I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Iemma about his new film, Stitch. You must see it!
This is part two of the interview:
Talk about your clever and crucial fundraising campaign.
Currently, my team and I are raising funds to make Stitch through an online fundraising campaign hosted by Indiegogo.com. Our first campaign runs from now until September 5, 2013. Then we will be accepting additional donations via email. Like Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com is an innovative Web site where online fundraising campaigns can be created for a variety of projects, ranging from films to inventions, charities, books, video games, and so much more. Our campaign offers a pitch video and a wealth of information on the film, including concept art, a synopsis, a director's note, a large statement on the film's relevance to the LGBT effort, and lots more. On the campaign site potential donors can quickly and easily make contributions to the film. And in exchange for donations, we are offering a ton of great prizes like signed DVDs, producer credits, and even actual hand-crafted figures and set-pieces used in the film!
The campaign has already received attention from notables like the California-based Courage Campaign, Margaret Cho, The Human Rights Campaign, and the notable independent film Web site Indiereign.com, which has just granted us an international distribution deal upon the completion of the film. Our team also welcomes any questions, as well as potential sponsorship inquiries and additional donations, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is so fabulous! I am so happy for you! Congratulations! Explain your cause, which you have described as furthering the LGBT effort for equal representation in mainstream film and television.
Beyond being a massively intricate and elaborate creative endeavor in itself, Stitch also carries with it a strong message concerning the LGBT fight for equal representation through mainstream film and television. Oftentimes gay characters are used merely as stereotyped, stock figures, devoid of any depth or complexity, to accent a preexisting storyline. Beyond that, few representations of gay life are ever featured in the mainstream. The story of Stitch focuses on an honest and poignant relationship between two young gay men. By actively creating honest representations of gay life in media, and through animation of all mediums, we can begin to remove the stereotyped lens through which the mainstream perceives gay life. In this way the political message of Stitch transcends the limits of its narrative structure to make a powerful commentary on a very big issue of our time. Without art like this, which directly goes against the grain of what the mainstream has deemed acceptable, we cannot possibly hope to break down these outdated and unfair restrictions placed on the representation of an entire community of people.
Well stated. Why do you think that LGBTQ films are still not respected and represented in our mainstream society?
Aside from blatant prejudice, I think it has a lot to do with marketability and avoiding controversy. I would say that the main concern of most media production is profit. What is going to make the most money? How can we appeal to the highest amount of people? And also, what is going to keep us out of hot water so that we can keep making money? We live in a very flawed, unequal world. Unfortunately in 2013 we are still struggling with countless issues of inequality in America. LGBT rights are just a piece of this much larger puzzle of indifference, prejudice, and hate that permeates mainstream media. The powers that be control what gets made and what doesn't get made, and generally have profit at the forefront of their thoughts. They certainly have their best interest at the forefront of their thoughts. And funding a Pro-LGBT film is not only going to generate less profit because of its content, but it's also going to generate controversy. "This studio supports gay rights!" And even though conditions have improved massively over the years regarding the representation of LGBT characters, we as LGBT individuals need to be aware of the spectrum of said representations. It's almost like we operate as court jesters. Exploit all of the overdone, stereotyped facets of LGBT life that keep making money over and over and over, but leave any serious portrait of our existence out. Don't just leave it out, force it out because allowing it in will stir the pot and effect profits.
I agree. And your passion is in your politics as much as it is in your filmmaking. So, then why is it important to make LGBTQ films?
I think it is important to make LGBT films for two reasons.
First, because our community has been denied equal representation through mainstream film for far too long, and this has to end. There is absolutely no reason why we should have to hide or alter the stories of our lives, the brilliance of our experiences, the pain and beauty of our existence because our sexual orientation deems us controversial and unmarketable. This is ridiculous. I have faith in the fact that in 100 years from now the LGBT community will no longer struggle with the array of issues we must preserver through today. That full equally is on the horizon. But right now our lives exist within the fight. Our time on earth as LGBT individuals has occurred still within the struggle for equality. And it is our responsibility to realize that fully and to make the changes that will offer those that come after us something better.
And this brings me to my second reason. By not making works like this we cannot possibly hope for change for a better future. As filmmakers, we need to create positive and honest representations of LGBT life again and again and again so that we can continue to break down these confines that keep our community in the shadows, and that keep our lives synonymous with the lesser. Only then can change become a reality.
I always return to what Toni Morrison said in her interview with Poets and Writers magazine in 2008: "All art is political." I agree with her, and I demand that all art be political. Do you agree or disagree, and why or why not? Is all film political? Should all film be political? Are all LGBTQ films political, and should they be? Is your film political?
I definitely agree with Ms. Morrison that all art is political. I think that some art sets out to be political. I think that some art is created with no political intentions, but still ends up being extremely political, and sometimes much more so than intentional works. For me personally, I do think that all art should be politically charged in some way. That it should make a statement about some relevant concern present in our society. Because it is my belief that art should insight change, the changes that we, as artists, believe in for a better future. And when it comes to Stitch, I think we are talking about an extremely political piece of art. Look at what we have: a short film that not only presents an honest and un-sanitized (by mainstream standards) look into the romantic relationship between two young men, but also one that does so through a medium of art so vastly associated with family entertainment and classic family values. A medium of art that has essentially overwhelming denied the existence of LGBT people through its complete lack of acknowledgment of LGBT characters. It is our hope that Stitch can serve both as a catalyst of change, and also as a story that new generations of gay youths can feel comforted by and relate to in a way that mainstream media has simply denied the LGBT community.
How do you want to end this interview? What are some of your final thoughts and words?
I'm not exactly sure. I think we covered a lot. I'd definitely like it to be clear that after the September 5 th runtime, additional donations can still be made. I guess something additional is that I think Stitch is unique. It's special. It hits on a variety of points, from storytelling to family to love to filmmaking to relationships to growing-up to change to fear to intense artistic craftsmanship. And all of this only goes to enhance the very political and poignant LGBT element that it delivers in the midst of the most important civil rights battle in America of our generation. Stitch, in its own odd way, is the voice of a new generation of artists and thinkers who are dedicated to our craft, and who proudly accept our place in the fight for equality.
Bravo! Thank you for a brilliant interview.
All of you must see Michael Iemma's short film, Stitch.