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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Catching Up with Gayby producer Anne Hubbell

Opening Night of Out On Film
  • gaybyfilm.com
  • Opening Night of Out On Film

Anne Hubbell is a force of nature in the independent film community, with deep roots that reach all the way back to Atlanta, where she served as the executive director of Independent Media Artists of Georgia, Etc. (IMAGE), the non-profit film and media arts group now called Atlanta Film Festival 365.

A few disclaimers and disclosures off the bat:

1) I worked as the Programming Coordinator at IMAGE for Anne when she was ED in 1997;
2) I've known her for over 15 years, and consider her a friend and mentor;
3) In more recent times, I returned to Atlanta to serve a term as ED of IMAGE myself—during my tenure, we launched the ATL365 re-brand, and also spun-off Out on Film

A fixture on the festival circuit with connections everywhere in the industry, due (in part) to her professional role as Kodak's East Coast Regional Account Manager for Studio and Independent Feature Films, Anne shares passion for the medium that is unequaled.

She has also produced and developed a number of films, including the women's wrestling documentary Lipstick & Dynamite, and the short Thanksgiving.

She is also the producer of Gayby, written and directed by Jonathan Lisecki, her first feature length narrative. The film debuted to rave reviews at SXSW in March, and it is the opening night film for the 25th Edition of Out On Film, which kicks-off tonight at 7:30 pm at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

1. Discuss the role you played in the origin of Out On Film What's it like to come back to OOF all these years later with the opening night film?

When I took the job as Executive Director at IMAGE [ed note: now dba as Atlanta Film Festival 365], the organization was producing the "Atlanta Lesbian, Gay, Bi, and Transexual Film and Video Festival" with SAME, a local alternative arts and theater company. It was a great community event, held mainly at our small theater space at the TULA Arts Center. After my first year, it was clear there was a lot of room for growth. It was the mid 90s and with the breakout success of Tarantino and Soderbergh, independent filmmaking was becoming like rock stardom. With that increased interest in alternative media from artists and audiences, we saw an opportunity to raise the profile of the festival. We ultimately shortened it from nine days to five, tightened up the schedule by playing films concurrently, diversified the programming, and added more late night events. Finally, the lengthy title was changed to OUT ON FILM! (I think we might have even included the exclamation point in the official title.) It was a great group of people during those years - playwright Rebecca Ranson, publisher Jack Pelham, IMAGE programmers Gabe Wardell and Genevieve McGillicuddy, and many others, really laid the groundwork for the fabulous event OOF is today. We tried to make the festival important, but fun. At one point we held the event at the Phipps Plaza Theaters where a midnight "smell-o-vision" screening of John Waters' Polyester (drag queens passed out pizza and roses during the movie!) quickly sold out. There were hundreds of people in a line that extended way into the food court. It was a blast and I felt like OOF! was really a success.

I feel so proud to have played a part in the incredible event that OOF has become over the years. It is amazing to have the first narrative feature I produced open the festival. It is a really special way to come back.

2. With gay issues squarely entrenched in main stream media—characters on shows like "Modern Family," "Glee" and "The New Normal," out gays and gay icons dominating other pop-culture phenomena like music (Lady Gaga, Adam Lambert), online gossip (TMZ, Perez), news (Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon), and acting (Zach Quinto, Alan Cumming, Jane Lynch, Neil Patrick Harris), and with Gay Marriage making its way through legal system and "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" repealed, why are LGBT film festivals like OUT ON FILM still necessary?

Yes, it's necessary. There are still plenty of distinctive stories to be told. It is precisely events like OOF, which have allowed for disenfranchised voices to be heard and for audiences to discover and reflect on LGBT experiences, that have paved the way for all the "mainstream" images we see now. And the empowerment of seeing role models on the big screen still can't be underestimated.

It is hard to imagine events like these being obsolete. Even with the strides the LGBT community has made, there is still along way to go. I am sure there are other challenges that we haven't even identified to be faced down the road. OOF's role in building and maintaining community is still critical.

3. Gayby captures popular Zeitgiest—it's a comedy in a cycle of "friends with benefits" stories, including Friends with Kids, and it's a gay baby story in era of programs about gays, surrogates and babies on the aforementioned network TV. The film is based on an award-winning short that made the circuit and was widely hailed. How long has the feature been in the works? Do you consider the timing lucky?

Writer/director, Jonathan Lisecki says he always had a feature version of Gayby in mind. Amy Hobby and I really liked the short and started bugging him early on about getting us a script. Eventually he gave in and sent us a fantastic first draft in June of 2011. After that, the film came together very quickly. Jonathan had written the short for his super talented friends, Jenn Harris and Matt Wilkas. So they became the leads in the feature as well. He also had several locations in mind while writing and was able to call in lots of favors. By July we had opened a production office and we shot in 17 days in August. Almost exactly a year after our first serious conversation about making the movie, it premiered at SXSW.

We like to think that Gayby: The Short set the bar. Obviously there is some truth to all this art. Families are being created in so many different ways. Living in New York, the premise of Gayby is totally normal to me. These are people I know. I haven't seen a lot of those other shows, but I know that our movie has a ton of heart and is really just a story about friendship.


4. Film production is booming in Georgia. What are some of the biggest changes you've seen when you come back to ATL? What are some of the things that have stayed the same?

The city has changed dramatically since I lived here - so much new construction. Atlanta seems much bigger to me now. But then the neighborhoods are still very familiar.

I am thrilled at the amount of film production in Atlanta. So much more than when I was at IMAGE. Georgia is one of the few states with a strong, secure production incentive. It's a great advantage. I remember going to Manuel's for monthly GA Production Alliance [now GPP]meetings and the spirited discussions about how to increase activity. I know lots of people worked hard to secure that state support. It's great to have so many more jobs and opportunities for filmmakers here.


5. Why is it important for people to see a comedy like this in a theatre?

I love the theatrical experience. You can watch media on any device you like, but nothing really compares to seeing a movie on a big screen with an audience and feeding off that energy. A full room heightens your experience - comedies are funnier, horror movies are scarier, action movies are more thrilling. There is something really compelling about the collective experience of discovering a story. Gayby is definitely more fun with a crowd.

6. What's next for Gayby? After NY, LA, and SF openings, will it roll out nationally? VOD?

Gayby opens theatrically in select cities later this month. It will be distributed by Wolfe on DVD and VOD. I think it will roll out before the end of the year.

Amy Hobby
  • LinkedIn
  • Amy Hobby
Anne Hubbell

7. Talk about your role of Tangerine Entertainment, and your vision for future of production.

My Gayby producing partner, Amy Hobby, and I are starting Tangerine Entertainment, a new production company that will make films by female directors. There is a huge inequity in Hollywood, as well as in the independent world. In 2011, only 5% of movies released in the US were directed by women. We see this as a problem to be addressed, and also an opportunity to draw from a sorely underutilized talent pool and tell some amazing stories. We are not planning to make "chick flicks", but instead to create distinctive, character driven work in many genres.

It's sort of "the best of times and the worst of times" for independent production. Making films is less expensive and there are more tools than ever to tell your stories, but the venues and platforms for distributing and monetizing work are harder and harder to navigate. Increasingly filmmakers are having to take responsibility for getting their work out to audiences themselves. Fewer movies are being released in theaters each year and studio marketing budgets have tightened, especially for indies. You have to really think start to finish now when you are making a movie - from developing the script all the way to who the audience will be and how that audience will see the film. I think you can see it as a hardship or as a challenge. Amy and I look forward to building community and a distinctive brand for Tangerine by cultivating and communicating with potential viewers via social networks and experiential marketing.


For complete OOF information visit: http://www.outonfilm.org

To get tickets to Gayby, visit here:
https://tickets.landmarktheatres.com/Ticketing.aspx?TheatreID=265&MovieID=14086&ShowDate=10/4/2012&ScheduleID=109293

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