Equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is a hot topic at the moment as the debate over gay marriage is due to be heard at the Supreme Court.
In 2008 Prop 8 was passed which denied people of the same sex to marry one another. Inspired: The Voices Against Prop 8 is a documentary capturing the movement to fight against the decision which was eventually overturned.
We caught up with Charles to talk about his film, find out about the making of it and to discuss the ongoing battle for equal rights.
How are you today? Where does this Q&A find you?
I am doing very well! I’m actually using my lunch hour from my day job to catch up on work for Inspired. The flood of wonderful reviews and posts are very humbling, but there’s always more work to do—especially with last week’s news from the Supreme Court that they’re taking the marriage equality cases!
Your new documentary Inspired: The Voices Against Prop 8 has just been released. Tell us about it.
Despite the title, my co-producer Ian McIntosh and I always called Inspired, “the Prop 8 movie not about Prop 8.” Inspired is really snapshot of the Los Angeles area LGBT community in late 2008/early 2009 after the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped marriage rights away from same-sex couples. It shows the awakening of a community that had always been seen as more concerned about parties than politics. But we also show how trying to suddenly be an activist in such a big and ethnically diverse city can be very challenging. A large subplot of the film delves into racial barriers and assumptions within the gay & lesbian community and how those have to be overcome for all of us to work together.
What was your aim when you set out to make this documentary and do you feel you’ve succeeded?
Truthfully at the beginning we had no aim because I didn’t even know I was going to make a film. The initial large protest that happened all over Hollywood and West Hollywood sparked me to take to the streets and march, and filming my experience was just my way to take in these events. After filming 6 marches in just over a week my best friend (and now co-producer) Ian McIntosh saw my footage and convinced me to make it into a film. We then created Purple Ray Pictures and keep attending protest events, but now with a focused mission! We also started to contact and even Facebook stalk the people we saw at many of the events and set up the sit down interviews. We wanted to talk with people who were so inspired that they didn’t just go march in the street but they started their own grassroots organization or they planned their own rally. The marriage equality issue and even just the Prop 8 part of it is such a HUGE topic it was a challenge to keep a tight focus, but we really feel that we were able to show the energy and passion of the Los Angeles and Long Beach, California areas in those first seven months after the 20008 election.
What has the reaction and feedback on the documentary been like?
The reaction has been amazing. While I have worked as an associate producer and in other production team roles on, this is the first feature film I have directed. Inspired has been warmly received at film festivals across the country and has even screened twice in Mexico City and once in Serbia. Now that the DVD is out the reviews and press has been better than I could’ve imagined. It’s great to see that people enjoy it. And on a personal note I was even named “Man of the Year” by the Long Beach, CA Lambda Democratic Club at their 31st Annual Human Rights Awards Banquet because of all my work on the film.
What’s your favourite recollection from making ‘Inspired’?
My favourite memory was really the general sense of being right there the front of new movement. From going to small marches in Long Beach to taking long road trips to Sacramento and Fresno to running in the front of the nationwide March On the Mall protest that ran through Washington D.C. we really felt like this was something amazing and possibly a once-and-a-lifetime happening. The feeling of capturing it all to show to others was amazing.
On reflection is there anything you would have done differently with the documentary?
Ha ha. I think any filmmaker who answers this question with the answer “no” is lying. For Inspired I often wish I knew I was going to make a documentary during those first two weeks of protest when I was just running through the streets filming. But in really, that gave us a real raw feeling that I wonder could’ve been captured otherwise.
With gay marriage going to the Supreme Court to be discussed are you considering following up ‘Inspired’?
I get asked this question at least once a week. Since the film is really about the spark of activism more than gay rights, I don’t know if a real sequel would work, but it’s possible—at least something to post online. We do have a bonus short film on the DVD called Still Inspired where some of our cast plus fans of the film give us there reactions to the February 2012 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Judge Walker’s overturning of Prop 8, is mixed with rallies that night in West Hollywood and inside Los Angeles City Hall.
Where would you like to see gay rights in the next few years?
Well at least I would like it to no longer be called “gay rights.” The rights we are marching and fighting for have nothing to do with being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. They are the same equal rights that heterosexuals have today. I think 2013 could be one of the biggest years for advancement of LGBT community ever. Fingers crossed.
What’s your next project?
Being as Inspired has been such a DIY project of love, I still feel like I haven’t had much time to set it down and plan for something else. But with that being said, I have been stewing over some exciting idea for new documentaries about other aspects and corners of the LGBT experience that people rarely get exposed too. We come in all shapes, colors, races, and sizes and only a small part ever really gets all the mainstream attention.
How will you be spending the holidays this year?
My fingers are crossed I will get time off to just relax with friends at home. Working a 40-hour a week job while making a feature documentary on the side doesn’t give you much time to relax, so plan to put the work aside, read some comic books, go to some parties, and enjoy my time off. ….but I’ll probably end up doing some work on Inspired at some point. Haha.
Inspired: The Voices Against Prop 8 is available on DVD now.