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La Bamba

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The sea-time I’ve been accumulating for most of my life. I submitted sea-service forms going all the way back to 1979 for days I spent with my father on a small swordfish and tuna boat we ran out of Mission Bay. The Coast Guard wouldn’t admit several summers of sailing on the Light Schooner Margaret Ellen, because the letter of the law says sea-service must take place on a registered vessel, and in New York State non-power driven vessels may be, but are not required to be registered with the state. Being a miniature pirate ship, the idea of voluntarily subjecting her to the authority of the revenuers, and disgracing her bow with registration numbers seemed appalling. Such are the hazards of thinking like an outlaw…

I forgot to submit sea-service forms for my 8′ tender. Being motor powered, the state claims it as its own, which means it has a registration number, which means the Coast Guard will count it. When I go for my upgrade, I’ll tack that time on. It’s sensical and nonsensical, depending on how you look at it. Mostly the process is designed to avoid judgement calls, and after 15 years of living in the hazy no-man’s land between the sacred and the profane, I’m mostly quite happy to begin a new career where nearly every aspect is covered, chapter and verse, in the Federal Code of Regulations.

—-

The wildly held belief is that sexually explicit cinema has failed to evolve because it is so highly regulated — 2257 regulations, obscenity laws, the MPAA and it’s nasty NC17 rating — if you’re a long-time reader all of this will be familiar to you.

But whatever impediments to making sexually explicit cinema exist today, it’s inarguably true that there’s vastly more freedom to explore sexuality in cinema today than there was 50 years ago. Laws are less restricted and less enforced, equipment is cheap and easy to use, and the Internet offers an easy means of distribution. And yet, if anything, depictions of sex in cinema have gone retro-grade. This might cause one to question the idea that the regulation of the sexual image is the reason that depictions of sexuality are so universally primitive…

When American Colonists faced off against British regular forces in the Battle of Lexington and Concord, they were similarly armed; muskets, bayonets, sabers, pistols. The Colonists fell back at Lexington, but stood their ground at Concord, and then mauled the British troops as they retreated back to Boston along the Bay Road. As a boy I was school to celebrate this battle, but as a man, walking along the road, my thoughts turned to the British troopers, thousands of miles from home, a simple raid to capture some trouble makers and heavy weapons (there was a canon in Concord) turned a bloody battle with hundreds dead and wounded.

The body-count would have been very different if the British had had helicopters, mini-guns, and APCs. Yes, I suppose the British still might of been pushed back, but the price would have been much higher. (US forces were pushed back in a very similar mission in 1993 Mogadishu, but casualites for the Somali militias is guessed to be in the thousands, where as US Delta and Ranger forces suffered only a 18 killed and 89 wounded.)

James Fallows’ wife Deborah had her gmail account hacked, along with several other of James’ acquaintances in what (anecdotally) appeared to be a series of related break-ins. Like all of us who keep important information online (my blogs for example) geography offers no protection. The internet’s concept of a “bad neighborhood” does an okay job of preventing people from finding their way to nefarious information, it does very little to keep nefarious people from finding their way to your front door, and not just to your front door, but right to the lock on your safe.

China is having problems (again) with tainted food. What the Chinese haven’t learned (yet) is that before you can join the Montauk chamber of commerce you have to show them your USCG Captain’s License and your insurance. Rest assured the Central Florida Better Business Bureau will be taking a closer look at new applicants.

Phil C. Bolger died two years ago this month. This is one of my favorite passages, from Build the New Instant Boats, for his Light Schooner plans:

“The two cockpits are long enough to sleep in, supposedly with the sails for tents, although I didn’t get around to examining in detail just that would be arranged. The motor and fuel are cut off from the rest so there won’t be spilled outboard mix underfoot. I see that I also didn’t show the very necessary cover for the aperture of the motor well. Probably I didn’t see any specially neat way to fit it and hoped the builder would come up with a better idea than any of mine. This is a well established designer’s gambit and sometimes works.”

The Light Schooner Margaret Ellen with our dear departed Sweatbay’s Roxann

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The Comstock Foundation SubGenius Grant and Residency Fellowship

The Comstock Foundation SubGenius Grant and Residency Fellowship

WHERE: Montauk, NY

WHEN: Sept 12 – Sept 16 2011

RESIDENCY: 5 days/4 nights by yourself aboard the mighty sloop Intemperance. Intemperance is a fully equipped 38′ live-aboard yacht. There’s water, refrigeration, and a full galley. You can even plug in your laptop and keep your cell phone charged.  The boat will be moored in beautiful Lake Montauk, a well-protected all-weather anchorage. There is a dinghy for going to and from shore and world famous Ditch Plains beach is about a ten minute walk.

GRANT: We are fundraising in order to offer a modest stipend. This stipend can be used to defray travel costs, the cost of taking time off work, or whatever else the SubGenius Grant recipient choses. The current total after 48 hours fundraising is $125, and we hope this will ultimately be $500-$750 by the time the fellowship is awarded.

WHO: You. You’re a musician, a writer, a designer, a computer programer, a draughtsman, a scientist, a composer, an activist; pretty much anyone who could use a few days of uninterrupted quiet time to relax, recharge, and get some work done.

HOW: You can apply for this fellowship by writing to my first name at this domain. Being the SubGenius that you are, I’m sure you can figure that out. Of course I want someone who will take full advantage of the opportunity, but I’m not going to tell you what to write because this is one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” kind of things. Samples and/or links to your work are encouraged. Please include references because I’m not going to let an irresponsible person stay on my boat, get drunk and drown. That would be a bummer.

SCHEDULE: Applications must be made by May 31. We will acknowledge receipt of your application by email, and the Fellowship Selection Committee will announce its selection on July 4.

REQUIREMENTS: You must be an adult, that means 18+. You must have dinner with me and my family on Wednesday Sept. 14.

The purpose of the SubGenius Grant and Residency Fellowship is simple. In an increasingly hurried and distracted world, tranquility, time for reflection, and the opportunity for undistracted work have become ever more precious. We know that somewhere out there there is a person who just needs  a few days peace and quiet to make something wonderful happen; to finish editing an article, or to lay the foundation for a beautiful piece of music. By offering the SubGenius Grant and Residency Fellowship we want to find that person, give them a few days respite from our over-accelerated world, and see what happens.

Please share this, tweet this, blog this; but most of all send an application today!

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Putting the Y back in DIY (regarding the Kickstarter suspension)

If you scroll down to the bottom of the previous post, you’ll see that earlier today Kickstarter suspended our fundraising efforts for the stipend portion of our SubGenius Grant and Residency Fellowship.

In plain english what that means is that we’re still offering 5 days and 4 nights of quiet isolation, but for now whether or not we can make this easier for someone of modest means is in doubt. We just printed a new title, BRETT AND MELANIE, plus reprinting three back catalog titles, so as much as I wish I could personally provide a stipend, we can’t.

But I still believe in the idea. Here’s why.

When I first came to New York, I got offered all kinds of interesting jobs, jobs I couldn’t take because they didn’t pay shit. “Who can work for $200 a week in New York City?” I thought. I’m a little wiser now and realize the people who take those jobs are the ones who have daddy paying the rent.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing against you if that’s you. My dad was a doctor and that gave me a leg up on thing. I had family connections in New York and that gave me a leg up on things too. No matter who you are, you probably have a leg up on things verses someone else. That’s life.

But when I came up with the $500 number, what I had in mind is that $500 would mean someone from the West Coast could apply without worrying about what they were going to do if they were accepted, as in “Oh great. I got the fellowship, now I’ll I need to do is come up with $500 for the damned airline ticket.”

So anyway, for the rest of the day and through tomorrow we’re going to set aside half our sales as a starter in this very modest goal of raising $500. Buy a DVD, or tell a friend, or if you think it’s a good idea (or if you just want to tell Kickstarter, “Guess what? We don’t need you.”) make a pledge.

Also, there’s a certain irony in this. Quoting from my answer to Andrew Sullivan about other other Kickstarter project:

Unlike the MPAA, these places don’t give notes on what needs to be changed to meet their Terms of Service. You just get denied, or you maybe you don’t, until you’ve invested months or years in staking out your digital space, only to wake up one morning to find you’ve been declared in violation and your investment of time and effort is gone.

Did we get a reason from Kickstarter? Of course not. Did I sent out about 200 e-mails yesterday, e-mail to some of my most valuable contacts, lettting them know about what we were doing? Of course I did. And now I look like an asshole.

Don’t worry, Kickstarter, I won’t make the same mistake twice.

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Now accepting applications for the Comstock Foundation SubGenius Grant

About 10 years ago I was in a book shop at the Johanassburg International Airport, getting ready for the very long flight back to New York and I saw a copy of James Gleik’s Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything”. It had a catchy black and yellow cover, with “faster” spelled F S T R, and and “James Gleick” spelled, J M S and G L C K.

I really hate traveling on airplanes for more than about two hours. I get restless and fidgety and so I avoid it as much as possible. But had learned on the flight from New York to South Africa is that a really, really long flight isn’t so bad. Past about hour seven you stop wondering “are we there yet are we there yet are we there yet?” and just accept that you are stuck on a plane, that it will get there when it gets there, and you should just relax and make the best of it.

With that in mind, I bought FASTER so I could read it during the flight home.

FASTER has all sorts of interesting observations in it, highly recommended. But the thing that really stayed with me was the way that computer airline routing has taken all the slack out of the system. This means it’s efficient, but it also means when it fails, its fails bigger; when it fails you don’t get stuck for an hour or two, you get stuck for a day or two.

Best ever, when my eldest was 6 and my youngest was 6 months, the three of us got stuck for 12 hours in the Baltimore airport because our flight was cancelled because the weather was too good. Very excellent weather across the whole US meant there were no weather cancelations, which meant there were too many planes in the air for the system to safely track (because there had been no weather cancellations) so flights were being “weather cancelled” because the weather was too good. Of course this was an act of God, so we didn’t even get a meal voucher.

Anyway, I’m really big on slack. Slacking off of course, but also just having slack laying around, just in case.

Comstock Foundation SubGenius Grant

WHERE: Montauk, NY
WHEN: Sept 12 – Sept 16
WHAT: 5 day/4 nights by yourself aboard the sloop Intemperance. Intemperance is a fully equipped live-aboard yacht. There’s water, refrigeration, a full galley. You can even plug in your laptop. You might able to pull down a WIFI signal, but don’t you want time away from that noise? Also, if our Kickstarter campaign succeeds, there will be a $500 stipend to help cover your travel costs, not showing up for work costs, or whatever else you want to use it for.
WHO: You. You’re a musician, a writer, a designer, a computer programer, a draughtsman, a composer; pretty much anyone who could use a few days of uninterrupted quiet time to get some work done.
HOW: Write me a short letter. Of course I want someone who will take full advantage of the opportunity, but I’m not going to tell you what to write because this is one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” kind of things. Please include references because I’m not going to let an irresponsible person stay on my boat, get drunk and drown. That would be a bummer.

REQUIREMENTS: You must be an adult, that means 18+. You must have dinner with me and my family on Wednesday Sept. 14.

The problem with a lot internships/fellowships/etc is only people who already have money can take advantage of them. It would be nice for this to be open to anyone. To that end we’re sponsoring a Kickstarter campaign to raise a modest stipend to open this up to someone who otherwise might not be able to take advantage of it.

The Comstock Foundation SubGenius Grant will be awarded on July 4. That’s enough time to get the word out, and enough time for our first Comstock Fellow to sort out their travel arrangement. Whether or not there’s a stipend depends on you, my dear readers. I can only do what I can do, it’s up do you to do the rest!

UPDATE

Kickstarter suspended the fundraising for the stipend portion of this fellowship on March 28, at 11:30am:

Dear Tony Comstock,

This is a message from Kickstarter Support. As our Guidelines
(http://www.kickstarter.com/e/GrA6B/help/guidelines) state, Kickstarter is a
platform for creative projects, and projects that don’t meet our guidelines are
taken down.

Your project, “Comstock Foundation Sub Genius Grant,” falls outside of our
guidelines, and as a result it has been removed from Kickstarter. We apologize if
there was confusion about Kickstarter’s Guidelines.

Thanks,
Kickstarter Support

After 25 years of doing the independent artist thing, I know one of the hardest things is to have time and money at the same time. That’s why I wanted to figure out a way to have a stipend to go with the quite time on the boat. I will put my thinking cap on and see if there’s some way of to make this happen.

UPDATE II

Starting right now we’re doing a 50% fundraiser. For the next 24 (12pm-12pm) hours 50% of all purchases will go into the Comstock SubGenius Grant fund. Maybe that’ll be $12.50, or maybe it’ll be $1000. It’s all up do you!

What Andrew Sullivan doesn’t understand about the MPAA.

I am, of course, very pleased and thankful to see our Brett and Melanie Kickstarter project get picked up yesterday by Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. We saw an almost instantaneous $125 jump in our funding total for which I am grateful, and inbound traffic to ComstockFilms.com on the search [tony comstock] was up yesterday by about 500%. Thank you Andrew and team.

I was surprised (and maybe a little hurt) to see Sullivan, a conservative, frame this project as an anti-MPAA prank, appending to his post an inter-office memo from Matt Stone regarding changes that were made to Team America South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut to achieve an R-rating.

(Note. Thanks to reader Ryan for the title correction on the memo! I think the larger point about pranking/defying the MPAA in the below passage about Team America stands.)

The Team America story is a familiar one to anyone who pays attention to how exploitation filmmakers arbitrage the R/NC17/NR boundary.

After a publicity generating pre-release dust up about puppet sex, the producers of Team America released the film theatrically with an R-rating, and on an unrated DVD with the stock standard “Uncensored and Unrated” in provocative red stenciling. The inference we’re supposed to draw is clear: by releasing Team America as an unrated DVD, the brave producers have boldly defied the MPAA to present the untrammeled director’s vision, free from the meddling interference of the craven and hypocritical ratings board.

It’s also complete, 100% bullshit; and it’s bullshit for a couple of reasons.

To begin with, there is no difference between level of content you can put in a film/DVD rated NC17 by the MPAA and film/DVD that is released without a rating. Like the X-rating it replaced, the NC17 is the MPAA’s adults only rating, and there is no upper threshold for sex, violence, language, or crudeness. Whatever vulgarity Parker and Stone included in the “Uncensored and Unrated” DVD, that same vulgarity would also have been acceptable in an NC17 rated version.

More importantly, as the fact that Parker and Stone were able to release Team America as an unrated DVD demonstrates, in the US there’s no legal requirement that any film be submitted to the MPAA, or any other ratings or censorship body.

There’s a lot of confusion about film ratings, censorship, and US standards vs standards in other countries, and perhaps one the reasons that Sullivan is confused about this is because in his country of birth, every film that hopes to be released, either theatrically or on DVD, must pass before a government run and legally mandated BBFC ratings board. In the UK there is no option to release an “Uncensored and Unrated” DVD or screen unrated films in theaters.

In fact, because our own films would likely receive the highly restrictive R18+, a rating that would only allow them to be sold in licensed sexshops, rather than in the unlicensed LGBT and feminist book stores in which they are popular, our films are imported and and distributed in the UK (and other countries) in direct defiance of government censors.

And unlike Stone and Parker’s “bold defiance” of their MPAA overlords by releasing Team America on an “Uncensored and Unrated” DVD, the people in the UK, Canada, and elsewhere who import and distribute our DVDs and screen our film risk fines and jail time to do so. (For more on the “The damned MPAA wants to give my film an NC17! Boo hoo! So buy the unrated DVD! That’ll show ‘em!” schtick, please read The MPAA Took My Baby Away!: Why exploitation filmmakers love to hate the Motion Picture Association of America over at my scholarly blog The IntenttoArouse.com)

So no, the Brett and Melanie: Boi Meets Girl Meets the MPAA is not an anti-MPAA prank. More over, as a conservative, I would think that Andrew Sullivan favor voluntary, opt-in, self-regulation over government mandated, backed up by force of law censorship. Or maybe he does, but he’s just confused about which is which in this case. That’s not surprising. Producers like Parker and Stone, Kirby Dick, and others get a lot of publicity out of stoking anger and ignorance about how movies are rated in the US, and this works against the establishment of a legitimate Adult-Only film-space where grown-up ideas about relationships and sexuality can be explored with frankness and candor. Separating fact from fiction on movie ratings is part of why we’re doing this project.

But it’s not the only reason.

Part one of the project is getting our MPAA rating for Brett and Melanie: Boi Meets Girl. Part two is submitting variously rated versions to places like YouTube, the Apple iTunes and App Store, posting them on Facebook, etc. and finding out what happens. Unlike the MPAA, these places don’t give notes on what needs to be changed to meet their Terms of Service. You just get denied, or you maybe you don’t, until you’ve invested months or years in staking out your digital space, only to wake up one morning to find you’ve been declared in violation and your investment of time and effort is gone.

To me that’s a lot more important that what the MPAA asks us to take out of Brett and Melanie to get an R or an PG13 rating. I’ll explain why in further posts, but for now, I’d just ask you go back and read this post from five years ago, and remember that when you conduct political conversations in a corporate space, you have no First Amendment protections. That’s true if your having your conversation at the mall, or if your having your conversation  in the cloud. And as more and more of our lives are conducted in corporate spaces, understanding who’s permitted to speak (or show movies, or conduct business) and who is silenced is an issue of growing importance.

How I Got Arrested for Loving a Gay Man

That’s why we’re doing the project. That’s why we’re going to the effort and expense of securing a culturally credible rating for Brett and Melanie. That’s why we’re putting Brett and Melanie into the potentially hostile environment of YouTube and the Apple Stores. And that’s why we need your help! So please, become a Kickstarter backer today and help us reach our fundraising goal!

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BRETT AND MELANIE: Boi Meets Girl Meets the MPAA

Okay, here’s the thing. I’ve always been better at paying people a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work then doing the whole Mickey and Judy, “Let’s put on a show!” thing. People who work on my projects get union minimum or better. That’s the best way I know how to get the level of professionalism I need to make my films and it’s the best way I know how to show my appreciation for how hard people work to help me make my films. I have always been proud that these films pay there own way, without asking anyone to make any special sacrifices for “art”, or for the greater glory of Tony Comstock.

But I’m in a jam.

A few years ago I decided I needed to learn about the MPAA rating process first hand. I wasn’t sure why I thought I needed to do that, but somehow I knew. So even though my wife thought I was crazy, I paid to have MARIE AND JACK A HARDCORE LOVE STORY rated. What I learned about the ratings process helped me write “How X came to be mean Porn and the death of Movie Making for Grown-ups” right here on this blog back in 2007. That in turn became the basis for The Intent to Arouse project, and that project is how I got the gig guest blogging for James Fallows at The Atlantic.

Well I’ve got an itch in my brain again, this time about Brett and Melanie. Brett and Melanie needs to go through the MPAA ratings process and then needs to go through the rinse cycle with the other major content rating systems that are a part of our life.

I can’t tell you why, any more than I could tell Peggy why we needed to get Marie and Jack rated 5 years ago. I just know it needs to happen.

I also know I can’t do it alone. Not this time. BRETT AND MELANIE is a bigger movie than MARIE AND JACK, so the ratings fee is higher, and this time we’ve got bigger plans for what we’re going to do after we get the rating.

So

BRETT AND MELANIE: Boi Meets Girl Meets the MPAA, the Kickstarter Campaign

BRETT AND MELANIE: BOI MEETS GIRL is the seventh in an ongoing series of films from award-winning director Tony Comstock. All footage has been shot and the unrated director’s cut of the film has been completed.

The Boi Meets Girl Meets the MPAA project will submit BRETT AND MELANIE to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA.org) and on the basis of the MPAA’s feedback, we will produce a multi-angle DVD showing the exact different between the Unrated, NC-17, R and PG-13 rated version of the film.

Monies raised will go to covering MPAA submission fees, re-editing costs, and DVD authoring.

Videos of each rating version of the film will also be uploaded to popular video sharing sites, such as YouTube, Vimeo, Daily Motion, etc to see how various MPAA-rated versions are treated by the vagaries of Community Guidelines is TOS agreements.

Project backer will be asked to undertake Social Action Initiatives to register their support for the film in various social media platforms.

Of course we have a Kickstarter page:

Brett and Melanie: Boi Meets Girl Meets the MPAA Kickstarter Campaign

And of course we have a Facebook page:

Brett and Melanie: Boi Meets Girl Meets the MPAA Kickstarter Campaign on Facebook

What we need now is your help. We’ve got a whole host of rewards to make giving money worth your while. If you think this needs to happen, help me make it happen. Like getting MARIE AND JACK rated back in 2007, there’s no telling where it might lead!

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“Did you see my piece in The Atlantic?”

atlanticcover

Steve Jobs, Dick Cheney, and a Bullfrog Walk Into a Bar …

Ways of Showing/Ways of Seeing

Climax Ecology

Sex, Law, and Cinema: 1934-68

1968-75: How ‘X-Rated’ Became Synonymous With ‘Porn’

A Gift From a Father to a Son: Theo Jansen’s Kinetic Sculptures

NSFW (But Then Again, Safety is Overrated)

The Price of Pleasure, Part 1

Is That a Boiled Frog in Your Pocket? Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

The Price of Pleasure, Part 2

Sex, Law, and Cinema in the Digital Age (1989 – 2011)

Kludges, Adaptations, and Evolution

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The Atlantic isn’t just an ocean.

An exciting annoucemet!

Beginning February 7, I’m going to be spending a week as one of 3 or 4 guest bloggers standing in for James Fallows at The Atlantic magazine website during one of 10 weeks he’ll be away finishing a book. Needless to say, it’s a great honor, and I’m more than a little excited.

A broadcast e-mail went out to me and the other 20+ guest bloggers outlining the parameters and expectations; which in a nutshell was “write about what you think our readers would be interested in.”

I have been writing on the internet, as Tony Comstock, and in my capacity as the director of the Real People, Real Life, Real Sex documentary series for something like 8 years. In that time I’ve participated in online forums public and private, chats, kept my own blog, commented on other people’s blogs, Twittered, etc.

And in that time, every single word, every single keystroke, has been in service of one purpose: to impress the reader with the quality of my thought and the uniqueness of my perspective, in the hopes of convincing them that my approach to cinema and sexuality might be something new and noteworthy.

Think about that for a moment. That’s hundreds of blog posts, thousands of tweets, and who knows how many blog comments in service of a single purpose; to get the reader to think “Hmmm. I’ve never heard anyone put it quite that way before. I like the way he thinks. Maybe I should take a chance on one of his DVDs.”

That is not the sum and total of my life (thankfully!) But it is a large portion of my life, and it is the sum and total of my online life. And if living online isn’t quizzical enough, living it the way I have lived it is positively bizarre.

I’m not sure what I’m going to write about during my week. This morning in the shower a series of thank you letters to teachers whose lessons and kindness are still with me seemed perfect. There’s my pet-theory of free surface effect in socio-economic-information systems. There are thoughts sponsored by living 17 out of the last 36 months a boat.

And of course there’s sex and cinema, and the recognition that this is a tremendous opportunity to tell a wider audience about what I do, why I think the way I do it different and special, and why I think it’s important.

BRETT AND MELANIE is having its premiere tomorrow night, a benefit screening with proceeds going to The Center: The NY LGBT Community Center. It’s the first time we’ve ever had a film screen publicly before it came out on DVD — you know, like it was real movie or something. Fancy that.

The film has a lot of laughs, real burst out laughing funny stuff, perfect for seeing in a theater with an audience.

And the sex is hot. Really hot.

I hope I’ll you there!

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Announcing the BRETT AND MELANIE/NYC LGBT Screening Poster Design Contest!

As previously mentioned, we’re going to be having the world premiere of BRETT AND MELANIE: BOI MEETS GIRL on January 21, 2011 at The Center, the NYC LGBT Community Center, with proceeds from the screening going to support The Center and all the great work they do.

The seventh in the ongoing Real People, Real Life, Real Sex documentary series, Brett and Melanie: Boi Meets Girl is an exploration of sexual pleasure in committed relationships and the problematic place of explicit sexuality in cinema. ”Brett and Melanie” depicts a butch/femme couple, and opens up questions about strength and vulnerability in the context of how we portray and interpret gender. Throughout Brett and Melanie’s interview, there is a constant dance of who is strong for whom, of who is vulnerable and who nurtures; and this dance continues when Brett and Melanie make love.

By including frank footage of Brett and Melanie’s lovemaking along with their candid testimony, the film also opens up questions about the meaning of reality in the context of documentary filmmaking, and explodes preconceptions about the place of sexuality and eroticism in cinema

In support of the screening we’ll be doing a poster and palm-card campaign throughout New York City, and that’s where you (my young, hungry, talented designer friend) come in! Help us get the word out about the screening and we’ll help you get the word out about your fabulous design talent!

WHAT WE NEED:

Design for an 11″x17″ CMYK Poster to go up in all the best places around New York City
Rework of the above for a 4″x6″ palm-card
The design should incorporate the phrase “Love, uncensored”

REQUIREMENTS:

The poster should include all pertinent date/time/venue information and include a sponsorship bar

WHAT YOU GET:

Complete creative freedom in the design of the poster/palm card!
Your name/logo/credit in the sponsor bar on both poster and palm-card!
Access to Comstock Films design resources!
5,000 palm-cards and posters of your work distributed throughout New York City!

A complete set of Comstock Films DVDs!

WHAT THE CENTER GETS:

100% of every ticket sold! In 2009 the screening of ASHLEY AND KISHA raised well over $2000 for The Center. With your help this year we’ll do ever better!

SUBMISSION FORMAT:

Please e-mail us a print-ready file per PSPrint requirements
(tony at comstockfilms dot com)

DEADLINE:

Submit your design by December 21, 2010
Selected submissions will be posted at ComstockFilms.com and TonyComstock.com
The winner will be announced in early January!

If you have any other design related questions, please feel free to write peggy at comstockfilms dot com

We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

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Screening BRETT AND MELANIE at Union Docs, A Recap

“There is something magical about being in the dark, with a group of people you’ve never met before, responding to the film as one.” – Tony Comstock, September 2006, An Open Letter Regarding the Cancelled QueerDOC Screening of DAMON AND HUNTER

Last Saturday night Peggy and I enjoyed a rare treat. We got to see one of our films play in a theater, in front of people who paid for their seats, and find out of BRETT AND MELANIE had what it takes to meld a group of strangers into that most magical of all entertainment entities – an audience!

Well I am pleased to report that BRETT AND MELANIE was up to the task!

From the opening stanza the audience laughed, chuckled, guffawed, snickered, sighed, chortled, and murmured at all the right places for all the right reasons. During the unfamiliar experience of sitting through an extended, explicit sex scene, the audience stayed right there with the film. No restless shifting in the seats; no nervous giggles. And when the scene (and Brett and Melanie) reached its climax,  a warm sense of pleasurable resolution washed over the room. Then the credits rolled, the audience applauded. It was lovely.

Of course what was a rare treat for me was a rare experience for the audience as well.

Where the depiction of sex is concerned, there are well-observed lines in cinema, and (for a variety of reasons) films that cross those lines are vanishingly rare, and even then, when a film does cross these lines, the manner of the transgression is well proscribed.

Even at fellow panelist Lisa Vandever’s Cinekink Film Festival, a festival devoted to sexuality and eroticism in cinema, less than a third of the films presented contain any explicit sexuality. This isn’t squeamishness on Lisa’s part. She’d love to show more explicit erotic films, but says it’s nearly impossible to find depictions of sex that are sufficiently engaging to hold an audience’s attention in a theatrical setting. (More about the how and why of this at TheIntentToArouse.com).

Against these proscriptions, the chance to be a part of an audience and  to watch a film about the grown-up pleasure and joy of  love and sex that actually shows what grown-up love and sex looks like is not an experience you can have at the local cineplex, or even at the local indie arthouse.

No, to have the experience requires collaboration between filmmaker, venue, and people willing to take a chance on something most of them probably have never done before, and that is a rare collaboration indeed!

And then of course there’s the fact that Brett and Melanie are a lesbian couple. Or as my co-panelist and Velvet Park editor Diana Cage put it in her post promoting the screening:

How often do you get to see films with a real lesbian couple talking frankly about their relationship and sex life, having sex, and genuinely being authentic and open? What? Never, you say? Oh yeah, I forgot, lesbians are a completely underrepresented minority in popular culture. We rarely see images of ourselves, and the ones we are treated to are often exploitative, or vaguely unappealing.

Indeed, how often do any of us get to see any couple, gay or straight, black or white or any other color “talking frankly about their relationship and sex life, having sex, and genuinely being authentic and open?” Regardless of who you love or how you love, the answer is: almost never.

Diana’s response to the film was effusive, and during the panel she talked about the affirming aspect of seeing women she identified with up on the screen, treated as if their lives, their story, their erotic nature was every bit as worthy of being celebrated as anyone else; and the normalizing effect of seeing that two women having sex with one another, something described as “queer” really isn’t so queer. That when it’s placed in the context of love, it seems as natural and normal and beautiful as any other aspect of the human experience.

Which brings me to my favorite reactions to the film, which are simulaniously paradoxical and yet completely consonent with one another.

The first is from Grace Moon, founder of Velvet Park:

This movie was pretty amazing. Kudos to Tony for making the most lesbionic docu-real-world flick I’ve seen in like… ever.

The second was from a straight woman who was there with her documentary filmmaker boyfriend:

I didn’t really feel like I was watching a “sex film” or “queer cinema”. I felt like I was watching a movie about two people who love each other very much – and what could be more human that that?

—-

I’m not religious, but I used to do a fair amount of documentary work that told stories from an explicitly religious point of view. When I made these films I was always trying to tell the stories in a way that would make people who shared the religious convictions of my subjects feel affirmed without doing it in a way that would make people from a different religious background, or no religious background feel excluded; and in my mind the key to doing that was to make sure that when I was telling a religious story that I was telling a human story as well.

I try to do this in the films I make about love and sex too.

Throughout the entire process I keep it in my head that every one who watches one of my films is going to come to it with their own unique life experience — about sex, gender, race, even about the very act of watching a film of other people having sex — and I want to make films that are as welcoming as I can make them, without denying the inherent eroticism of the subject matter, or  betraying or denying the humanity and life experience of the people in my films.

But whatever my hopes and intentions, there’s no real way to know if this has been accomplished without seeing the film play in a theater, in front of a group of strangers and find out if the film can transform them into an audience.

Thanks again to Union Docs and Colin Weatherby for giving me that chance; to Diana Cage and Lisa Vandever for basking in the afterglow with me; to my wife Peggy for her support and partnership all the way along; and most of all, to the people who came out to Union Docs and took a chance on something rare. There is something magical about sitting in the dark, with a group of people you’ve never met before, responding to a film as one. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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