Actor Bruce L Hart
After completing work on his new gay feature film Open, which is now playing the festival circuit and recently won an award, actor/producer Bruce L Hart talks gay filmmaking, distribution and the LGBTQ film scene.
Q: So OPEN is making quite a splash on the festival circuit?
Bruce L. Hart: It sure is. After a bit of a slow start we are really picking up momentum. We just appeared in Philadelphia at the qFlix Festival, we’ve booked a festival in Oklahoma and one in Massachusetts, and of course all the Los Angeles screenings and appearances in festivals prior to these.
Q: OPEN won an award recently correct?
Bruce L Hart: Yes it did! At our very first screening in Texas. At QCinema in Ft. Worth, Texas we were awarded the Best Comedy Award!! Talk about exciting! By the way, that festival is extremely well run and they show some of the most diverse LGBTQ film content. But I have to say, the highlight for me was getting to meet and hang out with Andrea Meyerson, who has produced so many compelling LGBTQ films. They screened her documentary Letter to Anita. A brilliant film about a woman who fought the odds and overcame the oppression that Anita Bryant tried to sponsor in Florida. It should be required viewing for all LGBTQ people as a reminder of where we never want to be again!
Q: There have been comments that film festivals are on their way out. What are your thoughts?
Bruce L Hart: Well it’s true that the glory days for many festivals are ending. Traditionally festivals were where a filmmaker would show their film in hopes of attracting a distributor. Nowadays, with so many self-distribution options, the distributors are also becoming less necessary, which is in turn affecting the festivals. And also corporate sponsorship dollars are disappearing. But I want to go on record as saying we still need these festivals! They serve as a gathering place for LGBTQ people to socialize and see films that are important to them. And many films are not going to get the visibility on a self-distribution platform without some festival attention first. For me, I just love the opportunity to meet with LGBTQ filmmakers from all over and share ideas. Since I am in a position to do so I have started donating to festivals that are need of funds. Everyone who is able to do so should.
Q: You have been vocal about fake film festivals? Would you care to elaborate?
Bruce L Hart: (Chuckles) Why I would be delighted to! Put simply, there is an increase of scam film festivals that prey particularly on young filmmakers. These scam festivals want your money! They charge exorbitant fees for each aspect of their event. One (which I won’t name) offers awards BEFORE the film has been screened. Of course the filmmaker needs to pay a fee first. Then they screen the film for which the filmmaker is asked to “buy tickets for their friends” and finally they have a “red carpet reception” where they present the award. Needless to say entrance to the reception is “for a fee” and it’s a “cash bar”. This is NOT a festival. This is a scam. By the time hapless filmmakers end up paying the fees, they could have booked a theatre and shown their film legitimately on their own. And there are online festivals that charge you to screen your film in an “online festival”. Nope not falling for that one either.
Q: Sooo let’s talk politics….you’ve been very outspoken about LGBTQ rights
Bruce L Hart: (Groans) Okay, if we must. Yes I’ve been outspoken lately especially on social media. But I am not alone. I think this new administration has awakened the sleeping activist in many of us. I often refer to myself as “the reluctant activist”. Meaning, I did this once before years ago and now apparently I have to start anew. Fortunately I am seeing the rise of younger LGBTQ people to activism and I believe we can and will defend our rights as LGBTQ citizens and as human beings. Every day there is just one more horrifying event coming from the new administration. Social media is just blowing up with resistance messages. I refuse to accept the “new normal”. It is anything but normal. This change in the political climate is going to influence future LGBTQ projects. Hopefully in a positive manner.
Q: Is OPEN political?
Bruce L Hart: Now that’s an interesting question. Two years ago when we starting planning this project I might have answered differently. But now I would say YES! It’s political. We are showing well-adjusted gay people with good jobs and happy lives living in the suburbs. That’s probably scary to some of the folks on the wrong side of the political spectrum! Someone once scornfully referred to this type of project as “Heteronormative”. Maybe it is. But it IS designed to entertain. I have produced similar themed stage projects in Los Angeles and they have always been enormously popular. I believe that people are starved for basic gay entertainment—and it’s my goal to provide that. Not every film or stage project has to have a message or educate mainstream people. It’s okay to just produce pure entertainment for and about LGBTQ people. Open is a comedy about a monogamous gay couple on the eve of their ten-year anniversary who start to question if fidelity is working for them. It’s a gay rom com for want of a better description…with a happy ending! And yes…it is now political!
Q: You write and produce theatre and film projects. Can you share any new projects you have in work?
Bruce LHart: I do a great deal of writing with my brother Paul A. Hart. He also directed Open. Together we have several new scripts in various stages of development including a mainstream TV movie and another LGBTQ rom com. And I am seriously tempted to produce a revival of one of my stage plays. They have always done well. In fact my last play Naked Deception became the feature film Homewrecker. It would be great to do some live theatre again. But right now I am focusing on distributing Open, and focusing on any acting projects that might come my way.
Q: Speaking of that…as an actor what’s happening?
Bruce L Hart : Well I just wrapped an appearance in a TV movie called Unfallen which features James Hong and Michael Madsen. It’s due out later this year. And like everyone else I keep auditioning! Also the producers of the digital series Old Dogs and New Tricks are planning a final season of shows and I am just dying to return as Nelson Van Eddy, the infuriating talent agent we love to hate. I just had a meeting with the series creator and star Leon Acord and he’s actively fundraising for it on GoFundMe. I really think this show needs to return because of its positive focus on gay men “of a certain age” and because of the wicked political humor which will be even more biting in these troubling political times. I would love to reunite with the ODNT family! So if you are able to donate please do!
Link to GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/ODNTs4
Q: So what’s next for OPEN? When can the public see it?
Bruce L Hart: Very soon! We definitely plan to do more of the festival circuit and then we are weighing a few distribution options including self-distribution. We plan to stream it on some of the usual places like Amazon, iTunes and NetFlix and we will also offer a limited Blu Ray DVD release around October. I hope everyone watches it and enjoys it!
Filming the final scene in Open (Left to right Bruce L Hart and Peter Szeliga)
The cast of Old Dogs and New Tricks
Bruce L Hart and Rebekah Kochan in Open
Bruce L Hart and Peter Szeliga in Open
Filming a fantasy scene in Open (Left to right Bruce L Hart, Lilian Lev, Peter Szeliga)