LGBTQ Agenda: Queer help center seeks submissions for inaugural film festival

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday April 30, 2024
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Aaron Almanza, executive director of the National LGBT Help Center, is seeking films for the agency's inaugural online film festival, which has the theme of coming out of the closet. Photo: Courtesy National LGBT Help Center
Aaron Almanza, executive director of the National LGBT Help Center, is seeking films for the agency's inaugural online film festival, which has the theme of coming out of the closet. Photo: Courtesy National LGBT Help Center

Seeking to offer a resource as well as artistic inspiration, the LGBT National Help Center is currently seeking submissions for its first LGBT Online Coming Out Film Festival.

The center may be best known for its LGBT National Coming Out Support Hotline. Its website states that all of its support volunteers identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ family. Its services are free and confidential.

Aaron Almanza, a gay asexual man who is the executive director of the center, told the Bay Area Reporter that the center will be making the film festival an annual event.

"We see this as an extension of the services we provide," Almanza said in a phone interview. Though the center is headquartered in San Francisco, its employees and volunteers live nationwide. Almanza, for example, is based in New Hampshire.

There will be eight to 10 films in each category — youth, young adult, and adult — and the theme is coming out of the closet.

"Something that comes up in our calls is that a lot of people ask what coming out means, because it can mean a lot of different things," Almanza said. "We want to give space to those who are not out to see that it isn't just one thing."

The film festival will be free to view online for six months, starting on Friday, October 11, which is National Coming Out Day.

"Part of the reason is so those who might not come to a film festival can view these films in their own time," Almanza said. "Part of the population we're trying to reach can't go to a film festival because that would out them."

Almanza said that filmmakers could submit work from now until Thursday, August 1. Filmmakers are not limited to submitting their works to the help center and can offer their films elsewhere as well.

Brad Becker, a gay man who is the founder of the center and president of its board, is on the planning committee for the festival.

"With the LGBTQ community facing so much negativity right now, coming out has become even more of a challenge for many people, especially our youth," Becker stated to the B.A.R. "The LGBT Online Coming Out Film Festival is designed to give people multiple views of coming out, and to help them through their own journey toward self-recognition and acceptance."

The center has already seen interest, Almanza said.

"It's fairly new but on social media we've had several people liking it," he said. "Several people have already inquired on how to submit films and people are sharing it on social media."

Almanza is reaching out to film schools to gauge interest.

"That is something I'm currently doing as of now," he said. "We have compiled a list and are reaching out to film schools, GSAs [gay-straight alliances], college GSAs, but we are focusing on schools because that's what they're there for."

Almanza said he will be reaching out to Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival, to let it know about the project.

"We are definitely going to let them know we're doing this," he said. "But we're probably not going to be collaborating unless they want to."

Frameline Executive Director Allegra Madsen stated to the B.A.R. on April 24 that "The center did not reach out about the festival. Exciting to see, the more queer celebrations the better."

The help center operates on a small annual budget of just about $135,000, according to its 2022 IRS Form 990.

In addition to its coming out hotline, the National LGBT Help Center has hotlines for LGBTQs, queer youth, and LGBTQ seniors, according to its website. It also has moderated youth chat rooms. Hotline hours are Monday through Friday from 1 to 9 p.m. Pacific time, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pacific.

Update April 30, 2024: This story has been updated with remarks by Frameline's executive director.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

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