Interview with Filmmaker Gail Willumsen (OUT LOUD)

OUT LOUD was the LGBTQ+ Film Festival Feature Film Winner for 2021.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

In late 2015, I spotted a small notice in a local newspaper: an open call for transgender and gender nonconforming singers, for LA’s first trans chorus. At a time when the rights of trans people were (and still are) under siege, this chorus would be historic. I knew it would also be inspiring and I wanted to document it. I will be forever grateful to the choristers for opening their space and sharing their lives with us.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

We started filming in January 2016, and wrapped production in the summer of 2017. I had to squeeze in the editing around other commitments, so we had some down time, but we finally had the film ready for the festival circuit in January 2020. And then Covid hit.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

How about a hyphenate: LIFE-AFFIRMING.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

We started making OUT LOUD with no outside funding because we had to start filming right away if we were going to capture the birth of the chorus. Fortunately, our expenses were low, and we were able to shoulder most of the production and post duties ourselves. The biggest obstacle has been the cost of the music rights for four of the songs in our film. We paid for the rights to show OUT LOUD at film festivals. But the rights for broadcast, streaming, etc. vastly exceed anything we can afford, and no distributor will take our film unless those rights are cleared. So we’re still fundraising.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

What I love is that the comments are mostly about the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles –and not about the film per se. We always wanted the film to be a vehicle to bring the chorus to a wider audience, and to promote the mission of the chorus: to give voice to people who have been silenced for too long. I’m thrilled that moments like the final concert and Rex’s solo, which brought tears to my eyes while I was filming it, also moved so many viewers.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I went to film school thinking I wanted to get involved in feature films, and then discovered documentaries. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick, and I’ve come to realize, over the course of my career that everyone, everywhere, has a story they want to tell. I love nothing better than to sit down with a camera to record those stories.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I’m not the kind of person who watches a film (or films) over and over again, so that’s a tough question. Given the choice, I’d rather watch something new than revisit something I’ve already seen, especially if I loved it.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I would have to defer to my producing partner Jill Shinefield on this one, since she handled all the submissions. But at the risk of misquoting her, FilmFreeway wonderfully simplifies and streamlines the submission process.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Just about anything (though I am a vegetarian) as long as I’m with folks I love.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

We’ve started filming a documentary about a Los Angeles artist (painter, sculptor) whose work is funny and disturbing and deeply attuned to the tumult of today’s world. We’ll be following her journey as she works up to a big solo show in downtown LA next year.

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