Inside Out, one of the world’s leading LGBTQ film festivals and Canada’s largest distributor of LGBTQ content, has given Variety exclusive access to the lineup of 10 feature film projects that will participate in the festival’s fourth annual Finance Forum during its 30th anniversary year. Executives taking part will include reps from Netflix, Bleecker Street, IFC Films, Gamechanger Films, Killer Films, MK2, Bankside Films, Powderkeg Studios and GLAAD. Inside Out executive director Andria Wilson and director of programming Andrew Murphy spoke to Variety about the program, and the commercial and creative health of LGBTQ cinema.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s finance forum will proceed entirely online during the festival’s original May dates. As previously announced, the full festival will now take place from Oct. 1-11.
Inside Out’s LGBTQ Finance Forum, taking place May 26-29, provides LGBTQ-identified producers and/or producers creating LGBTQ content an opportunity to pitch their projects directly to top decision makers. All participating executives will be taking one-on-one meetings with the creative teams. Being home to the first LGBTQ finance forum of its kind in the world, Inside Out’s goal is to put LGBTQ creators in front of decision makers, as well as to create a dedicated space for LGBTQ filmmakers to receive the connection and support they need.
From the Finance Forum’s past project participants, a number of films have been completed and gone on to critical and commercial success. These projects include Sam Feder’s documentary “Disclosure,” which premiered to rave reviews at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The film is a look at the depiction of transgender people and experiences throughout the history of film and television, executive-produced by Emmy nominated trans actress Laverne Cox. Other success stories from the forum include Mike Mosallam’s romantic comedy selection from 2017, “Breaking Fast,” which had its world premiere this past March at Cinequest 2020 and stars Haaz Sleiman (“Jack Ryan”) and Michael Cassidy (“Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice”); Philip J. Connell’s “Jump, Darling,” starring Academy Award winner Cloris Leachman, which has completed film is slated to world premiere later this year, and Trevor Anderson’s “Before I Change My Mind,” which was awarded as part of the 2020 GLAAD list.
The forum is being produced once again by Jan Nathanson, who produced the OMDC’s International Financing Forum (IFF) from 2007-2018 and now acts as senior consultant for them. The IFF takes place annually during the Toronto Film Festival in September.
Along with Inside Out IFF regulars like Britain’s Bankside Films, the U.S.’s Killer Films, and France’s MK2, new companies taking one-on-one meetings with the 2020 creative teams include: Netflix (Presenting Partner of the Forum), Bleecker Street (U.S.), Bohemia Media (U.K.), Films Boutique (Germany), Gamechanger Films (U.S.), IFC/Sundance Selects/IFC Midnight (U.S.), MAD Solutions (Egypt), Mainstay Entertainment (U.S.), The Population (U.S.), Powderkeg Studios (U.S.), XYZ (U.S.) and Verve (U.S.). GLAAD will also be taking meetings with the creative teams.
Inside Out’s IFF includes projects from Australia, Canada, Kenya, the U.K. and the U.S. Highlights from these projects include “Gypsy Boy” from award-winning and critically acclaimed producer, Kevin Loader (“The Death of Stalin,” “Nowhere Boy,” “The Personal History of David Copperfield”) – an adaptation of British Romany writer and activist Mikey Walsh’s autobiographical books. The film is being written by Walsh and playwright, and film and television writer James Graham (“The Crown,” “A Brilliant Young Mind,” “Brexit: An Uncivil War”) and will be directed by Dee Koppang O’Leary (“The Crown” – Seasons 2, 3 and 4, Netflix’s “Bridgerton”).
“Glitter and Doom” from U.S. critically acclaimed director/producer Tom Gustafson, and writer/producer Cory Kreuckeberg (“Were the World Mine,” “Mariachi Gringo,” “Hello Again”) – an enchanting summer musical romance set to the music of the Indigo Girls.
“Polarized” from the U.K.-Canadian producer, Hanan Kattan (“The World Unseen,” “I Can’t Think Straight,” “Despite the Falling Snow”) – a drama about a Muslim woman who falls into a passionate affair with a Christian woman who works for her on her family’s farm. The film is being written and directed by novelist, screenwriter and director, Shamim Sarif (“The World Unseen,” “I Can’t Think Straight,” “Despite the Falling Snow”).
The festival has also selected four participants for Stream 2 of the forum, which are Canadian micro-budget projects. The projects in this stream will participate in forum sessions in October 2020 during this year’s festival, and include the films “Adolescent,” “Pink Carnations,” “Dear Straight Men” and “Moka.” (The full lineup of selected projects is included below.)
Inside Out executive director Andria Wilson and director of programming Andrew Murphy spoke to Variety about the program.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing producers and distributors of LGBTQ films today?
Andria Wilson: At our Forum each year, we ask the executives to share their views on the state of queer film financing and distribution. On one hand, it’s incredible how the tone of some of those conversations have shifted over the past three years, how more funds and companies are launching to support LGBTQ work – and on the other, how we’re still dealing with the same core issues.
Queer features face roadblocks to financing because they can still be seen as niche, as small films, as only reaching an arthouse or film festival audience – despite some huge critical and commercial successes in recent years.
We’ve seen incredible steps forward in intersectional, LGBTQ representation in TV series and episodic content, but that success hasn’t had a visible impact on feature financing – despite the fact that both episodic and feature content are being shown on the same platforms.
What makes you excited about the projects in the Finance Forum?
Andria Wilson: The breadth of narratives, inspirations, and identities represented in this year’s lineup is something I’m extremely excited about. The queer experience is not singular, and LGBTQ people are not a monolith – so to see this range in genre, in content, even in language, reinforces the need for events like this that support multiple queer projects at the development stage.
There shouldn’t be just one queer narrative that gets elevated, one big queer film each year – that singular success just can’t represent all of the shades in the LGBTQ spectrum. In this one event, we’ve got a musical romance with the songs of the Indigo Girls, an adaptation of a bestselling memoir of a gay boy raised in a Romany Gypsy community, the story of a Kenyan drag queen and his relationship with his mother, a rural farm romance between a Muslim woman and her employee, a sci-fi project from an award-winning Canadian queer filmmaker, and the list goes on.
Andrew Murphy: I feel the conversation is finally starting to shift, with our stories holding their own space and finding success across the board, validated on the merits of good storytelling and filmmaking, not strictly on their crossover success into mainstream media. With the growth of streaming services and specialty distributors worldwide, we’re finding queer representation is finally part of many of their business models to ensure what they stream or put up on screen is accurately reflecting what’s happening outside. For Netflix, examples of “Tales of the City,” “Eastsiders,” and even “Circus of Books” come to mind.
We can also examine a film like 2018’s “Rafiki,” who’s Cannes premiere propelled it into mainstream after getting distribution in multiple territories, causing controversy in its home of Kenya, and going on to do a very specialized and successful North American theatrical run that included Q&As with director Wanuri Kahiu, who is now tapped to direct the YA bestseller “The Black Kids and The Thing About Jellyfish,” starring Millie Bobby Brown. LGBTQ films and filmmakers are in a unique position where due to the struggles to get to this place, we’re seeing this investment not just in a script alone, but also the filmmaker to propel us forward.
What are some recent examples of LGBTQ films that have crossed over into the mainstream and found a broad audience, and how did they achieve that?
Andria Wilson: One film that I’ve loved watching the trajectory of is Francis Lee’s “God’s Own Country,” which was Inside Out’s opening night gala in 2017. It premiered at Sundance, screened at Berlinale, and then after Inside Out went on to screen at LGBTQ film festivals all over the world. Now, it’s globally available on Netflix, and audiences are still discovering the film and falling in love with it. One of the film’s producers, Manon Ardisson, participated in our 2018 financing forum.
What have been some of the notable achievements of Inside Out film festival over its 30 year?
Andria Wilson: Inside Out has become the third-largest LGBTQ film festival in the world, but it’s also just the third-largest film festival in Toronto, sharing a hometown with TIFF and Hot Docs, and playing an active role in the development of the city’s thriving film festival culture.
Over the past 30 years, its identity has shifted as the industry and the needs of LGBTQ communities have shifted, but it remains rooted in its mission to showcase not just LGBTQ films, but LGBTQ filmmakers. In addition to the world’s only LGBTQ feature financing program, Inside Out supports filmmakers through the RE:Focus Fund for queer and trans women and non-binary filmmakers, the OUTtv documentary financing fund, and a short film mentorship program for South Asian and Indo-Caribbean LGBTQ filmmakers, in addition to its annual festival program of more than 150 titles.
In 2019, Inside Out announced a four-year partnership with Netflix, specifically intended to build programs supporting Canadian LGBTQ filmmakers throughout all stages of development.
INSIDE OUT 2020 FINANCE FORUM PARTICIPANTS
“All That She Wants” (U.S.)
Director: Nigel DeFriez
Producer: Maria Krovatin
Logline: Due to a mysterious family emergency, Angela and Fred find themselves far from the queer bubble of the big city, haunted by high school trauma, small-town drama, and nobody to have sex with…
Director: Tim Marshall
Producers: Christina Radburn, Frances Wang-Ward
Logline: When a devout widow sees a bizarre vision of Jesus on her bisexual swimming teacher’s shorts, she’s determined it’s God’s way of healing her, and sets out to convince him the vision is a miracle for them both.
“Glitter & Doom” (U.S.)
Director: Tom Gustafson
Producers: Tom Gustafson, Cory Krueckeberg
Logline: A carefree kid about to run away with the circus and a struggling musician who wears charisma as camouflage go camping on a first date – but will whirlwind love at first sight survive them revealing their darkness along with their light? “Glitter & Doom” is an enchanting summer romance musical movie told using the iconic tunes of the Indigo Girls.
“Gypsy Boy” (U.K.)
Director: Dee Koppang O’Leary
Producers: Kevin Loader, Dee Koppang O’Leary
Logline: “Gypsy Boy” is a coming-of-age story adapted from Mikey Walsh’s critically acclaimed and Sunday Times bestselling memoir books “Gypsy Boy” and “Gypsy Boy on the Run.”
“Hawa Hawaii” (Kenya)
Director: Amirah Tajdin
Producer: Wafa Tajdin, Sahar Yousefi
Logline: A Muslim drag queen uses the dying art of Swahili orchestral music and lyrics – Taarab – to mend a deeply fractured relationship with his mother.
“Last Summer With Ira” (U.S.)
Directors: Katie Ennis, Gary Jaffe
Producers: Emily McCann Lesser, Katie Ennis
Logline: Westchester, Summer 1991. Closeted teenager Daniel Rosen begins to come out to himself when his estranged gay uncle Ira returns home, dying of complications from HIV/AIDS.
Director: Shamim Sharif
Producer: Hanan Kattan
Logline: On the verge of her wedding, a successful Muslim woman falls into a passionate affair with a blue-collar Christian woman who works for her. In a modern-day small-town America that is politically and economically polarized, they will find that being true to themselves means turning their backs on everything they’ve ever believed.
“The Viridian” (Canada)
Director: Blake Mawson
Producer: Natalie Urquhart
Logline: A young woman protects her little brother from incarceration by hiding the genetic marker that places him outside society’s acceptance, but discovery is inevitable.
“You Cannot Erase Me” (U.S.)
Director: Tyler Rabinowitz
Producer: Jeremy Truong
Logline: Fleeing persecution, a gay man leaves his mother and homeland behind to resettle in Toronto, where his new roommate introduces him to the world of drag –– and to the parts of himself that he had been taught to bury.
“The Young King” (U.S.)
Director: Larin Sullivan
Producers: Kim Bailey, Isabel Marden
Logline: “The Young King” is the story of Jules, a cocky young drag king on a quest to become her own man. Over a weekend in Vegas, she falls for Ronnie, a stripper, and reconnects with her estranged father Mick, a clown, who delivers a lesson of tough love at the poker table.
Inside Out 2020 Stream 2 Canadian Micro-Budget Participants
“Adolescent” (Ontario, Canada)
Director: Kyle Reaume
Producer: Sam Rosati
Logline: Immature and often reckless, Bryce Belleperche drinks, smokes, and brings home men he meets at the gay bar he tends. His unstructured life is suddenly challenged when he is tasked with acting as full-time guardian to his 14-year-old niece, the stoic and precocious Katy, who is secretly coming to terms with her own sexuality.
“Pink Carnations” (Nova Scotia, Canada)
Director: Adam Myatt
Producer: Lisa Buchanan
Logline: During the summer between junior and senior year of high school, 17-year-old Anthony has just had his wisdom teeth pulled. On the car ride home, loose-lipped from the anesthetic, Anthony unwittingly tells his mother, Rose, that he loves his friend Nick. Rose doesn’t know what to do with this information and begins restricting Anthony’s social life, preventing him from seeing not only Nick, but also his best friend Kelly. Out of a combination of denial and protectiveness, Rose doesn’t let on to her husband, Glenn, that she suspects their son is gay.
“Dear Straight Men” (Ontario, Canada)
Director: Santana Doran
Producer: Sam Sorrenti
Logline: A group of queer friends make a pact to unapologetically stand up to their oppressor.
“Moka” (Ontario, Canada)
Directors: Emily Gioskos, Laura Bornacelli
Producer: Moka Dawkins
Logline: The true story of a former Toronto sex worker who was caught in a traumatic night of terror which landed her, a transgender women of color, in the most dangerous all-male prison in Canada.