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Entries in Documentary (3)

Friday
Apr142017

Call Answered: Robert L. Camina: Upstairs Inferno Documentary

Robert L. CaminaThe thing I love most about Facebook is the way it connects people. Robert L. Camina and I have been friends for a few years, so when I found out he was a filmmaker and that his new documentary Upstairs Inferno, about the deadly 1973 New Orleans gay bar arson was the subject, I called Robert and he answered. It was really great connecting with Robert in this way. From this interview, I learned so much about him, his filmmaking process, and more about this tragic time in gay history that is not very well known.

Upstairs Inferno is a poignant and timely documentary chronicling the deadly 1973 New Orleans gay bar arson: an event that remained the Largest Gay Mass Murder in U.S. History for 43 years. Upstairs Inferno is the most comprehensive and authoritative film about the fire and its aftermath. Upstairs Inferno brings humanity to the headlines by shining a light on the very painful effect the tragedy had on survivors, witnesses and loved ones. Their interviews are gut wrenching, yet insightful. Some of the people interviewed in the film haven't publicly discussed the fire until now, especially on camera. The film is narrated by New Orleans' own New York Times Best Selling Author, Christopher Rice.

Upstairs Inferno will be making its NYC premiere in the Manhattan Film Festival on Monday, April 24 with two screenings: 5pm (just added) & 7pm (SOLD OUT) at Cinema Village (22 East 12th Street). The 7pm screening will be followed by a Q&A conducted by Robert himself. Click here for tickets!

For more on Robert be sure to visit http://www.caminaentertainment.com!

For more on Upstairs Inferno be sure to visit http://www.UpstairsInferno.com and follow the film on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Your latest documentary, Upstairs Inferno, documents the deadly 1973 New Orleans gay bar arson that was the largest gay mass murder for 43 years, until Pulse Nightclub. Why did you want to make a documentary about this tragic event? When I first heard about this tragedy a few years ago, I was shocked. I had never heard of it. The arson was a benchmark moment in history, but it wasn't part of the common LGBT history narrative. I felt that needed to change.  I wanted to educate audiences about this little known event and honor the victims and people affected by the deadly fire.

I didn't want to create a stagnant documentary, with only an exposition of facts. Through very honest and intimate interviews, I wanted to humanize the story and show the real impact the fire had on the victims' friends, families and the LGBT movement. It's easy to trivialize a situation when you gloss over a headline in a newspaper (or a Facebook post). There is something about SEEING and HEARING the story from those who experienced an event, that truly makes it "real." That's what possesses the potential to create change.

The victims are more than statistics, more then names in a newspaper clipping or even names on a plaque. These were unfinished lives, tragically cut short by a senseless act. The victims and their families and friends left to cope with the aftermath deserved better treatment than what they got. I thought, if I have an opportunity to provide any sort of legacy or light for them, I wanted to try.

Up Stairs Lounge2. The arson of the Up Stairs Lounge was the largest gay mass murder for 43 years. Why do you feel this story is not talked about as much as say The Stonewall Riots? You're right. This story hasn't been talked about much and I believe it was nearly forgotten. But why? I think it was because people directly affected by the fire didn't want to talk about it. The impression that I got was that people were embarrassed or ashamed to talk about the tragedy. The fire did not launch a revolution and the little activism that was spawned from the tragedy, fizzled out very quickly. I'm told that it didn't take long before New Orleans saw an indifference within the community after the fire. (However, there are mixed opinions on whether the fire was a birth of gay rights activism in New Orleans, which is something we explore in UPSTAIRS INFERNO.) Also, you have families that didn't claim their dead children. As a collective community, that is shameful and embarrassing. You also have a prime suspect who is a member of the LGBT community. Evidence points to the fact that this horrific crime was committed by one of our own. Furthermore, there isn't any official closure. Police weren't able to charge anyone with the crime. While the evidence points to a primary suspect committing the crime, there is no justice. Lastly, I think few people know about the story because it's been too painful for victims to talk about.

Up Stairs Lounge3. How do you feel the arson of the Up Stairs Lounge and the shooting at Pulse Nightclub are parallel of each other? For nearly 43 years, the June 24, 1973 arson at the Up Stairs Lounge, an event that claimed 32 lives, was considered "The Largest Gay Mass Murder in U.S. History." It’s with tremendous grief, we recognize that's no longer the case. With 49 patrons dead and families shattered, the June 12, 2016 mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub now holds that dubious title.  No one wanted to pass that moniker on and see a horror of this nature again. It was a stark reminder that while the LGBTQ community has achieved a lot in its fight for equality, there are many people who still feel that LGBTQ lives are expendable.

What we learned in the wake of the Up Stairs Lounge arson, is that this tragedy will have a tremendous psychological impact, not only for those directly impacted by the shooting, but throughout the entire LGBTQ community.

Unlike after the 1973 New Orleans gay mass murder, most political leaders expressed compassion, grief and determination for justice after the shooting. Communities across the country and world held vigils, standing in solidarity with Orlando. That didn't happen in 1973. Nearly $8 million dollars was raised for Pulse victims through a GoFundMe account. In the aftermath of the Up Stairs Lounge arson, only $17,900 was raised through the National New Orleans Memorial Fund. Adjusted for inflation, that equals $96,951.90. That's a huge difference! And while the outpouring of compassion is far greater than in 1973, there are still community and religious leaders callously turning their backs to the victims and the LGBT community.

Upstairs Inferno4. What did you learn from making this documentary, both about that fateful night and in your directing skills of how you wanted to tell this story? The more I learned about the tragedy, the more important this project became. I believe it is crucial to acknowledge, preserve and honor our history as LGBT people, no matter where you live. The LGBT dialogue has changed SO much in the past few years. As popular attitudes shift around the world on LGBT issues, we risk losing the stories of the struggles that got us where we are today. It's our responsibility to honor the memories of those who came before us, including those who died at the Up Stairs Lounge. The people who experienced this tragedy paved the way for the freedoms enjoyed by the New Orleans LGBT community of today, as well as the overall LGBT movement. I wanted to create a film that honored their forgotten stories.

Making the film underscored the importance of sharing our stories. We must be visible. It's easier for people to hate and fear things they don't understand. No matter your background, in the end, we are more alike than we are different. I think stories like UPSTAIRS INFERNO reminds of us that.

5. Upstairs Inferno is going to make its NYC's premiere at the Manhattan Film Festival with a screening on April 24 at Cinema Village. What excites you about having this film show in New York City? It's NEW YORK CITY!!! I love this town! About 10 years ago, I was fortunate to live in Manhattan for a summer. (I must admit, I left a little piece of my heart there and I miss it a lot!) I attended a film program while living in New York, and the short film I directed there launched my professional filmmaking career. It's great to come full circle -- screening this full length film in the city where my journey began.

In addition, New York is considered by many to be the epicenter of the modern U.S. Gay Rights Movement.  A film about gay rights and gay history belongs in New York.

6. The narrator of Upstairs Inferno is New York Times best selling author Christopher Rice (son of legendary author Anne Rice). How did you approach him to be the narrator for this documentary? When looking for a narrator, I wanted someone who was passionate about LGBT issues and passionate about New Orleans. Chris immediately came to mind. Chris considers New Orleans his "hometown" and is very passionate about keeping its history alive! I knew that passion would come across in his narration. It's not something you can fake. As a New York Times best selling author, much of his writing is heavily influenced by the years he and his Mom (legendary vampire chronicler, Anne Rice) lived in New Orleans. I contacted him and he was immediately on-board!

"The View Upstairs" Off-Broadway7. With the hit Off-Broadway show The View Upstairs currently running, how do you feel this film compliments the show and vice versa? Theater is such a powerful medium! The View Upstairs, which is inspired by the Up Stairs Lounge fire, has introduced theatergoers to a tragic event in LGBT history that few people knew about. It has undoubtedly left audience members wanting to know more about the deadly arson, the actual people it affected, the devastating aftermath and its rightful place in LGBT history. There's so much more to the story. That's where UPSTAIRS INFERNO comes in. The documentary features the real life stories behind the deadly arson and its aftermath. The interviews with survivors and the family/friends of victims are gut wrenching, yet insightful. Some of the people interviewed in the film haven't publicly discussed the fire until now, especially on camera. I believe UPSTAIRS INFERNO brings humanity to the history-making headlines by shining a light on the very painful effect the tragedy had on survivors, witnesses and loved ones.

I am thrilled that the creative team and cast of The View Upstairs are planning to attend the UPSTAIRS INFERNO screening. I am glad that we get to share the city for one night, uniting to educate people about this nearly forgotten tragedy from our history.

8. I read that you hope Upstairs Inferno helps remind people to seize the day. What event in your life reminded you to seize the day? And since that event, how have you seized the day? Earlier this month, I had a friend suddenly pass away. He was my age. I get really caught up in my work, but his passing was a stark reminder that tomorrow is not promised. With each passing day, I do my best not to be a workaholic, step away from the computer and spend more time with my partner, our puppies and my family and friends. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Life is fickle.

Brian Long and Robert L. Camina9. Upstairs Inferno is your second full length documentary, the first one being Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, which recounts the widely publicized and controversial June 28, 2009 police raid of a Fort Worth, Texas gay bar that resulted in multiple arrests and serious injuries. Before that, you wrote, directed and produced several short films. What made you want to switch from short films to documentaries? At my core, I am a storyteller. I am drawn to stories of the human condition. Whether it be through comedy, drama or documentaries, I prefer telling stories that fight for the underdogs and ultimately inspire us to be better people.

The switch from narrative short films to full length documentaries was not a premeditated decision. June 28, 2009, is a date that changed my life forever. That's when police and law enforcement officials violently raided a Texas gay bar, resulting in multiple arrests and serious injuries. That happened to be the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn raid and the parallels were haunting. I had many friends in the bar that night. As the day went on, the facts surrounding the raid were unclear and the future was uncertain. However, my instincts and outrage told me that I needed to capture what was happening on video and potentially create a short film. Little did I know, that decision would define my life for the next 2.5 years. Over the next few months, the story grew. It was quickly apparent that this project wouldn't be a short film, but a feature length film. Since the film's release, RAID OF THE RAINBOW LOUNGE has helped educate and enlighten audiences around the world. It's been a training tool for law enforcement and city officials across the nation. The film also received attention from the Office of the White House, Department of Justice and a division of the U.S. State Department. Documentaries are powerful tools. They possess the power to create change.  That's one reason why I like them and why I decided to take on the story of the Up Stairs Lounge arson.

10. If you could make a documentary about a living and dead celebrity, who would choose for each? Living celebrity: Dustin Lance Black. First of all, we have a few things in common: Not only do we share a passion for LGBT history, but we both grew up in San Antonio. But beyond that, I greatly admire him. He has done so much for our community through his activism and his storytelling. For years, he has been fighting hard to make our stories more visible. I'm sure that hasn't been easy and it'd be a privilege to tell his story.

Dead celebrity: Morris Kight. "Morris Kight" is not a name a lot of people know, but they should. We wouldn't be where we are without him. He was one of the architects of the modern gay rights movement, spearheading a non-violent movement for social reform.  Kight co-founded the Los Angeles Gay Liberation Front in 1969. He went on to co-found the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center (now known as Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center). He was also a co-founder of the first Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade in 1970. He also conceptualized and co-founded many organizations that were created to advance the quality of life for all GLBT persons. More people need to know about Morris and his contributions to our fight for equality.

Robert L. Camina, Photo Credit: Gerry SzymanskiMore on Robert:

Robert L. Camina wrote, directed and produced several short films before premiering his first full length documentary, RAID OF THE RAINBOW LOUNGE (2012) to sold out audiences, rave reviews and a media frenzy. RAID OF THE RAINBOW LOUNGE recounts the widely publicized and controversial June 28, 2009 police raid of a Fort Worth, Texas gay bar that resulted in multiple arrests and serious injuries. The raid occurred on the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Inn raid. The film, narrated by TV icon Meredith Baxter, screened during 33 mainstream and LGBT film festivals across the United States, Mexico and Canada. The film won several awards including 5 "Best" Film and 3 "Audience Choice" Awards. The film also received attention from the Office of the White House, Department of Justice and a division of the U.S. State Department. At their invitation, the Library of Congress hosted a screening in October 2014. (www.RaidoftheRainbowLounge.com)

Thursday
Apr302015

Call Answered: Jodi Mattinson: A Madam's Heaven and Hell

"Call Me Adam" chats with Companions Escorts founder Jodi Mattinson, Utah's biggest escort agency, about her new documentary Jodi Mattinson: A Madam's Heaven and Hell.

A Madam's Heaven and Hell chronicles Jodi's life from her Mormon upbringing to living on the streets of Utah, where she ended-up homeless and the victim of domestic violence, to running Companions Escorts, the most successful escort agency in Utah, to the shocking final moments of freedom just days before she begins her Federal Penitentiary sentence for tax evasion. Click here to rent or buy!

For more on Jodi be sure to visit http://amadamsheavenandhell.com and follow the documentary on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Your life story is the focus of the new documentary A Madam's Heaven and Hell, by P. Frank Williams. The documentary showcases your life from growing up Mormon to owning one of the most successful escort businesses in Utah, Companions Escorts, concluding just days before you went to prison for tax evasion. What made you want to make a documentary about your life? The story was actually brought to me by Kourtney Ragland who had seen me work before. He was really in to it. He took the story to Emmy Award winning producer P. Frank Williams who wanted to make the documentary and that's how it transpired.

2. What do you hope people come away with after watching the documentary? I want people to know more about the business and not be so judgmental about it. It’s not about a bunch of hookers and tramps robbing and taking husbands away. It’s women (and sometimes men) providing a service. It's decent people trying to get ahead, maybe some are in bad situations that they have no where else to go but use the only thing they did have. Like me who used her looks and her brain to get ahead out of their situation. It’s empowering and not a business to be frowned upon like everybody does.

Jodi Mattinson in "A Madam's Heaven and Hell"3. You grew up in a Mormon family, left home, lived on the streets for a while, which then led to you starting in the business of escorting which led you to starting your own escort company. Why did you leave at such a young age? Basically my parents forced me to marry a gentleman when I was 18 because they wanted to wash their hands of me because they thought I was trouble, but really I wasn’t trouble, I just didn’t want to be a Mormon and have so many rules in my life. So I got married at a young age and he turned very violent and after a really violent episode I left him and went to a women’s shelter.

4. How did you get the courage to leave your abusive husband? I actually saw him shoot somebody and I felt he was going to kill me if I didn’t leave. It was a very violent situation. It was awful.

Me: I’m glad you got out of it. You're lucky you had the strength and courage to leave.

Jodi: Me too. A lot of women don’t and a lot put up with it for years.

Jodi Mattinson, Companions Escorts5. When did you start working in the escort business and how did you get into it and then what made you want to take your experience to start your own company? I was young, about 18 or 19 and didn't have anything. I saw an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show with women that were working girls talk about how much they were making and since I had nothing, I thought, I could either wait three or four weeks for my first paycheck at a regular 9 to 5 job or make money right away. I couldn’t afford to wait three or four weeks at that time because I didn’t have anything...no shoes, no clothes, I had absolutely nothing. So I looked up escort services in the Yellow pages and went in for an interview and immediately started taking in money that day. What made me want to open my own business? Basically the gentleman I was doing phones for and running his office went out of business and I saw this as an opportunity to pickup where he left off and start my own company.

6. Coming from a Mormon background, what was the reaction of your family when you started Companion Escorts? At first, they didn’t realize what it was. My Dad thought it was a limo company to take people around. He had no clue. But once they got the gist of it, they were disappointed. Morally they don’t think it's correct. But their just judgmental and they don’t know, they don’t understand. They judged before they knew what was happening.

Now they are OK with it. We’re on good terms now. They’ve learned to accept who I am and what I am doing.

Jodi Mattinson in "A Madam's Heaven and Hell"7. The documentary starts off a few hours before you go to prison. Throughout the documentary it shows you having to say goodbye to your children and having them go live with your sister. What was all of that like for you and what has it been like now, since being out of prison, to get your life back to where you were? Telling my children that I had to leave them for three years was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. I can’t even describe how hard that was especially with their father also going to prison. Can you imagine as a child saying to your parents "Goodbye, goodbye, see you in 3 years." There was nothing tougher. I don’t believe I’ll ever have to deal with anything as hard as that again, at least I hope not.

I was blessed to have my sister though. She was in a bad relationship at the time and needed to get away from her guy who was on heroin, so she took this as an opportunity to leave him and come to my house to be a full time mother while I was gone. It was perfect timing for everybody. Everything worked out.

As far as getting out of prison, it still a little hard because I can’t move around here. I still have services in Utah but I also have services in California and I travel a lot but I’m not able to travel right now because of my probation. My kids went to therapy, we’ve gone to family counseling, to try to get everything back on track and it has not been easy. There’s been a lot of resistance with them. But we're getting through it.

8. Do your children understand the business you are in? Did you ever have to have that talk with them? Did they ever wonder what you do? They know now that they are older. They're 9 and 13 years old and they see what’s going on and they see the escorts and me monitoring the offices. At the time I went to prison they didn’t know but now they know. I never want to lie to them or sugar coat anything. 

Jodi Mattinson9. At one point in the documentary you mention that in addition to women, you sometimes hire gay people and transgendered people as well. What do you look for in an escort to work for you? Basically whatever is in demand, there’s somebody for everybody. Some guys like bigger girls, some guys like dark girls, there are different fetishes, different looks. I don’t discriminate when it comes to hiring an escort, but I make sure they are not on drugs and they get a health test and background check. They have to go through a thorough screening by the city. They definitely have to be attractive, clean, outgoing, friendly, and a people person. They have to be strong in the mind because they have to deal with so many personalities during their shift and entertain so many different people.

10. In the documentary, I also noticed that you screened the people who call for an escort. Have any of the escorts gotten into a situation that they thought they were going into one situation but when they got there it turned about to be something else and maybe they left? Yes that happens all the time. You screen the guys a certain amount, we can’t ever screen them 100% to know exactly who were sending them to. Everything is over the phone and we can verify as much as we can hope the escort is safe but there is always that chance that the guy might turn out to be some psycho and that has happened a couple of times. We had to have security go and kick in the door and go help the escort out.

Jodi Mattinson in "A Madam's Heaven and Hell"11. What are some of the most popular activities your clients like to do with the escorts? What are some of the most outrageous activities you’ve been requested for? The most common requests are nude striptease, light rub down, teasing, cuddling, and caressing. A lot of our clients like a private date in his hotel or house. What happens behind closed doors I have no idea. We contract out the escorts for companionship, entertainment and company. We get a lot of requests for foot fetishes, golden showers, a lot of guys are into being submissive or dominant, and we have a lot of powerful businessmen who want the escorts bring a pair of lingerie for them to dress up in. Guys have a lot of weird fetishes. There’s one in my documentary where this guy had a diaper/baby fetish where he wanted the escort to change his diaper.

Me: Yeah and I like when you say oh you’re not looking to pay more than $150 for that, well we’re not interested.

Jodi: If an escort is going to do that, they should get a $500 tip.

Me: At least. For what he's asking them to do, definitely.

12. You’ve survived so much. Just watching everything you went through, what do you think gave you that drive and strength to survive and what kept you going during the rough times when you weren’t sure of where things were going? As a youngster, I witnessed a lot of abuse and that’s what makes me who I am today. It made me strong and it made me realize that I never want to be in that situation. I never want to have to depend upon a man. I never want to be that person or in that situation where I'm not able to support myself.

Me: That’s wonderful that you’re able to know that about yourself and do that. That’s terrific.

Jodi Mattinson13. I learned a lot from the documentary. The whole escort industry is not something I’m personally familiar with, but I found it very fascinating and what you have gone through to be very interesting and inspiring.  What have you learned about yourself from everything that you have gone through? I learned that I’m strong, I can make something out of nothing. I can do whatever I want as long as I put my mind to it, think positively and manifest it into the future.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

14. What some of the best advice you’ve ever received? Treat people how you want to be treated. Always do right and right will come to you. I definitely try to treat people how I want to be treated and with respect.

15. What’s next for you? What do you want to do that you haven’t done yet or is there something more you want to do with Companion Escorts? I’d like to expand into the South or East coast, as far as working. I'd also like to do a reality show. I think it would be amazing. The things that go on in each of my office each night is amazing. The girls are all real crazy and fun and I think that would be great.

16. If you could have any super power, which would you choose? To fly.

17. If you could create your own signature drink what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? I'm not sure what I would call it, but it would consist of champagne, something fruity and sweet.

Me: What about calling it "The Escort."

Jodi: That’s a good one.

18. How do you want to be remembered? I definitely want to be remembered as a positive person that  was able to uplift others when I could and that I was always there for the people who needed me.

 

Jodi MattinsonMore on Jodi:

Part of the adult industry for 18 years, Jodi finds joy in witnessing other women excel and become successful in life. When she’s not at work or busy being a single mom she enjoys doing charity work helping the less fortunate. Jodi is the president of Boss Ladies Productions.

Tuesday
Aug202013

Tom Donahue: Casting By Interview

Tom is the Chief Creative Officer responsible for the look, feel, and quality on all CreativeChaos vmg projects. His latest project is directing the feature documentary CASTING BY, about Casting Directors, the indispensable yet unsung heroes of film making, currently airing on HBO as part of their Summer Documentary Series. Click here for air dates!

For more on Tom visit http://www.creativechaosvmg.com and for more on HBO Documentary Series visit http://www.hbo.com/#/documentaries

1. Who or what inspired you to become a director? The New Hollywood films of the 1970's.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Bruce Springsteen - on a documentary about America's last half century as told through his music. This is my dream project.

3. What made you want to make the documentary film Casting By? The distance between the significance of the creative contributions of casting directors and the lack of recognition and regard they receive for those achievements. I knew that gap had to be rectified after my first interview with Marion Dougherty.

CreativeChaos Partners Tom Donahue and Steve Edwards with Glenn Close and Burt Young at the NYFF CASTING BY After Party4. Casting By includes a host of Hollywood heavyweights such as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Glenn Close, Jeff Bridges, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Lane, Bette Midler and John Travolta. How did you decide who you wanted to include in this documentary? The people we reached out to had to have a direct connection to any one of the casting directors we talked to. Most of them went on camera to pay tribute to Marion Dougherty, others to Lynn Stalmaster but many came to talk about the casting directors they work with today or about the importance of casting in general. We discovered it was a topic most had rarely been asked to talk about before but that was supremely important to their lives and work.

HBO premiere in NYC for CASTING BY, with Editor Jill Schweizer, Casting Director Juliet Taylor, Martin Scorsese, Casting Director Ellen Lewis, Producers Joanna Colbert, Kate Lacey and Ilan Arboleda5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the documentary? I want the audiences to take away what I have taken away from making this film - That the casting director is of major creative importance in the shaping of a motion picture. I want the audience to never again take the 'casting by' credit for granted.

6. What was the best part about making Casting By? What challenges did you face during the filming process? No doubt, the best part was being able to sit with and talk to people who were all masters in their fields - whether casting directors, actors, directors or producers. Every interview was a masterclass.

7. Why did you go with HBO as the platform to air your documentary? What does their channel offer than another one might not? HBO is one of the premiere platforms for documentaries in the United States.

Tom Donahue directing8. What does it mean to you to have your documentary on HBO? It means my film will get an great amount of exposure, as much as can really be expected for an independent documentary in the United States. And with that exposure will come greater recognition for casting directors.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? When I was 12, a teacher told me that I understood at a young age what most people never learn in their entire lives - The value of finding life's meaning in the work that you do. Having her tell me that had a major impact on my life. I never forgot it and never will.

10. What have you learned about yourself from being a director? I've learned that I love affecting change and changing attitudes through storytelling.

 

Tom Donahue at "Casting By" NYC PremiereMore on Tom:

Tom produced the feature film PONIES released theatrically in 2012. He directed the feature documentary GUEST OF CINDY SHERMAN, which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival to rave reviews. The film opened theatrically in March 2009 and was selected as recommended watching by the New York Times when it made its premiere on the Sundance Channel in May 2009.  He is currently directing two documentaries for the company now in production.