Joe Sprague

Joe Sprague loves movies, and he loves the fact that movies can bring a community together—which is why, despite only moving to Tucson five months ago, he's already working on creating a monthly LGBT film screening and an annual LGBT film festival. Sprague started with the idea of creating an organization called the Queer Movie Society, but the reaction has been a bit negative regarding the word "queer," so he's changed the name to Out in the Desert Film Society. He's looking for other film-lovers to get involved. For more information, e-mail him at info@queermoviesociety.org, or go to www.queermoviesociety.org.

How long have you been working on this idea?

Really, I've just started getting volunteers together and getting the word out. The hope is that we can do something in the next 60 to 90 days. Right now, we're also trying to find a community organization to be the beneficiary of whatever money is raised by this society.

Why a film festival?

I recently moved here from Chicago, and I was heavily involved with the gay film festival there. Prior to Chicago, I was involved in another festival in Albany, N.Y. When I moved here, I was surprised there (isn't currently) a multi-day screening or festival, and I wanted to do something about that.

How do you start a film festival?

I got out my Rolodex and started making calls to people I know. Filmmakers who I'm calling from across the country are interested. They feel that there's an untapped market here, and they would love to be involved. I wanted to go further than that, and get the community behind me to do this.

What's the reaction been?

I'm reaching out, and I'm getting a lot of good response, and some negative, but mostly good. That's why I'm hoping I'll be able to get the people and volunteers together I need to go forward. I have filmmakers on board, and a location on board, and now I need an agency to give the profits to. Then (we'll) start promoting and doing the monthly screenings that will build up to the six- to seven-day festival.

What location do you have?

I'm going to be using the Screening Room.

What kind of organization do you want the festival to benefit?

I would like it to be an arts organization. A good example is: Back in Chicago, we had a 10-day festival, and then a monthly festival. By the end ... we had about $40,000 we gave to an arts organization. In Albany, which is a smaller city than Tucson, we made about $30,000 and gave that to a local AIDS organization. The only expense is the rental of the theater, because 90 percent of filmmakers donate the films, especially if we donate the revenue.

How are the films selected?

The films are all juried and judged. We put out a call. I've already reached out to my mailing list of 800 filmmakers, plus a mailing list of filmmaker websites, and I have connections with more than 50 film festivals. We'll put together judging committees and do jurying on the weekends. In Chicago, we juried more than 800 films. ... The guidelines are that no film can be older than five years, and the films must have gay content.

What about local filmmakers?

I've been talking to some filmmakers ... in Glendale, Phoenix and Scottsdale. I haven't talked to anyone in Tucson yet, but I would love to have one day of just Arizona films.

What is the biggest challenge right now?

The big thing is that if you want good gay filmmakers, it's a lot of work—a lot of e-mails and phone calls. I love filmmakers to death, but you have to call them four or five times to see if they've sent in their film. Other (organizers) ... would rather go to a catalogue, which takes a lot of money and isn't new or creative. Our goal is that everything that's going to be shown at the monthly screenings isn't available on Netflix, and that people would be able to see (the films) for the first time.

I'd think part of the challenge would be being new to Tucson, right?

Yes. When I went to Chicago, the festival had already started, so it wasn't that hard to get involved. ... It was exciting. When I was in Albany, I'd lived there all my life ... and I knew a lot of people. Here, I don't have that luxury of having a bunch of friends. But that's not stopping me from trying.

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