Reelout Fave Michelle Ehlen Gets Kinky with S&M Sally

Michelle Ehlen

Michelle Ehlen

Reelout spoke with Michelle Ehlen, the creative force behind two tremendous popular queer comedies BUTCH JAMIE and HETEROSEXUAL JILL about her upcoming new feature S&M SALLY

SMS pic

Who on EARTH is S&M Sally and should I be afraid?

Sally is actually a pseudonym that Jamie uses when she and Jill start going to S&M clubs together, and no – she’s very harmless!  Jamie’s a newcomer to the scene, so we get to discover it through her eyes, and laugh at her perceptions and expectations.

Who’s in the cast? Any familiar faces from Butch Jamie and Heterosexual Jill?

Yeah, there’s three returning cast members from Heterosexual Jill – Jen McPherson as Jill, Shaela Cook as Lola, and myself as Jamie, from both Butch Jamie and Heterosexual Jill.  We also have Adrian Gonzalez from the gay feature August, and Scott Keiji Takeda from the upcoming film Eat With Me.

You’re trying to raise production funds for S&M Sally on Kickstarter.  What has been your experience like in crowd-funding? 

Crowdfunding has been challenging, but it coincides with the theme of S&M Sally which is going outside of your comfort zone in order to further grow and develop.  Whether or not the campaign is successful, I’ll know I’ll have at least benefited from what I’ve learned about audience building, outreach, and branding.  One thing we’ve seen is that exposure doesn’t always translate into contributions, so you sometimes have to re-think your message and figure our what it is that will really connect with your audience the most.  For me, I love the way the film tackles taboo topics in really relatable and charming ways.

You can learn more about supporting Ehlen’s film S&M Sally on Kickstarter by clicking HERE.

20 Memorable Moms in Queer Film

It’s worth saying before we go any further that the most memorable moms in queer film are the real life heroes of queer documentaries.  Thank you to the mothers who bravely share their tragedies and their triumphs on film so that their stories can make a wider difference.   To avoid sensationalizing or trivializing these stories, we have avoided mentions of documentaries (otherwise Jonathan Caouette’s docs would make the list twice).  On this Mother’s Day we pay homage to 20 truly memorable queer cinematic Mothers, who, for better or for worse will live on in our collective memories.

# 20  HELEN in GYPO

Pauline McLynn plays Heln in Jann Dunn's GYPO.

Pauline McLynn plays Helen in Jann Dunn’s GYPO.

GYPO written and directed by Jann Dunn.

Pauline McLynn gives a wonderful performance as working class housewife Helen who unexpectedly becomes involved in a lesbian relationship with a recent Czech refugee in this U.K Dogme 95 drama from 2005.  A bleak, and unflinching look at these characters lives told from varying points of view has an ending that will satisfy but doesn’t stay true to the honesty of the picture.


Rosa Maria Sarda (left) as Sofia.

Rosa Maria Sarda (left) as Sofia.

My Mother Likes Women (A mi madre le guston a mujeres) Directed & Written by Daniela Fejerman & Ines Paris

Rosa Maria Sarda has played some incredibly heavy mother roles and while this 2002 Spanish comedy is not without its drama, it is for the most part a rather airy story about the 3 adult daughters of middle-aged Sofia who comes out to her daughters after falling in love with a fellow musician 20-years her junior.  Sarda’s performances are always top-notch.


Miss Barbie-Q plays Queef Latina in Leave It On The Floor

Leave It On the Floor Directed by Sheldon Larry  Written by Glenn Gaylord

Actual drag queen and performance artist Barbie-Q adds sass and gravitas as a house mother to a group of young, black and latin queer youth in this vibrant musical from 2011.  Inspired by the real-life mothers found in “ball culture”, the fictional Queef Latina rules her house with tough love.  Like the film’s protagonist, the audience may not warm up to the no-nonsense Latina until arguably the film’s most talked-about and most heart-breaking musical number “His Name Was Shawn” where Barbie-Q leads a musical “fuck you” to the transphobic family members of a young victim of tragedy at her funeral.

#17 “Ma” aka Hwei Lan in SAVING FACE


Joan Chen plays Ma.

Saving Face Written and Directed by Alice Wu

The impossibly gorgeous Joan Chen has a rich and colourful film and television background and she brings a likability to the rather removed character of “Ma” in Alice Wu’s excellent 2004 romantic comedy.  We are to expect a stereotypical, cultural stereotype of a conservative Chinese mother but Ma’s introduction into this Chinese-American lesbian love story brings more than a few surprises.

#16 Hannah Fabre in MA VIE EN ROSE

Michele Laroque (Right) plays Hannah.

Michele Laroque (Right) plays Hannah.

Ma Vie En Rose Directed by Alain Berliner

This Golden Globe Award-Winner for Best Foreign Language Film in 1999 centres around Ludovic, a child who begins to act out his dreams in reality of becoming a girl.  Michele Laroque as Ludovic’s mother does a terrific balancing act of the complicated emotions her character must face as the parent of a transgender child.

#15 Antonia in BOYSTOWN (ChuecaTown)


Concha Velasco as Antonia (right) in BoysTown.

Boystown (Chuecatown) directed by Juan Flahn

Getting along with your in-laws can be hard enough.  What happens if you moved your BFs mother into an apartment building wherein resides a serial killer stalking older women?  Believe it or not this is a comedy and leave it to the Spaniards to nicely balance comedy and dark tensions.  Concha Velasco’s Antonia is a menace and the actress relishes every moment of her shrewish, guarded mother who loathes her son’s adorable lover.   She’s so fun to watch that as irritating as she is, you still hope her fate doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

#14 Chantale in I KILLED MY MOTHER

Anne Dorval stars as Chantale in I Killed My Mother.

Anne Dorval stars as Chantale in I Killed My Mother.

I Killed My Mother written and directed by Xavier Dolan

French-Canadian phenom Filmmaker Xavier Dolan hit a home run with his first feature film J’ai tue ma mere and so did Anne Dorval as his mother Antonia.   Inspired by the former child actor’s real life relationship with his own mother, this stylish drama depicts Antonia as a seriously flawed character who is put in a maternal position she never really cared for.  The theatrical chemistry between Dolan and Dorval is outstanding and so is the film.


Joanne McGee (left) plays Mae with Carol Goans as her sister Rose in You Should Meet My Son.

Joanne McGee (left) plays Mae with Carol Goans as her sister Rose in You Should Meet My Son.

You Should Meet My Son written and directed by Keith Hartman

Keith Hartman’s energetic indie was a sleeper hit not only at Reelout but at many other LGBT film festivals in 2010.  This incredibly low-budget comedy benefits from an extremely talented cast of deliciously-written characters, in particular the film’s lead Mae played by Joanne McGee.  Mae is a meddling, matchmaking, Southern mother who wants nothing but marriage, grandkids, and happiness for her son.  It’s no spoiler to learn early on that when he does come out to Mae and his flighty Aunt Rose their response is to merely shift gears and pour all their energy into finding their son the perfect husband.  There’s nothing more lovely and endearing than a mother and aunt who will crash a gay bar and make friends with drag queens and leather daddies to make their boy happy.


Felicity Huffman as Bree in Transamerica.

Felicity Huffman as Bree in Transamerica.

TransAmerica directed and written by Duncan Tucker

This one is a bit of a cheat as technically this mother is a father but you can certainly argue Bree belongs on this list. While the film itself is a bit of a muddle, there’s no denying that powerhouse performance by Felicity Huffman as a male to female transexual who goes on a road trip with her estranged son (Canada’s own Kevin Zegers).  This is probably only the 2nd high-profile transgender movie to come out of Hollywood (the first being Boys Don’t Cry) and Huffman received the Golden Globe for Best Actress and was nominated for an Oscar in the same category.

#11 Edna Turnblad in Hairspray

Divine plays Edna Turnblad in Hairspray (left) with Ricki Lake as daughter Tracy.

Divine plays Edna Turnblad in Hairspray (left) with Ricki Lake as daughter Tracy.

Hairspray written and directed by John Waters

“I thought John Travolta played Edna Turnblad?” wonders people under 25.  The big-budget 2007 adaptation of Hairspray was based on the Broadway musical adaptation of the original film written and directed by John Waters which starred a then unknown Ricki Lake as plump and spunky Tracy Turnblad and another gender-bending performance by Water’s staple Divine.  What made this particular performance unique for Divine was the opportunity to play a sympathetic and caring character. Edna’s love for her only daughter is threatened by her own insecurities and body image and is fearful when her daughter wishes to audition for a popular local teen dance show.  When Edna sees her daughter give it her all, Edna’s heart melts and ours along with it.

#10 Ma Beckoff in Torch Song Trilogy

Anne Bancroft as "Ma" (right) with Harvey Fierstein in Torch Song Trilogy.

Anne Bancroft as “Ma” (right) with Harvey Fierstein in Torch Song Trilogy.

Torch Song Trilogy written by Harvey Fierstein directed by Paul Bogart

Oddly enough, there is one degree of separation with our number 10 choice and number 9.  Harvey Fierstein adapted Water’s film into the stage musical and played Edna on Broadway.  But Fierstein will probably be best remembered for his brilliantly written play and (adapted screenplay) TORCH SONG TRILOGY.  This heart-breaking tale of loves found and lost in NYC features a third act wherein Arnold’s (played by Fierstein) mother comes to visit him after a sudden tragedy (no spoilers here).  We have learned earlier on that there is a lot of latent hostility bubbling between Arnold and his mother and their emotional confrontation does not disappoint.  Bancroft is completely over the top as his bitter mother and Arnold gets to say one of the most satisfying lines in queer cinema history. “There are two things I demand from the people in my life– Love, and Respect!”  If you’ve never seen this gem, do yourself a favour and check it out!

#9 Dr. Finn Jeffries in FINN’S GIRL

Brooke Johnson (left) plays Finn with Gail Maurice as Nancy her deceased lover in Finn's Girl.

Brooke Johnson (left) plays Finn with Gail Maurice as Nancy her deceased lover in Finn’s Girl.

Finn’s Girl  written and directed by Laurie Colbert and Dominique Cardona

This 2007 Canadian feature is both a relationship drama and a medical thriller.  This one is for all the step-mothers out there who are usually depicted staring into magic mirrors and concocting poison apples.  Creative partners on and off screen Colbert and Cardona scored perfect casting with Brooke Johnson as Dr. Finn Jeffries. a beleagured gynaecologist who is forced into single-parenting the 11-year old daughter of her lover Nancy after she dies of breast cancer.  To make matters worse, Finn also takes on Nancy’s role as director of a Toronto abortion clinic and is being targeted by radical pro-life terrorists.  She’s helped out in the parenting and the heartbreak arenas by an attractive police detective (Yanna McIntosh) assigned to protect her.  Guaranteed you have not seen a movie with this plot before with a heroine that rocks her sexy grey hair!

#8 Debbie Novotny in Queer As Folk

Sharon Gless as Debbie Novotny in the Showcase original series Queer As Folk.

Sharon Gless as Debbie Novotny in the Showcase original series Queer As Folk.

Queer As Folk (TV Series based on the original UK version from Russell T. Davies)

Yeah, yeah we know this one is a bit of a cheat as QAF was a television program and not a film but a whole new generation is binge watching the DVDs like crazy and Debbie Navotny’s character is tremendously cinematic in proportion.  Already a queer icon thanks to her role in Cagney & Lacey, Sharon Gless gained even more queer fans for loud and proud diner waitress who was biological mother to comic book nerd Michael (Hal Sparks) but adoptive mother to the various queer characters that entered their lives.  While most often the comic relief on the show, Gless’s Debbie often was given the chance to stretch her dramatic chops in story arcs that included trying to solve the mystery behind a murdered gay prostitute, and trying to navigate her rocky relationship with her HIV+ brother. Honourable Mention: Gless’s portrayal of Hannah in the festival favourite Hannah Free.  While looking far too young to be playing an old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, Gless’s performance was still exceptional.


Wendy Crewson as Lila in Better Than Chocolate.

Wendy Crewson as Lila in Better Than Chocolate.

Better Than Chocolate written by Peggy Thompson directed by Anne Wheeler

Wendy Crewson is a national treasure here in Canada and she even graduated from Queen’s University right here in Reelout’s home town of Kingston.  Probably best known to American audiences as  the first lady to Harrison Ford’s President in Air Force One, Crewson has an impressive and dynamic resume of film and television roles going back for years.   One of her most memorable roles was of recently divorced Lila who moves in with lesbian daughter Maggie and her lover Kim in Vancouver.  Crewson’s portrayal of Lila is equal parts naive, sexy and neurotic.


Cecilia Roth as Manuela in All About My Mother.

All About My Mother written and directed by Pedro Almodovar

There’s very little that can be said about the character of Manuela in one of Almodovar’s most accomplished and critically acclaimed masterpieces without ruining any of the twists of a rather serpentine story.  Cecilia Roth gives a strong performance as a nurse and single mother to a teenage boy who is fatally hit by a car in front of her.   The rest of the film follows Manuela’s journey that involves the world of theatre, prostitution, and HIV.  A mesmerizing performance in a equally mesmerizing film.

#5 Evie Harris in GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS

Jack Plotnick as Evie Harris in Girls Will Be Girls.

Jack Plotnick as Evie Harris in Girls Will Be Girls.

Girls Will Be Girls directed by Richard Day

Girls Will Be Girls is the perfect movie to brighten up a shitty day.  It’s crude, offensive and foul as any feature film where all three lead female roles are played by drag queens.  What’s surprising about Girls Will Be Girls is its spot on emulation of late 70s/early 80s Hollywood melodramas and the drug-induced flashback sequence at the end of the film can only be described as: “IT’S HUGGGGE!” Jack Plotnick truly is hilarious and is backed by the powerhouse that is Coco “It Burrrrns” Peru as Evie’s best friend and personal dart board.  Evie Harris is mother to single and handsome Stevie but will never win a mother of the year award whether she’s telling her son’s potential girlfriends about his tiny penis, drunk driving over a family in their backyard, or doping an ingenue’s drink to get the lead as an “Astro-phys-a-cist” in a disaster movie.  Wicked mothers have never been this much fun.

#4 Laura Brown in THE HOURS


Julianne Moore plays Laura Brown in The Hours.

The Hours directed by Stephen Daldry based on the novel by Michael Cunningham

This one could either go to Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) or Clarissa Vaughn (played by Meryl Streep); two memorable mothers in the screen adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s beautiful book.  While lesbian mother Clarissa has her complications it is Laura’s story that is truly tragic.   Julianne Moore has harnessed the power of sadness and peels away every single layer of its emotion as a 50s housewife trapped in a heterosexual marriage.  The scene in which Laura communicates happily with her woefully unaware husband (John C. Reilly) while she crumbles from depression on the other side of a closed door is insanely amazing.

#3 Lila in THE EVENT

Olympia Dukakis (right) plays Lila with Don McKellar as her son Matt in The Event.

Olympia Dukakis (right) plays Lila with Don McKellar as her son Matt in The Event.

The Event written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald, co-written by Steven Hillyer and Tim Marback

Dangerously close to melodrama in parts, The Event is still an involving and well-acted drama about assisted suicide and the AIDS crisis.  We know that the HIV+ character Matt (Don McKellar) has died at a party where many of his family and friends attended and its up to Parker Posey’s intrepid attorney to piece together a case that implicates them in a case of assisted suicide.  There are a lot of great performances from a truly exceptional cast that also includes Sarah Polley as Matt’s sister who has a particularly memorable melt down on a commercial audition.  However it is Olympia Dukakis who steals the show with her quiet but oh so angry portrayal of a woman about to lose her son.  Dukakis is a wonderful actress (see Fitzgerald’s recent Cloudburst for further evidence of a master at work) but her most heart breaking line is delivered in the last seconds of the film off-screen on “Matty’s” answering machine– a concession weary with defeat and painful finality.  Devastating.

#2 Jules and Nic in THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

Annette Benning and Julianne Moore as Nic and Jules in The Kids Are Alright.

Annette Benning and Julianne Moore as Nic and Jules in The Kids Are Alright.

The Kids Are Alright written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko

Now we’re finally seeing actual, LEGALLY married same-sex couples in queer films and -surprise!- we’re just as fucked up as the rest of the married couples.  Nic and Jules each give birth to a child through artificial insemination, yet the same sperm donor.  The film centres around the drama that ensues once the children wish to meet their biological father Paul (played by Mark Ruffalo).  There is a natural likeable chemistry to Benning and Moore which the script clearly manipulates to its advantage when shit starts to hit the fan.  There was a lot of controversy when the film was released about a particular character’s motivation that incensed many viewers who expected a mainstream movie about lesbians and despite what some felt was an improbable scene, yes, some lesbians do enjoy gay male porn.  Ultimately though Nic and Jules are truly memorable moms who accept that sacrifices will be endured to make a loving family last.

#1 Joan Crawford  in MOMMY DEAREST

Faye Dunaway plays Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest.

Faye Dunaway plays Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest.

Mommy Dearest directed by Frank Perry based on the book by Christina Crawford

Mommy Dearest is not a queer movie!  Pssshaw to that nonsense!  It might not have started out that way but honey this gem has queer aesthetic all over it.  To all you non-believers look no further than the  latest release that includes a cheeky animated short about why lesbians wear plaid, a feature hosted by John Waters and drag impersonator Lipsynka and optional audio commentary by Waters again.  Faye Dunaway apparently hates this movie, she hates everything about it and apparently a lot of Hollywood’s old guard weren’t too happy with her either.  Joan Crawford was in real and reel life “Hollywood Royalty” and “Box Office Poison” but while her career and love life would have been enough fodder for a film, it was her daughter Christina Crawford’s take on her mother that shocked the world when her tell-all book was released and where the movie adapts its material.  The irony is that Dunaway is marvellous as Crawford and is meant to be over-the-top, if anything is too much, it’s in the screenplay which seems to scream “Hey if you think this bitch is crazy in this scene, wait until the next one!”  Mommy Dearest can also have the sole distinction for being the only movie that set out to be about horrific child abuse but instead elicits hysterical laughter from its audience.  It’s almost impossible to choose the most memorable scene from MOMMY DEAREST as almost the entire movie is so melodramatically memorable and oh so quotable.  Whether its Momma Crawford’s “Christina!Bring Me the Axe!” ; her kabuki face masque wire hanger/ bathroom cleaner tirade (or for that matter the young Christina’s “Jesus Christ” reaction; or the mother/daughter living room holiday smack down in front of a publicity reporter — its truly impossible to stop watching.

REELiving with Sarah Rotella

Reelout Rita: Your short GAY WOMEN WILL MARRY YOUR GIRLFRIENDS has over 5 million hits on YouTube.  Did you ever expect it to become so popular?  What’s the background on that video?
Sarah: Adrianna DiLonardo (the co-creator of The Gay Women Channel) and I made Gay Women Will Marry Your Boyfriends as a response to College Humour’s Gay Men version.  We made it for fun and as an excuse to shoot something and within the first few hours it had gotten 800 views, which we thought was awesome. By the end of the day, it had over 28,000. The experience of going from film festivals where your audience is between 10-100 people and releasing a video on a platform like YouTube where millions of people watched our video from all over the world was really rewarding as a filmmaker. 
Reelout Rita: Your comedic shorts have been Reelout favourites over the years and you obviously have an excellent sense of humour.  What/Who makes Sarah Rotella laugh?
Sarah: I love women in comedy like Tina Fey, Sarah Silverman, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon. Although, the co-creator of The Gay Women Channel, Adrianna DiLonardo has probably made me laugh more than any of those women. She is an amazing comedic writer, she’s crazy smart, and she has this natural ability for writing funny dialogue. I’ve known her for a very long time and I think she’s really developed as a writer and is working her way up to be a powerful voice in the industry and definitely one we need advocating for the LGBT community.  
Reelout Rita: What are you working on now/in the future?
Sarah: Adrianna and I have a lot of new ideas for The Gay Women Channel so you should definitely watch out for our videos that release on Monday’s + Wednesday’s. We’ll be doing some collaborations with other YouTubers and releasing some videos that revolve around gay men, similar to our Putin Airlines video. Outside of YouTube, Adrianna is wrapping up a feature screenplay so we’re starting to turn our attention towards that for 2014. 


REELiving with Michelle Ehlen

ImageMichelle Ehlen is a filmmaker and actress who began her career on the stage, cast as a man in her third grade play; she was the only one dedicated to memorizing all of the lines. After gaining a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Film from Smith College she moved to L.A. In L.A. she studied at the L.A. Film School and graduated with a concentration on writing and directing. In 2003 her thesis short film Half-Laughing aired on HUGO and Here TV. In 2007 she wrote and acted in her first feature film Butch Jamie a comedy about a butch lesbian who gets cast as a man in a film. She has since developed a sequel entitled Heterosexual Jill where self-proclaimed ‘ex-lesbian’ Jill is determined to hunt down her ex-girlfriend Jamie to prove to herself that she is no longer attracted to her.

Reelout Rita: Was it always your plan to do a sequel to Butch Jamie or did the inspiration come later? In either case, what was your inspiration for Heterosexual Jill? 
Michelle: I didn’t come up with the idea to do a sequel until we were shooting “Butch Jamie”.  On set I realized I really liked the dynamic between Jamie and Jill, and thought it would be fun to further explore their relationship in another film.  Since that film focused mostly on gender, I liked the idea of doing another installment that focused on sexuality.  And I’m actually writing a third film in the series right right now called “S&M Sally,” that will focus on relationships and one’s changing identity within a relationship.  
Reelout Rita: What Queer films/videos or filmmakers have left a lasting impact on you? 
Michelle: The film that had the most direct impact on me, while not really a queer film, was the comedy “Best in Show.”  I had done a lot of acting growing up but hadn’t really been drawn to doing comedy until I saw that film and it just really clicked with me – the idea of doing comedy in a very straight-forward and grounded way, which made it hilarious to me as an audience member, and it felt do-able for me as a filmmaker and actor.  As for queer films, my two personal favorites are “Tipping the Velvet” and “Kissing Jessica Stein”, mainly because they’re both a lot of fun and don’t take themselves too seriously.  

Reelout Rita: What inspired you to become a filmmaker? 
Michelle: I started acting when I was a kid, mainly because I was shy and it was an outlet for me.  That eventually lead to directing theater and doing short video projects.  When I graduated from college, I moved out to L.A. to pursue a career as a film editor, both because I enjoyed it and because it seemed somewhat practical as a job track.  Editing other filmmakers’ projects reignited my passion for telling stories, so I then decided to go to the L.A. Film School to study writing and directing.  


Reelout Rita: It must be both very difficult and very rewarding to be writer, director, producer and act in the film. Do you have any comments on this? 
Michelle: It has its challenges, although I’m used to working that way and compartmentalizing my different roles, so mostly I find it very rewarding.  I like keeping the productions small to minimize off-screen stress, and everyone seems to have fun working on the film, which helps in translating that fun energy to the screen.  I believe strongly in letting the actors come from a more spontaneous and intuitive place, so in some ways I think getting out of their way and just being present in the moment helps.  Every actor works differently, but I know for myself, as an actor I prefer not to have a director since I do my best work when I’m not overly concerned about how I come across.  Not having to please anyone is incredibly freeing.  Then when I put my editor hat on, I can watch the footage with a more critical eye.

Reelout Rita: What is the biggest thing you hope viewers will take from this film?   
Michelle: I’ve found that regardless of where people identify on the sexuality spectrum, they find something that either resonates with them, makes them think, or just makes them laugh.  I think everyone takes something different away from it, and I like that idea.  I know for me, the main themes I wanted to explore were double standards in sexual identity, and people being overly attached to who they think they are or how they should behave. 

 Michelle Ehlen’s Film HETEROSEXUAL JILL at 7pm Saturday, February 8th at The Screening Room (120 Princess Street).

REELiving with Adam Kirkham


ADAM KIRKHAM (Writer/Associate Producer) is a Toronto-based writer, producer and collaborator. He holds a BA in Theatre from York University, specializing in both Theatre Production and Collective Creation. Adam is a core collaborator with the Flemish Beauty Film collective. His first screenplay, “The Inquisitive Snail”, was produced by Flemish Beauty and has screened across the world. When screening “The Inquisitive Snail” at the Victoria International Film Festival in 2009, Flemish Beauty Films was recognized as one of Canada’s Top 20 Promising Filmmakers by a panel that included producer Michael Donovan (Bowling for Columbine), director Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo) and Maclean’s film critic Brian D. Johnson. Adam is also part of the team at Hot Docs as Sponsorship Marketing Manager where he manages a portfolio including the Hot Docs Canadian International FestivalBloor Hot Docs CinemaPrime Time in Ottawa (with the CMPA) and theWorld Congress of Science and Factual Producers.

He is the producer of the gay zombie short HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHAD screening this year the Reelout festival.

Reelout Rita: What’s your favourite zombie movie and why?

Adam: Tough question – there are so many great films out there! Having to choose one, I’m going to go with Shaun of the Dead. It’s a movie that has a lot of personality and was built through a collaborative process with a group of artists who have worked with each other over various projects. The cohesion built on their past successes brings a lot of charm to the film while honouring the Zombie genre and giving audiences plenty of laughs, scares and an interesting plot line to tie it all together.

Reelout Rita: Your film premiered at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival in Toronto last May. What was that experience like?

Adam: Screening at Inside Out was a really enriching experience. It’s our home-town LGBT festival, and it was the premiere of the first collaboration between Jason and I; that made it feel extra special.

Having real, public audience watching and reacting to your work is a thrill, and it was also great to see the work of so many other filmmakers – and to meet the people who work day in and day out to build opportunities for queer filmmakers. When working on queer focused projects, it can feel a bit daunting that your work will be lumped into one category and one stream of opportunities. It’s very encouraging to feel supported by a community of people who say ‘yes, your film has LGBT themes, but let’s talk about what else it is too’.

Reelout Rita: What Queer films/Videos or Filmmakers have left a lasting impact on you?

Adam: John Waters & Divine are pretty fantastic for the fact that they really just followed their dreams, didn’t hold anything back and created films that were extremely unique for their time. If you aren’t familiar with their work, check out the documentary “I am Divine” and you will love them too.

Another thing I’ve always loved about LGBT cinema, is that there are so many little gems by first-time and one-off filmmakers. Make LGBT Cinema something regular on your rental, festival or download list and try new things with an open mind ;)

REELiving with Jason Sharman


JSharmanHeadshot2013aJASON SHARMAN is a Toronto-based filmmaker and performer with a BFA in Theatre from York University. Having a passion for the arts, Jason has studied film, acting, directing, playwriting, piano, graphic design, photography, painting, and dance. Jason has appeared on stage in shows like “Rule of Thumb” (Toronto Fringe 2008 – “Outstanding Ensemble” NOW Magazine) and “Vacancy” (The Creative Ensemble). He has also appeared in numerous film projects including a lead role in the independent horror film “Queen of the Zombie Punks”.Jason is also part of the team at Behind The Scenes Services where he does the Business and Legal Affairs for many television and film productions. He has worked on productions such as “Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh”, “Sanctuary”, “Bump!”, and “Textuality”.

The zombie short “Happy Birthday Chad!” (playing in the OUT THERE! Shorts presented by Inside Out LGBT Film Festival Toronto at 2pm SAT Feb 1 at The Screening Room) marks his directorial debut.

Reelout Rita: What is your favourite zombie movie and why? 

Jason: My favourite zombie film would have to be “Return of the Living Dead”.  It scared me as a kid but I love it today.  The dark humour, the special effects make-up, the music and the over-the-top acting are so unapologetically ‘80s and I absolutely love it.  Plus it has a punk rock chick named “Trash” dancing around naked in a cemetery rocking some fierce pink legwarmers.



Reelout Rita: Your film premiered at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival in Toronto last May. What was that experience like?

Jason: It was my first film festival experience attending as a filmmaker so it was pretty exciting.  For me, seeing our film play on the big screen for the first time (and it being at the TIFF Bell Lightbox) was the most exciting and memorable moment of the festival.  I also loved having the opportunity to meet the other filmmakers and other industry professionals.  At the filmmakers’ brunch we met a member of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre and they are now the distributor for “Happy Birthday Chad!”.  Then to receive the Emerging Canadian Artist Award at the end of the festival was the cherry on top to an already incredible experience.

Reelout Rita: Jason, you had the chance to attend Out Fest in L.A. How  was it a different experience from Inside Out?

Jason: The experience of simply being in L.A. to screen our film was pretty surreal.  The main difference I noticed with Outfest would have to be the amount of events.  Everyday there were several functions or opportunities to meet and schmooze with industry professionals while enjoying an Absolut Vodka.  A couple of the highlights for me were the Horror Panel (with Bryan Fuller and Kimberley Peirce) and the filmmakers’ pool party in the Hollywood Hills.

Reelout Rita: What queer films/videos or filmmakers have left a lasting impact on you?

Jason: Some of the first queer films I saw as a teenager (“Beautiful Thing”, “Get Real”, and “But I’m a Cheerleader”) had a huge impact on me.  I was in the closet and these movies really helped show me that it was okay to be gay and there were others like me.  Later on I discovered Charles Busch and fell in love with his films.  “Psycho Beach Party” and “Die, Mommie, Die!” are hilariously over-the-top and just a lot fun.


REELiving with Thirza Cuthand


If you visit (and you should) the first thing you’ll learn about Cuthand is she’s a “Filmmaker, Performance Artist, General Troublemaker”.  Her short, experimental narrative videos have been huge hits with not just Reelout audiences but with audiences around the world.  Here works have been screened at Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, Hot Docs in Toronto, Frameline in San Francisco and Mix Brasil in Sao Paolo. She completed her BFA majoring in Film and Video at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. In 2012 she was an artist in residence at Villa K. Magdalena in Hamburg where she completed Boi Oh Boi playing in the DEAR LESBOS WITH LOVE program at 4pm Saturday, February 8th at The Screening Room (120 Princess St) where audiences will have the opportunity to engage with Thirza.  Reelout Rita chats with Thirza in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Reelout Rita: In addition to your new work Boi Oh Boi, Reelout is screening older, memorable works by Canadian artists from the past 15 years including your short “Helpless Maiden Makes an “I” Statement” in our Laugh Out Loud Shorts on Friday, Feb 7th at 7pm.  Can you still relate to the films you made 15 years ago?

Thirza: It’s different now, I understand the thoughts I had when making them, but I really feel it’s the voice of someone dealing with Youth issues.  I’ve come to accept that I can’t really talk from the viewpoint of a youth anymore, so I let them stand on their own.


Reelout Rita: Do you often wish you could go back and address the same issues again with the wisdom and life experience you have now?

Thirza: Not really, sometimes I think about revisiting issues, but like I said I have accepted that some of the youth related videos I made need to stay as being made by a youth.

Reelout Rita: Why do you think there is so little work about two-spirit identities in queer film?

Thirza: I think it’s a combination of people being closeted in First Nations cultures, for whatever reason (i.e. living in small rural communities where being openly queer is frowned upon), and also feeling like the issues facing First Nations people as a whole may be more important than issues facing a smaller segment of First Nations people.  I think it is changing though as these issues get easier to talk about within our communities.

Reelout Rita: What queer films over the past 15 years have inspired you?

Thirza: I was really inspired by the work of Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan.  I also have felt inspired by feature filmmakers like John Cameron Mitchell and Todd Haynes.  I remember when I was just coming out I was watching I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing by Patricia Rozema, it’s such a Canadian classic, I think that has probably influenced me in some way.


Reelout Rita: What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on a web series about Indigenous People going to Mars in a Soviet-era spaceship because they just landed a major land claims deal. It’s a comedy, I’ve been working on the idea since 2001 when it was birthed as a performance piece.  Some of the crew members are queer, because I am trying to expand my work to include marginalized people where they are just there, it’s not about their queerness being an out of place thing.

Meet Thirza Cuthand at the 15th anniversary Reelout Queer Film + Video Festival.  See 7pm Laugh Out Loud Shorts on Friday, February 8th and Dear Lesbos With Love the following day at 4pm.  Both screenings are at The Screening Room (120 Princess Street).  Buy tickets for these and other screenings ONLINE at TicketScene HERE.

Luminous Ladies with Laine Newman

Laine z. Newman - HeadshotLaine Zisman Newman is a PhD student at the Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies and the collaborative program in Sexual Diversity Studies. After receiving an MA in Drama from the University in Toronto in 2010, Zisman Newman completed her MFA in Documentary Media at Ryerson University in June 2013. Her current research focuses on how queer women’s performance practices are shaped and transformed by the ephemerality of queer women’s spaces and the cultural and political policies that mediate them. In addition to her academic pursuits, Zisman Newman currently works as a dramaturge with Pat the Dog Theatre Creation and her documentary short, “You’re Not My Target Audience.” is screening at Reelout in our DEAR LESBOS WITH LOVE program at 4pm Saturday, February 8th at The Screening Room.

Reelout Rita: Can you remember the first time you attended a queer film festival? Where was it and what memories do you have of that experience?

Laine: I think I attended my first queer film festival in Toronto, shortly after I came out. I grew up in a very progressive household and went to see a lot of queer theatre when I was younger, but for some reason had never gone to a queer film festival. I remember going to my first festival and being amazed that there were queer movies made by queer people — It was a revelation seeing representations of queer bodies on screen that I could relate to.

Reelout Rita: Your research focuses on women’s performance practices and I wondered which artists inspire you?

Laine: There are so many incredible women performers and creators who produce challenging, unafraid and provocative work. In addition to the three women in my film, who truly are inspirations in my own academic and creative practice, Split Britches does wonderful work, as well as Nina Arsenault. Earlier this year Toronto-based artist Allyson Mitchell constructed “Kill Joy’s Kastle: A Lesbian-Feminist Haunted House,” which, for me, was one of the most notable recent accomplishments in queer women’s space making. The performances and the event itself were great creative achievements and inspirations.

Allyson Mitchell's subversive house of "horrors".

Allyson Mitchell’s subversive house of “horrors”.

Reelout Rita: What queer films made in the last 15 years have left an impact on you either personally or professionally?

Laine: I will be honest in saying that But I am a Cheerleader (1999), which I first saw when I was too young to understand it, had a wonderfully playful influence on who I have become personally. There are so many really beautifully made films that have effected me. One recent film that made an impact was Maryam Keshavarz’s Circumstance (2011).

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Reelout Rita: During our formative years, the Reelout collective ensured that the festival programmed films that were “safe spaces” for queer women.  During your research, what have you gleaned about the relevance of creating “safe spaces” for women during cultural events targeting the larger queer community?

Laine: It is so important that everyone feel invited, involved and included at an event. But, one of the things I have become aware of is how we use the term “safe space” as a catch-all statement, which wants to suggest that we can escape systemic oppression in purpose-specific spaces. It assumes we might be able to create a space that successfully disassociates itself from colonialism, transphobia, ableism, white privilege, capitalism, and sexism – in reality of course, these subversive structures inescapably infiltrate all spaces and interactions. Perhaps, working to improve our experience of space begins by recognizing that a “safe space” is not yet attainable even in isolated instances.

With that, of course I do think it is incredibly important to make space for different identity groups, not merely by showcasing works by people from diverse demographics, but also by inviting them to contribute to and spearhead curation and programming. For me, one of the most important things for cultural events targeting the queer community to do, is to recognize and to address the diversity within it. The “queer community” is no one thing and the most exciting and invigorating queer events are those, which support and promote the creation of spaces for diverse creative projects and identities.

Laine Zisman Newman will be in attendance along with fellow filmmakers Thirza Cuthand and Myriam Fougere at DEAR LESBOS WITH LOVE at 4pm Saturday, February 8th at The Screening Room (120 Princess St).  Tickets are available online HERE.

Searching for a Scene

Reelout audiences will be the first in the WORLD to see writer/director Eric Henry‘s first feature film SEEK at 9pm Thursday, January 30th at The Screening Room.  Originally from Sudbury, Eric Henry studied Broadcast TV/Video in North Bay before making the big city move to Toronto where he is currently produces and directs corporate and enterprise broadcasts and videos for some of Canada’s largest financial institutions. Eric and the film’s costar Ryan Fisher are currently collaborating on some future film projects and the two will be in Kingston to watch their film with an audience for the first time!  Our intrepid Reelout blogger Reelout Rita had a chance to catch up with Eric Henry just before the holidays.

SeekPosterImageforwebReelout Rita: Eric you skipped from (arguably) the bottom of the filmmaking food chain from Production Assistant to writer/director of your first feature film seemingly overnight.  How did you make that happen?

Eric: After being an assistant for several years and directing many corporate videos I knew that I wanted to direct a feature film, and I had to start to work and get it done.  I booked vacation time two years ahead of time, and set that as my goal to shoot the film.  I worked hard getting everything together and was able to live out my dream.

Reelout Rita: This is going to be a World Premiere screening for SEEK.  Excited?

Eric: Seek’s showing at Kingston is the beginning of a new journey for me.  The days are counting down to the event, and there is not much more that could make me happier. After making a film which is inspired by much of my recent life experiences and made in cooperation with people that are my friends and that I admire, my excitement is also joined with the feeling of great fear.  It is scary to share so much of yourself with strangers, but I also think it will be a cathartic experience.  I keep imagining what it’ll be like sitting in a dark cinema and the emotions I’ll feel when Kevon Cronin’s score blares through the sound system.

Reelout Rita: SEEK’s cast is comprised of almost all Canadian actors.  How did you manage to cast U.S actor/model Matthew Ludwinski?


Eric: Part of my plan was to feature life in Toronto and feature Canadian talent. I did need to have an actor who was known to a larger audience, and that is why I cast Matthew Ludwinski in the role of ‘Jordan.’  Most people familiar with gay cinema will know Matthew from the film ‘Going Down in La La Land,’ many people have asked how did you get him in the film.  The short and truthful answer is I just emailed him the script, and asked him to be in the film. Luckily for the film, he said yes.

Reelout Rita: Can Reelout audiences expect to see you and your cast and crew at the screening?

Ryan Fisher  (Hunter) will be in attendance.

Ryan Fisher (Hunter) will be in attendance.

Eric: It has been a long process, but I am excited that Ryan Fisher (‘Hunter’ in the film) and I will be able to sit with the first audience that sees the film.

SEEK by writer/director Eric Henry is screening at 9pm Thursday January 30th at The Screening Room (120 Princess St)along with the short films Playing It Straight by Michael P. Kenney and Straight With You by Daan Bol.  Tickets are $10 or $8 with student I.D. and will be available at the door or buy online at Ticketscene here

Stories of representation and possibility

Filmmaker, writer & performer Chase Joynt

Filmmaker, writer & performer Chase Joynt

Just a few days ago, Reelout Rita got in touch with filmmaker, Chase Joynt to learn more about his passion for storytelling. He was recently awarded the EP Canada/Canada Film Capital Award for Emerging Canadian Artist and the Jury Award at the Regent Park Film Festival so, he’s kind of a big deal. Not only does Chase appear in Buck Angel’s Sexing the Transman (the groundbreaking documentary playing at this years festival!) but he is also exhibiting an experimental documentary short at festivals all over the world. Akin explores the relationship and shared secrets between an Orthodox Jewish mother and her transgendered son (Chase). Beautiful in it’s simplicity, Akin is a touching short that Reelout is pleased to exhibit.

Reelout Rita: Your work (Resisterectomy, Everyday to Stay, Akin) is deeply
 personal and you are very candid about your thoughts and
 experiences as a 
trans person. What is it about your experiences that compelled
 you to share
 them with others? Why is it important to generate dialogue on 
these issues?

Chase: I started making this kind of work because I wasn’t finding 
representations of myself, or my experiences, that made sense to
 me. My artistic motivation
 has never been fueled by the belief that the existing work is 
“right or
 wrong” per se, but more so that I believe so many other 
important ideas are
 missing from the conversation. Complications, nuances, and 
contradictions map all over my experiences as a trans person, and 
I continue to wonder
 what it might mean to create work that pays specific attention
 to those
 missing pieces.

“Generating dialogue” as you suggest is complicated, because
 ultimately, you aren’t responsible for the conversations that 
stem from your work.
 Regardless, I continue to be motivated by those conversations,
 even when 
they sit in contradiction to my initial intent. I don’t make
 work to “fill
 gaps”, but rather to populate the field with other representative 
possibilities and personal potentials.

Reelout Rita: Akin juxtaposes the haunting sounds 
of Canadian group, Ohbijou,
with your own voice and suburban visuals. What is it about this 
band that 
appealed to you? Does music play a large role in your life? Will
 it be
 something that will continue to permeate your experimental features?

Chase: I am drawn to music, and music makers, that endeavor to tell 
stories. Like 
film, I think music is capable of taking audiences on a journey.
 I am very 
lucky to be in a community of artists in Toronto who generously 
offer their 
talents to other projects, which is admittedly the only reason I
 was able 
to use Ohbijou’s music in Akin. Casey Mecija (the lead singer
 of Ohbijou)
 writes music that inspires pictures. I think we can all
 reference music 
that compels us to close our eyes and imagine a world different
 from that 
which we can see, and Casey’s work continues to be a source of that 
inspiration for me.

Reelout Rita: As a Toronto native, what is it about
 Toronto that inspires you to 
create these works? Are there other cities that inspire you?

Chase: Though born here, I left Toronto after high school for a decade
 of life and 
love in California. I returned to Canada having transitioned,
 and as such 
experienced my return to the city as somewhat of a new person.
 Toronto is
 full of artists and thinkers that remind me to keep checking my 
assumptions about who I am, and about what that might mean to 
other people.

Reelout Rita: Akin touches on some of your
 youthful memories but I was wondering
 what some other memories might be? Was there a moment when you knew you
 wanted to be a 

Chase: I’m pretty sure my mom would argue that I was born performing
 and making 
art for anyone who would watch or listen. “Youth” as a category 
of time for
 me is a complicated place; it contains a lot of violence and
 instability, all the while carrying strongholds of love and
 unending affection. I 
suppose that tension is what continues to fuel my work today… mom’s 
(unabashedly biased) opinions and endorsements included.

Reelout Rita: If you could say one thing to your younger self, what would it be and why?

Chase: I would tell that human to hold on. To trust that things will settle. And
 to avoid that first tattoo, cause that shit will be embarrassing in your 30’s.

Chase's mother drives through their old neighbourhood in Akin

Chase’s mother drives through old neighbourhoods in Akin

Be sure to catch Akin on Saturday, February 2 at 7pm in Cinema 1 of The Screening Room. Chase will be in attendance :)