10 years ago, I stood before my fellow graduating classmates of the year 2000 and delivered another speech as I’d done at every graduation prior. Though I think my best commencement participation was in the 6th grade when I debuted my “Melody Americana” - wherein I played the National Anthem, The Flight of the Bumble Bee (abridged), and a transposed version of the theme song from Jeopardy on my flute, shoulder pads and all - my high school graduation felt different. I felt like I wasn’t just going on to another year of school, but heading toward a future that would solidify only with my eagerness to see it unfold.
Now that I am about to reconvene with those “kids” from ten years ago, I can’t help to be reflective. By sitting back and rethinking just how much I’ve accomplished in ten years, I am truly humbled. Though I am 26 and didn’t reach my goal of billionaire status at this age, and I completely did not pursue marine biology and medicine as a profession, I have so much to be thankful for, especially without having had an agent or manager in my profession of the Arts and Entertainment. As a DJ, I’ve headlined for and played on stage with Grammy and Emmy-award winning talent. I’ve composed an original hour-long collection of songs for a dance opera. Not to mention I have shot my own music videos as a singer-songwriter with my acoustic guitar, I have remixed music for Israel’s birthday, and I have produced and been a music supervisor on so many projects. I have also performed as a poet and performance artist and have been invited to speak to classes from K through College. I have even strutted on catwalks in New York and Los Angeles (heels and no heels). I’ve been on MTV with a mohawk, singing Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” in perfect pitch, been on CNN proudly voicing my rights to be queer and more recently, I have been on Entertainment Tonight interviewing a high-profile celebrity with the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait project.
Through it all, there’s film. I should re-phrase… there are “movies”. I love TV, sitcoms and dramas alike, but movies - oh, sweet flicks - they have shaped me over the last ten years and longer. So, as I reflect this summer, I will also be taking time to enjoy some movies, especially at this year’s Outfest Film Festival. As a 6th season Senior Volunteer in the Outfest family of festivals, I have worked hard over the years serving on the host committees, helping with outreach, performing on stage and most-notably, as a licensed bartender. I even screened my own comedic short at Outfest in 2009. This year, though, I am making a point to actually see flicks. Here’s what I’ll be watching, along with a few other films I recommend that have nothing to do with the Outfest programming. Full film guide can be seen here.
(I didn’t realize it, but the majority of the themes deal with high school, coming of age or schooling in the training sense. Interesting.)
√ The Lottery (A film by Madeleine Sackler) - Tagline: “You Could Win An Education”. My only connection to Harlem is that I danced at the Dance Theatre of Harlem back in the day; and unlike the students in this film, I’ve always had the opportunity for the best education and the best and highest coursework. But, the reality is that a lot of students don’t have bright opportunities, and enough is enough already. Great film to see. I just caught it in LA, but it’s next stops are in DC June 25-July 1 and then in Denver July 9- 16. Get involved!
If you’re not in Denver those dates in July, then you must be attending the 28th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival July 8th - 18th (chai!), right?
√ July 10th - A Conversation with Jane Lynch - DGA 1 - 130 PM. GLEE. High School. Totally. And Ms. Lynch will be receiving the 14th Annual Outfest Achievement Award this year. I hope she wears a track suit.
√ July 11th - A Small Act (Dir/Scr: Jennifer Arnold, USA) - DGA 2 - 1130 AM. FREE. A story of a Holocaust survivor who anonymously gave $15 to sponsor a little boy in Kenya… who then went on to graduate from Harvard and became a human rights lawyer. Enough said.
√ July 11th - Clueless (Dir/Scr: Amy Heckerling) - DGA 2 - 445 PM. Part of the Legacy Screening Series. I can write on and on about why Clueless is one of my favorites of all time, but let’s just say my love for the tailored and flamboyant look has a lot to do with watching D, a bonafide BAP, and Cher, a bonafide JAP, over and over and over…
√ July 11th - Fit (Dir/Scr: Rikki Beadle-Blair, UK) - DGA 1 - 7 PM. Teens in a Drama and Dance class and how they deal with their identity through it all.
√ July 13th - Gay Days (Hazman Havarod) (Dir/Scr: Yair Qedar, Israel) - Laemmle Sunset 5 - 715 PM. A very political look at the cultural revolution of Israel’s gay community as it came of age in the 1980s.
√ July 14th - A Marine Story (Dir/Scr: Ned Farr, USA) - DGA 1 - 7 PM. Women Marines. Boot camp. I mean, if you saw the Gymnast, then you know this should be fun.
There’s also a film on the circuit called Eyes Wide Open (original title Einayim Petukhoth), though it is not a part of Outfest this year (but Cannes ain’t half bad).
Here’s to 10 years of rocking out. Where will I be in the next 10 years? I’ll be even more awesome, with a partner by my side and at least one lil’ wee babe in a front pouch whom we’ll love so dearly. For now, I’ll just focus on being 26 years of age and furthering my magical career.
As a little treat, here’s the the comedic short I co-produced and screened at Outfest last year, called Queerer Than Thou. To date, it has queerly screened at over 50 major and independent film festivals and college campuses around the world, including at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, CA, and has won one audience award. Enjoy the show!