Films    Anyone and Everyone    Susan

 


Interview with Susan Polis Schutz, director of "Anyone and Everyone" documentary

Ksenia Zemskaya (KZ): How did this idea come to you and what made you make this film?

Susan Polis Schutz (SPS): My son Jared Is gay and he was so tortured before and when he came out it just broke my heart and I was inspired to make this film to show the tremendous conflict, anguish and fear that children and families and their gay children go through.

KZ: What kind of preparation did you undertake in making this film?

SPS: I attended PFLAG [Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] in New York City and I listened to parents who were in tears to learn that their children were gay, and I listened to gay children who spoke of their extreme struggles of being gay and everyone was suffering, everyone was alone, but the fact that there were facilitators in the room, people running the meeting as well as other families gave them a great amount of comfort and support. So I started to go around to different PFLAG meetings all over the country and I met gay kids and gay families and I felt sad that people were forced to be so unhappy just because they were gay, and I felt terrible that my own son wasn't able to come out to anyone at that time. So that's when I started to do the research to find families from all walks of life who had a gay son or daughter.

KZ: Why do you think that parents of gay and lesbian children need to unite together? Why do you think it is important?

SPS: It really helps because at first you can be very accepting of the gay lifestyle, but when it's in your own family it is a little bit of a shock because it is not exactly what you had thought about or planned, especially if you learn about it later, like we did. We didn't learn about it until after my son graduated from college. And so if you have other parents to talk to it makes it easier because you see that other people have gone through it and are fine. It is just easier to deal with.

KZ: After the film came out it was translated into Spanish and was shown on PBS.

SPS: Yes, it was shown all over the country and it has gotten an incredible response. We sold over five thousand copies of the DVD… And it was not even our intention. The idea was to reach as many people as possible. Apparently it has helped an enormous amount of kids come out to their parents because they first show them the film, and it makes it easier for the parents to understand that they are not the only one that is shocked or a little bit upset at the beginning. And then they come to terms with it a lot quicker. It was translated into Spanish and it was on all the Spanish PBS stations as well.

KZ: What kind of feedback do you receive from families and children?

SPS: They are writing beautiful letters. The response has been incredible, even from Mormons, who say it has been uplifting to see because the Mormon Church is so against it. The Mormon woman was so eloquent. Just thanking them and acknowledging the fact that other people have the same feelings. It makes it so much easier to know that they are not alone.

KZ: So basically you gave people a tool, or a piece of art that can make their lives easier.

SPS: I was hoping that the film would make it easier for gay people to live a normal life that is respected by everyone, and to show them that the suffering is needless. They don't have to suffer; there is nothing to suffer for.

KZ: What do you think about Russia having its first LGBT film festival?

SPS: I think it is wonderful. It is just the first step of it becoming public. There are just as many gay people in Russia as there is all around the world… To have it so secretive is so hard on gay people. It is so sad to have to hide like that… It the same thing in some states in the US, but you can go to New York and California, you can go to the good places and you are fine, but it was just in 1974 when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its mental disorder manual, so we had the same thing.

KZ: It took a while for people to actually accept it.

SPS: But now people are starting to really accept it. I have a really happy ending with my son. He announced that he was gay about two years ago publically and he was running for office—for Congress—and he just won. He is the first openly gay non-incumbent candidate to win in Colorado last week. So we have come a long way.

KZ: Do you know what impact this film made on the families that you interviewed?

SPS: They have been on television and many of them are lecturing around the country, talking about this. We have had film screenings in New York, San Francisco, L.A., Denver, Boulder, a lot of places. And the families attended the round table discussions and then followed up giving speeches. At this point most of these families are activists promoting equality for gay people, so it has had an impact on the families as well.

KZ: How do you feel about this film going abroad to Russia?

SPS: I am so excited when I first heard about it. I am absolutely thrilled. If I can be of help to anyone I think it's wonderful. It's so sad that people has to suffer like this, it's not right. Anyone can have a gay child and nobody should be judgmental.

KZ: What would be your message to parents in Russia and to their children?

SPS: Well, they have to be open, honest, and accepting of the gay child, not judgmental. That is really the main thing.

KZ: There is a huge social stigma and pressure which people here also deal with. I think they need to unite.

SPS: Sure, they need to unite and talk about it in the open. The more it is in the open, you will have role models. Now my son is a role model. He will be in Congress, and you can see that you can have an openly gay person in Congress. And he is the same person he would be if he wasn't gay. The more people see this the more they can understand that being gay is perfectly normal.

KZ: Could you see an Eastern European family as one of the subjects? A: Well, I'm not expanding the film. It's done and I'm working on other things I'm working on other films at this point. But if I had met one I certainly would have included but it just turns out I didn't.

KZ: Well we are hoping that our festival will inspire some people in Russia to start their own work.

SPS: And maybe someday I'll come to Russia and do that.

KZ: Would you be interested in having this film distributed in Russia so people in remote regions will have access to it?

SPS: Yes, I would love to have it distributed in Russia. I think that it would be very helpful.

I wish you so much luck. I think it is a wonderful thing you are doing. I applaud you. You are very brave.