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On the gaydar: Catherine Crouch

June jumps for frosh feature helmer

June was jumping for frosh feature helmer Catherine Crouch; first, her debut pic, “Stray Dogs,” had its world preem June 3 at the N.Y. Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (June 3), and then the 23rd marked the HBO unspooling of the prison pic “Stranger Inside,” which she co-wrote with Cheryl Dunye.

“Dogs,” a dark family drama adapted from a play by Julie Jensen, is billed as a dysfunctional period piece in which a young mother (Guinevere Turner) must choose between her troubled marriage and her children. The South Carolina-raised Crouch points out that while lensing the pic, she relied heavily on Tennessee Williams adaptations for influence. “His work always emanates a Southern Gothic tone, and that was the feel I was looking for.”

In addition to Williams, she names Billy Wilder, Elia Kazan and Italian helmer Lina Wertmuller as key influences.

Crouch first tackled the writing-directing combo in 1996 with the festival-friendly short “Osco Bag,” which tells the saga of an abandoned plastic bag, searching for a place to belong. Her follow-up effort, “Vanilla Lament” (1997), managed to turn heads, garnering her a silver plaque-student experimental nod at the Chicago Intl. Film Festival, among other awards. The six-minute short, using a mixture of live-action, scratch and stop-motion techniques, is a humorous look at the drama of a lesbian breakup.

Her 1999 short, “One Small Step,” was Crouch’s final stop before donning a feature director’s hat. The dramedy, about a rambunctious tomboy, screened in more than 40 fests and nabbed several awards worldwide.

While basking in all this festival glory, Crouch sounds like a regular Hollywood creative type when she says, “Don’t forget to plug ‘The Stranger Inside,’ I’m looking for more writing jobs.”