In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting interviews, opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.
HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! Expect more posts this month, from interviews to reviews and more!
I will admit that I stared at this post longer than I should’ve, trying to figure out where to start. But how could I not after speaking with Damien S. Navarro, the executive director of Outfest, one of the only global LGBTQIA+ arts, media, and entertainment organizations “whose programs empower artists, communities and filmmakers to transform the world through their stories, while also supporting the entire lifecycle of their career.”
Navarro, who has dedicated himself to creating visibility when it comest to LGBTQ+ stories, is a champion for the queer community. Combine that with the fact that he’s humble, kind, and wickedly funny and you’ve got a man that anyone would be lucky to have just as they launch their first major fan event for all things LGBTQ+ on TV. And that’s why I count the OutFronts program as one of the luckiest out there.
This fan event is a digital festival meant to jumpstart Pride Month in style. It’s set to bring together creators and actors who are involved in LGBTQ+ shows like Motherland: Fort Salem, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Veneno. And for Navarro, it’s been a long time coming. “Sure enough, in bits and pieces, as we’ve always seen in SXSW or Paleyfest. There’s always that little queer section in the back where they’re selling books or something on the counters as you walk out. But there really wasn’t a true place like this. That’s probably why I’m most excited all together for OutFronts.”
This fan event is also an opportunity for Outfest to connect with fans of LGBTQ+ on a different level, especially with all the changes brought on by technology but also by this past years pandemic. “As we know, most creators and especially amongst young people, things always change. Whether it’s music or entertainment or live theater. But in particular, especially with the last 5 to 6 years, increasingly what has moved into a natural effervescent form of entertainment.”
And in exploring those changes Outfest and Navarro hit some barriers and challenges that they were more than ready to face. Navarro explained that, “The biggest challenge is, “Where are young people and professionals entering the industry? Where are they coming from?” In turn, they learned that “even looking at Outfest Fusion, our POC film festival for many years, was servicing especially young people of color in ways that we’d hoped, but it was slowly drifting away.”
So Outfest and Navarro made it their mission to realign their mission across the board as a means of “capturing and supporting the next generation.” Because that is at the heart of everything this organization is all about as more creators chart out their own path in creating LGBTQ+ content. And even thought their are inherent risks with doing something like the OutFronts, it’s worth it for the changes it is to bring to content creation.
Navarro broke it down by saying, “Putting on big and live events and investing a ton of time and effort, we’ve been able to explore and experiment in ways that we want to find and market new audiences; new and younger creators would discover us if took down the barriers that you have to create this huge and incredible film and you have to be into the geekiness and nerdiness of indie film, if we’re going to resonate with them.”
It doesn’t mean that Outfest is turning into a sell-out, something Navarro says that anyone would be concerned with when it comes to shifts in the way that communities come together. But it’s necessary if they’re going to tell stories in authentic ways. “There’s always the concern of sell-out. It’s a word that I very much am sensitive to when we look at any…whether it’s for a non-profit or a brand that we love or show.”
He continued this train of thought by explaining that sometimes it takes going directly to the source of change when it comes to the LGBTQ+ content that is being created as a means of remaining authentic, “So instead of just being surface [level] we went deep and talked to a lot of young people. We talked to a lot of the filmmakers of color and creators today who aren’t necessary bound, especially if you don’t go to film school, to a specific medium.”
And what they found is that when creating intellectual property, there are a plethora of mediums that creators are investing their time in. This idea of creating IP and it being able to coexist as the industry has demonstrated across multiple different kids of platforms can come from anywhere, whether that’s from TikTok or back in the day Youtube. Or Snapchat. Or anything. Or if it comes from music. Or if it comes from a one-minute queer rom-com like Hidden Canyons which has seen incredible success on TikTok. And so that’s a lot of what we’re doing and experiments with the elements.”
While some studios are getting it, and by that Navarro means they are starting to understand the necessity of telling LGBTQ+ stories, many still need a guiding hand. That’s where OutFronts comes in. It’s a sign of studios, brands, and distributors understanding that fans and audiences are craving this kind of content. And this understanding is at the center of OutFronts and why you should be watching their panels and more from June 5th to the 9th.
Learn more here.
Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)