Working Films’ Co-founder, Robert West was awarded with the 2013 Frank Harr Community Service Award, presented by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington LGBTQIA Office. The award recognizes a person or organization promoting visibility and understanding of LGBTQIA issues and who are working towards improving the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Wilmington, NC and surrounding areas.
Robert was nominated for the award because of his tireless effort with Working Films’ Reel Equality campaign in 2012, launched in response to the proposed ballot measure which placed a ban on same-sex marriage and legal recognition of domestic partnerships in the NC constitution. With the goal of turning audiences into supporters of statewide efforts to fight the ban, Robert led the curation of six films to educate citizens on how bans like this can have devastating consequences. These include: The Campaign, Sole Journey, Gen Silent, Marriage Equality, Out in the Silence and Freeheld.
The award was presented at a ceremony on May 4th, honoring Robert’s determination to fight the ban and his unrelenting commitment to the rights and equality of the LGBTQIA community.
The line up for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival has been announced and we are so excited to see filmmakers that we’ve worked with on this list! Congratulations to the teams behind American Promise, Citizen Koch and God Loves Uganda.
American Promise follows two African-American boys from middle class families as they navigate their way through 12 years at a prestigious New York City Prep school. The film is part of our Reel Education t collaboration, in which nine documentaries about various education issues came together for our residential training in February 2011.
Citizen Koch is the latest film by Carl Deal and Tia Lesson (Trouble the Water) that tells a story about money, power and democracy in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down limits on corporate political spending. The film was one of six films that attended our Reel Economy residency held in July 2012 in Washington, DC.
God Loves Uganda follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law. Paige Ruane, the films’ outreach coordinator, attended our Reel Change: Managing Social Issue Film Campaign residency last spring in Washington, DC. At the residency, Paige along with a room full of filmmakers learned how to make strategic plans to get their films and media projects out to the right audiences and form effective partnerships with organizations working on the issues in their film.
We are thrilled about each! Be sure to check them out when you’re at Sundance.
While most of our work is both national and international, Working Films has a high profile in our small coastal town of Wilmington, NC. We’re in a landmark 1912 brick firehouse and contribute to the vibrancy of local efforts, including environmental efforts and support for the LGBT community. On Friday, August 24th, Working Films hosted the 3 year anniversary of Port City TakeOver, an organization that brings together the LGBT community and our straight allies as a way to socialize and network. As take of this celebration, we invited local gay and gay-friendly organizations in Wilmington to share who they are, what they are working on, and how people can get involved in each group. Community organizations included Wilmington Pride, Wilmington Pride Youth Group, PFlag, and the Children of Pride, check out the photos here:
It’s no surprise North Carolinians are organizing in opposition to the cynical Amendment One ballot initiative timed for the primary on May 8th. Amendment One would codify a ban on same-sex marriage AND nullify civil unions and domestic partnerships of all couples – gay or straight. Our friends at the Daily Kos have some recent encouraging news on the likely outcome from voters. In January, Jen Jones with Race to the Ballot started literally running across the state to raise awareness in towns from the mountains of Asheville to the coast. People from both sides of the issue came out in the small town of Sandhills when she arrived to have an open, honest, and transformative discussion about the harms of this discriminatory measure. Watch this MUST SEE video of their exchange:
At other stops in NC communities, Jen met organizers who were holding screenings of Working Films’ Reel Equality films as part of efforts to engage voters to come out and say NO! on May 8th.
On Friday, March 2nd, Jen concluded her statewide race in our hometown of Wilmington, where 100+ folks turned out to welcome her to the waterfront (see pics). The following day, ALL OF US NC held a one-day training at the Working Films’ firehouse, energizing organizers from all over the Eastern part of the state to tell their neighbors about this hateful amendment. To all of us who live here in North Carolina – our co-workers, our fellow congregation members, our friends and families, and vulnerable and questioning youth – if this amendment passes, the place we call home will be saying “Sorry, you’re not welcome here.” We’re not letting that happen without a fight!
On February 11 & 12, Working Films hosted a great weekend of events for our media campaign Reel Equality. Aimed at defeating the anti-gay NC amendment coming up for a vote this May, the campaign is touring 6 stellar documentary films on LGBT struggles to audiences around the state to inspire viewers — our straight allies, our co-workers, members of our congregations, and those who care about the welfare of our vulnerable youth — to VOTE NO. Being headquartered in Wilmington, NC, we were excited by the high energy and great turn out at one of the first of 100+ events we are hoping to book across the state.
We kicked off the weekend with a fundraising dinner for Protect NC Families, the coalition of groups working hard to defeat the amendment. It was co-hosted by our own executive director Robert West as well as Judson (Jud) H. Gee of JHG Financial Advisors. It was a great evening attended by community leaders and local activists, including our NC House Representative, Susi Hamilton and City Councilman Kevin O’Grady. With Jud’s sponsorship, we were able to raise funds for the effort as well as start a dialogue about how this amendment will harm ALL NC families.
Later that evening at City Stage we screened two of the Reel Equality films, Cynthia Wade’s Freeheld and Out in the Silence by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer. The Oscar-winning short Freeheld tackles the issue of benefits extension to same-sex partners while the Emmy-winner Out in the Silence profiles the bullying faced by LGBT youth, both big issues when anti-gay constitutional amendments rear their ugly heads. Sunday night, we showed Thomas Allen Harris’ Marriage Equality, a short film which connects the civil rights movement with the gay equality movement, and Gen Silent by Stu Maddux, a film about the struggles LGBT seniors are facing in this current society of discrimination. All of the screenings were well attended and we signed everyone up to join the fight and spread the word about the very real implications this amendment will have if passed. If you’re in North Carolina or another state currently facing LGBT discrimination, go to reelequality.org to find out how to bring these stories to your town.
“The generation that fought hardest to come out is going back in to survive”
Gen Silent is a critically-acclaimed documentary from filmmaker Stu Maddux that explores the challenges of six LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, trans) seniors who face the difficult choice of hiding their friends, their spouses and their entire lives in order to survive in the health care system.
For Family Fest 2011 the Frank Harr Foundation will open the event with a meet & greet reception for Gen Silent director, Stu Maddux, on Thursday, September 29, 2011, at 7 pm. Local film organization Working Films will host the meet & greet at the firehouse at 602 S. 5th Avenue, Wilmington, N.C. on the corner of Castle St. The reception is free and open to the public with catering provided by Front Street Brewery. Filmmakers and media creators interested in learning how to use their projects to promote social change are encouraged to attend. Stu will discuss how he is using his film to encourage more hospices and service agencies to address the specific needs of LGBT elders.
The 63-minute film will screen for free the following day, Friday, September 30, 2011, at 3 pm at UNCW’s Warwick Center. There will be a Health Fair starting at 12:30 pm that will include vendors serving the LGBT community, seminars focusing on legal issues facing LGBT individuals and couples, and LGBT sensitivity training for healthcare providers. The South East Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC) will sponsor four hours of continuing-education credits for nursing professionals for $15, payable at the door.
Following the screening will be a panel discussion about the movie and the realities faced today by LGBT individuals and couples in the healthcare system. Panelists include Stu Maddux, Gillian O’Reilly (MSW from Lower Cape Fear Hospice & Life Care Center), Rev. John McLaughlin (St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church), Connie Vetter (attorney), Eleanor Covan, Ph.D. (UNCW Gerontology) and Scott French (SAGE: Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders). This is a free event.
Major sponsors of Family Fest 2011 include Lower Cape Fear Hospice & Life Care Center; UNCW LGBTQIA Resource Office; SEAHEC; Virginia Hager, attorney at law; Connie Vetter, attorney at law; St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church; Level 5 at City Stage; Hampton Inns of Wilmington; and the Frank Harr Foundation.
Growing up as a queer teenager in the South was very confusing and isolating. Often, I heard my parents refer to out of the ordinary members of our family as “black sheep.” A part of me always sided with the black sheep because a majority of the time I felt misunderstood. Fast forward 10 years later to present day when I am confident and proud of my identity. So much, in fact, that I started getting involved in LGBTQ activism and organized a night of film devoted to others who have been singled out as the black sheep… or pink sheep, rather.
Working Films is proud to be a sponsor at this year’s Pink Sheep Film Festival, held this Friday, June 10th, during Wilmington’s Pride Week. The Pink Sheep Festival showcases LGBTQ-themed films ranging from documentaries to fairy tales. The featured films of the evening will be two half hour documentaries, Put This on The Map and Whistlin’ Dixie. In Put This on The Map, twenty-six teenagers tell their experience of being queer in the suburbs of Seattle in East King County. Whistlin’ Dixie shifts the scenary to the South as filmmaker Meredith Heil gives spotlight to the many amazing musicians who call the South their home. The film features many bands from our very own state of North Carolina. Watch the trailers below:
It’s Wednesday evening after another steamy day on the NC coast, with the temperature still close to 100. I have just poured a crisp, cool glass of white wine, and am scanning the Internet, waiting to hear about Judge Walker’s decision on Prop 8, and the fight to repeal the ban of gay marriages in CA. My cell rings, it’s my (straight) friend Liz, “Hey! We won! I just heard on NPR! They overturned Prop 8.” Wow. While not unexpected, suddenly I am short of breath. Imagine the impact: this decision supports every couple’s right to express their love and commitment. Over the rest of the evening (and one more glass of wine) I explored the Internet, and wanted to share three steps you could take now as this case heads to the US Circuit Court of Appeals.
1) Be proud.Read Judge Walker’s ruling: 136 pages of carefully reasoned, critical rationale for overturning the ban. The US Constitution is alive and robust throughout this document. 2) Read analysis of the decision and watch some excellent news videos from Prop 8 Trial Tracker. 3) Go to Christie Herring’s facebook page for The Campaign, a film in development supported in part by Working Films that shares – with startling insider access, the daily emotional roller coaster of the folks who worked to defeat Prop 8 in the voting booth. They lost that fight. It suddenly looks like the film might have a happier ending.
As an out gay man, living in the American South for over 40 years, this decision is intensely personal for me and for thousands of gays and lesbians like me. In his findings, Judge Walker states: In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief hat a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate. In other words, you can’t legislate hate.
Suddenly, the universe has tilted a bit in our direction, and for the first time, we are free to imagine a future and a life that fully embraces all the potential for intimacy and happiness with a partner. My faith in the founding principles of this country has just been reclaimed a bit; I am heartened and excited about the possibility of winning this battle, all the way to the Supreme Court. It is, without question, a profound moment in American jurisprudence. But it is also intensely personal.
Last month, Working Films and Chicken & Egg Pictures hosted a screening of Nancy Schwartzman’s film The Line, for our Story Leads to Action series at 92YTribeca. After the screening, the audience discussed how the film could be used in high schools, college freshman orientation programs, sexual violence prevention programs and law school and criminal justice education.
On the panel were:
- Nancy Schwartzman (Director)
- Michelle J. Anderson (Dean and Professor of Law at CUNY School of Law)
- Neil Irvin (Executive Director, Men Can Stop Rape)
- Don McPherson (former NFL football player; current sports announcer and activist)
- Meghan O’Conner (NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault)
On her blog, Nancy gives a breakdown of the key points that each panelist spoke on.
Also, check out what Jessica at “The Love That is Strong” had to say about the screening along with their thoughts on the larger discussion of sexual violence awareness and consent.
Last month, our friends over at The Line emailed us some exciting news and attention they received. Nancy and her team have been coming up with great ways to raise awareness about her film & campaign, Where is Your Line? They have also been very strategic in creating dialogues around sexual consent by using popular culture as a springboard.
Take a look as Nancy Schwartzman describes last month’s Valentine’s Day romance with MTV’s “A Thin Line”:
Since its launch, our team has been watching MTV’s “A Thin Line,” a campaign, dedicated to raising awareness of “Digital Abuse,” and helping teens untangle normal versus unhealthy relationship dynamics. They focus on how cell phones can amplify and exacerbate abusive behaviors. Some of my favorite slogans are: It’s a thin line between attentive/obsessive, curious/controlling, love/abuse. I was thinking that we over here at The Line Campaign, have a lot of things in common such as: young people, sexuality, violence, web-based media, and activism.