“Tru Loved” Premiere and Cast Interviews: Exclusive for The Rainbow Babies!

by Liz Owen & Angela Watson

Family Friendly LGBT-Focused Film Premieres at Sedona Festival

“Tru Loved” will have its U.S. festival premiere at the 2008 Sedona International Film Festival on February 28. The film is the second feature from writer/director Stewart Wade, and is produced by Wade and Antonio Brown through their company, BrownBag Productions.

Tru Loved Logo

The cast of “Tru Loved” features Najarra Townsend (from festival favorite “Me And You And Everyone We Know”), Jake Abel (“The Lovely Bones”), Joseph Julian Soria (from Sundance smash “Hamlet 2”), Nichelle Nichols (“Star Trek”), Alec Mapa (“Ugly Betty”), Bruce Vilanch (“Hairspray”), Jane Lynch (“Talladega Nights”), Alexandra Paul (“Baywatch”), Jasmine Guy (“A Different World”), Matthew Thompson (“Drake and Josh”), Cynda Williams (“Tales of the City”) and Marcia Wallace (“The Simpsons”). David Kopay, the NFL’s first openly gay pro-athlete, has a cameo.

In “Tru Loved” sixteen-year-old Tru is uprooted by her lesbian moms from her comfortable gay-friendly home in San Francisco and moved to a conservative, suburban community in Southern California. Her only friend is a closeted football player - and even that friendship is jeopardized when Tru starts the school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance.

The film also features an exciting and eclectic soundtrack from legendary musicians such as Melissa Etheridge, Rufus Wainwright, Janis Ian and Roslyn Kind, as well as up-and-comers like Sheva and Lanky. Emmy Award-nominated composer and music supervisor, Barry Coffing, rounds out the list with his own original compositions (including a brand-new song written for the film, sung by Ms. Kind).

Tru at School

Wade’s first feature, “Coffee Date,” starring Wilson Cruz, Jonathan Silverman, Sally Kirkland and Deborah Gibson, was voted Best Feature Film by audiences at the Sedona International Film Festival in 2007; that film successfully played over 30 international film festivals, was released theatrically by Film and Music Entertainment, was distributed by TLA Releasing for the home entertainment market, and recently had its world television premiere on Logo TV. At Outfest 2006, Wade was chosen as one of their “Five in Focus” – directors chosen as “the next wave of hot new talent.”

“I’m thrilled that ‘Tru Loved’ will have its festival premiere at Sedona,” said Wade. “We had such a fantastic experience there last year with festival organizers and audiences alike; we’re really looking forward to it.” Added Brown, “Premiering this film at a mainstream festival speaks volumes about our goals to connect the family-friendly themes of ‘Tru Loved’ to the many kinds of families that make up today’s world.”

Due to the film’s timely themes of gay parenting and marriage, and the treatment of LGBT students in schools - not to mention the talented cast - “Tru Loved” formed early partnerships with a number of national organizations including the ACLU, PFLAG National (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the GSA Network (Gay-Straight Alliance), and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Cast members took time from the busy production schedule to shoot TV and radio PSAs for these and other organizations, all to help promote awareness of the film’s important themes and issues.

Jane Lynch and Alex Mapa

During production, PFLAG’s Executive Director, Jody M. Huckaby, visited the set of the film and presented the “Focus On Equality” award to Wade, strongly supporting the message that “Tru Loved” brings to the screen. “Seeing positive, healthy images of LGBT people and their families, along with the many challenges that they face, is critical in transforming hearts and minds,” said Huckaby. “‘Tru Loved’ does this perfectly, and shows how, alongside our straight allies, we all can create real change.”

Najarra Townsend, stars as “Tru”

Due to a filming commitment, Najarra was not available to answer questions for us, but here is some information about this bright and dedicated actress.

Dedicated to acting as a craft, driven by a passion for artistry, Najarra Townsend is on a career path that couldn’t be further from Hollywood starlets that are the stuff of tawdry tabloids. Natural, gifted and most of all, very real, Najarra aspires to greatness on film, the stage or in the recording studio.

Najarra Townsend

This young woman from Southern California is making her mark with every challenge and will soon be seen in a number of fall releases, including a lead role in Strange Angel, which will premiere at the Ojai Film Festival in October, 2007; she’ll star in this fall’s family drama Dawning, and can currently be seen in Have Love Will Travel for which she contributed a song to the soundtrack.

Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Najarra was a child model as a toddler, also performing on stage in local productions, and before her teens was earning acclaim for a sophistication beyond her years. At ten, she made her big screen debut in the suspense/horror film Menace followed by other movies, including the probing drama Cut.

In her early teens, Najarra appeared in various stage productions as well, from musicals to dramas while studying with the LA Talent Academy at the Musicians Institute, performing with LA Hip Kids production company and also pursuing her musical heart with her own group, Flavor.

Najarra’s performance in the Sundance and Cannes-winning Me and You and Everyone We Know in 2005 drew notices nationwide. LA Weekly named her role as one of the Top 10 Great Small Performances for “frankness, innocence, snarky humor, vulnerability and girl-power defiance.”

Najarra has also appeared in many notable short films, including Secrets, which recently won best drama at the Hollywood Digital Film Festival and Antonio Rivero’s Electronica, a winner at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

Upcoming projects for Najarra include lead roles in the mystical adventure Dreams Awake, the stark social commentary of Life Without a Modem and the ensemble piece President’s Hotel. She recently wrapped the thriller Darkness Visible opposite Sean Young, and is looking ahead to 2008.

Jane Lynch, stars as “Ms. Maple”

Jane cut her theatrical teeth at The Second City, Steppenwolf Theatre and in many church basements all over the greater Chicagoland area.

Film credits include “Alvin and The Chimpmunks” with Jason Lee and some of her past work includes “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby,” Christopher Guest’s “For Your Consideration” and “Best in Show”, “The 40 Year-old Virgin,” Margaret Cho’s “Bam Bam and Celeste,” Alan Cumming’s “Suffering Man’s Charity,” “Lemony Snickets,” “Sleepover,” “Surviving Eden,” and “A Mighty Wind”.

Jane Lynch

She recently completed work on her new pilot “Area 57” for NBC. Some of her other recent television credits include “Lovespring,” a Lifetime original series, “Desperate Housewives” and “Weeds.” Jane has recurring roles on “Boston Legal,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Criminal Minds,” “The L Word” and “Arrested Development.”

Jane’s creation, “Oh Sister, My Sister” nice runs at the Tamarind Theatre and Bang Theatre garnering the LA Weekly Comedy Ensemble of the Year Award.

What do you find most compelling about Tru’s character and/or story?

Most compelling was Tru herself. She found herself in an environment of non-acceptance and could have turned hostile were it not for her own confidence and ease with her own Tru self. In spite of it all Tru still loves.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is that I get to see and experience humanity from all different sides and perspectives. It has given me more compassion.

I also love doing low budget important groundbreaking work like Tru Loved. There was something special in the air and the commitment on all sides was awesome.

Has your work on Tru Loved made an impact on your personal life, and if so, can you tell me about it?

’Tru Loved” has impacted my life in that I seem to see same sex couples with great kids everytime I turn around!

What one word would your friends use to describe you?

Friends would describe me as cool. I just asked them. They said I am cool.

Stewart Wade, Writer/Director

Stewart Wade was named one of Outfest 2006 “Five in Focus” – feature film directors chosen as “the next wave of hot new talent.” Early in his career, two of Stewart’s stage plays were produced in Los Angeles (“Opening Night” and “Second Chance”). His first screenplay, “On The Line,” was optioned by Joanna Lancaster (executive producer of “Ruthless People”) and a screenplay called “Wish List” sold to German television. Directed by Wiktor Grodecki, the film was retitled “Ich Wunch Die Liebe” (“I Wish to Live”) and was so successful that it was subsequently released theatrically.

Stewart Wade

Shortly thereafter, Stewart wrote and directed the short film “Coffee Date,” which screened at over 35 festivals worldwide and won several major awards, including Best Short Film at the Honolulu International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Madrid Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, and the Jury Award for Comedy in the Bargain Basement Film Festival. It was released early in 2005 as part of a compilation of shorts titled “Straight Men and the Men Who Love Them” (Ariztical Releasing). Stewart’s most recent short, “Stag Party,” played at over 15 festivals.

In 2005, Stewart wrote, directed and co-produced the feature-length version of “Coffee Date,” starring Wilson Cruz, Jonathan Silverman, Sally Kirkland, Elaine Hendrix, Jason Stuart, and Deborah Gibson. Coffee Date began its commercial, theatrical release in November 2006 (distributed by Film and Music Entertainment). It continues to play the international film festival circuit (over 30 festivals so far) and won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the Salem Film Festival and at the Sedona International Film Festival. The film also won an Audience Award at the 2006 Breckenridge Film Festival. “Coffee Date” is being released on DVD by TLA Releasing, and will premiere on MTV’s LOGO channel in December 2007.

What led you to this script?

My partner (and producer) Antonio Brown and I are gay parents. Many of our gay friends have kids as well. But I rarely see our lives, or the lives of our children, portrayed in movies. I wanted to write a high school movie that was about kids like our kids – normal kids from normal families, where the parents happen to be gay.

If you could have dinner with five famous people from history, who would they be?

Thomas Jefferson, Katherine Hepburn, Ayn Rand, Oscar Wilde, and Alexander the Great.

What challenges do movies like this face, or what challenges has this one in particular faced? (I read an article about a school’s decision not to allow them to film there, possibly because of the GLBT content).

Raising money is ALWAYS a big challenge with a low-budget independent movie (unless you’re doing a slasher film – then I’m told it’s easier). We did face quite a bit of difficulty securing a high school where we could shoot the movie. We had a school all lined up. The teachers and students were enthusiastic about helping us out and participating in the process, but then at the last minute the district got cold feet. I don’t know if it was because of the gay and lesbian content or not – but they initially agreed and seemed enthusiastic, then someone read the script… Anyway, that threw us and we had to scramble to find another school. We ended up shooting at Agoura High School – where I went to high school.

What one word would your friends use to describe you?

I asked my oldest and best friend and she came up with a list! So apparently I’m hard to sum up in one word. I guess if I truly can only use one, I’d go with: thoughtful.

What’s the best part of your job?

I loved getting to work with talented people. Making movies is definitely a collaborative process, and I’ve been very fortunate so far to work with some amazing people.

What’s the one thing about you few people know?

I love architecture. If I hadn’t become a writer, I probably would have become an architect. I still hope one day to design the perfect home (for us).

If they made a movie of your life story… would it sell?

Anything can sell, if it’s written well! I think I’ve lived a pretty interesting life – sometimes *too* interesting – so I don’t see any reason why my life couldn’t make a fun movie. Is Tom Cruise available to play me?

Antonio Brown, Producer

Antonio Brown is a former university professor, an honored recipient of numerous academic awards and fellowships, who sits on boards of directors and consults with social justice and community-based organizations. His educational background, career, and activism are driven by his commitment to social justice for all people. Brown also has had a long time fascination with the entertainment industry and its ability to affect change and mirror our society and culture. He believes that many of us look to the media as we form our sense of self, our identities. Tru Loved is an opportunity for him to marry his commitment to social justice with his entertainment industry endeavors in a way that will provide positive imagery in support of social justice and social change. The story along with the film’s partnerships with organizations committed to civil liberties, civil rights, and social justice make this project uniquely important to Brown as he feels it will be to many others.

Antonio is currently serving his second term as Vice President of the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Southern California. He also sits on the board of Outfest, one of the nation’s most prominent LGBT film festivals. He is an Executive Producer of the award winning feature film, Coffee Date. And, he continues to serve as a liaison for marketing and distribution interests in that film.

Aside from producing “Tru Loved,” Brown has served as the story consultant for the script. He, along with Stewart Wade, has co-founded BrownBag Productions, LLC, which will focus on optioning, developing, and producing feature films, television and other programming with LGBTQ content.

How do movies like this get funded?

We have funded our films by bringing friends and family onboard as investors. It is tough to get a small independent film funded. And, it is even tougher to get interest in LGBT projects from the larger studios.

There is this belief that following “Brokeback Mountain” that it is easier to get studios to support gay-themed films. That is not the case.

Adding to the difficulties is that our interests are in films about human relationships that reflect real lives, rather than large scale action flicks with lots of stuff blowing up or horror flicks that feature physical torture and gore. Lower budget slasher films and bigger budget adventure films seem to have a better chance at the larger studios. It seems odd that they would rather take a larger risk with films that require lots of costly effects, but that is generally the case. And, of course, the public appetite for entertainment is being guided in those directions, as a result.

If you could have dinner with five famous people from history, who would they be?

I have very odd and varied taste. I am assuming that we are talking about folks who have passed away. I have a long time fascination with Andy Warhol. I’d like to have dinner with him, but he’d have to agree to really speak from the heart, which I understand would have been fairly unlikely during his life.

In terms of a filmmaker, I’d like to talk with Gordon Parks. Some of his work, such as “The Learning Tree” influences my interests in connecting filmmaking with social justice work.

I would like to sit with Sarah Vaughan, because I am a major fan and I’d be very interested in learning her perspective as an artist. Also, I’d try to convince her to sing, “Time After Time” one more time for us all.

Dinner with Bayard Rustin would be fascinating. He worked with Dr. King and had many challenges as a gay man involved in the early civil rights movement. We know a lot about Martin Luther King, Jr. I’d like to talk with Rustin to learn more about politics of the era and to learn his take on MLK.

Finally, I’d like to talk with Shirley Chisolm. Sometimes, she seems to have been forgotten as an early female presidential candidate. She was well ahead of her time. I’d like to talk with her about what motivated her and kept her strong.

Gosh, I really took that seriously. You can tell I have a rich fantasy life (hah!).

What challenges do movies like this face, or what challenges has this one in particular faced? (I read an article about a school’s decision not to allow them to film there, possibly because of the GLBT content)

Our biggest challenge, at this point, will be convincing the Hollywood establishment, that is larger distributors, that this film deserves their attention and that it will find an audience. We know that the LGBT community and our allies crave quality entertainment that reflects our lives. We have also seen that audiences in general respond to thoughtful films that offer insights into the people around them. Our challenge will be to get the distribution and marketing dollars that this film and its supporters deserve.

I believe that many quality LGBT-themed and other quality independent films face similar challenges.

What one word would your friends use to describe you?

Committed. If I say that I will do something, I work hard to make it happen. It is surprising how many people just do not show up when they say that they will.

What’s the best part of your job?

Helping to realize a vision. I work to bring fantasy into reality on film and I love it. Also, I have made a conscious decision to choose work that relates to social justice causes that matter to me and the various communities to which I belong.

What’s the one thing about you few people know?

Oh, I’m pretty much an open book. There is very little that folks don’t know. I love a great spa day, just in case anyone is looking for the perfect gift.

If they made a movie of your life story… would it sell?

Absolutely! It’s sort of an action adventure, horror story. So, it is a for sure box office blockbuster!

(Above photos credited to Mark Bennington)

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