We sat down with the founder of InFocus Film School on his experience being queer in the film industry, some of his career highlights, and his favourite queer filmmakers!
By: Kennedy Randall
In January of 2010, founder Steve Rosenberg opened InFocus Film School’s doors to the public. For the past 25 years, Steve has been working as an independent filmmaker in Canada. He is an alumni of The Canadian Film Centre, one of Canada’s most prestigious film institutions.
His dramatic shorts, Corona Station, Watching Mrs. Pomerantz, Vannica, Divine Waters, and Shanti Baba Ram have screened at various prestigious international festivals and played on the Sundance Channel, CBC, WTV, and Bravo. Watching Mrs. Pomerantz earned numerous international awards, including the award for Best Director at The Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival.
Steve has followed up his 25 years as an independent filmmaker by sharing his knowledge with his students at InFocus. He took the time to share his experience as a queer filmmaker. As well, he shares advice for young LGBTQ+ filmmakers making their way in the industry.
Q: What made you want to become a filmmaker?
A: I grew up in Toronto, Ontario. I have always been drawn to the film industry and always wanted to be a part of the creative industry. It was all so disappointing for my parents to have a gay son and secondly to find out that I am not going to take over the family lumber business.
Q: Did you face any challenges being queer in the film industry?
A: I grew up in an era when if you announced to your family that you were interested in a career in the arts, they would be worried you would starve. I am making light of it now, but at the time, it was a huge struggle to come out one as gay adolescent and a second time as a budding artist.
Q: Do you have any regrets?
A: I think this may sound strange, but I believe not having kids is a huge regret for me. At the time, fatherhood for gay couples was extremely rare. Children are such a huge endeavour and not having them left a void in my life. In turn, I was able to really embrace my creative work and feel a huge sense of accomplishment.
Q: In what ways has your sexuality influenced your creative work?
A: My films are not overtly queer, however, my first short film Watching Mrs. Pomerantz has a queer subtext. It follows a nine-year old boy who is in love with his glamorous neighbour Mrs. Pomerantz. In contrast to my mom, who ate chicken with her hands, Mrs. Pomerantz drove a fancy car, dressed in chiffon evening gowns and ordered take-out Chinese food for lunch. From a young age, I related to the strong female role models and wanted to feature them in my work.
Q: Who are your favourite queer filmmakers?
A: My attention to strong female characters is a reason I am drawn to Pedro Almadóvar’s films. I also admire is Ang Lee, a straight filmmaker who was brave enough to tackle a very outwardly queer films like Brokeback Mountain and The Wedding Banquet. I also love the camp of John Waters and the TV work of Ryan Murphy, both queer giants in the film industry.
Q: What are things you notice about queer film before and now?
A: The gay films I watched in my early twenties, which seems like yesterday, featured themes like coming out, overcoming shame, and eventually leads to self respect. I can relate to all of that being queer in the film industry. I believe that these stories are still relevant today, everywhere in the world. In today’s age, however, I am really happy to see gay characters who are depicted facing challenges and having storylines that are not limited to their sexuality.
Q: Any advice for young people who are queer in the film industry?
A: Gay cinema is here to stay and not just marked to the LGBTQ+ community anymore. These stories and identities are important for everyone to hear, not just people within the community. If I could give one piece of advise to queer filmmakers, it is just to keep exploring their own experiences. Their work will feel authentic. This is something that has always worked for me.