If your Halloween weekend didn’t include as many sexual exploits as you would have liked; if “Brokeback Mountain” left you yearning for more; if you’re “curious,” or just in the mood for some unconventional entertainment, the solution is closer than you think. “OUTrageous,” the 15th annual Santa Barbara Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Film Festival, returns Nov. 2-5 to satisfy, educate and entertain audiences with award-winning gay and lesbian films, panel discussions and even a reception featuring honored directors, actors and producers. Artsweek sat down with spokesperson Mashey Bernstein, the festival’s longest standing member, to get the behind-the-scenes story.
How did “OUTrageous” get started?
Originally, a group of us were members of a book club, but we loved film, so we decided to put on a film festival. When we started, there weren’t a lot of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] films, and we felt that it was important to bring them to Santa Barbara. Over the years there have been more gay films, but not a lot of them get any sort of wide or general release-you can only see them at a film festival.
How do you feel about holding the festival in Santa Barbara against the success of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival?
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is much bigger than we are, but we have a good relationship with them. They’re really supportive, as is the community as a whole. In fact, this year, we have our first corporate sponsor. Really, they cover a much broader range of films; we cover a smaller range and have a specific target audience, but both festivals are for people who love film.
You have a wide range of films and guests. How are they selected and what is that process like?
First of all, we have to watch a lot of bad movies! (She laughs.) We have a committee that really looks at over 100 films. We start viewing them in June, and we don’t finish until the end of September. I try to see as many as I can at other festivals; some people go to the Outfest in Los Angeles, and they pick the best that they saw. Much of it depends on the availability, and a lot of films come out on DVD. With stars, we’re lucky because we’re close to Los Angeles. We host them, we give them room and board, and that’s part of the festival.
Is there any certain film or guest you’re particularly excited about?
This year, we have more guests than ever, with 15 directors, stars and producers coming in. We have “The Gymnast,” and the film’s director, the producer and both stars coming. It’s really beautifully made. We have some fun films, and we do some serious stuff too. The film “Meth” features the problems with crystal meth, and that’s followed by a discussion panel. We tackle some serious subjects. We’re not trying to pretend like we’re a community without issues.
Do you have any plans to expand?
We’re lucky that we’ve made it into the corporate world. It would be great to do well and get more money. We try to raise as much as we can, and this year, we’ve raised more than ever before, and it all goes back to the festival. It would be great if it was a little longer than a couple of days.
Do you feel that this film festival successfully connects the gay and lesbian community with the heterosexual community?
Well, we cater to our own audience, but it has been successful in the way that it has been supported by the community, and also by the theaters and venues. There is visibility; we want people to see our lesbian and gay community, and so we like to have it on State Street. The content of the films is important, but our presence in town is really important, too.
We also feel a responsibility to the community: students can get discounted tickets, and if people can’t afford the tickets, they can volunteer and get in to see the films. We try to do as much as we can.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about the “OUTrageous” Film Festival?
It builds community to be in the same place so that everyone can see everyone else, and it’s a community building event because when everyone is of the same mindset and they’re watching the same movie, part of the fun is to be in that environment and to understand what the director was thinking. It’s just the sheer fun of being in the theater with people who think and react in the same way.
Passes for “OUTrageous” are $60, and individual tickets cost $10 for evening programs. Students can bring their ID for discounted prices; tickets can be purchased at Fiesta Five Theaters or online at www.outrageousfilmfestival.org.