Director Kerstin Karlhuber and screenwriter Jack Bryant are turning to Kickstarter to rustle up $50,000 to finish their film, "Camp Revelation," an expose on the dangers of the discredited ex-gay therapy.
As of Monday morning, they had raised about $4,000 toward their goal and turned to San Diego Gay & Lesbian News to get out the word.
On her Kickstarter page, Karlhuber describes the movie:
"Camp Revelation" is an independent, live-action (no, it's not a cartoon), feature film, written by the wonderfully talented Jack Bryant, directed by the award winning Kerstin Karlhuber, and produced by Silent Giant Productions.
Meet Rex Jordan, a young man who lives and works in New York City. Rex comes from a socially conservative family upbringing, and is shocked to learn that his younger brother David has been outed as a homosexual and sent to a reparative therapy camp by their parents. Rex doesn't know much about homosexuality or ex-gay camps, but at the urging of a friend he decides to get David out. The only way he can reach him, however, is by pretending to be gay and enrolling in the camp himself. Once inside, Rex is forced to confront his own personal beliefs about sexuality and the value of following socially conservative traditions. The film follows Rex, David, and a host of counselors, campers, and their families, on the path to self-acceptance, equality, and love.
Bryant, the screenwriter, speaks to SDGLN about why he wrote the screenplay and why it's so important to be made as a mainstream movie.
SDGLN: What is the inspiration behind your movie?
Bryant: The exact inspiration came from an experience I had when I was younger, wherein I watched a friend go to reparative therapy and return confused about his sexuality. We lost contact after his "therapists" urged him to sever contact with anyone or anything that might connect him to homosexuality.
As a result, I did a lot of research on reparative therapy and found it to be junk science based mostly on bigotry and homophobia rather than actual fact. This is something that most major medical and psychological associations agree with me on.
SDGLN: Why is this an important issue for you?
Bryant: It continues to be an important issue for me as over the years I've watched another friend go through the therapy, and consequently end our friendship in an effort to "cure" himself of what he came to feel was a "sinful lifestyle," and nearly saw a young relative sent to a similar program by his parents.
I've read many stories about young people who were sent to these camps, either by their parents or of their own free will, in an effort to fit in with what society tells them is "normal."
I don't believe it's possible for a person to change their sexuality. But more importantly, I don't believe someone should have to try in order to be happy.
Young members of the LGBT community face so much bigotry and violence because of ignorance and fear that has often been perpetuated in society by religious teachings. Many faiths tell their followers that homosexuality is evil and ought to be avoided and condemned in order to guarantee salvation in an afterlife.
I therefore find it disgusting and morally reprehensible that the same communities would offer their love and support to homosexuals only if they submit to the wills of those same groups and undergo needless psychological brainwashing in an attempt to contort themselves into some predetermined standard. It's the equivalent of a bully calling their victim a villain and demanding an apology.
SDGLN: Why did you choose the format of a fictional film rather than a documentary to explain the dangers of reparative therapy?
Bryant: We chose the format of a fictional film rather than a documentary because we're trying to reach the broadest audience possible. Film, particularly narrative fiction, has a great potential to reach audiences and show them a situation they never considered before.
We know that documentaries on this subject already exist but not every family or young person will seek those out. By offering them a story designed to entertain, we can attempt to educate as well.
SDGLN: In your promo video for your Kickstarter campaign, you said this has been a six-year effort so far. Why has this taken so long, and why do you need an additional $50,000 to finish?
Bryant: I wrote the screenplay for “Camp Revelation” six years ago. Shortly after I finished it I submitted it to several screenplay competitions as a means of getting it produced. It did well in a few but ultimately wasn't selected for production.
I then shelved the project for a few years before director Kerstin Karlhuber voiced an interest in it. She was looking for a new feature to work on and when I mentioned "Camp" she quickly became fascinated by the story and the message.
After a bit of time spent on revisions, we tried to fund the film via traditional methods (studios and private investors) but weren't successful -- possibly due to the economy. Eventually we decided that we'd give crowdfunding a try and set to work on creating a Kickstarter campaign. $50,000 is the bare minimum we need to see the film brought to life. Right now we're trying to see it get made, particularly at such a critical time in history.
SDGLN: What do you hope to accomplish with the movie?
Bryant: Impressionable youths especially, who have frequently suffered at the hands of homophobic bullies, are told that their only chance of happiness in life comes from changing their sexuality. When prescribed by an authority figure, like those at the camps who sometimes hold a degree in psychology or psychiatry, a young person often has no frame of reference to determine if they're hearing good advice or bad.
Similarly, many parents send their children to these camps in an effort to help them. They think that if it's possible for their child to change his or her sexuality, a lifetime of unhappiness (again, at the hands of the homophobes) might be spared.
That's why I wanted to make this film. Ultimately, I would like to educate, first, parents who do or might one day have homosexual children, and to show them that love and acceptance, not reparative therapy, is the best way for raising their gay or lesbian child.
Second, I would hope that the film might serve as a beacon of hope for young people in the world who think they might be able to change their sexuality. I want it to become clear to them that even if such a thing were possible, they shouldn't have to try.
SDGLN: California has banned reparative therapy for minors, and now New Jersey and Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced similar bills. Do you see this as a trend or an exception?
Bryant: The attitudes toward homosexuality have changed swiftly in the country over the past decade. Things have come a long way since 2004 when gay marriage was a divisive issue in the election and so many Americans voiced that they did not believe in equality.
However, as time has passed those beliefs have swung in the opposite direction. Now, for the first time, a majority of Americans -- including the President -- favor same sex marriage equality. Tolerance, acceptance, and equality are taking the place of fear, ignorance, and bigotry.
I believe the recent developments in California are an example of that. I also believe the trend will continue in more states soon. It will likely be many years before all states agree to grant full equality for gays and lesbians, and likely many years before reparative therapy is abolished completely. But for now, every little step in the right direction is positive and I hope they continue.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.