Saturday, June 1, 2024

LGBTQ+ representation in the Utah Filmmakers™ community

By UFA Founder Joe Puente

Almost every week, I spend a few hours at Publik Coffee Roasters in Salt Lake City with my friend of over two decades and longtime UFA supporter, Geoff Wichert. It is our designated time to write—he, with his reviews for 15 Bytes, and me with screenplays, blog posts, and essays. While tapping away at my laptop one morning, I overheard two people discussing their TikTok content. Content creators use many of the basic skills and techniques as filmmakers; therefore, as per our definition of “who is considered a “Utah Filmmaker,” I felt it important to give them that recognition.

Prefacing my brief interruption with, “My apologies—I didn’t mean to eavesdrop—I just wanted to say that TikTokkers are filmmakers too,” I gave them each an official “Utah Filmmaker” button.

I was a little joining TikTok, but it wasn’t long before I started to understand its appeal, especially as an emotional roller coaster! Laughing one moment at the antics of creators like “Brochet,” “Just, Joe…,” or Utah’s very own “OpeyTailor,” then sobbing uncontrollably over someone’s tribute to their recently departed pet or a heartbreaking moment of vulnerability.

The creators that I find the most enlightening are those in marginalized communities. From African-American creators like Dara Starr Tucker—shattering the myth of a “post-racial” America—to advocates for veterans, those with disabilities, in recovery, who are neurodivergent, and those creatively coping with mental illness.

I’ve felt most moved by creators in the LGBT community. I love listening to their stories, told in their own words, about their challenges, experiences coming out to their families and friends, and everyday lives. I especially enjoy the matter-of-fact—and often hilarious—ways they engage with comments by bigoted trolls.

The Utah Filmmakers Association has always been committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive community. Our Core Values affirm this commitment, stating, in part:

“...Being respectful means being inclusive, polite, patient, understanding, and courteous. One must respect the rights of others… to have and express their own opinions, and recognize that there is strength in diversity...

“...An environment where people feel uncomfortable or threatened is neither productive nor creative.”

A recent post in our official forum drew a lot of attention. The author identified themselves as “a trans filmmaker” looking for other transgender actors to work with on film projects. I was pleasantly surprised to see several group members identify themselves in the comments. I think feeling seen should go hand-in-hand with feeling safe, and I have always wanted the environment in the group to be recognized as safe. We showed our support in the comments with an image of the Utah Filmmakers logo featuring the colors of the Transgender pride flag, designed by Monica Helms in 1999.

With Pride Month upon us—and the Utah Queer Film Festival coming up in October—we’ve updated our Utah Filmmakers Pride badge—incorporating the popular six-stripe version of Gilbert Baker's (1951-2017) rainbow flag design from 1979. We’ve also created badges for others in the LGBTQ+ community—in addition to Helms’ Transgender flag referenced above. A five-stripe version of the original “orange-pink” lesbian flag, introduced by blogger Emily Gwen in 2018. Michael Page’s 1998 design to increase the visibility of bisexuals in society as a whole and within the LGBT community. And the 2017 Philadelphia pride flag, which adds black and brown stripes to Baker's flag to draw attention to issues of people of color within the LGBT community.

We’ve added a Utah Filmmaker Pride T-shirt to our selection of merch on Amazon, but we are also making all of our Utah Filmmaker Pride badges freely available to anyone who wants to incorporate them into their promotional materials and merchandise to share and sell—royalty-free!

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and—especially where guest posts are concerned—do not necessarily reflect the official policies and/or practices of the Utah Filmmakers™ Association, its Officers, and/or Associates.