will be virtual. The festival has lined up a series of drive-in events, under the title “Outfest LA Under the Stars,” to take place at Malibu’s Calamigos Ranch. It’s the first time in Outfest’s 38-year history that audiences will be able to enjoy a film from the privacy – not to mention the safety – of their cars.

The venue has scheduled screenings across six-nights on two lots, including kick-off and closing events, and will launch with the LA premiere of “The Nowhere Inn,” a Sundance entry starring musicians Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein in a reality-bending twist of Clark’s alt-pop star persona St. Vincent. The additional live screenings will include the trans-themed modern-day western, “Cowboys,” starring Steve Zahn and Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), the Latinx romance, “La Leyenda Negra,” the pre-Stonewall drag documentary, “P.S. Burn this Letter Please ,” and the world premiere of Outfest alum Travis Fine’s “Two Eyes,” a century-spanning interwoven narrative exploring queer expression across three different eras in the American West.

More than 70 percent of the films in this year’s Outfest were directed by women, transgender and POC filmmakers; the festival also includes several films originally scheduled for other festivals, such as the aforementioned “P.S. Burn This Letter Please” and “Cowboys,” which along with the also-slated Big Freedia anti-gun advocacy doc “Freedia Got A Gun” were selected for Tribeca, and SXSW premiere titles including “The Carnivores” and Outfest LA’s US centerpiece selection “Shiva Baby,” starring Rachel Sennott, Dianna Agron, and Fred Melamed.

Outfest’s other centerpiece selections include the Posy Dixon-helmed documentary “Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story,” International Centerpiece “Monsoon” (directed by Sundance and Outfest alum Hong Khaou and starring Henry Golding), and Breakthrough Centerpiece “The Obituary of Tunde Johnson,” the feature-film directing debut of “Everybody Hates Chris” co-creator Ali LeRoi.

“Two Eyes,” which will be Outfest’s closing film, will also screen on the festival’s digital platform.

Other notable titles at this year’s festival include “Three Chords and a Lie,” a documentary about gay country music artist Brandon Stansell’s return to his conservative hometown which will be presented with a drive-in concert, and the world premiere of Emmy-nominated actor Scott Turner Schofield’s one-man show “Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps,” in which viewers can interactively choose from among the 127 segments created by Schofield.

Mike Dougherty, Outfest’s director of programming, says, “In this brand new, uncharted territory of digital festivals, we are honored that so many wonderful films have entrusted Outfest LA to be their festival home. I’m incredibly excited that this stunning array of diverse talent — which represents Outfest’s continued mission to showcase the best work from LGBTQIA+ artists — will be more accessible than ever before.”

Executive Director Damien S. Navarro adds, “This year’s film festival is not only a reflection of Outfest’s historic trajectory — mixing innovation with media to cast an ever-widening net of diverse and global stories — it is also a testament to Outfest’s commitment to thrive in a moment in which the future of live events, independent film, and our own rights are threatened.”

Participating films will compete for jury and audience awards. U.S. narrative feature jurors include filmmaker James Sweeney (“Straight Up”); Neon’s director of acquisitions Ayo Kepher-Maat, Neon; and film critic Caden Mark Gardner. International narrative feature jurors are former AFI Fest and Film Independent artistic director Jacqueline Lyanga; Inside Out Toronto director of programming Andrew Murphyand filmmaker Isabel Sandoval (“Lingua Franca”). Documentary jurors include filmmakers Sam Feder (“Disclosure”); Ben-Alex Dupris (Outfest winner “Sweetheart Dancers”), and Daresha Kyi (“Chavela”). International narrative shorts jurors are filmmakers Daniel Laabs (Outfest winner “Jules of Light and Dark”), Lauren Wolkstein (“The Strange Ones”); and Aurora Guerrero (“Gentefied”). U.S. narrative short jurors include actor Brian Michael Smith (“911: Lone Star”), and filmmakers Gillian Horvat (“I Blame Society”) and Carly Usdin (“Suicide Kale”).

Outfest is presented by Warner Media and runs Aug. 20-30. Information and tickets, along with a full line-up of scheduled films, can be accessed at the festival’s website.

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