YS: The documentary as a form seems to hold a lot of power in terms of salvaging forgotten parts of history and rewriting dominant narratives. Was that something you kept in mind while filming?
P: Definitely. One of the challenges of creating historical documentaries is how to make something that happened in the past still relevant and immediate today. When that film was made in early 2016, a lot was happening. Trump had just taken his seat at the White House and many minority groups, including LGBTs, were feeling attacked by his policies and his sentiments. Coincidentally, an LGBT protest was happening in Chicago, which is a scene that made it into the film. There were many parallelisms between that protest and the era that Jerry documented. It shows that although we’ve come a long way since the gay rights movement in San Francisco, as Jerry said, the fight is not over and “once you come out of the closet, there’s no reason to ever go back in the closet.”
Nothing has been more fulfilling, surprising and inspiring than knowing that the stranger next to you actually has a story to tell.
YS: What kind of advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers, especially those interested in making documentaries?
P: Talk to people. I’ve always been a shy person, but because of my job, I’ve had to break out of my shell and talk to strangers. Nothing has been more fulfilling, surprising and inspiring than knowing that the stranger next to you actually has a story to tell. I’ve always believed that everyone has a story that can make a difference. All you have to do is start the conversation. But what’s more important than merely talking to people is empathizing with them. During the Chicago Emmy awards night, one of the journalists who won an Emmy said, “Tell the story, feel it, and it will make a difference.”
You can find out more about Pat Nabong on her official website.