David Adkin, producer of OUT - Stories of Lesbian and Gay Youth  

David Adkin, producer of OUT - Stories of Lesbian and Gay Youth

C.M-S: Could you introduce yourself both personally and professionally, please?

DA: My name is David Adkin. I'm a freelance film-maker living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. For the last 6 or 7 years I've been working on contract for the National Film Board of Canada in the field of educational videos. I've also been developing ideas for documentary films on gay and lesbian issues - and "OUT - Stories of Lesbian and Gay Youth" is my first major feature length documentary. I'm 33 years old.

C.M-S: Several times in discussion yesterday you stressed the need for positive roles. Did you have problems in this direction?

DA: I think I had the same problems that other gay and lesbian youth have when they are growing up - a general lack of access to any factual information about homosexuality, or being gay - and what that means. Certainly very little positive information or images were available. There are certainly not many films that deal with the experience of growing up and coming out as a teenager. I knew from my own experience ... that a film like this is extremely important. We know from some of the studies that starting to be done in North America that gay youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teenagers are. This is related to the lack of understanding and acceptance of homosexuality in the culture generally as well as the negativity that the kids are exposed to. What I'm trying to do is to counteract that negative atmosphere. Hopefully this film if it is seen by gay youth - I hope it will be used in schools - will help them to know that at least they are not alone, help to reaffirm their identity, and to know that they can go on and lead a healthy and positive life.

There are stories in the film of negative coming out experiences, but they tend to be told to the camera as testimonials - as events that have happened. We don't see those events happening. With Patrick and his mother, when he talks about coming out to her. She breaks into tears. It's a powerful scene. It's funny the way they tell it, but extremely poignant. ...

C.M-S: Do you have any "role-models" yourself in the sense of film-making?

DA: The major influence on this film for me are a number of gay documentaries that have come out in the last ten years. Films like "Word is out", "The Times of Harvey Milk", "Before Stonewall", "Stories from the Quilt" are the films that affected me - in particular "Harvey Milk". I saw it at a time that I had just come out as a university student living in Toronto. They tend to use fairly conventional documentary techniques, but they're powerful because the put on screen the direct testimonies and experiences  of gay people. That's what I wanted to do in this film. So I think this film is very much within a tradition of gay documentary - which is different from the Art Video and the Art Film tradition. There are a number of gay works that have come out in that genre that are fictional stories. Some of them tend to be much more experimental in their approach. There's a whole definition of something called "queer cinema". This film is not really within that tradition, but I think it is firmly rooted within a gay film-making tradition - documentary gay film.

C.M-S: What about your own coming out?

DA: My own coming out story is fairly boring. My parents figured out I was gay long before I did!. I was at university in Toronto, and went back to Saskatoon at Christmas time and told my parents and they basically said well we figured this out quite a while ago. You’re still our son and we love you. ... I've had a lot of support from family and friends. I think that has made it possible for me to feel secure in making this kind of film and to be open about it.

C.M-S: I ask because when the film starts there are four youngsters sitting in front of a school class. I know this happens in the Nordic area ...

DA: You see a lot of the videos that have been made has been geared towards a gay audience.  On the one hand I'm trying to reach a wide audience, beyond the gay community, but which includes the gay community. Otherwise there's no point in making the film because I'm trying to educate people who need to be educated. Certainly gay and lesbian adults don't need to be told what it is like to grow up. On the other hand I didn't want to make a film that was going to compromise in what we had to say. So I'm trying to make a film that is very strong and firm in what it's saying - We are here and we ought to be accepted for who we are - but not in a way that is threatening to people, or is going to alienate people. I want to "embrace" a larger audience and bring them into the discussion.

The funding of gay and lesbian films has happened because some people in institutions like the National Film Board (of Canada) are supportive and believe that films should be made about these topics..

Colin de la Motte-Sherman

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