Interview with out filmmakers Michelle Boyaner and Barbara Green

Watch the trailer for A Finished Life: The Goodbye & No Regrets Tour

AE: Your documentaries seem to focus on people who are often marginalized in society: the homeless and those living with mental or terminal illness. What compels you both to tackle people and subjects that some filmmakers might shy away from?
MB: Our documentaries have definitely covered some tough subjects, and in a strange way, it seems that many of the stories find us. And when they do, we’re waiting with open arms, ready to try and tell them.

For example, our documentary, Tina Paulina: Living On Hope Street is about a homeless woman, who happened to be a lesbian, living on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. She wandered into Barbara’s [camera] frame, literally, while she was filming something else. Barbara spent 20 minutes talking with her and found Tina’s “always look on the bright side” attitude to be refreshing and surprising, considering her circumstances.

We wanted to take that footage and try and give people the chance to consider that the homeless person you pass on the street is somebody’s sister, daughter, mother, ex-lover. Getting a glimpse, trying to make sense of something; that is why we try and tell the stories. Looking for the answer, looking to give people a voice.

In 2003, another one of our films (a narrative short) came about during a time when I was looking to try and tell myself and others, “It’s going to be okay, just hold on. It gets better.” So to get that message across, I wrote the script for You’re Still Young.

It tells the story of a confused, depressed and hopeless 15-year old girl who meets the 35 year-old version of herself in a diner one day. I always thought it would be wonderful if we could somehow magically be assured that it does get better. I didn’t just get to write a happy ending, but a happier middle, too.

AE: What are you currently working on?
We’re currently in post-production on a narrative short film called The Bedwetter. It’s set in 1975 and is an offbeat coming-of-age story about an almost 11-year-old tomboy dealing with bullies, bedwetting, and a new stepmother. We had a great time shooting this and have some amazing performances from the cast, as well as a 1970s-inspired score by the hugely talented Jane Ford. We’ll have this one ready for film festivals (and beyond) in 2010.

A still from the set of The Bedwetter

We have two other feature-length films we’re working on too. The first, What If? is a lesbian romantic comedy about getting what you want and wanting what you’ve got. It’s sweet, funny and sexy and nobody dies in the end.

The second, B & S, is a super top-secret-lesbian-country-western-themed-romantic-comedy that will knock your socks (and boots) off.

BG: I’m editing, editing, editing and shooting, shooting, shooting.

AE: Filmmaking has been transformed by the digital age, making it much easier to make indie films.  Has this emboldened you to take on projects you might not have attempted before the shift occurred?
MB: We’ve been fortunate enough to have been shooting and editing our own stuff all along. So the main shift for us has occurred in opportunities for distribution, which means a chance for more people see our films.

We sort of always took the approach of “I’m not sure how we’re going to pay for this, but let’s go tell this story” and then prayed, chanted, wished the finishing funds into existence. So for us, I guess the fact that more people will get to see our films now, makes me want to tell more stories, have more projects in the works simultaneously, and keep a constant flow of films getting out to the public.

BG: Sure. The ability to pick up a HDV video camera, film our documentary or narrative with the main cost being time and tape, and edit on our Mac, makes it a one-stop shop here.

AE: What do you think of the current state of LGBT film, documentary or otherwise? 
MB: I think it’s an amazing time to be making LGBT films. I’m excited by all the new ways for filmmakers to get their films out for people to see. I think this provides an even bigger opportunity for more storytellers to do just that tell their stories.

In addition to the cable networks and online sites that program gay & lesbian content, there are also scores of local LGBT film festivals worldwide. Audiences are eager to see their stories told. I think it’s our job to make sure that, in addition to the increased quantity of films, we present audiences with quality films.

BG: I think we need more LGBT films, documentary and narrative, and Michelle and I are right on the “More LGBT Films” bandwagon! We have so many stories to tell.

We’d like to think of ourselves as the “Thelma and Louise" of LGBT filmmaking, without the slow-motion, over-the-cliff ending.

For more information, go to the official website for the film. A Finished Life is available for purchase through First Run Features. (The film is also available on Netflix and iTunes.)

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