The postponement of qFLIX because of COVID-19 is disappointing for the organizers and moviegoers but also for the talent that was planning to attend. For some of these filmmakers, the queer festival circuit is crucial, as it provides the best opportunity to share work that they have invested considerable time and money on with the LGBTQ community. To have things tabled can be frustrating.
“For many filmmakers, festivals provide the first chance to see your baby being received in the world,” said out gay actor and filmmaker Mike Doyle, who was scheduled to attend qFLIX with “Almost Love” (aka “Sell By”), his feature directorial debut.
“Almost Love” was nearing the end of its festival run at the time of qFLIX, having premiered last May in Toronto at Inside Out. But Doyle still had several festivals planned this month before his romantic comedy-drama was scheduled to be released in 10 theatrical markets and on-demand April 3.
He observed, “The queer festival circuit is essential because a lot of these films do not have the easiest path to market. Many indie films have no other outlet than a film fest. It is potentially damaging for the content.”
Out gay actor Scott Evans, who stars in “Almost Love” concurs, “I can’t imagine how much heartbreak there is out there. It was exciting going around and seeing audiences’ reactions to our film. Feeling the love in the room has been such a great experience. For filmmaker to get this knockdown….”
Doyle continued, addressing the importance of queer film fests, “Content by, for, and with queer people is still marginalized. We don’t have two straight movie stars carrying this film. Queer fests are completely relevant. There’s no equality in the marketplace.”
Both Doyle and Evans will be happy to support a screening of the film in July when qFLIX is rescheduled.
Another out gay writer and director making his feature debut is Mike Mosallam, who spent four to five years producing his rom-com, “Breaking Fast,” a labor of love that was scheduled to close qFLIX. It was disheartening for Mossallam to have the film’s East Coast premiere postponed less than three weeks before the screening. But the filmmaker took it in stride, “We had a sold-out screening at Outfest Fusion, and the film has been accepted into topline fests that have all been pushed, canceled, or postponed. Making an indie film, your greatest resource is audiences at festivals creating buzz, which is the lifeline for the future of your film.”
“Breaking Fast” is currently seeking distribution, which often happens on the fest circuit, and Mosallam optimistically reported, “We are in active discussion with distributors negotiating a deal, luckily. Hopefully we will secure distribution in the next couple of weeks.”
And looking ahead a few months, the filmmaker said, “I have every intention of attending in July!”
Lesbian filmmaker Alison Lynne Ward, writer, co-director, and co-star of “Writing Kim,” which was scheduled to have its World Premiere at qFLIX, said the postponement, “felt like a punch in the gut.” Ward had been working on her film since 2015 and had been submitting it to festivals for more than a year. Getting accepted into qFLIX was momentous.
She recalled, “The first reaction when you get in — and there has been a lot that had gone on making the film, personal life stuff, delays, and extreme struggles — was, I have to go! Finishing it was a huge accomplishment. After getting rejection after rejection, it was amazing [to be accepted].”
But then the delay happened. “It was gut-wrenching,” Ward admitted. “But hopefully I can attend. I’ve come to peace with it. But it’s like working so hard for your dreams, and then ‘Oh, nevermind! The world is coming to an end.’ But there are people with bigger problems. I’m calm about it now,” she bemused.
Out actor and writer Ben Baur is also OK with the delay. He was looking forward to qFLIX and receiving the festival’s Rising Star Award, but he wisecracked, “I’m not that upset because I feel my star has been rising for eight years, so a few more months isn’t going to break my spirit. I’m still honored and excited. The delay actually means we can screen my just-completed short ‘Yours Mine Ours.'”
Out gay writer and director Laurent Maria was scheduled to have the U.S. premiere of his work, two shorts, “Sunday” and “Anita,” along with his new feature, “Nina,” at qFLIX. In a recent interview via WhatsApp from London, Maria, who is French, was sanguine about the delayed premiere, “I was relieved it was postponed. I thought qFLIX might not have enough audience if they did hold the fest in March.”
One reason Maria was anxious had to do with traveling from London to Philadelphia. France was considered dangerous, and with Trump’s ban denying Europeans entry to the U.S., the filmmaker could have had some trouble.
Maria, however, is already anticipating his trip to the City of Brotherly Love when the fest is held in July. He enthused, “I don’t know Philadelphia, but I have heard so many good things about it. I am very excited to visit. I imagine Philly will be ‘sunny,'” he said, referencing the TV series. “My boyfriend said Philly is better in the summer, and he wants to come in July. He couldn’t come if we held it in March.”
Maria remains upbeat about attending. “I loved the idea that my films were having a U.S. premiere. I never thought I would have that. I had not played ‘Nina’ anywhere outside of France. I had just finished it. I sent it to Cannes, and I was waiting for the answer. [Cannes recently announced that its festival will be delayed to late June.] I submitted it to Rhode Island International Film Festival, but that fest was postponed before they responded. qFLIX was the first selection for ‘Nina.'”