Haley White is a new addition to the Fresno Reel Pride family. She came on board this year (Reel Pride 26) to work on programming the films for the festival. I reached out to her with a few questions about this year’s film festival.
Check out Gay Central Valley’s BLOG for continued coverage of Fresno Reel Pride 26 …
How did you get involved with Reel Pride?
I met Reel Pride Treasurer Brian Carnes at a party back in February. He mentioned how they needed more volunteers. I initially thought he meant they needed additional help the week of the festival. I’ve volunteered in the past to help out Gay Central Valley with concessions, so I told Brian I’d be happy to help usher and whatnot. I had no idea Jon Carroll had retired and that they were searching for a new programmer. When they talked to me later about the position and asked if I had any interest in potentially filling it, I think I said yes before I entirely thought it through. I’m glad I did, though. It’s been a lot of a hard work and I’ve been flying blind a good majority of the time, but I’ve met a lot of great people and the work is right up my alley.
Why do you think Reel Pride is important to Fresno and the LGBT Community?
I’m all for anything that brings art and culture to underserved areas. We have a lot of great things happening in Fresno (in spite of our bad rap for being a hick town), but outside of Reel Pride, special Fathom events at Regal and Sierra Vista, and the great work Fresno Filmworks is doing locally, we don’t have a whole lot of independent cinema available in town. I believe it’s very important for people to see themselves represented in art, so I think it’s great thing that, at least once a year, local LGBT folks have the opportunity to go to the movies and see films that prominently feature LGBT love stories and characters. It’s also a good way to bring business and foot traffic to the Tower District, which is my ‘hood. So I love that, too.
Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you become involved with Reel Pride? What are you passionate about?
I’m pretty involved in the local film and theatre scenes. I work as a Production Coordinator at Windsong Productions by day and I volunteer a lot with The New Ensemble and Stageworks Fresno in my spare time. I’m also the Campaign Coordinator for I Bike Fresno. I am a big proponent of “being the change” you wish to see in the world. For me, as an artist, a big part of that means getting out and making sure art does a better job of representing actual reality. I’m a filmmaker and writer, I’m always cognizant of trying to tell stories from the point of view of ‘the other’. Even as a consumer, I don’t want to see whitewashed, clichéd, heteronormative storytelling all the time. I imagine there are plenty of other people out there who feel the same way. Any opportunity I have to bring art that fits “outside the box” to people, so to speak, I definitely want to be involved in that.
On a separate-but-related note: I’m bisexual. My sister is gay. We grew up in one of those typically anti-gay religious households where being LGBT just wasn’t an option. It took us both a lot of heartache and pain to get to a place where we could be ok with being ourselves outright (including my sister’s divorce from her high school sweetheart and my own long and ugly road to a place of much-needed sobriety five years ago). Anything I can do to help normalize the way LGBT people are perceived, or help a young or struggling LGBTQ person see there are plenty of people out there just like them, without them having to go through the same years of self-torment and abuse…I would definitely say that is something I am passionate about. That is huge for me.
How many films can we expect to see from this year's festival?
Including shorts, we have about 60 films this year.
Which communities will be directly impacted by films at this year's festival?
We made every effort to ensure our programming was as diverse as possible. We cover all the L,G,B and T groups. We’ve got a film about an asexual man. A few films about drag performers. A short about a genderqueer woman. Films that cover multiple spectrums of sexuality and/or gender. A film about living with AIDS. Films about first love and coming out of the closet. Love stories for older demographics. Films about LGBT children with supportive parents. Films about bullies. Films that might be a little divisive for our audiences. And even outside of that, we really tried to get a healthy balance of drama vs comedy, foreign vs American, documentary vs feature, and so on and so forth. We really wanted to live up to our “Films For Everyone” motto.
The Tower Theater is the main venue. What are the other venues for this year's festival?
What is the film opening the festival all about?
Addicted to Fresno was a great score for us, for obvious reasons. The movie is directed by Jaime Babbit, written by Karey Dornetto, and produced by Andrea Sperling. If you don’t know those three names, you should get on google because all of them are important powerhouse women doing big things in Hollywood.
The film follows the lives of two co-dependent sisters (Judy Greer and Natasha Lyonne) as they work as maids in Fresno. It’s a raunchy comedy and it pokes A TON of fun at our little town. Anyone who wants to come see it is going to need to bring their sense of humor with them or they might find themselves a little offended.
What about the closing film?
Our closer is Tangerine. It’s an indie film and Sundance darling that was shot solely on an iPhone 5S. The film centers around Sin-dee, a hooker who finds out her boyfriend/pimp cheated on her while she was in jail serving a 28 day stint, and her best friend, Alexandra. Kitana Kiki-Rodriguez and Mya Taylor star in the film; they are both transgender actresses who are garnering Oscar-buzz for their performances. Although the movie is a revenge comedy, it has a ton of heart.
What do you see as the highlight of the foreign films this year?
Gosh, I have so many favorites. The foreign entries were actually very strong, across the board, this year. In The Grayscale was a hit with our entire Reel Pride Board of Directors. Same with The New Girlfriend. I also am a big fan of Drown. Liz in September. A Gay Girl in Damascus. So many more. I’ll stop now or I’ll end up naming all of them.
Tell us about the youth film highlight?
We’re showing a total of four youth films this year and they’re all built around “The Year We ThoughtAbout Love”, which is this great documentary about a group of queer teens in a theatre group in Boston. Their stories are awkward and charming and endearing; so much so, you can’t help but remember what it feels like to be that age yourself while you’re watching it.
Can you tell us about the transgender films included this year?
We have a fair amount of trans-centric films this year. I’ve already mentioned Tangerine and The New Girlfriend. Deep Run is a documentary about trans life deep in the conservative Bible Belt. In The Turn is a documentary about a 10-year-old transgender girl who finds acceptance and empowerment in the company of a queer roller derby collective. We’re showing that one free to the public at 1pm on Sunday. There are a couple other drag movies I think people will be excited to see.
We’ve also got some really great Trans shorts this year, I’d specifically like to mention two animated films by filmmaker Iris Moore; Mindtease and Dancer and the Crow. They’re just fantastic. Keep your eyes peeled for them.
How are lesbians represented in films this year?
We’ve got festival favorites Marina Rice Bader and Michelle Ehlen coming to support their movies (Raven’s Touch and S&M Sally, respectively). Liz in September and Summer of Sangaile are both beautiful foreign language dramas. All About E is an Australian comedic thriller with a great, tender love scene. Portrait of a SerialMonogamist is a lot of fun. Out inthe Night and A Gay Girl inDamascus: The Amina Profile are both powerful documentaries about really important, timely subjects. And again, we have some great shorts. I’m really excited to feature the short film Ma/ddy by filmmaker Devon Kirkpatrick. The movie totally punched me in the gut when I saw it for the first time at Outfest. Kirkpatrick won a feature package from IFC so I hope we’ll have the opportunity to bring her full-length version back to Reel Pride down the road.
What is your favorite film of the festival?
But man, I could pick about a dozen more.
What about the parties? What are the must go to events?
Some must go to events? All of them! Opening night and closing night both have great movies. Directors preview party for all passes holders at Engelmanns is also a great event to experience prior to the festival and this year our men's and women's party will have special hosts and entertainment. The men’s party is scheduled for Friday night and the women's party will take place on Saturday evening. The youth pizza and froyo party, for students age 16-25, will happen on Saturday afternoon.
Give us the inside information. How does the public get the best deal to this year's festival?
Festival Passes are really the way to go. Five days of films for as low as $95. The best deals come with Directors Level passes and above; they allow entrance to all parties and earn you priority seating. People can check out reelpride.com for membership prices and perks.