Friday, May 2, 2008

Siriusly on OutQ

Somehow the media monster that is Joe.My.God was able to receive my Sirius OutQ interview with Michaelangelo Signoreli before I could so I'll just recap here before I get the file myself.

First off, the Sirius offices are modernly designed aesthetic powerhouse! The whole look of the place is like Superman's Fortress of Solitude but instead of speaking into crystals you speak into microphones. The whole place is glass and carpet and nice wood and it's got all those elements you think something of the future would have. In short - it's a swanky place.

So I get on the show and Signoreli introduces me as a filmmaker, activist, blah blah and then we get into the discussion of my PSA and the story behind it. As I've said before- The PSA was never really meant to be a "Public Service Announcement" it was more just a piece of media I wanted to make about the reality of modern gay sex and getting tested. And, to repeat again, in the conceptualization, writing and directing of the piece never did it cross my mind that this would later be regarded as a "fear campaign" or that I was "using fear to send a message." All I was doing was translating a specific piece of my realistic experience to film- that's all. Yeah it's a scary subject but so is going to the dentist but we all got to do it.

Going forward I told the story of how I shopped the piece around to non-profits and they were all "We can't work with you because you make in fear campaigns..." And I was all, "Ummm..? What? Are? You? Talking? About?" Shrug- whatever. Which lead me to the discussion of viral videoing and the power of You Tube.

The best thing about Youtube, especially regarding gay media is the fact that we can do whatever the hell we want with simplicity of do-it-yourself filming and uploading. We no longer have to ask permission of anyone, go through the bureaucracies of finding distribution and most importantly we don't have to use straight people or straight tactics to get at the core of gay issues. This idea is incredibly exciting and it isn't until now that a filmmaker has complete freedom over their piece or message. Talk about empowerment!

Signoreli then asked about the communication gap between older and younger gay men. I explained the case as I see it. There's a non-communicating back to back stand off where the older generation who suffered through Stonewall and the utter devastation of the Aids Crisis perceive the younger generation as, more or less, taking it all for granted. The older generation says, "you don't respect us" while the younger generations says, "you don't understand us" and nothing is getting done in between. Having been to many activist and group meetings between the spectrum of AIDS to Crystal Meth it's always this resentful shoving match and when the meeting is over people either shrug or roll their eyes or sometimes both.

There is a sentiment that young people don't care, they don't want to be involved, that we know that safe sex exists but we choose not to use condoms and I feel as though that's a misconception. I DO think young people want to be involved, want to be active and want to be a part of things it's just that activism needs to evolve with the times. What I hit upon in the interview is that if a group like Imporv Everywhere can get 300 or so young people to freeze in Grand Central Station than that's proof that young people are willing to get out there and it's just a matter of combining activism with creativity which might just do the trick. Recently 3000 or so people gathered in Union Square to hold a silent rave. 3000 people! Do you know who easily you can turn something like that into an action? Activism still has tremendous room to exist it's just a matter of finding a way to put a creative and modern spin on it.

Signoreli and I then talked about other campaigns that receive the brandishing of fear mongering. Most specifically we discussed the campaign HIV is No Picnic which depicts men who suffer from Lypo dystrophy, crix belly, diarrhea, etc... People feel as though this campaign stigmatizes people living with HIV and only focuses on the negative impacts while not including the tremendous number of people living with HIV who don't show symptoms and/or are completely healthy. My response to that is- go ahead and throw those healthy people into the campaign - it will only illuminate the utter unpredictability of this virus. Some people are healthy, and healthy for a long time if not their whole lives, and other people aren't so healthy. What's wrong with talking about this? What's wrong with shining light on this?

Time ran out really quickly and both Signoreli and I agreed we were just hitting the tip of the iceberg but hopefully he'll have me on again. I've got much more to discuss like: the importance of younger men having the influence of the older perspective, of how knowing and learning about the AIDS crisis of the 80's and the government's slow response might make young people stronger, more self respecting and encourage them to feel responsibility of taking care of one another, how this nation accepts homosexuality yet does not condone it and the trickle down effect that has on gay men's mental health....

All to come.

I'll post the interview as soon as I get it. (Ahem, JMG.) And here's the Piece/PSA I made so you can have a look-see for yourself.

Happy Friday and Rage On:


Boomer said...

I may be 20 years older than you but as a 14 year HIV positive gay are my hero. Great piece and keep on raging!

palochi said...

Great PSA.

I sometimes think some people confuse (and unfortunately abuse) "fear campaigns" with reality checks. A fear campaign is rooted in the possibility that "bad thing" might happen to you so OMGPANIC. A reality check sets you up to ask questions - in this case about your behavior. Asking questions trumps OMGPANIC anyday, in my opinion.

Maybe I'm stating the obvious here. Either way, thanks for the raging.

Cipher said...

Excellent work Eric. I think that campaigns to promote HIV prevention should try every tack possible - it's a war - and that so called "fear campaigns" work with some people, and other people need cajoling and self-esteem building. Some people will respond to campaigns about their vanity and losing their looks to HIV, and others will think twice when they realize how their financial and leisure possibilities would be curtailed if they were ill.

My only bone to pick with you is that "Healthy HIV positive" isn't a wise term to use. Even if HIV did not exacerbate the effects of aging in organs, which is now being studied in HIV+ men in their 60s, the very fact that someone carries a communicable disease with unknown long term effects means that "healthy" can't be used as an absolute term. (It's like "virgin" or "pregnant" - you either are or you're not.) Maybe "Healthier HIV+" - would be more accurate.

VaB251 said...

I found out about you and this film through J.M.G.

As other have said, it's not fear, it's reality.

Good work. Keep it up.


the zak said...

A thought experiment... the strategy of let's get tested TOGETHER BEFORE we have sex, for A VARIETY of STDs. A sexual health checkup reduces ambiguity and can be like anything else potential sex partners might do together.

Anonymous said...

I liked your PSA -- as well as the interview with Signorile which I checked out on J.M.G. -- and I don't understand the "controversy" about your piece being predicated by fear.

To the extent that fear is reflected, it simply is the natural fear that we all have felt when we have gone in for our HIV tests -- some of us many times -- after an incident or two or three or more of unsafe sex. I have been there as I'm sure most gay men have, and your PSA reflects this reality.

Your PSA is not fear-mongering but reflects matter-of-factly a scenario which many, many of us have experienced, and I think that the most effective messages are those that are predicated upon realistic experiences and situations which we can immediately identify with. When I saw your PSA my immediate reaction was yes I can relate, yes I have been there, yes you are telling my story.

I also think that it's important that the safer sex messages need to be varied because what may sink home with one person may not hit home with another.

And I loved what you said on the Signorile show about the communicative ability of the internet which allows the people to bypass the filters of the establishment -- whether it be the media or the politically entrenched folks -- in order to tell our storiesand relay our messages in accordance with our own truths and not as others would have imposed upon us.

-- History of Gay Bars

Gregory said...

I am pleased fascinated with "HIV is no picnic" and think it's great...But I was under the impression that the belly and the facial wasting were a function of the older meds that guys used in the nineties, not HIV per se. Someone elaborate please?

Boomer said...

As for the drugs and liopdystrophy I would venture to say that no one really knows. The good news is that they get new drugs on the market rapidly. The bad news is that no one really knows the long term effects. Those effects also vary from person to person.

I have never had the wasting as bad as some others but have had a "redistribution" of the fat on my body. Not sure if it is due to natural aging or the meds.

Anonymous said...

I do like what Eric put together as it was clear and to the point of the REALITY of things.

There is a LARGE disconnect with older and younger gays as the common denominator in most interactions tend to be sex or the possibility of sex or the lingering thought of sex. Let's just be honest, too much sex is on the brain and that prohibits MUCH if we are going to be honest.

Just look at the comments here: his voice is so sexy, he is so handsome, will they give him a show he is so cute. Guys TURN OFF the sex for an hour and deal with your brethren. I sometimes feel that as gay men we forget that we are men in a 100% male environment with other men who want to have sex with men because men like to have sex because they are men.

I think HIV prevention hits a huge wall because we are clear and proud of our sexuality but no our sexual behaviors and the conditions that put us there. We are a community with bathhouses in just about every major city, we have countless websites (Manhunt, Adam4Adam, Craigslist ) with hidden pictures because you do not want people to know it is you and you call it being discreet the truth is either you are ashamed or you are lying to someone, circuit parties and ski parties just to do what get around and dance, take drugs, have sex and the list goes on and on. There is just too much emphasis placed on sex. I wish that was not true but it is; now do not mistake my words as I am sure there are a percentage of men who go participate in these activities and form a bond with another man. I am not being cynical when I say this however did you have the sex first and the friendship second. Just an honest question.

When is the last time you said to a TRUE friend, last night I had unprotected sex and I am worried. Encouraging that friendship to assist you through that period of anxiety and championing you to make better choices. Well, probably not there is a BIG difference between I am proud to be gay and this is what I am doing sexually. Furthermore the truth for many is that they can express this better to a "straight" friend than a gay friend because you fear the rejection and the "spreading" of your mistake to others in the loving and supportive gay community.

the oldest ex-go go boy said...

I don't get the fear thing.
A little fear is good.
I was exposed in the 80's but am still here to talk about it.
When I was growing up you never even heard about being of course sex was your only way to experience gay life. You could be arrested in bars and sent to Belleview Hosp for having a mental problem. Or worse.
Then in the 70's gay porn and gay bars became a large part of our lives and the gay media promoted that you could never have enough sex. (and made a fortune)
Then came Aids, Act Up, and now gay marriage is a real choice. Choice is a wonderful thing! It's tragic that so many people had to die to make us get our stuff together. Now people are becoming apathetic "it's a manageable disease". But all the meds you have to take to control the virus put so much strain on your liver, kidneys and heart. (and the medical companies are making a fortune) It's not a picnic, thats for sure. Thanks for wanting to help gay people have better lives. Thanks for caring. People like Bush want to make us feel so bad we will give up. Don't let them.
Maybe a new slogan could be...

RG said...

Excellent job man. As someone HIV+ going on 23 years, I must say this was not fear based as all - it's reality.

Bears Are Fat said...

The PSA is nicely produced. But doesn't the message seem to be 'getting tested is scary'? My response to this made me remember that I often avoided HIV tests cause they were really frightening, even though I had done nothing to put me at risk. In other words, I think this PSA ultimately promotes 'denial' rather than 'safe sex.'