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Coming Out with the Filmmakers of HBO’s VITO Jeffrey Schwarz & Lotti Pharriss Knowles

Fresh from the debut of their HBO documentary, “VITO,” Jeffrey Schwarz and Lotti Pharriss Knowles come to BYOD to talk about their project on the work of the pioneer for gay rights and respect, Vito Russo.
We discuss the influence of the Celluloid Closet, the evolution of gays in Hollywood, and taking the life story of Vito to people who have felt his influence but never known his name. Jeffrey and Lotti show their commitment to engagement beyond gay rights and let us in on their new project on John Waters muse, Divine.

Guest Bio

Jeffrey Schwarz is President & CEO of Automat Pictures. Since the company’s founding in 2000, he has produced content for major studio releases for directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Sam Mendes, Wes Craven, Rob Reiner, Joe Dante, Barry Sonnenfeld, Adam Shankman, Paul Verhoeven, John Carpenter, Chris Columbus, Sidney Lumet, and the Coen Brothers. In 2008, Jeffrey premiered the GayVN award winning feature documentary “Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon,” a portrait of adult film star Jack Wrangler. His latest documentary feature is HBO Documentary Films’ “Vito,” about the beloved gay activist and author of “The Celluloid Closet.” It premiered at the 2011 New York Film Festival, and made its television debut on HBO in July, 2012. He is currently in production on “I Am Divine,” a documentary about John Waters’ legendary muse.
Lotti Pharriss Knowles (Co-Producer) is a co-owner and partner in Weirdsmobile Productions, Inc. Chastity Bites, their first feature film which Lotti wrote and produced, is currently in post-production. She also produced the short films Weak Species, based on the writings of cult author Dennis Cooper (Winner, Best Short – FilmOut San Diego, Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival and Great Lakes Film Festival) and Shadow.Net (Winner, Best Thriller – Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival, Golden Ace Award – Las Vegas Film Festival), and the world premiere production of her play Because They Have No Words. …No Words was nominated for two 2007 LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards for Best Ensemble and World Premiere Play, and was published in 2011 by Northwestern University Press as part of the anthology Katrina Onstage. Lotti is currently a co-producer of Jeffrey Schwarz’s upcoming feature documentary I Am Divine. She holds a B.S. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and an M.A. in Theatre from University of Illinois at Chicago.

Episode Breakdown

00:01 Welcome to BYOD.
00:39 Introducing Jeffrey Schwarzand Lotti  and Lotti.
01:30 The start of the Vito project and the Celluloid Closet.
04:24 Creating a document that is a landmark of Vito’s accomplishments.
05:33 Jeffrey’s introduction to film and his path.
06:35 The start of Lotti and Jeffrey’s working relationship and Lily Tomlin’s early involvement.
09:00 The landmark position of Lily Tomlin, and her relationship with Vito.
10:57 The personal influence of the Celluloid Closet.
12:05 Taking us through the cinematic history of homosexuality.
17:10 When Gays were banned from movies–”Sex Perversion,” and “Sissy Characters.”
18:37 Hitchcock and homosexuals–“He was just kinky.”
19:35 Jeffrey’s personal discoveries during the filming.
22:29 Activism and documenting commitment to a cause.
23:39 Gay Pride, promiscuity and AIDS.
25:12 Vito, trailer.
25:52 Where to see the film.
26:33 Jeffrey’s mission behind documentaries and the audience for the film.
29:29 The drag queens vs the mainstream gay movement.
31:02 The Daily Dig Down, doc news.
32:14 Thanks and Goodbye.

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Guest Bio

Jeffrey Schwarz is President & CEO of Automat Pictures. Since the company’s founding in 2000, he has produced content for major studio releases for directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Sam Mendes, Wes Craven, Rob Reiner, Joe Dante, Barry Sonnenfeld, Adam Shankman, Paul Verhoeven, John Carpenter, Chris Columbus, Sidney Lumet, and the Coen Brothers. In 2008, Jeffrey premiered the GayVN award winning feature documentary “Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon,” a portrait of adult film star Jack Wrangler. His latest documentary feature is HBO Documentary Films’ “Vito,” about the beloved gay activist and author of “The Celluloid Closet.” It premiered at the 2011 New York Film Festival, and made its television debut on HBO in July, 2012. He is currently in production on “I Am Divine,” a documentary about John Waters’ legendary muse.
Lotti Pharriss Knowles (Co-Producer) is a co-owner and partner in Weirdsmobile Productions, Inc. Chastity Bites, their first feature film which Lotti wrote and produced, is currently in post-production. She also produced the short films Weak Species, based on the writings of cult author Dennis Cooper (Winner, Best Short – FilmOut San Diego, Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival and Great Lakes Film Festival) and Shadow.Net (Winner, Best Thriller – Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival, Golden Ace Award – Las Vegas Film Festival), and the world premiere production of her play Because They Have No Words. …No Words was nominated for two 2007 LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards for Best Ensemble and World Premiere Play, and was published in 2011 by Northwestern University Press as part of the anthology Katrina Onstage. Lotti is currently a co-producer of Jeffrey Schwarz’s upcoming feature documentary I Am Divine. She holds a B.S. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, and an M.A. in Theatre from University of Illinois at Chicago.

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