Twitter
Facebook

 

 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

    

"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Entries in Gay (40)

Wednesday
Apr262017

Call Answered: Part 2: Facetime Interview with Michael Zam, writer of "Feud: Bette and Joan"

"Call Me Adam" and Michael Zam live at The Algonquin HotelIf you loved the finale of Feud: Bette and Joan, then be sure to check out the second part of my interview with Feud writer Michael Zam, who gives us the backstage stories that didn't make it into the show as well as some insight to Bette Davis and Joan Crawford!

Live from The Algonquin Hotel, Michael Zam and I go at it again with even more tales from Feud: Bette and Joan!

Click here to watch Part 1 of our interview!

For more on Feud: Bette and Joan be sure to visit http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/feud and follow the show on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Part 2 of "Call Me Adam's" Facetime interview with Feud: Bette and Joan writer Michael Zam:

Michael ZamMore on Michael:

Michael Zam, BFA/MFA, author of the Black-Listed screenplay, Best Actress, has been developed into the hugely popular and highly-acclaimed 8-part miniseries, Feud, for FX, starring Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis. He has also written scripts for DreamWorks, Plan B, and many others. Michael wrote the book for the Off-Broadway musical The Kid, based on Dan Savage’s memoir, which won the Jerry Bock Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre and the Outer Critics Circle Award. The musical was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Awards, and GLAAD Media Awards. Michael has been honored twice with the SPS Award for Teaching Excellence. He teaches screenwriting, film, and television writing at NYUSPS in the Center for Applied Liberal Arts.

Tuesday
Apr252017

Call Redialed: Joe Gulla: GARBO: 2017 Downtown Urban Arts Festival at Cherry Lane Theatre

Joe Gulla, Photo Credit: Jeffrey HornsteinWhat can I say about the man who adores me to no end? I mean, the man who adores "Call Me Adam" to no end. He actually never has said he adores me, Adam Rothenberg, he just loves my site, but I'll take it! I can't believe I've known Joe for eight years and have gotten to interview him, now three times, plus have seen him go from a fellow blogger to an award winning playwright! He writes, acts, directs, and produces. He does it all!

GARBO tells the story of Joe, a Gay New Yorker, who happens upon the tiny, hidden, candle-lit Garbo Bar during his visit to Rome, Italy. An emotional adventure begins when he is introduced to the handsome, enigmatic, (possibly!) closeted bartender/owner. Funny and heartfelt, GARBO explores why life and love may be better lived outside the closet...even (or especially) in the shadow of the Vatican!"

I'm thrilled to bring this new interview to you about Joe's latest play, GARBO, that will be presented in the 2017 Downtown Urban Arts Festival on Tuesday, May 9 at 7pm at The Cherry Lane Theatre! 

For more on Joe be sure to visit https://www.joegulla.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. On May 9, you are presenting a one-night only performance of your play GARBO at the Cherry Lane Theatre as part of the 2017 Downtown Urban Arts Festival. What excites you about having your play in this particular festival? I am huge fan of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival! They care about playwrights. They care about "the words." Their festival is curated within an inch of its life. So, I am extremely proud that they selected GARBO. Oh and, um, they are producing us at the Cherry Lane Theatre! Adam, c’mon…THAT is exciting! And, in my case, a dream come true!

2. GARBO has had some previous incarnations already...in 2011 it was a ONE ACT selected for the 2011 FRESH FRUIT FESTIVAL...and then, in 2012 it was selected by the TIMES SQUARE INTERNATIONAL THEATER FESTIVAL for a STAGED READING…and since then, you have added a second act. What made you want to add a second act? What did you feel was missing from the show as a one act or did you just love performing the show so much that you wanted to write yourself more stage time...hahaha? I love this question! Nothing was ever missing from the ONE ACT (short play) version. I wrote about my experience having (what I call!) an "unrequited love affair" with a bar owner in Rome, Italy. I was very pleased with the piece, its message and the early performances.

The fact that the play was only an hour long bothered me. I believe in GARBO and I wanted it to be available to larger audiences and (in my mind) that meant it had to be a proper TWO ACT (full length) play. This stymied me because the original version was true to what happened to me in Rome. It had a beginning, middle and an end!

My director, Brian Rardin, challenged me to come up with an Act 2. I was resistant! Like I said, there was no more "true" story, so I did not know where to go with it. I didn’t rush my feelings about it. I let it all marinate. Then, one day, I was at the gym and it just "came to me." A twist! A freakin’ twist, Adam! One that opens the story up but, at the same time, allows it to go deeper. I am pretty sure Act 2 will come as a big surprise to our audience. It definitely creates a richer…more resonant experience. But, honestly, it also adds another element of just plain soapy fun! So, no! I did not write Act 2 so I could have more stage time! Ha! I am already horrified enough about the amount of memorizing I need to do!

Joe Gulla, Photo Credit: Jeffrey Hornstein3. Without reading a description of the show, one might think GARBO has something to do with Greta Garbo, but in actuality, it's about your time in Rome where you had an unrequited love affair with the owner/bartender of a tiny candle-lit bar called GARBO Bar. Has there been any confusion about this? Yes! All the time! But, to the confused, I say…"Was MOBY DICK really about a whale?"

4. Now, let's get into the intricacies of the show itself! As stated in the previous question, GARBO is about the three years you spent in Rome, but you initially went there for just three months, until you "fell in love." You original reason for going to Rome was because you felt it was your duty to visit the homeland & get to know your history. What happened in your life that made you feel this necessity? It sounds like something "negative" happened but, actually, it was the opposite. In the mid-90’s, I took a trip to Spain that was supposed to last a month. I ended up staying there for a year and a half! As a native New Yorker, I was astounded by how "out" the gay guys were. I lived in New York all my life and, obviously, New York is a great place to be if you are gay. But, I had never seen men holding hands in the streets, kissing and making out in public spaces until I lived in Spain. This stayed with me.

Moving to Spain was sorta random. I never expected to stay that long. But, when I was back in the States, I started to feel guilty. I mean, there I was, I had lived in Madrid and Ibiza, but never even visited Italy. As an Italian-American, I knew I had to remedy this! In planning my trip to the "homeland," my goal was to "get in touch" with my Italian heritage and, ideally, fall in love with a sexy, hot Italian guy. Ha! At the very least, I’d experience that same European, gay (Spanish-like!) openness…only, this time, I’d be in the country my family is from!

Cast of GARBO: Joe Gulla, Kate Greer, and Aristotelis Ambatzidis5. How long into your three-month visit, did you meet the owner/bartender of GARBO? Then how long after that, were you like, I should stay longer? Ok, well…in real life, I was there for three years! I met the guy about a month into my trip. I knew I was staying for an "extended holiday," but I was not familiar enough with Rome to know exactly where I should settle. I’d read a memoir called, Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. The author wrote rhapsodically about a part of Rome called Trastevere. All I remembered was that you could enter Trastevere from a bridge named the "Ponte Sisto." I bought a map (This was before I had an iPhone!) and I made my way to that damn bridge. I crossed it, fell in love with the neighborhood and got an apartment almost immediately. I went to Garbo the first night that I lived there...and, well, that’s when we met!

To be clear, I did not meet this guy and fall "head over heels." It wasn’t like that at all! I liked him! We became friends. As a foreigner, I appreciated his friendship and it made my acclimation that much easier. I never really "decided" to stay longer. I just sorta lingered!

6. Three years is a long time to stay somewhere for someone, who you say is an "unrequited love." What indications did he give you that he was in "love" with you too? Why do you feel it took three years to realize it was time to go home? What was the moment that made you say, "It's time to go"? First, I agree! It was a ridiculously long time to stay! I mean, besides him, I was enjoying every aspect of being in Rome. It lives up to everything you hear about it: gorgeous, magical.. "eternal!" So, the backdrop helped me stay stationary…for sure. I guess my answer is: Everything happened so slowly. It took time for my emotions and feelings to catch up with the friendship that already existed. I won’t say too much more because it’s pretty well-illustrated in the play. Oh and, in terms of leaving, the play is very specific about what happens and why I finally check out! Besides, Adam, you are going to be there May 9th! I want you to have an unfettered experience.

Joe Gulla, Photo Credit: Jeffrey Hornstein7. As an out gay man, what was it like being in a country that was so closeted? Adam, it is just horrible…and ridiculous. I was shocked!

8. When did you decide this experience should be made into a play? What did you learn about your time in Rome writing this play that you didn't know going through it? That’s easy! While I was there, I became friends with an Irish painter. She was a lesbian and she spoke English. Both of these facts were a huge relief to me. I would spend my nights hanging out with the bartender/owner and I would spend my days gossiping and bonding with her. As months went by and the drama heightened, she would often say, "Joe, this is a play!" When I returned home, I sat down and wrote it! I loved the concept of telling a fully wrought story by simply juxtaposing two ongoing, yet separate, dialogues.

In terms of what I learned creating the play….Well, I didn’t learn much when I first wrote it. I just regurgitated my experience. I was "fresh" from it. But, when we started rehearsals, my director and my fellow actors had a million (understandable!) questions. This forced me (on a daily basis!) to relive it. Full on, intense therapy, Adam! Not fun! It is interesting because there are still a lot of questions unanswered.

We were rehearsing with our current cast last night. Kate Greer plays "Anne," the Irish painter. Aristotelis Ambatzidis plays "Ario," the sexy owner of GARBO! Adam, wait until you see the shocking amount of talent these guys possess! They are spectacular! Anyway, we were working through the script as a group and, once again, I found myself learning new things about what went down back in Rome. I mean, this was literally last night! Thankfully, the emotional stakes are lower for me these days! It’s a freakin’ relief…but, I promise, the impassioned potency of the material is strong as ever!

Joe Gulla, Photo Credit: Michael Arthur9. After GARBO, you have another project already coming up called GAY.PORN.MAFIA, a collection of your award-winning, nationally produced plays. What made you want to name this collection of your work GAY.PORN.MAFIA? Ah, yes, and how lovely to have a project that is completely separate from my personal life! Ha! Keep in mind, my autobiographical monologues (THE BRONX QUEEN TRILOGY) and GARBO are what’s been keeping me busy these days. GAY.PORN.MAFIA is a lot of crazy fun! Yeah, there’s heart and layers, but we are going for some big laughs! The name derives from the simple fact that each of the six plays contains at least two of following themes: GAY, PORN and/or MAFIA. For instance, one of the plays, REEL WOOD, is about a gay married couple who are forced to live in the basement of their Hollywood home because the rest of their house has been rented to a straight porn production company! Fastidious gay men descended upon by straight porn stars, Adam! Ha! Chaos ensues!

10. Since this collection is called GAY.PORN.MAFIA. if you were to star in a gay porn movie, what do you think your porn name would be? "Moby Dick," of course!

11. How does one transition from porn to this next semi-serious question? I don't know, so I will just ask it. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? First, I would like to be able to swipe my Metro Card once, as opposed to the three or four times it takes me to get that damn turnstile to unlatch. If I can get one percent better at doing that, I would be be a much more calm, affable and content subway rider.

Second, I am firm believer in the "pay it forward" movement! I am that corny guy who buys a latte for the lady behind me on line at Starbucks! And um, yes, that is ME receiving her suspicious/awkward/nervous glance when I do it.! We all have the power to be positive. I suggest being bold, being creative and being direct…be DYNAMIC in putting that positive energy out there!

I mean, I read someone’s Blog, Twitter and Instagram who does this ALL OF THE TIME….yep, I call him…ADAM!!!! Thank you for dialing me up, my friend!

Joe Gulla, Photo Credit: Jeffrey HornsteinMore on Joe:

Joe Gulla is an American playwright, actor and reality television participant. He is best known for the autobiographical monologues that he writes and performs for the theater. His best known work, Bronx Queen Trilogy is based on his experience growing up as a gay boy in the Bronx.

The Bronx Queen, first in the series, won the 2016 Downtown Urban Arts Festival "Audience Award" for Joe's sold-out performance at Joe's Pub at The Public Theater. The Bronx Queen was also awarded Best Comedic Script and Most Popular Show at NYC Theater Row's 2012 and 2013 United Solo Theatre Festival, respectively.

Faggy at 50, second in the series, was awarded Best One-Man Show at NYC Theater Row's 2014 United Solo Theatre Festival.

Daddy, the series' final installment had its World Premiere at NYC Theater Row's 2015 United Solo Theatre Festival. Joe won the 2015 United Solo Award for Best Comedian for his performance.

His play Garbo was based on an unrequited love affair experienced while living in Rome, Italy. Garbo was selected to be part of the New York City's Times Square International Theater Festival in 2012. He played the role of "Frankie" in Off-Broadway's long-running hit, My Big Gay Italian Wedding.

REEL WOOD, a short play written by Joe, had its World Premiere at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June 2015. It was also selected by NYC's Village Playwrights to be performed in their "Re-Inventing Family" series commemorating Gay Pride.

Joe's play, Knock Off!, had its world premiere in Houston, TX at Theatre Southwest. 

Christmas Caroline, Joe's newest comedy had its World Premiere at Studio C Theatre, Hollywood, CA in November 2015. His play, Gayfever had its World Premiere at the Funky Little Theatre Company in March 2016. Sleeping With The Fish by Joe Gulla opened the Village Playwrights' "Gay Pride and Prejudice" series in June 2016.

In June 2016, Joe's play, Fall and Rise had its World Premiere at the Carrolwood Player's "One Act Weekend" in Tampa, Florida. Later that month, Fall and Rise premiered at the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Fall and Rise was awarded "Best Play" in 2016 at the Acadia University Mini Fest in Nova Scotia, CN.

The Advocate named Gulla its "Anti-Bullying Hero" in 2012.

Joe was a contestant on the NBC adventure reality series Lost in 2001. The show followed three teams of two as they made their way from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia back to the United States.

Thursday
Apr202017

Call Answered: Matthew Montelongo: "Daniel's Husband" at Primary Stages

Matthew Montelongo, Photo Credit: Manolo DoresteAfter seeing Michael McKeever's new play Daniel's Husband I couldn't wait to find out more about it. I was thrilled when I called, and Matthew Montelongo answered. I was so taken by his performance, it's great to delve into Matthew & his portrayal of "Mitchell."

In Daniel's Husband, "Daniel" and "Mitchell" enjoying life as the perfect couple. Perfect house, perfect friends, even a mother who wants them to wed. What isn't perfect is that "Daniel" longs to be married and "Mitchell" does not. A turn of events forces both men to face the consequences of their opposing views, and they learn that they are living in a world where fundamental rights aren't always so fundamental. Daniel's Husband takes an unflinching look at how we choose to tie the knot. Or not.

Daniel's Husband plays at Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street) through April 28 only! Click here for tickets!

For more on Matthew follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I wish I had an inspiring story to share. You know those stories. A story of discovering my deep desire to act after witnessing a life-altering, transformational performance by some lauded performer of yester-year. Rather, and this is utterly boring (the truth usually is), I auditioned for a play in college and a kind director showed interest, telling me that I had potential. In that moment, for better AND for worse, I became enamored of that rare, thrilling moment when you are told that you’ve done something well. I’m a sucker for a Gold Star. Always have been. As I’m sure you and your readers are well aware, getting approval is a ridiculous reason to do anything. I am nothing, if not ridiculous.

2. After starring in the regional production of Daniel's Husband, you are now performing with it again at Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. What initially made you want to be part of the show and what made you want to continue on with it? (I mean, after seeing the show, I can tell why would want to continue with it). I loved Daniel’s Husband when I first read it last August. It moved me deeply. And it’s been my experience that when that happens whilst reading something that I may or may not even get cast in, I know it’s something really special. Beyond the emotional connection, the play checks all of my boxes: new play (check), great theatre (check), great director (check). Lastly, I thought the arguments for and against marriage equality made in the play were both provocative and grounded in reality.

As for moving the play to The Cherry Lane, I think this simple rule applies: If given a chance to work with Joe Brancato, Ryan Spahn, Lou Liberatore, Leland Wheeler, and Anna Holbrook: YOU SAY YES.

Matthew Montelongo in "Daniel's Husband", Photo Credit: James Leynse3. What do you relate to most about "Mitchell"? What is one characteristic of his, you are glad you don't have? Like "Mitchell," I don’t shy away from sharing my opinions. This is often one of the ways in which people describe themselves (perhaps especially in interviews) that’s more of a humble-brag than an honest criticism. I don’t mean it like that. "Mitchell," and on occasion, I, can get obnoxious when it comes to proving a point. My mother, when I was younger (okay, like yesterday) used to yell "Life is not a debate!" whenever we argued. It can get tiresome, especially when the stakes for every argument are life-and-death. I’ve learned in the many years (cough cough) since being on my high school’s debate team, that some points don’t need to be proven. Like whether gluten allergies are real; or whether it’s better to stand at the front of the C-Train; or if Cargo Shorts are cool. (My answers, by the way, are: I don’t care. Yes. And YES).

4. What do you think is "Mitchell's" greatest strength and weakness? "Mitchell" is brought low in Daniel’s Husband by his fervent opposition to gay marriage, but is buoyed (perhaps even saved) by his equally unyielding love for "Daniel." I admire the strength of his convictions, even if he is almost destroyed by the consequences of having them.

Ryan Spahn and Matthew Montelongo in "Daniel's Husband", Photo Credit: James Leynse5. In Daniel's Husband, "Mitchell" is not pro marriage because he doesn't want to conform to societal standards. When have you been pushed by friends and loved ones to do something that so many others do, but you say, "No, I'm not going to do this and be like everyone else"? I can’t think of a time when I’ve been pushed by my friends and loved ones to do something that I didn’t want to do. I’m not counting, of course, the fact that I refuse, much to the chagrin of my friends and loved ones, to stop wearing Cargo Shorts (see answer to question #3). For the most part, my friends and loved ones are FAR smarter than I am. If they think it’s a good idea, it probably is.

6. Without giving too much of the play away, there is a turn of events that makes "Mitchell" regret his decision not to get married. What is something in your life that you regret not doing or wishing you made a different decision than you did? I regret eating as much as I did for breakfast. Aside from that, I tend to not let myself dwell on past choices. If I make a wrong choice, I try to learn from it. If I’m able to do that, then perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that wrong of a choice. All that being said, I DEEPLY regret what I had for breakfast.

Matthew Montelongo and Leland Wheeler in "Daniel's Husband", Photo Credit: James Leynse7. "Mitchell" is also a fighter in that he really goes after what he wants, both personally and professionally. What is something you haven't done yet or still want to achieve in your personal & professional life? Professionally, I just want to work. More plays, more TV, projects that I like and that also allow me to pay my rent (I know, I’m a dreamer). For what it’s worth, I’ve always wanted to play a corpse on an episodic television show. Can one of your readers make that happen?

Personally, I want to eat well, work out more, be a better friend, son, and partner. But I’ll settle for eating fewer bagels (my weakness) and spending more quality time with my boyfriend (he comes in a very close second to bagels).

8. What are some stories you've heard at the stage door afterwards? I haven’t been privy to many stage door stories. In general, I duck my head and run. But this show moves people, and I VERY MUCH appreciate their willingness to share that with me after the show. I’ve gotten hugs from strangers on my walk home from the theatre, which is lovely. I’ve also been asked, more than once, if I’m related to Ben Affleck, which I take as a compliment (so long as it’s Argo Affleck and not Daredevil Affleck).

9.  I'm just going to put my cards on the table and say, when the play first started, I thought, "Oh great, this is going to be another stereotypical play about a group of gay friends at a dinner party and their lives afterwards." Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. This show has so much depth and deals with some really important issues such as gay marriage, gay rights, what makes a family, & crossing boundaries. It made me think a lot about my life. From starring in this show, how do you feel it has changed the way you look at your life and what you want from it? I have spent a great deal of time in my non-actor life working for marriage equality (I help pay the bills by freelance writing, frequently for LGBTQ nonprofits). Before living in "Mitchell’s" skin eight times a week, I wouldn’t have been able to be in the same room with him – or anyone who so vehemently opposes marriage in general and gay marriage specifically. Now, however, though I still disagree with his opinions, I respect his reasons. And even more so, I respect that his opposition to marriage doesn’t in ANY way compromise his love for "Daniel." Seeing that in "Mitchell," and "living" it every night, has changed the way I interact with others in my non-actor life who don’t share my support of marriage equality or belief in the protections of marriage in general.

Matthew Montelongo, Photo Credit: Manolo DoresteMore on Matthew:

Broadway: A View from the Bridge and The Ritz. Off-Broadway: One Night (Cherry Lane), This Backstage Life (Atlantic), His Daddy (EST), Whore (SPF), God’s Ear (Vineyard Theatre/New Georges), Five Flights (Rattlestick), The Mineola Twins and Arms and the Man (Roundabout), and Tartuffe (NYSF/Public Theatre). Television: Forever, Gossip Girl, Law & Order: SVU (x2). Film: Bear City 3.

Saturday
Apr152017

Call Answered: Facetime Interview: Michael Zam: "Feud: Bette and Joan" Writer

"Call Me Adam" and Michael Zam at The Algonquin HotelLive from The Algonquin Hotel, "Call Me Adam" goes face to face with Feud: Bette and Joan writer Michael Zam! From the story lines to the characters to clearing up misconceptions about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, I get the inside scoop on what it takes to bring the hit FX show to life. 

Michael & I had so much fun together that we had to divide this interview into two parts. The second half, where we discuss left out plot lines, the show's brilliant intro, and other cutting room floor items, will be released soon.

Feud: Bette and Joan airs every Sunday on FX at 10pm!

For more on Feud: Bette and Joan be sure to visit http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/feud and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

"Call Me Adam's" interview with Feud: Bette and Joan writer Michael Zam:

Michael ZamMore on Michael:

Michael Zam, BFA/MFA, author of the Black-Listed screenplay, Best Actress, has been developed into the hugely popular and highly-acclaimed 8-part miniseries, Feud, for FX, starring Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis. He has also written scripts for DreamWorks, Plan B, and many others. Michael wrote the book for the Off-Broadway musical The Kid, based on Dan Savage’s memoir, which won the Jerry Bock Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre and the Outer Critics Circle Award. The musical was nominated for a Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Awards, and GLAAD Media Awards. Michael has been honored twice with the SPS Award for Teaching Excellence. He teaches screenwriting, film, and television writing at NYUSPS in the Center for Applied Liberal Arts.

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)