Okay, so the last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind around here, and by that I don’t mean the update to our website. As you may recall, last week’s Wyrmwood event led me to Bianca Bradey’s lesbian-themed web series Starting From…Now, which I wrote an article about because it so hooked me. It still has – I’ve watched it twice now, and am so totally snaffled by this thing I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Literally.
Also over the course of the last week, thanks to my exploration of SFN and other lesbian-themed projects, I’ve been spotting movement on my Twitter feed from a number of people who support the gay filmmaking community – I admit it, as a straight guy I don’t have that much direct exposure to the experiences of being gay, nor did I even know there is an entire subculture – a culture rapidly working its way into the mainstream, I think – for the gay and lesbian community to produce, star in, and monetise, video content aimed solely at that market. Starting From…Now’s become something of an Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders, if you will, in that I’ve actually had a seismic shift of conception about gay and lesbian film-making that was wholly unexpected.
The resulting Twitter exploration has led me into some truly weird, wonderful and utterly bizarre places on the internet. But recently, as I’ve begun to explore the wider film-making community – most of whom are amateurs in this case, with a vast majority of web-series and feature films quite low budget – I’ve learned that the LGBT has a significant voice online with its content creation, with a multitude of access hubs for content available with free-to-watch content. Some of the content is high quality, and conversely other aspects are not, but you know what? It’s a solid, loud voice any which way you cut it – the gays are out, people, and they’re making sure they are heard!
Gay and lesbian film-making has made giant inroads into the world of online production. There are a vast number of lesbian themed web-series and short films I’ve only just discovered, and while I haven’t fully explored yet, no doubt the same can be said of the gay community. While quality of production might sometimes be an issue, each of the series I’ve glimpsed thus far have had one thing in common – content produced by the people who want to see it, for those people, about those people. A bit like the rise of Christian cinema, I guess, only with more lesbians and bisexuals, and without Jesus. Ahem. And the thing is, it’s no longer the kind of thing you need to hide in a brown paper bag and leave an establishment discreetly, like some Soviet spy scouting the White House.
The internet’s power is that it can provide this content to anyone, any time, in the privacy of their own homes (or mobile devices, if they so desire), and it’s this aspect that’s made me realize just how powerful our digital age can be. The rise of gay cinema (I struggled to come up with a catch-all term to describe it: Gay-nema? Lesbifilm?) will remain rather insular and self-circulating, until mainstream audiences begin to detect its presence. Through the internet, there’s a greater chance of that happening.
Now, before I start congratulating myself too much, I should point out that lesbian and gay themed movies have been around for a while now, although traditionally they’ve been the domain of a sub-genre known in conservative circles as “arthouse”. That is, typically foreign, low budget, and/or only screened in three cinemas after midnight on a Tuesday. I’ve actually reviewed several films (I say that as if I’m proud, but it’s simply a fact) dealing with lesbian relationships – Room In Rome remains a popular review, I’ve noticed, you perverts, while Blue Is The Warmest Color is a film I consider one of the best films – of any kind – made in the last ten years, it had such a devastating impact on me. Shortbus also sneaks in there, as one of those films nobody’s ever heard of unless they’re trawling websites they wouldn’t want their mother seeing, but that was a good film as well. And those are just the one’s I’ve seen – there’s a slew of other gay and lesbian themed films you can hunt down, some mainstream, some not, so it’s not like nobody’s aware of what’s going on, in that sense. And I’m not a total imbecile, it’s just that the fact that gay culture has such a vast representation in online film hadn’t quite found me until now. So it’s like a bit of late-onset shock, if you will.
I find myself in a bit of a surprising position, frankly. One, I never expected to be so drawn into a web series, let alone a lesbian themed one, as I have been with SFN. It’s been cathartic, to be honest, and reading a few of the blogs of the people involved has been eye opening, and quite heartening. My exposure to this world has, largely, been fairly confined to what I see on the news or in entertainment (movies, television), but in light of what I’ve seen in the last week or two, my perceptions of how deep and wide the film-making community is has really knocked me. Two, it’s challenged me, because while I like to think I’m terribly liberal, I actually think my behavior is fairly conservative.
This website isn’t known for being particularly partisan when it comes to movies, and I’ve always been honest about the fact that I’ll give any film a shot, irrespective of who or what it’s about, or even whether the genre interests me. That said, I’ve found that my lack of exposure to films of… shall we say, more independent arenas of creativity has left something of a void not only in my perception of cinema, but also of the kind of insular worldview I’ve been living with. As I said, it’s been cathartic. Perhaps I’ve been so ignorant all this time because it’s easier to sit back and let the malaise of Hollywood’s blockbuster season wash over me and swamp my time with shiny, pretty movies about gobshites in superhero costumes, I don’t know. But I do know that with my revelatory experiences over the last couple of weeks, and as I’ve explored the LGBT community of film creation and web series, there’s just so much content that I’m missing by limiting what I do with this website.
Before you think it: no, I’m not about to come out of the closet and say I’m secretly gay, or bisexual. I’m not. I love my wife. What I’ve learned through this (brief) period of personal growth as a film connoisseur is admit that I have had a problem of insularity, and that by removing myself from the broader experiences of human life – straight, gay, trans, pink-and-red polkadots – I’m actually doing myself and my readers a disservice. Last year I took it upon myself to actively seek out older, pre-1940’s films to watch, and began a series on the entire filmography of Hitchcock, just to give myself some exposure to “classic” movie periods where I previously had no interest.
And now, it would appear there’s another avenue of film exploration I should consider: the LGBT one, a road paved with just as much human drama, tragedy, joy, beauty and emotional wreckage as any episode of whatever television drama you might imagine in the heterosexual world. I wrote in my SFN piece that I question why, in 2015, we’re still labeling people into groups, and I’ve probably only reinforced that here using the “LGBT” terminology – I only do so because it’s easier in this context – but the point remains that we – our society – need to get over this “I’m straight” and “I’m gay” label association we have with everyone we meet. We’re just people, and that’s all that matters. Who you fuck each night is nobody’s business but your own.
But, until the day when gay people can make mainstream Hollywood movies or Bollywood movies or British movies without having to use the phrase “gay” or “lesbian” anywhere in their marketing strategies, I guess I’ll have to keep using the term to appease the troglodytes lurking in the backwaters of the world who can’t escape having a sloped forebrain and hairy knuckles.
So, with that in mind, I’m officially declaring this site to be “LGBT Friendly”. Not that we ever weren’t, but it’s nice to acknowledge it anyway. Hopefully that’s not patronizing or condescending (it’s not intended as such!), but as I further explore the community of filmmakers both here in Australia and around the world, I hope to be able to assess their work with the same frank and honest dialogue that I do everything else. You won’t get bullshit here, folks, just honest opinions – even if they’re clumsily worded! – and as I venture into viewing more of this kind of film-making, I hope to present it in such as way as to be positive and uplifting.
And for that, you can thank a zombie film called Wyrmwood.
For more films featuring content from the LGBT community, you can check out some of these hugely gay sites. 😉