The Face of Gay 20 (Paul Bright)


Filmmaker Paul Bright first came to my attention a little over a year ago when I visited a TLA booth at the WEHO Book Fair and saw one of his films, Altitude Falling, for sale. The film stuck in my head, but it wasn’t until I saw Paul in person at a booth at OutlantaCon with the film in front of him that I put two and two together. I’m great with film covers or poster art. I’m terrible with names. I’m not so good with math at times either.

So, how does a writer/director/actor (plus someone who wears several other hats) who happens to be gay manage to navigate around the Hollywood system and release independent films? What about the man behind the films? For the answers to those questions, I’m going to let the man himself tell you. Please say hello to Paul Bright and his Face of Gay.

The Face of Gay 20 (Paul Bright)

I lived in New York City six months before I finally got that chip off my shoulder.

You know what I’m talking about: It’s that deeply hidden feeling of resentment about being gay and how I have to think about what to tell new people I meet, or what NOT to tell new people I meet, and always watching their reaction when I mention my boyfriend or partner.

You gotta understand I’ve been open (way too open at times) about my life for 25 years. But the world I live in doesn’t always handle the truth that well.

What blew me away about NYC is they didn’t give a rat’s ass who I was living with. For the first time, ever, my orientation and my private relationship was NOT an issue with my co-workers, new friends, volunteers at non-profit organizations, people who work at the grocery store, deliver the mail, or give me a prescription for the flu. Sure, of course, I’ve always known non-judgmental and supportive people, but I’d never before lived in a place where it did not matter to anyone and I could just be me.

That lasted two years.

Now I’m living in a tiny town again, in the rural northwest, in a politically conservative county. I was talking with the local newspaper editor about the web series I’m doing in town and mentioned my boyfriend in passing: he blanched. His faced congealed like a slug doused with salt. I kept talking as if I hadn’t noticed. But I had.

Yesterday the store clerk asked if my boyfriend and I were brothers. What do you say to someone you know casually but not personally? No, we’re not brothers, but we do live together, eat together and usually watch the same movies together in the evening – in bed – naked.

Part of me wants to blurt out – No, we’re not brothers! Do we look alike? We’re boyfriends!

But I don’t. Is this little skirmish worth it? Will she figure it out on her own?

Remember what I said earlier: I’ve been open and out my entire adult life. Even when I worked for three different railroads, drove buses, taught public school, worked at a very homophobic airline (they used to exist) and as an actor/director in a tiny conservative town in rural Texas.

I started a repertory theater company in that little Texas backwater. The rumor around town was that it was the ‘gay theater.’ We literally didn’t have a single local resident attend one performance the entire first season of eleven productions because of the scandalous affront we must be creating on stage. Why was the theater gay? Because I was.

After three years of that nonsense I made my first feature film. A gay-themed feature film called ANGORA RANCH. It was unbelievably difficult to find actors willing to be in this movie, or in the movie I made the next year. Not even playing straight roles, people didn’t want to tarnish their careers appearing in a gay-themed film.

By the time my fifth gay-themed movie came around, and the world was changing, more actors wanted to be in one of my films, and people stopped immediately assuming I was filming porn.

With my sixth feature film, which wasn’t a gay-themed movie, doors flew open for me. I had 99 actors in the film. Plenty of locations at my disposal. And when the movie premiered the film society bubbled with excitement about how they want to support local filmmakers! (And with that chip on my shoulder, I commented to myself, where the fuck were you five movies ago when I really needed help?) Or even, where were you six months ago for my last film which was about two men who live together?

Dan Savage’s campaign last year should have been titled “It Will Continue To Get Better.” The changes in our world are because we are coming out, because we’re telling the store clerk – No, we’re not brothers. We’re boyfriends.

It takes guts to do it. I want to thank each of you for making my life better because you aren’t hiding who you are to strangers anymore.

Surprisingly, one of the most homophobic careers is the one I have today: the film industry. You would think the “liberal media bias” would actually mean that gays are accepted in Hollywood and nobody cares and they’ll cast people to play leading men regardless of their private lives.

But they don’t. Are my prospects for getting hired to do an ABC/Disney TV show ruined? For now, yep. Do I have a chip on my shoulder about this? No shit, Sherlock. Will this change in the future?

Yes. Because of you.

Thank you.

Paul Bright can be found here:
My current project is: www.jackscoffeetalk.com


If you enjoyed today’s post, please let Paul know by leaving him a comment below. If you have a story of your own you’d like to share, then please contact me and let’s set it up.

The Previous 5 entries in the Face of Gay Series:

The Face of Gay 15 (Kharisma Rhayne)
The Face of Gay 16 (Adriana D’Apolito)
The Face of Gay 17 (Rick Reed)
The Face of Gay 18 (Julie L. Hayes)
The Face of Gay 19 (Angel Martinez)

Original Responses
Dorien says:
December 1, 2012 at 9:41 am
Being a gay writer who lived for 24 years in a time-warped tiny town in the Great North woods surrounded by jock deer hunters and Packers fans, I can identify with much of what Paul describes and went through. Good for him and all of us who have come through the fire.

Paul Bright says:
December 1, 2012 at 10:22 am
Great to hear from you, Dorien!

The thing about small towns that big city dwellers don’t understand is that there are gays everywhere. Even in ultra conservative places gay people can be accepted just as long as no one ever says the word ‘homosexual’ and those of us who are gay don’t talk about our private lives. The challenge is getting people who have known us for years to embrace us as we really are.

Perry Brass says:
December 1, 2012 at 11:40 am
Thanks for this wonderful glimpse into your life, Paul. Yes, things are changing, but for us, certainly, not fast enough. Never fast enough. I remember back in the mid-1970s going to a gay headhunter for the publishing industry named Paul Johnson (never forget his name) who asked me about my publications. I told him that I had been published in Christopher Street Magazine and several other gay lit mags. He said, “Oh, so you write gay porn?” I thought: this piece of shit should have been smarter, but wasn’t. I still get this reaction occasionally from critics and academics who can be so condescending that they’re like comic characters. They never wise up until something hits them on the head, and then they act like they’ve invented everything. All I can say is, keep at it. Your partner is not your brother but closer than most brothers will be. But we are all your brothers, the ones who know and care. Perry Brass

Paul Bright says:
December 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm
Perry – Not fast enough, and yet, actually faster than I ever imagined. Maybe this won’t be an issue at all at the end of our lives? Is that possible?

B. Snow says:
December 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm
I stopped reading when I realized you weren’t a porn director. 😉

Kudos for staying true to yourself and telling the truth to others.

And good luck with your movies!

Kayelle Allen says:
December 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Stopping by to wave at Paul *waves* and wink at Kage *winks*. So well written — I enjoyed the article. After living in NYC where you felt so comfortable, why did you move? Was it to escape the big city? Inquiring minds…

Patricia Logan says:
December 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm
Living in L.A all my life, I can relate to the changing times. When I was in H.S. 20 some odd years ago, being gay was frowned upon and laughed at. Then I went to the university and met and became friends with, a slew of openly gay folk, mostly involved in the arts in one form or another (I was an art student). The first gay film I ever saw was the 1979 version of La Cage Aux Folles. My eyes were opened in a big way and I loved the movie. Today, I have friends in the industry (doesn’t everyone in L.A.?) and I go into a first meeting with the assumption that they ARE gay or at least BI because there is a large percentage of gay people in the industry. WHO THE FUCK CARES ANYWAY? We’re all just people and we all hurt, bleed, cry, and experience great joy. Someday, my gay friends won’t have a chip on their shoulder that has to be knocked off… they will just be accepted for who they are. Nice to meet you Paul.

Paul Bright says:
December 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm
B Snow: http://youtu.be/CgeCzhMlKPM That’s all I have to say about that.
Kayelle: Great to see you – even from a distance. I left NYC for a couple of personal reasons related to my family. I love NYC. It’s the only city I’ve ever lived where I felt I belonged.
Patricia: Great to meet you, too. Who knows, we may have seen La Cage at the same screening on Pico at Westwood. I’m not sure if my mother took me to test whether or not I was gay, or if she had no clue when we bought the movie tickets. I love the original (not the re-make). I identified with the character’s conflicts, even though I was nothing at all like the people in the movie. That was another problem with reconciling my sexuality in the 80′s: I didn’t conform to the stereotypes at all. How could I be gay when I didn’t like women’s clothes, swishing, lisping or calling everyone ‘Mary?’ Hallelujah for today’s kids who don’t have to grow up with that concept as the only possible lifestyle.

Nick says:
December 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm
This was a pleasure to read. I am always disappointed in the negative reaction to the gay label! I really love talking about my boyfriend, husband and we are growing old most gracefully! It is because of so many of the younger generation that we are out, safer, healthier and sharing our experiences with the world! Thank you Paul. I hope all is well and I will be looking on the TLA site for your movies! 🙂

Paul Bright says:
December 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm
Nick- Great to hear from you, Nick! TLA carries my movies, but you can also get them direct from the distributor at http://store.waterbearerfilms.com/thefilmsofpaulbright.aspx

lloyd.songal says:
December 1, 2012 at 10:51 pm
It iis great to read your coming out story. It is amazing to me how the general public still love to pidgen hole you.
This type of behavior just helps to promote biggotry by stigmatizing anyone who might want to befriend you because they have been informed that you are not acceptable to associate because their friends would no lonber accept tnem as being someone they could trust, i.e. “Birds of a feather”syndrom, and their so called friends tney think may ostrasize them from their friends and pier groups.
I am so glad.to hear that you managed to persevere and sucseed in getting the word out for us.

Katherine T. says:
December 2, 2012 at 9:13 am
Loved your story. It’s a shame people still give a rat’s a** who a person loves or lives with, and why. But, it’s their problem and not yours. Glad you’ve followed your passions (in life and love). It makes for a happier life.
New York is indeed a special place, where all of us can be who we are and no one really cares one way or the other. Wouldn’t be nice if it could be that way everywhere?
Goos luck with your future projects. Sounds like you’re on your way.

Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, and the upcoming Falling Awake II: Revenant.

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