How did you get involved in the Family Time Project?
I have been working with COLAGE since 2004-2005, when I worked with the Bay Area Chapter’s Youth Leadership & Action Program to produce the film In My Shoes. My good friend Meredith Fenton was COLAGE’s Program Director for many years. I became involved with the organization and its efforts through her.
What was it like putting it all together?
The process of creating Family Time was different than any other film I have worked on. It involved an enormous amount of research; the kind I really enjoy, which involves digging through archives and materials from many sources, selecting events and materials that seem important to the history, and completely creating the film in the editing room. I checked books out from the library and spent time pouring through COLAGE’s materials, digitizing those materials and annotating them, then supplementing the research with present-day interviews from a few folks who have been major contributors to the movement over the past twenty years.
What was the most challenging part about making the film?
The biggest challenge was that many of the folks who were a big part of the movement are spread around the country, so it was impossible to film interviews with everyone. The film is not intended to be a complete and thorough history, but rather, an enticing narrative of highlights and anecdotes. I guess I could say that the biggest challenge was creating a film that felt cohesive and could be easily followed by the viewer, when the sources of the materials were extremely disparate in time, location, format, and point of view.
What was rewarding about making this film? Did any stories in particular stand out?
It was extremely rewarding to highlight and expose the work of the people who have been in this movement for the long haul. It was inspiring to speak to Stefan Lynch and Hope Manley, who both recalled the moment they met and the creation of the organization that would eventually become COLAGE. The story of those two meeting on the set of a talk show — which was ultimately a debacle and typical of media representation of LGBTQ families at the time — reminds us all that we really can make a difference. There’s no way Hope and Stefan could have known back then what would come of their meeting, but they both recognized a need and acted on it. The history of COLAGE and every organization that has real impact in the world has those moments, and they are so often lost in the struggle of organizations to stay afloat and make ends meet. You never know when attending a single event, making a connection with someone, volunteering, or organizing with others will end up changing you in this way, but there is a real lesson to be learned from the story of this movement, and I hope people who watch Family Time will take that away from it.
What role do you see film and media playing in the LGBTQ family movement?
I believe that film and media are critical to any social movement, but particularly in movements that strive to connect and inspire people who may otherwise be isolated. That includes young people in places where the LGBTQ movement lacks visibility. With Family Time, I picture and hope that young people all over the country will discover the Family Time film and timeline and will realize not only that they are not alone in their experience, but also that there’s this whole history and struggle that they’re a part of, with a range of experiences that are all valid. In particular, I think it is important that groups like COLAGE continue to document their work and the stories of the movement they support in an intentional way. How would we truly understand the civil rights movement if we did not have first-hand accounts, letters, photos, and film from the era — and not just the stuff generated by journalists?
Tell us about the online timeline? How did this idea come about?
I’m a bit of a library and archive geek, and love going through archival materials. All of my jobs in high school and college were working in libraries, and besides the books and periodicals and databases, what I love about libraries is the hunt. It is so powerful to see not just museum artifacts, but archival materals and the stories of the real people who created them — folks who wrote letters and left behind objects that tell stories. A few years ago, I got to work on a project with the James Hormel Center at the San Francisco Public Library that involved an exhibit culled from their archives, and after that, made a short historical film about Harvey Milk’s camera store in the Castro, which was the epicenter of a movement at the time. Looking through those photos and objects connected me so directly to the people who created them and left them behind. The Family Time timeline component came out of that — the desire to not only document the movement, but also to expose these materials and make them accessible to people, allow people to do their own investigation of the history and exploration of the stories.
What kinds of things are featured in the timeline?
The timeline consists of photos, documents, videos, and captions for materials coming from numerous sources — from COLAGE’s archive, from folks who have documented the movement and work over twenty years, and from mainstream media and other organizations. It also serves as a jumping off point, so wherever possible, sources are cited and links provided.
How can someone contribute to the timeline?
Family Time is intended to be a “living history,” one that will continue to evolve. You do not need to be a scholar, journalist, or librarian to add something to the Family Time archive, and COLAGE welcomes submissions from members, leaders, and regular folks who have something to contribute. The most important thing about materials contributed to the timeline are not the materials themselves, but the information provided about the materials — the title, date, and description, mainly.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about Family Time?
Family Time is an archive and history that belongs to all of us. It excites me to think about where COLAGE and the movement might be in another twenty years. What will we think is important then? What will the story of this movement be? And what might you or I do today that could end up becoming a timeline event of the future? I hope that there are numerous young COLAGErs out there who will become the stewards of this movement and the writers of their own history.