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Outfest is auctioning off a chance to join filmmaker John Waters

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce awards stars in 3 categories besides motion pictures: television, recording & live theater/live performance



Filmmaker John Waters (Photo by Greg Gorman)

By Ed Gunts | LOS ANGELES – Filmmaker John Waters will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this year, and one lucky fan will get a chance to join him the day it’s unveiled.

Outfest, the LGBTQ-oriented organization that nominated Waters for the tribute, is auctioning off a chance for the high bidder to be with the filmmaker at the unveiling ceremony in Los Angeles in September.

“Be John Waters’ Special Guest at his Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony,” says the website of the auctioneer, The online auction went live on February 14 and ends February 27. The opening bid was $1,250. (Linked here)

In addition to attending the ceremony as Waters’ guest, the winning bidder will receive two posters signed by the filmmaker and one “OUTPASS” to the Outfest Los Angeles Film and Entertainment Festival July 13 to 23. The auction listing states that Waters will also sign one additional small item that the winner brings to the ceremony.

Waters, 76, is one of 24 individuals or groups announced last June as part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame’s “Class of 2023” honorees.  He was named in the motion pictures category.

Over a career spanning six decades, the Baltimore-based filmmaker has written 10 books and written and directed 16 movies. Two of his movies, “Pink Flamingos” and “Hairspray,” have been added to the U. S. Library of Congress’ prestigious National Film Registry, a list of motion pictures selected for their “cultural, historic or aesthetic importance” to be preserved as part of the nation’s film heritage. The editors of recently selected “Pink Flamingos” to be on their list of the “100 Greatest Movies of All Time.”

Other Waters films include “Serial Mom,” “Cry-Baby,” “Polyester,” “Pecker,” “Cecil B. Demented,” “A Dirty Shame,” “Multiple Maniacs,” “Female Trouble,” and “Desperate Living.” Waters confirmed reports last year that Village Roadshow Pictures has optioned his 2022 novel, “Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance,” and that he will write and direct the film.

Started in 1960 and administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the Walk of Fame now stretches for 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three along Vine Street, features about 2,750 stars and draws upwards of 10 million visitors a year. It has been called “the world’s most famous walkway.”

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce awards stars in three other categories besides motion pictures: television, recording and live theater/live performance. The cost of creating, installing and maintaining a brass and terrazzo star is about $55,000. According to the chamber’s rules, anyone can nominate a celebrity to receive a star on the Walk of Fame; but the nominated person or group has to accept the nomination and a third party has to pay a fee to cover fabrication and maintenance costs.

The Los Angeles-based organization that nominated Waters, Outfest, is a 41-year-old film and media non-profit that produces two film festivals, operates a movie-streaming platform and provides educational services for filmmakers.

This is the first time Outfest has sponsored anyone for a star.

Executive director Damien Navarro said last year that Outfest made the nomination because it’s consistent with its mission of celebrating work by LGBTQ artists and he was surprised to learn that Waters had not already been recognized and felt he would be a good choice for the group’s first nomination. Navarro said he hopes to see Outfest sponsor more LGBTQ artists. “There aren’t any regular organizations that are doing this with the queer community,” he said.

Tiffany Naiman, a senior programmer for Outfest, has known Waters since the 1990s and was instrumental in his nomination. She declined to say exactly how much Outfest has raised for the star so far but indicated the organization has been successful in its efforts.

“We are in a good position with the Star as everyone loves John!” she said in an email message.

Naiman explained that proceeds from the CharityBuzz auction won’t be used to help pay for the star, but they will be used to benefit the Outfest organization and its year round programming. “It is an incredible opportunity for someone to have a chance to join John and us at the Star ceremony,” she said.

Outfest’s auction is one of two this year that are giving fans a chance to meet Waters. Earlier this month, 10 bidders won the opportunity to have dinner in Provincetown with the filmmaker in an auction that raised $11,000 for the Provincetown Film Society. The dinner will be held in July at Provincetown’s water treatment plant and was dubbed, “Soiree at the Sewer.”

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce hasn’t disclosed exactly where Waters’ star will be. Waters has been telling audiences who come to his spoken-word performances around the country that he likes that the star on the sidewalk will be “close to the gutter,” where he started, and that he hopes his will be near the one unveiled in 2019 for Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Waters’ Walk of Fame ceremony has been scheduled to take place on September 18, one day after the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles opens a retrospective of Waters’ career as a filmmaker, entitled “John Waters: The Pope of Trash.” The exhibit will run at the museum, 6067 Wilshire Boulevard, until August 4, 2024. Between the two events, “it’ll be the summer of John Waters,” Navarro said.



10 films you must not miss during Outfest 2023’s second half

Outfest’s Closing Gala is on Sunday July 23, at 7pm. It will be held at The Montalbán, 1615 Vine St, in Hollywood



Los Angeles Blade graphic/montage

LOS ANGELES – The 41st edition of Outfest Los Angeles is in full bloom – but if you missed any of its thrilling first half that included scores of LGBTQ+ screenings, premieres and parties, fear not.

Much of the best of this year’s Outfest is still to come over the next several days, including dozens of in-person screenings, the seventh annual Trans, Nonbinary, & Intersex Summit, and the festival’s big Closing Gala on Sunday, July 23. What’s more, for a limited time, many fantastic films that have already screened (like Down Low, Fancy Dance, and Mutt) can now be streamed via the festival’s virtual platform.

But it’s in-person screenings that have always been the main draw at Outfest, often featuring lively Q&A sessions with the films’ directors (though sadly not the narrative casts this year, due to the SAG-AFTRA strike). Here are ten standout screenings that you won’t want to miss in the final days of Outfest Los Angeles 2023.

Truth Be Told

Emmy-winning director Nneka Onuorah (Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls) presents a unique and important front-lines look at the fight to bring LGBTQ+ inclusivity to the Black church, featuring reflections from Billy Porter, Cedric the Entertainer, and frequent Tyler Perry collaborators David and Tamala Mann. Onuorah and several of the doc’s participants are expected to be in attendance. (Thu July 20, 5pm, Directors Guild of America, Theatre 1)


A quartet of modern queer cinematic icons comes together for this latest feature from director Ira Sachs (Outfest Grand Jury Prize winner for 2012’s Keep the Lights On), in which Paris-based filmmaker Tomas (Franz Rogowski from 2021’s excellent Great Freedom) strays from his longtime marriage to Martin (Ben Whishaw) for a surprising affair with Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue Is the Warmest Color), throwing everyone’s worlds into bedlam. The film is this year’s Outfest Special Centerpiece, and Sachs is expected to appear. (Thu July 20, 7:15pm, DGA 1)


Director Agniia Galdanova profiles the profoundly bold drag activism of Gena Marvin, a radical young performance artist from a small town in eastern Russia who has turned her talent for otherworldly costuming into a powerful instrument of protest against a litany of political and social injustices, including the mistreatment of Russia’s LGBTQ+ community. (Thu July 20, 7:30pm, DGA 2)


The Shiva Baby team of director Emma Seligman and star Rachel Sennott return in this wacky queer high school farce that Variety called “a gonzo gay Fight Club meets Heathers.” Senior pals PJ and Josie (Sennott and Ayo Edebiri) devise a plan to lose their virginity by launching a female fight club that will bring them close to their school’s hottest cheerleaders. Seligman is expected to attend this screening. (Fri July 21, 7:30pm, DGA 1)

Big Boys

Young Jamie’s excitement for a wholesome family camping trip is dashed when his favorite cousin Allie shows up with her new boyfriend Dan, who not only diverts Allie’s attention, but arouses fellow “big boy” Jamie’s romantic interest. The Guardian called director Corey Sherman’s feature debut “an achingly brilliant queer coming-of-age classic.” Sherman is expected to appear live. (Sat July 22, 11am, DGA 1)

The Mattachine Family

When couple Thomas (Nico Tortorella) and Oscar (Juan Pablo di Pace) lose their foster son following his birth mother’s release from prison, they react differently to the loss, with Oscar happy to return to his rejuvenated acting career, and Thomas yearning to reprise the role he never thought he’d want as a father. Andy Vallentine directed the script by his real-life husband Danny Vallentine, and both are expected to be in attendance. (Sat July 22, 1:30pm, DGA 1)

1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture

LGBTQ+ people learn early on that the Christian Bible condemns their very existence – or does it? Guided by personal faith and queer identity, director Rocky Roggio explores the powerful significance of a single word that was mistranslated in 1946, then unravels how that subsequently altered the trajectory of history for generations of believers. (Sat July 22, 4:15pm, DGA 1)


Los Espookys’ Julio Torres brings his surreal brand of comedy to his directorial debut, in which he also stars as aspiring Salvadoran toy designer Alejandro – who, to stay in New York, takes a gig assisting an eccentric art world outcast, played by a deliciously unhinged Tilda Swinton. It’s all wryly narrated by Isabella Rossellini. (Sat July 22, 6:45pm, DGA 1)

Opponent (Motståndaren)

Forced to flee Tehran after a shadowy violent incident that left a target on his back, closeted pro wrestler Iman lands with his wife and children in the far north of Sweden. When he joins the Swedish national wrestling team, the sport’s sensual physicality brings back irresistible reminders of his unresolved past. (Sat July 22, 9:45pm, DGA 2)

Chasing Chasing Amy

What better way to close out Outfest 2023 than with a queer film about a queer(ish) film? Kevin Smith’s 1997 rom-com Chasing Amy has been controversial among the LGBTQ+ community ever since its release, at once normalizing our existence while simultaneously promoting inaccurate and harmful stereotypes. Director Sav Rodgers delves into his own attraction to the film as a young man struggling with gender identity, before frankly exploring the movie’s messy place in queer cinematic history via interviews with Smith, Chasing Amy stars Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee, and one of the film’s unexpected inspirations – lesbian cinema legend Guinevere Turner.

Outfest’s Closing Gala will immediately follow the screening. (Sun July 23, 7pm,The Montalbán, 1615 Vine St, Hollywood)

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‘El Paisa’ has world premiere at Outfest LA July 22

LA-based queer Latine filmmakers’ new short film bridges Latine subcultures celebrating unifying community, heartache & queer identity



David Ty Reza & Cristian Urbina star in “El Paisa” from award winning LGBTQ+ filmmaker Daniel Eduvijes Carrera. (Photo by Daniel Eduvijes Carrera)

LOS ANGELES – Award winning LGBTQ+ filmmaker and advocate, Daniel Eduvijes Carrera, wrote and directed the new short film “El Paisa”, an empowerment narrative short film that reflects the diversity of queer Latine immigrant communities in Los Angeles.

The film, produced by Miguel Angel Caballero, makes its World Premiere at this year’s renowned Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival, Outfest. “El Paisa” will screen as part of Outfest’s Shorts: LatinXcellence program, which highlights the queer Latine experience, on Saturday, July 22nd at 9:30 pm.

The film will also be available to stream online from July 24 to July 30, linked HERE

“El Paisa” is a coming-of-age drama that follows gay goth skater Fernando (Cristian Urbina), who after being rescued from a gang of cholos by a stern vaquero (David Ty Reza) on the streets of East LA, finds the courage to put an end to closeted young love, leading to a newfound connection to his Latine and LGBTQ+ familia.

The inspiration behind “El Paisa” is based on writer/director Eduvijes Carrera’s own experience, a key, transformative moment in his life where he found himself empowered to embrace both his queerness and his Latine heritage as equally integral parts of himself, and allowed him to finally claim his own intersectional and multicultural queer identity.

“A primary inspiration behind this story was to shed a positive light on an often disparaged portion of our community – the “Paisa” – a term tantamount to “Redneck” or “Wetback,” referring to a recent immigrant of rural origins,” said the film’s writer & director Eduvijes Carrera. “Through the film, my goal is to reclaim the increasingly derogatory term and elevate our Paisa as a potential source of guidance, queer insight and acceptance,” he added.

The film was partly funded by Latino Public Broadcasting and will be distributed through LPB/PBS channels in 2024. The film reflects the diversity of Queer Latine immigrant communities in Los Angeles.

In making this film, Eduvijes Carrera wanted to not only shed a light on the diversity of the Latine LGBTQ+ community, but also to uplift Latine talent both in front of and behind the camera. True to the spirit of the story, the film’s cast is 100% Latine and the crew is 90% Latine.

“El Paisa”, funded in part by Latino Public Broadcasting, will be distributed online and on television via LPB/PBS in 2024 after its film festival run, taking the film’s uplifting messages of diversity, acceptance and empowerment through Latinx culture, to a broader audience.

Eduvijes Carrera is an accomplished voice in American Latinx filmmaking. His work has screened at the Tribeca, Guadalajara, Morelia, Huesca and Los Angeles Film Festivals, and at numerous art museums and on international television broadcasts.

He’s the winner of the Imagen Foundation Award, Top Prize winner in Ovation TV’s “Search for the Next Revolutionary Filmmaker” and was recognized as Best Latino Film Director by the Directors Guild of America Student Film Awards. 

The film’s original music was written, composed and produced by Ricky Garay and Silas Hite of Los Tigres del Accordion presented by Cumbia Fever. The film’s opening song Banquito is a charming cumbia about falling in love at a nightclub, based on Garay’s own love story.

Ricky Garay has been a professional actor and singer since he was 3 years old. Son of Joaquin Garay II, owner of the world famous CopaCabana in San Francisco, Ricky has followed in his father’s footsteps as a successful Latino nightclub producer, creating safe spaces for Latin Indie musicians and DJs through his company Mucho Music.

He also created and leads Cumbia Fever, a centralized gathering Cumbia hot spot for Latinos from all over the region, presented every Thursday at the Downtown LA nightclub La Cita. 

Silas Hite is an Emmy award winning artist and composer currently living and working in Los Angeles. His scores have garnered an Emmy, a Grand Clio, a Cannes Titanium Grand Prix, a Grand Effie and Adweek’s Campaign of The Decade. He has written memorable music for some of the biggest video games and television shows of the past ten years (including Keeping up with the Kardashians/E!, LAX/NBC, The Big Brunch/HBO) and contributed music to both blockbuster and independent films.

EL PAISA Trailer

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Long-awaited ‘Studio One’ doc hits LA’s Outfest

Studio One has long been buried and neglected, overshadowed and out-excessed by the scandal-ridden saga of its more famous Manhattan cousin



An evocative archival photo of club patrons featured in STUDIO ONE FOREVER (Photo courtesy Natalie Garcia)

We know you’ve heard of Studio 54, the iconic New York City dance club that became almost synonymous with the hedonistic lifestyle of the 1970s disco scene, but before it ever opened its doors there was already Studio One, and if you’ve heard of that one, you’re probably from Los Angeles.

Founded in 1974 by part-owner Scott Forbes in the upstairs space above a furniture factory, the West Hollywood nightclub was must-do hotspot in LA during through the peak of the disco years until its closing in 1993. Explicitly conceived as a haven for gay men, it was known for its youthful clientele, celebrity patrons, and notoriously hedonistic vibe; it became even more of a draw with the opening of “The Backlot,” an adjacent performance venue that featured some of the biggest “A-list” acts of the era.

The story of Studio One has long been buried and neglected, overshadowed and out-excessed by the scandal-ridden saga of its more famous Manhattan cousin, but thanks to filmmaker Marc Saltarelli, it’s finally getting its due as a seminal part of queer cultural history. His film – “Studio One Forever,” a documentary that chronicles the nightclub’s decadent reign as the queen of queer nightlife in LA and follows the effort to preserve the building that housed it – has its world premiere screening at LA’s OutFest on July 18, and while it might not yet be available to a wider audience, it’s bound to draw attention as an important document of an era when queer culture was bursting – through the phenomenon of disco – into the mainstream.

Framed by the modern-day story of former patrons, now local community leaders, spearheading the campaign to save the club’s historic building from demolition, it’s a widely-scoped exploration of the Studio One legacy that draws heavily on archival material, personal reminiscence, and hindsight, unearthing a history that took place mostly in secret – or as much so as was possible for a nightclub frequented by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, both new and old. It’s an engrossing watch, full of interviews with Studio One-adjacent celebs like Bruce Vilanch, Chita Rivera, Thelma Houston, Melissa Rivers, Julie Budd and more, and loaded with anecdotal tidbits alongside the corroborative testimony that gives them the weight of lived experience; more than that, it offers a microcosmic look at queer life from the giddy freedom of the sexually liberated seventies through the decimation of the AIDS era and beyond, into an age when survivors of that time have empowered themselves to reclaim their own history – something that becomes nearly visceral through the extensive photographic record of life inside the club itself, much of it made possible by a chance discovery, covered in the film, which we won’t spoil.

Speaking to Saltarelli before his movie’s debut, we learned that although he had been to Studio One after moving to Los Angeles in 1984, his interest in making a film about it began in 2018, when a friend and former Backlot producer told him about a reunion party for the club that was planned to help drum up support for a “Save the Factory” campaign, in hopes of persuading West Hollywood city officials that the space which once housed the legendary club was worth preserving. It was suggested to him that the story would make a good documentary.

“I had been to the club when I was 19, after I had moved from Illinois, and I had those memories – but I had no idea what had happened before I got there, or after,” Saltarelli tells us. “So, I started doing the research, and the women who started ‘Save the Factory’ had put together a 30-or-40-page, detailed, historical document – it actually got official ‘historical preservation status’ – where they interviewed a lot of people that I would end up interviewing later. When I read that, I was like, ‘Wow, there’s an amazing story here that not many people know about.’ I certainly didn’t.”

There were funding challenges, of course, and other logistical obstacles that had to be worked out before he could start the project, but thanks to a postponement of the planned reunion, the filmmaker was able to get things together in time to film that occasion, including extensive interviews with former patrons waiting in line to get in – just like in the old days.

He also gained access to film inside the building, giving him the opportunity to gather a core group of former Studio One regulars – including John Jude Duran, a West Hollywood City Council member and veteran of multiple terms as the town’s mayor – to reminisce on camera within the space in which they had spent so many hours of their younger lives.

“We were able to film the club’s front bartender, Michael Koth, at his old station,” he says, “which was really amazing.” Koth, who used to put lines of complementary cocaine on the bar for patrons, is now a respected health and wellness practitioner.

The flagrant encouragement of drug use at Studio One is just one of the less-than-savory aspects that Saltarelli includes in his documentary, though it takes nothing away from the joyous nostalgia that infuses it. Another is the inevitable discussion of the club’s well-documented racist-and-classist admission policies, which led to controversy and protest even in the “pre-woke” environment of the seventies and eighties.

“Scott Forbes’ vision was to have a place for gay white men only,” Saltarelli tells us. “He didn’t come right out and say it, but he had this ‘no open-toed shoes’ policy as a way of keeping women out, and he didn’t want people of color to be a part of it. They had to have three forms of ID, sometimes, it was just ridiculous.

“Scott had his flaws. I don’t believe he was racist, but he was a businessman, and it was business decision – and the times were different. It’s not to trash Scott, but I didn’t want to gloss over it, it’s the way it was. Some people deny it, but frankly, that’s because they’re white and they never saw it happening.”

Though “Studio One Forever” has an inherently local focus, Saltarelli has been pleased to find enthusiasm for his project coming from all across the country – and he believes he understands why it strikes a chord for so many people who never set foot in the club itself.
“It’s a universal story for our queer community,” he muses. “It represents our youth, our coming-of-age, it resonates not only with incredibly happy times but also the tragedy of the eighties that still lives with us. All those emotions and memories come back, and most of the people in these photographs, unfortunately, aren’t with us anymore.

“I also like to think it’s a way of honoring those people, who gave so much. They didn’t ask to die, but because of them we were mobilized as a community and that’s why we’ve been able to attain further rights – even though some people are trying to erase those now.”

In truth, queer safe spaces like Studio One are also being erased, even in the LGBTQ+ mecca of West Hollywood – which makes the history related by Saltarelli’s movie even more valuable.

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‘Love, Jamie’ premieres at Outfest Los Angeles

Queer art made by trans woman jailed with men in Texas is subject of the new film ‘Love, Jamie’ premiering at Outfest Los Angeles on July 16



Love, Jamie trailer. (Screenshot/Vimeo)

LOS ANGELES – “I believe it is important to shed as much light as possible on inequality as well as show the integrity, courage, beauty, and love of our people,” says Jamie Diaz, 65, a Mexican-American transgender woman locked away in a Texas prison for men. Diaz has spent her years behind bars for the crimes she committed becoming a prolific artist.

Her work evokes dignity, pride, and liberation, even though Diaz herself is imprisoned.

This story of perseverance, pride, creativity and transcendence is the subject of Love, Jamie, a short film set to have its world premiere at Outfest Los Angeles on Sunday. 

The film tells how Diaz spends her days in her cell creating works of art with a very limited amount of supplies, including brushes fashioned out of her fellow prisoners’ hair. Her mission is to produce the largest collection of queer-themed art in the world. 

Executive produced by acclaimed trans filmmaker Zackary Drucker (The Stroll, The Lady and the Dale, Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl, Transparent), the film was directed by Emmy-nominated news documentary producer and director Karla Murthy, and was produced by veteran television producer and director Andrew Fredericks.

“It’s a message in a bottle, in a way,” Drucker told the Los Angeles Blade. “I think to create a bridge to folks who are on the inside is so crucial for our humanity. Just to have a clearer understanding of what we as civilians are complicit and upholding, a system of modern slavery.”

Making a movie about an incarcerated subject was no easy task for the filmmakers. 

“Originally, we thought we were going to try to film with Jamie, and that was just a no-go, that just wasn’t going to happen,” said Murthy. “But she’s up for parole in a couple of years. And so our primary objective was to not get in the way of that, and to not have any negative repercussions for her while she’s in prison.” Murthy said she and Fredericks, her producer and director of photography, worked with advocates in Texas to help navigate this tricky path so as not to hurt Diaz’s chances of getting out of prison by telling the story of her life behind bars. 

“We vetted every single cut we made and vetted all the language that we used on the website or in outreach materials, all of that was vetted so that we could protect Jamie,” Murthy told the Blade. I had never worked in this kind of way before on a film, where we were sharing everything that we made with each other and with Jamie, We sent Jamie the transcripts and photographs and film stills like a storyboard for her to review and approve. And it ended up being such an amazing process. I learned a lot, and I feel like I really grew as a filmmaker making a film in this way.”

As Love, Jamie reveals, Diaz has another ally in her quest: a trans non-binary activist, Gabriel Joffe, who cultivates a friendship with Diaz through hundreds of letters and phone calls over many years. With their help, Diaz’s work catches the attention of NYC’s Daniel Cooney Fine Art Gallery, leading to her first public art show in October 2022. 

“Eight years ago, I got my start with Daniel Cooney,” said Drucker, who is an alumna of the School of Visual Arts in New York and the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. “And all these years later, he reached out to share Jamie’s work with me, and I was so moved by her work.” 

“Andy showed me one of the letters that she wrote, and I think it was a letter to Daniel,” recalled Murthy. “I just was really blown away by how her voice came through her words. She was just so honest and vulnerable and kind. And that’s when the idea of a film emerged. And then when we found out that there was this trove of letters that she and Gabriel had exchanged. That was such an amazing archive to have, especially in this day and age when, you know, so many of our relationships are like texting and phone calls and, you know, to actually have this tactile thing to document this relationship.” 

The screening at Outfest L.A. is Sun, July 16, at 11:00 a.m., in DGA 1, and is playing in Shorts Program: “Is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy?” Click here to watch the trailer and for more information about Love, Jamie.

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10 films not to miss in the first half of Outfest 2023

This year’s Outfest lineup, amazingly the 41st, kicks off next Thursday, July 13, and features more than 170 films from over 25 countries



Los Angeles Blade/Outfest graphic

LOS ANGELES – Few things are constant anymore in queer Los Angeles – but luckily if it’s July, it must be Outfest, when the latest, best, and brightest morsels of global LGBTQ+ cinema arrive to delight and illuminate us all.

This year’s Outfest lineup, amazingly the 41st, kicks off next Thursday, July 13, and features more than 170 films from over 25 countries – without a dud in the bunch, so we recommend catching as many as you possibly can. 

Since many (but not all) Outfest films will have virtual screenings available again this year that you can watch from home, it’s conceivable that you could essentially catch the whole roster – but we get that ain’t nobody got time for that, so we’ve picked out the ten films from the first half of Outfest that you really shouldn’t miss. We’ll be back with our second-half picks next week.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Launching this year’s Outfest is filmmaker Aitch Alberto’s tender screen adaption of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s wildly popular young adult novel of the same name, starring newcomers Max Pelayo and Reese Gonzales in the title roles as Mexican-American teenagers in El Paso whose intimate friendship turns into something more. Eva Longoria costars as Dante’s mother, and Lin-Manuel Miranda was one of the film’s producers. In longtime Outfest tradition, the Opening Night Gala takes place downtown at the Orpheum Theatre, with one of LA’s best LGBTQ+ parties of the year to directly follow the screening. (Thu July 13 at 7pm, Orpheum Theatre)

Rotting in the Sun

Rotting in the Sun

Chilean director Sebastián Silva (The Maid, Nasty Baby) and influencer Jordan Firstman star as delightfully skewed (and skewered) versions of themselves in this drug-fueled, meta-filled, and wholly unique take on the excesses of modern gay culture and creativity, at turns hilarious, shocking, erotic, and downright cringy. (Fri July 14, 9:30pm, Directors Guild of America, Theatre 1)

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project

Going to Mars- The Nikki Giovanni Project

Poet, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni – one of the foremost authors of the Black Arts Movement – is gracefully profiled in this layered documentary that builds a tapestry of her fascinating life and deep legacy, one that dimensionalizes her for fans and captivates for her newcomers. (Sat Jul 15, 12pm, Directors Guild of America, Theatre 2)

Commitment to Life

Commitment to Life

Beloved Outfest alum Jeffrey Schwartz (I Am Divine, Tab Hunter Confidential) returns with this important look at how Los Angeles responded when the HIV/AIDS crisis hit Hollywood, from the discovery of its first warning sign at UCLA to the powerful community of doctors, movie stars, studio moguls, and activists who came together to change the direction and perception of the crisis as it unfolded. (Sat Jul 15, 4:15pm, DGA 1)

All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White

All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White

Winner of the Teddy Award for Best Feature at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Nigerian director Babatunde Apalowo’s bold and beautiful debut film tells the story of Bambino and Bawa, two young men in Lagos who find themselves feeling feelings for each other that they both know put them at tremendous risk, both socially and physically. (Sat Jul 15, 7pm, DGA 2)

Fancy Dance

Fancy Dance

Erica Tremblay’s first narrative feature is the US Centerpiece at this year’s Outfest, the moving family tale of Seneca-Cayuga teenager Roki and her queer aunt, who bond more tightly as they hit the road in search of clues about Roki’s missing mother. (Sat Jul 15, 7pm, DGA 1)

Down Low

Down Low

Outfest’s Late Night Spotlight is this unhinged black comedy starring Zachary Quinto as a repressed divorcé, and Lukas Gage (The White Lotus) as the full-tilt-gay masseur he hires for a happy ending. 

Variety called it “an over-the-top, bottom-trawling comedy that wants to be for the gay community what The Hangover was to the mainstream — which is to say, wildly irreverent and incredibly wrong.”

All that, and appearances by Simon Rex, Audra McDonald, and Judith Light to boot. (Sat Jul 15, 9:45pm, DGA 1)

Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynes

Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynes

Best remembered for his celebrity and fashion photography, George Platt Lynes had a greater passion and talent that’s only recently begun to be appreciated, as an early photographer of the male nude. Director Sam Shahid looks at that work and Lynes’ life, including his long friendships with Gertrude Stein and Alfred Kinsey, and his lasting influence as one of America’s first openly gay artists. (Sun Jul 16 1:45pm, DGA 1)

Cora Bora

Cora Bora

Hey gay, it’s queer favorite Meg Stalter as messy and delusional anti-heroine Cora, an aspiring musician who flees an endless loop of Hollywood open mic nights to save her dying relationship with her long-distance girlfriend in Portland. Hilarity ensues, thanks to director Hannah Pearl Utt (Before You Know It) and a nonstop stream of cheeky cameos by the likes of Chelsea Peretti, Margaret Cho, and Outfest favorite Drew Droege. (Sun Jul 16, 4:15pm, DGA 1)

Kokomo City

Kokomo City

Director D. Smith set out to make a fresh film that showed “the fun, humanized, natural side of Black trans women,” and after its debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Kokomo City – which focuses on four trans sex workers in Georgia and New York – took home both the Audience and Innovator Awards in the festival’s NEXT section. Tragically, the film also now serves to preserve the memory of one the film’s main subjects, Koko Da Doll, who was murdered in Atlanta in April. (Sun Jul 16, 7pm, DGA 1)

Shorts lovers, of course there’s plenty for you to love at Outfest 41 too, with six separate shorts programs screening throughout the first weekend – three at the Directors Guild, and three in DTLA at REDCAT. Also at REDCAT on Saturday, July 15 is the Platinum Centerpiece film, the sexy horror flick My Animal co-starring Amandla Stenberg, to be followed by the always raucous Platinum Alchemy party.

And while there sadly won’t be any Outfest Under the Stars screenings this year at the Ford Theatre, one more screening of special note that will happen on Tuesday, July 18 is a singalong of the 2002 movie Chicago at the Los Feliz 3 Theatre, in tandem with American Cinematheque.

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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



Los Angeles Blade graphic

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.


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.


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.


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

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



"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 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



Los Angeles Blade graphic

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

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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



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


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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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.



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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