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Filmmaker Ed Breeding: "I would not do the stereotypical gay subjects that Hollywood films and TV had already done"

Ed Breeding is as rugged as the mountains in New Mexico, his adopted home. As a painter, he has a fascination with native populations, particularly American Indian culture. Lately, Breeding has been focused on making documentaries, including his first that profiles gay men who are atypical of those often pictured in mainstream media.

This month, Breeding connected with PFLAG San Diego and the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle (who writes the RGOD2 column for SDGLN) of St. Paul's Foundation for International Reconciliation to document how religious homophobia is endangering the lives of LGBT people across the world. "It is the most important and major film I have undertook, to date," Breeding said. "The film will go into countries in Africa and to Jamaica, where LGBT people are being persecuted and murdered, and this film is designed to counteract that with love and understanding; inclusion, not exclusion."

Early in his career, Breeding climbed the corporate ladder as a superintendent with La-Z-Boy Chair Co. in Michigan and Tennessee before leaving it all behind for a more satisfying life as an artist and observer of the human situation. He would find himself in New Mexico, a spiritual place where native populations mingle with those with Mexican roots. It's a magical place where he finds inspiration all around him.

His latest documentary, "Straight Line Curve," profiles seven gay men who have made a difference in New Mexico and who live far outside the LGBT mainstream. "I would not do the stereotypical gay subjects that Hollywood films and TV had already done," Breeding said in the exclusive interview with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

SDGLN: Why did you decide to do the “Straight Line Curve” documentary?

Most of my previous 10 documentary films have dealt with indigenous people of the Americas. I had never done a gay subject matter film previously. When suggested by a few friends that I should do a film about gays, I began by thinking of what I would not do. I would not do the stereotypical gay subjects that Hollywood films and TV had already done: gays in the arts, hairdressers, etc., or suicides and death of the gay at the end of the film, or AIDS.

With knowing what I did not want to do, that left me with what I have oftentimes seen and greatly admired about some types of gay men that I have met since living here in the Southwest.

SDGLN: What is your message for viewers?

My message for the viewers is to help them realize that there are a multitude of gay men across the country that do not fit the stereotype of what they may previously have seen or heard about gays, whether in films or general populace assumptions. I want the viewer to see another side of gays, which are positive, fulfilled, optimistic, happy and proud, and not that much different than how we perceive straight men to be … except these men in “Straight Line Curve” prefer the company of other men.

SDGLN: Why did you cast those seven particular men as your protagonists in the documentary? How did you find them? Did you have a casting call, or are these people you know in New Mexico?

I found and cast the seven men in the film to fit the above criteria. I already knew a few of the men, and for the rest I let various people know what I was searching for, and they came up with many recommendations. They were easy to find, and there were many more that wanted to be in the film, but I chose to keep the film short, and thus not needing any more that the seven.

SDGLN: Jess Williams says “being gay is just a label.” Jeff Anderson doesn’t like the term “gay.” Do you agree with them, and why do you think they seem uncomfortable with their sexual identity?

I don’t think Jess Williams and Jeff Anderson are so uncomfortable with being gay, as much as they just wanted the audience to know that they are much more than just that "label." They are high profile professionals, as are most of the men in the film, and being gay is just one part of who they are.

SDGLN: All seven men are older and accomplished in their diverse careers. Why did you focus on older, career-oriented men?

“Straight Line Curve” is more like a pilot film for me, and I focused on this type of seven men in order to bring home the message to the viewer that this segment of gays exist throughout our society.

SDGLN: Where can audiences see your documentary? Has it been released on DVD?

“Straight Line Curve” has been entered into 14 National film festivals, and most of these festivals take place in the fall and winter, and consist mostly of GLBT festivals across the country.

I have not released the DVD yet to commercial outlets, but anyone wishing to purchase the DVD my get it by contacting me at: breeding4051@comcast.net, Ed Breeding – 308 W. Madrid Ave. – Las Cruces, NM 88005. The DVD cost is $15 plus $4 shipping and handling.

SDGLN: Several of the men in the documentary did not come out until much later in life, after having married and had children. Dr. Jake Adams and his partner have adopted a young son. What statement are you making here?

As for some of the men in “Straight Line Curve” not coming out until older, I feel this is very typical of this type of gay men that this film typifies, it does not, nor was it meant to represent the younger professional gays of today who are much more comfortable coming out; mainly because of a more aware society, and because of films and TV that have been very successful in better educating the public about gays, versus the horrific job organized religion has done. But for older professional men in society that are gay, they did not have all this understanding and acceptance that younger gay men have. I wanted this film to tell the older gays typical story.

When searching for the seven gay men to take part in “Straight Line Curve,” it did not matter whether they had children of their own, or had adopted. What I wanted with each man that I chose was that there would be something in their work, careers, backgrounds, etc., that had good visuals of the outdoors, whereby it would make the film more interesting to watch, instead of the viewer just seeing someone on the screen talking. I am very conscious of not wanting to bore the audience, as film is visual, and thus my need to show some interesting visuals along with each man’s talk.

SDGLN: What is your background?

My background is USAF for four years, then working my way up the "ladder" to becoming superintendent with La-Z-Boy Chair Co. in Michigan and Tennessee. After realizing there was more to life than money, power and position, I left the industrial management world to pursue a career in the arts.

I am gay, and very proud to be so, as I now see and understand that the majority of the heterosexual men that I know appear to be still living in the “dark ages,” and unaware of what is happening on the planet, as much as many gay people seem to be.

SDGLN: What are your future plans?

My future plans are to continue making documentary films that are important to me and also important to society at large.

Since a number of national GLBT organizations have seen “Straight Line Curve,” I have now been asked by a PFLAG group in San Diego to do two more films about gay blacks associated with religious organizations in this country to be shown in African countries to counteract the persecution and murders of GLBT people in their countries by religious fanatics there.

I have been asked to go to Washington, D.C. to find such people for these two films. Linda Miles, with PFLAG in San Diego, and the Rev. Albert Ogle [head of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, and SDGLN Contributor and author of the weekly RGOD2 column], Global Alliance are working with me to produce these two films.

I also have plans to do a film about the orphans in Juarez, Mexico. The website about these orphans is HERE.

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.