You probably woke up to the coffee, scrambled eggs and the numerous blog posts claiming Fred Phelps (founder of the Westboro Baptist Church) is "near death."
We also learned from his son, Nate Phelps, that the elder Phelps was "ex-communicated" from his own church in September of 2013. (No further explanation as to how or why, but, damn... that's harsh... getting thrown out of the church YOU started!)
Fred Phelps started the church in 1955, but didn't really come into his infamy until the death of Matthew Shepard in 1998. His large family protested the funeral with horrible signs such as "Matthew In Hell" and everybody's favorite, "God Hates Fags."
These protests of course would become legendary all over the country. Military funerals. School shootings. Gay funerals. I love a good funeral as much as the next guy, but these people made it vacation destinations.
Five years ago, I produced THE LARAMIE PROJECT: 10 YEARS LATER with an all-star cast at Hollywood United Methodist Church. Zachary Quinto, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Michael Weatherly, Julie Benz, James Cromwell, Barrett Foa, Helen Shaver, and others.
We began receiving tweets and mail from Westboro with hate and perceived threats ("perceived" by the LAPD). They claimed they were going to come and protest the show and we created a series of angel wings to block them from the church.
We bought sandwiches, cookies and water to feed them.
And they never showed.
Two years ago, my short film GROOM'S CAKE played at the Kansas City Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Being a short drive from Topeka and the Westboro compound, I decided I needed to pay a visit. I went up. Knocked on the door and everything.
I even made a trip and movie out of it:
No one was home. (Thank God... cause I was really nervous someone WOULD be and well... I wasn't exactly dressed for Bible study...)
But I made my little sign. I stood outside Westboro's compound and in that moment, I stood up for ME. And it felt amazing.
The nasty tweets continued over the years and they were coming directly from Megan Phelps, Phelps granddaughter. The hateful tweets continued between myself and Megan for three years until something strange happened: she left the church.
I wrote an OPEN LETTER TO MEGAN PHELPS and she responded. We exchanged several emails and she even came to a service at Hollywood United Methodist Church with her sister, Grace.
It's not appropriate for me to share our conversations, because Megan and her sister are on their journey now and learning about life outside Westboro, but I can assure you, they are not "those people" any longer.
Proof? They came as my dates to the world premiere of BIRTHDAY CAKE in Kansas City last year and loved the film. Yes, the little film about a gay couple raising a child.
If that doesn't prove people can change, nothing will ever prove that to you.
We are now friends.
A lot about people want to picket Fred Phelps funeral. And I think that's a huge mistake.
We are bigger than that, people. All of us. No matter what your sexuality, picketing the funeral of someone is wrong. That's putting horrible energy out into the world. Energy that could be better spent in reflection in what YOU can do to help change the minds of the ignorant.
I know a lot of people want him to die a slow and painful death for the hurt he has caused, but I choose to live in a world, and for my own sanity MUST choose to live in a world, where forgiveness is paramount. Forgiveness is free. Forgiveness is hard.
There is an individual that I work daily to forgive (an individual who refers to me as the "most negative person she has ever met..." and tells everyone I have rage issues and need therapy. Glass houses, baby... Glass houses...). I even forgave said individual and released all the anger in my heart because of a single act of kindness she did for someone close to me, and then 24 hours later, she did something completely new and even more off the wall to anger me all over again.
Forgiveness is a process. And you can't cure stupid.
I know we all believe differently. Some place faith in a higher power. Some place faith in science.
But I can not fight hate with hate.
If you choose to picket his funeral, I hope you do so out of a personal, visceral response from all of the work you have done for LGBT rights. I hope you are standing up for the unending fight for rights and equality. I hope you have stood by in silent protest opposite Westboro in wings made from bedsheets in the rain and cold and your need to protest Phelps' funeral comes from some fiery passion to see the man go into the ground.
If not, I hope you take time to reflect on what you can do to make our world a better place and I hope you use this opportunity to join an organization to fight FOR us all. Get mad. The world likes you when you're mad because you're passionate about something.
But hoping an old man dies painfully isn't going to help. And that karma, or whatever you want to call it, will come back on you. He's already been ex-communicated by his family and "church."
Also, we still don't know WHY he was thrown out of his own church.
WHY? That's the bigger question here. Why does someone get thrown out of their own church that's entire message is to preach HATE?
No one is more disappointed than I am and I'm grateful to everyone who tweeted and posted on the Redbox Facebook pages, demanding the movie in their kiosks.
Hopefully one day, Redbox will stock LGBT films.
Onwards. Upwards. On to Netflix.
If you have a subscription to Netflix, PLEASE click HERE and add BIRTHDAY CAKE to your queue. In order for the movie to get picked up, there has to a demand and a certain number of requests. It's very simple. You just click that link and then click, ADD TO QUEUE. Two clicks. Two seconds.
At least Netflix HAS a history of supporting and stocking LGBT films. So with your support and "clicks," hopefully we will be on Netflix after our release on May 20, 2014.
Thank you for your support!
We will be playing this weekend in Macon, Georgia on Saturday and Sunday at the Macon Film Festival and on Sunday in Baltimore.
I spoke to a screenwriting class today at my old university. I watched THELMA & LOUISE 17 times here in 1993 instead of going to algebra (I cheated the entire quarter). And while I haven't used algebra in 20 years, I DID work for Callie Khouri on DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA YA SISTERHOOD.
I don't know about you, but 2014 is off to an amazing start for me. I'm so excited about all the projects I have going and all the projects that are starting to come to life.
I just spent an incredible week in LA. So here are some updates!
BIRTHDAY CAKE will finally be released by Ariztical in May 2014! I will post tomorrow about our very aggressive approach and need for help involving social media.
You can see BC in Macon at the Macon Film Festival March 1 & 2. I will be there both days for a Q&A.
PROJECT: PHOENIX is very close to moving to sound and music! We are expecting the release to be April or May and it will be well worth the wait.
INSTALLATION is expected to shoot in April 2014. We are ironing out the final schedule and I'm meeting with investors now. Very excited to start shooting soon and get it cut in time for Sundance's deadline.
THE MARKED (inevitable title change, thank you PARANORMAL ACTIVITY) has a big meeting this week. Can't discuss, but looking really great.
IN BOX is a script I wrote with my buddy, James Rhine. They are out to investors now and hope to be shooting soon.
UNTITLED DOCUMENTARY I can't talk about just yet. Early stages involving an iconic Hollywood actress. I love her. And I'm hoping we can roll in July.
HELL HOUSE is out to cast and we hope to be rolling by April or May or June. There should be a big announcement soon. But if you have access to Production Weekly or Breakdown Services... then you already know why...
X-RATED has new investor interest and those meetings are happening now. Would LOVE to start shooting it in the late summer or Fall of 2014.
BODY FARM is out to investors for a potential Fall 2014 shoot.
KILL ROOM is a possible shoot for Texas in the summer. A friend of mine is looking at it to develop and shoot as an ultra low. We already have cast interested. Very cool character-driven piece. Just came up this past weekend after week in LA.
The verdict against Rev. Frank Schaefer for officiating the wedding of his gay son will change the DNA inside the denomination of the United Methodist Church forever. Most likely he will lose his credentials and be defrocked, unless he promises to "never do it again" and adhere to The Book of Discipline. This ruling shook a lot of Methodist monkeys out of the trees.
And that's a good thing.
This was a long time coming and for many reconciling churches like my own Hollywood United Methodist Church in Hollywood, CA, we needed an inciting incident to get people angry. We needed someone to finally yank the gigantic, dusty tarp off and say, "yo, there is a humangeous pink elephant standing in the narthex.... what are we going to do about it!?"
You see, the issue isn't that the United Methodist Church doesn't accept the LGBTQ community. They do. You can be gay... you just can't get married by your pastor and if you're a gay pastor, that's fine too... you just can't "practice" being gay.
From my experience, I don't know any gay person who needs practice. Most everyone I know has got that on lock-down.
This is an issue that was loudly and vocally raised at the annual conference in 2012 and while many organizers tried to shut them down, it only inspired a slew of resolutions by churches (including Hollywood UMC), renouncing the statement that homosexuality is incompatible with Christ's life and teachings, affirming the worth of all lives, including those in the LGBTQ community, committing to building communities inclusive of hope and love for all people, and inviting other churches and people to join them.
You know... what Jesus would do.
HUMC's own Mark Stephenson and Jay Sowell created such a resolution, though it was not passed.
However, it was a step in the right direction.
It wasn't so long ago that the Methodist Church was forced to "adjust" their view on divorce from being a "grave sin" to "supporting marriage and allowing divorce."
The fact remains, some of the most successful and thriving congregations in the United Methodist Church ARE churches of reconciling ministries and who have embraced the LGBTQ community. They are churches who march for AIDS, weekly assist with their communities homeless, help rebuild homes as a result of devastating storms.
You know... what Jesus would do.
No one likes to go against an organization that is responsible for creating the "rules and regulations," the boundaries, or the blue prints for how your life is to be run, especially when it involves how we are expected to worship, what we are to believe and why.
This could very well cause a split in the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church was created in 1968. Only 45 years ago. And when it did, it had approximately 11 million members, by combining The Evangelical United Brethren Church and members of The Methodist Church. Protestants and Wesleyans coming together in the a time of war, the summer before Woodstock and 19 days after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
Needless to say, it was a challenging time for our country.
But it was a time when people took a stand for what they believed in.
As I sit here, watching Twitter feeds and Facebook updates from friends and news outlets about the verdict, I sit here knowing this is the inciting incident that will change our history.
People needed to get angry.
In the 60s and 70s, people protested, They put their lives on the line for what they believed in. They chained themselves to buildings. They "sat-in" for days. They burned things and rioted. I'm not advocating violence or destruction, but I am suggesting we need to come up with actions bigger than a "march" for three miles through West Hollywood, ending at the Abbey for cocktails or tying up traffic in a intersection for a few hours.
We need to do more than tweet: "This verdict makes me sad. #SupportingSchaefer."
No, you're not. You need to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
People need to talk. Engage in conversation. Discuss. Educate. LIVE BY EXAMPLE. Help change opinions. Organize. Phone bank. Write letters. Attend meetings. Get involved.
You know... what Jesus would do.
I still find the line confusing: "incompatible with Christ's teachings and life" when Jesus never mentioned ANYTHING about homosexuality in the Bible. NOT A SINGLE WORD. He was more about teaching people to love one another and helping the poor and being of service.
So how that it is "incompatible" is beyond me.
My fear is that this verdict is only going to inspire people leave the church and if that is the case, YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM. That's exactly what they WANT.
Many gay couples (who aren't even members of our church) have called to ask one of pastors to marry them in our sanctuary, now that Prop 8 is dead. As much as Rev Kathy would love to do that, she can't. If she does, what happened to Rev Schaefer (officiating the wedding for HIS GAY SON), would happen to her. And I'm not about to let our pastor sacrifice her ministry and work we have in LA county for a couple who have never even attended a service. So you can slam down the phone and write an angry email about how we are "unaccepting," (please...) or you can shut up, join the church and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
Churches like Hollywood UMC and St. Mark's UMC in Atlanta have very dedicated congregations working very, very hard to bring the change needed to the denomination. There are churches all over the country who NEED your support and your voice.
The people who support Love will either change the hearts of those within our own denomination or they will form their own new church. A church, I believe will undoubtedly flourish, because there are millions of LGBTQ people on this planet who WANT a church and to be a part of a community that gives back into the world and is "Christ-like," but simply can not find one that accepts them or treats them appropriately.
And money talks. Brass tacks, people... if those reconciling churches decide to leave the mothership, the United Methodist Church will suffer financially.
This will be a major hot button topic at the next conference. NOW is the time for people to take action and express their feelings. Now is the time for "Holy Anger."
And if you live in LA, get yourself to Hollywood United Methodist Church on Sunday. Belief in God isn't a requirement. Belief in love, community and justice is suggested.
Wow... I really need to update this thing more often.
I now live in Atlanta!! I love it. Love my loft. Love the weather. Love the people. Love the possibilites. Haven't been this happy in a long time.
Really excited about the casting company I am a part of with my mentor, Cynthia Stillwell. We just completed a beautiful Lifetime movie called TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (based on the latest Broadway incarnation).
BIRTHDAY CAKE - just finished the festival circuit for 2013 and will be distributed by Ariztical in 2014! We care currently doing the mound of paperwork that involves and Jasun is doing our final cut.
PROJECT: PHOENIX - come hell or high water, the web series should be released by February. Post has taken a very long time due to effects and color. It was very much a work in progress that was "found" creatively in post. It will be unlike anything you've seen when it is complete.
HELL HOUSE - really exciting news is just around the corner. Can't talk about it. Hopefully next week.
INSTALLATION - something I will be talking more about next week. A thriller I started writing several years ago and never finished. We will start shooting it in Aprl 2014 and really excited to share who my co-star is going to be!
X-RATED - met with some potential new producers and we are out to a new "Joey Stefano." SO frustrating to not be able to raise the money I need to get it made, but hopefully after INSTALLATION, I will have the cred I need.
MOVING DAY - we need to get out to more festivals in 2014.
And I broke my arm!
Which is why this will be short, since I can only type with one hand! I had surgery 7 days ago and I'm just starting to be able to move it a little.
I have a lot of travel over the next month! (And that's not including a drive from LA to Atlanta!)
MOVING DAY (starring Joshua Morrow and Shanda Lee Munson) is playing for two weeks as part of DC Shorts! (I REALLY wish I could be there... huge festival, but BIRTHDAY CAKE is playing in three different cities and then I'm driving across the continent.)
It opens on September 19th and plays through the 27th. For tickets and more information, CLICK HERE
BIRTHDAY CAKE is playing at:
CNKY Film Scene Festival in Cincinnati (Opening Night... and they are also screening GROOM'S CAKE as well! Very excited to see them both back to back for the first time!) Friday, September 20 at 8:00 PM CLICK HERE for tickets.
Fresno Reel Pride Festival - Saturday, September 21 at 9:30 PM CLICK HERE for tickets.
Palm Springs Cinema Diverse Film Festival (Jane Badler, Helen Shaver, Rib Hillis will also be joining me... with more cast to be announced soon) - Sunday, September 22 at 4:00 PM CLICK HERE for tickets.
Atlanta Out on Film - Sunday, October 6 at 6:45 PM CLICK HERE for tickets.
Fort Worth International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival - Friday, October 11th at 8:00 PM CLICK HERE for tickets.
Seattle Three Dollar Billl Cinema - Saturday, October 19th at 5:15 PM CLICK HERE for tickets.
IMAGE OUT: Rochester LGBT Film Festival - Sunday, October 20th at 8:15 PM CLICK HERE for tickets.
Reel Affirmations Fundraiser for 2014 (Washington DC) Thursday, November 8th. Location and tickets TBD.
About a month ago, I was in North Carolina for the film festival in Durham and then flew to Atlanta for a week of meetings for X-RATED. While I was there, I realized... I have to be here.
(I also had a really bad car accident that forces me to see doctors three times a week... but like cancer, I look at it as a major inconvenience.)
Thirteen years ago, I had to LEAVE Atlanta in order to work in film and now I'm leaving LA, in order to work in film.
First thing on my agenda is getting X-RATED funded, followed by getting INSTALLATION and THE MARKED funded. I recently started writing a new comedy film called THAT TIME I SHOT MY MOTHER and I'm hoping to do a small movie based on a real thing that happened as well.
X-RATED is my priority. I know my money is in Atlanta. I want to shoot the interiors in Atlanta and then we'll shoot a day or two of exteriors in LA. But I have to be in Atlanta to find my funding, get locations, find crews, etc.
In the meantime, I just started my "Life After High School Workshop" back up and have two planned over the next two months. They were very successful for me years ago and many of the kids who took my workshop came out to LA and started their careers.
I found a beautiful loft. I can't wait to have my own space. I can't wait to have SPACE. Have dinner parties. I can't wait to live alone and just have total silence.
But right now, we're doing very well. BIRTHDAY CAKE played Long Beach today and we had a lot of the cast there.
In less than two weeks, we play Cincinnati, Fresno, and then Palm Springs.
I'll drive out to Palm Springs with Jane Badler and then two days later, I'll continue on across the country, stopping in Albuquerque and Dallas before landing on Euclid Ave in Atlanta.
Then in October, we will play Atlanta, Fort Worth, Seattle, and Rochester with a date in Washington DC in November.
ALSO - my short film, MOVING DAY starring Joshua Morrow and Shanda Lee Munson will play DC Shorts at the end of the month. I really wish I could be there, but I'll be relocating.
And we're REALLY close to finishing PROJECT: PHOENIX. Jasun's last cut looks great. Now we are just tweaking visual effects and colors to make it look more like a graphic novel.
So... yeah. A lot has happened.
It's strange that I have to LEAVE LA in order to work in film!! But that's why Georgia is doing gangbusters in the South right now.
Thanks to Rib and Justin, we're looking into distribution on BIRTHDAY CAKE and hope to seal that up in the next month or two.
HELL HOUSE is still in active pre-production with funding.
I wrote a movie that will probably never see the light of day (and was a reminder to GET IT IN WRITING...), but once again I proved to myself I can write a script in a week.
I'm just looking forward to having A LIFE. Not be around crazy people. (Well... in the South, that's a given, but those are my people...) I'm looking forward to dating people that don't look past you to see who is walking in the front door. People who aren't robots.
My first month, I will be happy to just have a sofa, a blow up mattress and two plates. I'm looking forward to picking out stuff for my loft and really looking forward to "decluttering" my life. Getting rid of lots of books and DVDs and crap.
It's totally scary and totally weird, but I really feel like... this is it. Like, this is my next move.
I'm keeping my place here in LA and will keep paying rent on it, so I can come back and forth to meet with actors and do writing sessions with the producers on HELL HOUSE. Meetings for my pilot.
Here's the first look at the trailer for my short film, MOVING DAY starring Joshua Morrow and Shanda Lee Munson.
The film will play the incredible DC Shorts (opening night and several other times throughout the two weeks) in September. Shanda will be there! (I will be traveling those two weeks with BIRTHDAY CAKE and prepping X-RATED).