GLAAD’s film industry work takes center stage at the Toronto International Film Festival

GLAAD’s banner past year of work in the film industry was highlighted at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) during a dynamic panel about LGBTQ representation and how the organization works proactively behind-the-scenes to create narratives that help flip the script in Hollywood.

In GLAAD’s first year attending TIFF, the organization led a TIFF Industry conference panel titled, “DIALOGUES: GLAAD - FROM WATCHDOG TO RESOURCE.” The conversation examined how GLAAD’s entertainment media strategy has transitioned over the decades from having a primary focus in Hollywood of protecting against defamation to pre-production consulting and working at the script level to help create authentic narratives on screen. The panel went into specific details about what goes on behind-the-scenes in GLAAD’s discussions with film studios and how GLAAD maneuvers to strategically to change the culture.

Joining GLAAD on the panel was Boy Erased director/actor/screenwriter Joel Edgerton and book author Garrard Conley. Participant Media SVP of Marketing Laura Kim, with whom GLAAD worked closely in the past year to help drive A Fantastic Woman to a Foreign Language Film Oscar win, also participated. The panel was moderated by Tre’vell Anderson of the LA Times.

“It was sort of important to me - in the same instance that I was taking Garrard’s book and turning it into a film - that I needed his constant communications, support, and approval on even the finest detail,” Edgerton explained, adding, “I felt like we had the same interest to do that on a script level, and then throughout production to get the support and approval of GLAAD and other organizations.”

“It was very important for me that representation (on the set of Boy Erased) was something that I was being very aware of,” he continued. “And it also just made me confident as a filmmaker to make sure that we were doing the right thing by representation and doing the right thing by Garrard’s story."

GLAAD at TIFF 2018Kim shared her experiences working with GLAAD on last year’s Chilean film A Fantastic Woman, which went on to win an Academy Award in the Foreign Language Film category. Kim’s studio, Participant Media, is dedicated to entertainment that brings social awareness and engages audiences to participate in positive social change. She described how GLAAD and Participant locked arms early on (along with distributor Sony Pictures Classics) to help bring wider awareness to this important story which starred a transgender actress (Daniela Vega) in a leading trans role.

“We never really thought that (A Fantastic Woman) would not be something that (GLAAD) supported, but we did want to make sure that if there were any red flags that we weren’t thinking about that they would take a look and give their thoughts,” Kim articulated. “Luckily, they were really really supportive and we started working very early on to sort of map out a plan with the distributor, Sony Pictures Classics, and to find a way that they could really support the film and help (star) Daniela (Vega) feel safe.”

On Tuesday, GLAAD joined Joel and Garrard, along with Boy Erased stars Nicole Kidman and Troye Sivan, for the film’s TIFF premiere. Joel and Troye both wore GLAAD’s Together movement light blue “&” pin on their lapels, a symbol which represents all marginalized communities standing united together.

However, during a post-screening Q&A, it was surprise guest Martha Conley - Garrard’s mom - who stole the show from the big name stars. Having just seen the film for the first time, she captivated the audience with her recollection of when Garrard first came out of the closet to her. She explained how she and Garrard had always bonded by going to the movies together and further, how Kidman had always been their favorite actress. In 2003, after they caught a screening of Cold Mountain in their hometown in Arkansas, Garrard tried to explain to his mom how he knew he was gay.

“You know how you think Nicole is beautiful,” he told her at the time. “Well, do you want to kiss her?”

“Well, no,” his mom replied.

“Now, what about Jude Law,” he continued. “Do you want to kiss him?”

“Yes,” Martha replied.

“Well, I want to kiss him too.” And from that moment on, Martha says she understood."

While at TIFF, GLAAD also attended screenings of several other LGBTQ-inclusive films, including the Kenyan lesbian love story, Rafiki, which made its North American premiere despite having been banned in its home country. Following the film’s TIFF momentum, director Wanuri Kahiu filed a lawsuit seeking to lift the film’s ban. She hopes that by getting the ban lifted on free speech grounds, the film will eventually become Kenya’s foreign language film entry for the 2019 Academy Awards.

Other LGBTQ-inclusive films that premiered at TIFF this year include the Matt Bomer led Papi Chulo, Virginia Woolf drama Vita & VirginiaTell It To The Bees with Anna Paquin, Melissa McCarthy’s dramatic debut Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the Belgian film Girl, the Wash Westmoreland directed Keira Knightley period piece Colette, and Lady Gaga's turn in the highly-anticipated remake of A Star Is Born.