OP ED – Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Supreme Court Marriage Decision and How I Overcame My Own Homophobia

A while ago, then governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed his thoughts on gay marriage on a radio program. He said “I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.”

He of course meant to say “I believe marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.” but the sound clip became a joke among people on the left. Of course, it is still quite funny and is often cited as a classic flub from those against equality.

Fast forward to today, where the Supreme Court made the unprecedented decision, ruling that bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional, instantly rendering such marriage legal in all 50 states. Obviously, a lot of people are celebrating, especially on social media. The colors of the rainbow are being superimposed over profile pictures. Most of my friends have put the rainbow banner over their face, proudly supporting this great day for the country. Even here on WordPress, the rainbow is  displayed on the header for the site as I type this article. Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 6.54.11 PM

Even though I disagreed with Arnold on a lot of things, I still liked his page on Facebook. Now given his past comments, imagine my surprise when I checked my newsfeed and saw that Arnie himself had changed his profile picture to this.

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Arnold, the man behind the infamous radio flub was on social media, defiantly showing his support for marriage equality. I was stunned. Of course some people tried to ruin the occasion. This closed minded person complained about Arnie’s new stance on the issue. But this guy forgot something. Arnie is a cool guy. You put him down, his response will be epic. And epic it was.

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This understandably put me in stitches.

How did this happen? What happened to change Arnold’s mind? What events transpired that led him to reconsider his stance? What kind of things did he see? What kind of people did he meet? What conversations did he have? What liberated him from the confines of a closed mind?

Perhaps his story is similar to my own. What I type next is one of the hardest things I have ever had to type.

My name is Eric Hanson, and I used to be homophobic.

Though I was raised in a religious household, it was a non denominational Lutheran take on Christianity. My family are avid supporters of science and enthusiastically embraced evolution as a scientific fact that enhanced our faith and paved the way to a grander vision of God. Regular topics amongst us were such things as the horror of racial prejudice, the injustice of war criminals being allowed to roam free, and the dangers of ravenous greed. We never talked about crap like the apocalypse or the rapture or conspiracy theories. What we talked about was love.

One thing I was told over and over again was respect and love all, because they are different from you, and diversity is where beauty comes from. After all, a rainbow is more beautiful the more colors it has.

Despite holding these views, I still became homophobic, and I can pinpoint exactly when it happened. I had heard the term gay before, and asked someone what it meant. Their response was crude and ugly.

“It is a term for men who stick their penises up each other’s butts.”

From that once sentence alone and onward, I was homophobic. It wasn’t even for religious reasons as I didn’t know the religious context behind the bigotry. It wasn’t from my parents. My mother even scolded me after hearing some of the things I said.

It was not religion or upbringing. It was just that image. Honestly, I believe that is where most homophobia comes from, obsession with the physical act. Some people, myself included, just lacked the wisdom to see beyond that. I didn’t understand that some people just are not attracted to the opposite gender, and that love is not only colorblind, it is gender blind.

My heart was filled with hate. Senseless, vile, unforgiving hate. I could not be bargained with. I could not be reasoned with. I didn’t feel pity, or remorse or fear, and I absolutely would not stop, ever! Until…

Okay. You all know where that joke is going.

So, how did it change? It all began one night, when I was spending the night with someone who, at the time, was my closest friend in the world.

I idolized this guy. I mean really idolized him. He was my hero. Someone I aspired to be like. Someone who was confident and strong and assertive, and someone who had enough compassion to put up with my childish bullshit.

Somehow the topic came up in conversation. Obviously he tried to talk sense into me, but I wouldn’t have any of it. Then he dropped a bomb.

“I’m gay.” he said.

The revelation ripped the words from my throat.

Afterwards, I tossed and turned in my bed. There was a feeling of panic. A strange sense of betrayal at the announcement, as if what he said had somehow harmed me. I must have been lying up in that bed for hours until the thought finally occurred to me.

He didn’t just turn gay the moment he told you that. He was always gay. He was gay every day. He was gay whenever you played games. He was gay whenever you watched movies. He was gay whenever you hung out at school and had fun. He was always gay.

So what is your problem?

That realization clicked like a light switch, and the anxiety I felt melted away. I have never slept better.

The following morning I told him I was sorry, and begged that he forgive me for all the things I said. That he was still my best friend in the world.

We are still friends to this day.

A few more years on, I was gradually exposed to a side of the argument I had never known. I saw the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, about the murder of one of America’s first openly gay politicians. I watched a lot of Law & Order, a show that shunned bigotry and granted great sympathy for those frightened souls hiding in the closet.

One of the most pivotal opportunities in my life was granted me by a lovely gay couple, two lesbians named Brenda and Cheyne. While seeking a film job in Columbus Ohio, these two were kind enough to invite me on the set of a short film they were writing and directing with a friend, and I had my first ever movie making job. Brenda and Cheyne have since gotten married, and they are one of the happiest couples I know.

Meeting such wonderful people, and learning so much about the horror and despair that gays and lesbians had to endure from people like me, it has instilled me with a great sense of guilt. How dare I hold such small minded and horrid views. I was raised in a good home by good people, and taught to love and accept people no matter who they were.

My upbringing was not to at fault. Some people say hatred is taught and learned, and most of the time this is true. I was a rare exception. My hate was discovered, and there is no one but me to blame.

But my hate was weak. Though I discovered it, it sputtered and died, left to rot in some hole where it can be forever forgotten. That part of me is dead and buried, and for that I could not be more grateful to my friends and life experiences for being the cure I needed.

There was a time when the news of today would have turned my stomach. Now I am leaping for joy, just at the thought that my neighbors are now a little more free.

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The above picture is one I shall forever treasure. Arnold may have felt the same way as me as one time, but it is clear he has changed. If he can change so drastically, and show such resounding support for the gay community he once derided, maybe this is something I should remember. Maybe it is time for me to stop feeling so guilty, and celebrate that I can now count myself among one of my childhood heroes. We both once had a disease, a disease that is now gone.

Arnold was brave enough to make the declaration, and so am I. This was my profile picture this morning.

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And this is my profile picture now. After all, a rainbow is more beautiful the more colors it has.

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That’s damn right.

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The Ice Cream Man Trailer

My short film, a fake trailer for an action fill entitled The Ice Cream Man, is finished.

It has guns, violence, Vietnam, blatant racism and women being objectified! In other words, classic Grindhouse. We had a lot of fun lampooning low budget action films of the 70s and 80s with this one, and hope you all enjoy this fun little short. Enjoy.

My Job Interview at the Chinese Theater

In between writing Zhyx, my life has been pretty mundane. I live in Los Angeles, working a part time job in retail to pay the bills while exploring a career in creative fiction in both written and visual mediums. Be it books, movies or video games, that is what the struggle has been down here.

From last October to now, things have been pretty dull. A few internships and checking out some small scale productions aside, the job had taken up a lot of my time.

Then the store cut my hours in half, knocking me down to 15 a week. I asked about it, and it seems they will not be going back up until October. That is barely enough to pay my rent, let alone get things like food and gas. It was a real kick in the pants, but it did give me the drive to go out and look for a second job, hopefully one that would take the place of the store and leave me feeling more fulfilled in my life’s pursuits.

So I started applying to film theaters. The big ones like AMC, Arclight, Regal, they are plentiful in this city. But there is one theater that is more than just a theater, but a historic landmark where many an artist have been immortalized. That is the famous Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd.

The place where artists imprint their hands and feet in the cement outside the auditoriums, the place where every major movie receives the red carpet treatment, quite possibly the ultimate monument to the art of movies. I of course never thought I stood a chance at working there, but I went ahead and sent my application. What harm could it do?

At precisely 5:14 pm yesterday evening, I got a call from the Chinese Theater, asking me to come in for an interview.

My jaw about hit the floor. The famous landmark is a fifteen minute walk from my apartment, so I went ahead and got ready.

Ironically, though I have been living in Los Angeles for eight months now, and have been a lover of cinema for all my life, this was the first time I ever set foot inside the building. Down the long corridor they have portraits of some of cinema’s greatest icons leaving their imprints on the cement, from Clint Eastwood, to Jack Nicholson. From Steven Spielberg to Sidney Poitier. And I stood a chance at working there.

It was pretty exciting, so I snapped this selfie before crossing into the box office to meet my prospective boss.

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So what was the story? They are looking for people to work over the summer, where films are known for making the most money, and traffic is the most heavy. The job is a minimum wage position, mostly working late nights that end at 1 in the morning. But damn it, it is the Chinese Theater! I mean…the Chinese Theater! This is the place where Sheriff Bart shot Harvey Korman in the nuts at the end of Blazing Saddles! This is a place I always wanted to go to, but the prospect of working there? I would have never dreamed it.

Had to bottle up my excitement during the interview, while my prospective boss talked to me about etiquette that was expected during red carpet premiers when Hollywood Royalty comes strolling in. How exciting is it when someone says that “Chris Pratt might come here, so be professional.”

Not sure if I nailed the interview, but time will tell. I will find out in the next few days if the job is mine. If not, there are plenty of other theaters with open doors. But today was a great day. Not everyone can say they had a job interview at the Chinese Theater.

The Ice Cream Man Shoot

So how did the shoot go on the 16th? I know many of you are wondering that as it has been three days since I have checked in proper with a hefty article.

Obviously the third draft of my fantasy novel is completed, and has been taking a much needed rest for the last week. Though the ideas seem to be coming in pretty quickly, to truly look at the manuscript with fresh eyes, both of us need a break.

In the meantime I have been keeping busy with other projects. The first of which was a little joke called The Ice Cream Man.

The Ice Cream Man was a short script of mine in the spirit of the fake trailers found in the film Grindhouse, for movies like Don’t, Thanksgiving, Machete, Werewolf Women of the SS and Hobo with a Shotgun, two of which were actually made into films.

After a friend of mine was nearly carjacked while delivering frozen yogurt, the idea for the story came, a kind of parody of Dirty Harry, only instead of a cop, our hero is an ice cream cart driver.

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The story behind the fake trailer is about as cliched as you can get. A Vietnam vet and his friend come home from the war and try to leave their demons behind them. They take up selling ice cream and sherbet. When the lead’s cart is stolen by a drug lord, the two go out and search for it, resulting in the hero’s friend getting killed.

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From then on, the Ice Cream Man goes on the warpath, becoming a soldier again to take down the drug ring that stole his cart and killed his friend. It was pretty silly, and deliberately so, hitting all the notes from the disgruntled police commissioner to the bad punch lines. All involved had but one commitment, to not take this thing too seriously.

I was looking forward to directing my first short film involving such a large crew and trained actors. I expected it to be a practice run but in the end the short took off. Patrick Kilpatrick of films like The Toxic Avenger and Minority Report was cast as the lead, so now I was expected to direct an actor who had been directed by Steven Spielberg. I couldn’t help but be more than a little intimidated. Instead of wading in a little, I got thrown right into the deep end.

We were able to shoot a few scenes before the big day, such as a reporter getting chase by a mask wearing nut job, Santa Clause getting attacked by a drug dealing lone shark, and a drug dealer getting tortured by the Ice Cream Man via brain freeze.

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That was an easy day of shooting, but on the 16th, we had to get the rest of it done. With a six page long script, the day promised to be a hard one.

Looking for a confidence boost, I decided to wear my Indiana Jones hat, an authentic fur felt recreation of the famous fedora custom fit for my head. With a pair of white shorts and a blue button up shirt, I made the unlikely transformation to douche bag director.

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Isn’t that the face you just want to punch? Just what a director needs to be.

Okay I kid.

We began the shoot at 11:30 am. We dressed the set and waited for our actors to arrive. From then on, everything went pretty smoothly. Here are a few more highlights of the film.

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We were able to wrap the shoot at around 10:30 pm, which for a film set is very short. Of course there were a few hiccups.

Firstly we shot things on this day that we didn’t need to. For instance, most of the conversations were done via shot/reverse shot. That is the character’s don’t share the frame but their dialogue is spliced together, like this.

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As such, those scenes do not have to be done on the same day. Hell, both actors don’t even need to be present. Had we done that, we would have been able to get done with Kilpatrick and all the other actors we had to bring in much quicker.

These issues with scheduling show an aspect of filmmaking that most forget. Time is your enemy.

This is especially true when you are shooting outside. We had a scene in a park that was scheduled to be our second to last location for the day. We were supposed to get to this location by 5 pm. However, on a film set, there are multiple takes and shots go longer than expected, so we ended up getting there at 8 instead. The sun was rapidly setting, so we had to plow through the scene, not getting nearly as much coverage as everyone wanted. Now, we did get great footage, footage that we could use, but doesn’t anyone else think that location should have gone first?

Our day went like this. We shot at the producer’s house first, moved on to a private residence, moved to the park, and then returned to the producer’s house in a big circle. What it should have gone like was the park, the residence, then the producer’s house. As the producer’s house was a location that we did not have a time limit with or any restrictions on whatsoever, we could have shot there all night if we needed to, and it would have been fine.

The good news is at the end of the day, everyone left the set in good spirits, but the hiccups we did have could have easily been avoided. As a director, it was my job to prevent such things from happening, but alas I am a very shy and soft spoken person, so when the time came to assert myself, it was something I couldn’t do. Defiantly an aspect of myself that needs a lot of work.

The following day we filmed some pick up shots, and finished it up this this little work of art right here, me as a dead crook getting decorated with a cherry by the Ice Cream Man. I figured a shot of the dead director would be a good way to end things.

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For the last few days, I have been editing the film. It currently stands at a nice four minutes and thirty seconds, two minutes shorter than we had originally thought. To top that off, Patrick Kilpatrick is interested in producing this as a feature, a film similar in spirit to Machete and Black Dynamite. Time will tell if this ends up happening, but the possibility of seeing this little joke short becoming a feature is pretty exciting.

Here is the photo of all of us together after the shoot wrapped. I may have been the shortest one there, but I was still able to get the job done with the help of these great people.

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The 16th of June was my first venture into being an actual director. Can’t say it wasn’t exciting. When the film is done, I will share it gladly with all of you. Hope it makes you laugh.

The Ice Cream Man Screen Grabs

So, how did The Ice Cream Man go?

For a first shoot, it actually went pretty well. We got every shot we needed, and a few more for good measure. Our schedule thankfully didn’t get thrown too far off, and we wrapped after only ten hours of shooting. A long day, with a little stress, but everyone left the set in good spirits.

I will be giving more in depth details on the shoot later as I am busy editing at the moment. In the mean time, I hope you all enjoy these screen grabs. Keep in mind, these will be doctored up to look older in the final cut, but even now, they look awesome. Enjoy some Grindhouse ham.

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My First (Real) Short Film

There is a reason I have not been able to update this blog before the completion of draft 3 of the book.

I wrote a little short film, a fake trailer for an action movie called The Ice Cream Man. Think Dirty Harry, but instead of a cop, he sells ice cream. It was done as a joke, and unexpectedly became a pretty hefty production with me attached as director. We got a few scenes shot a few days prior, but today is the big day. Starting at noon, in about two hours and thirty five minutes, we will begin shooting, and we will continue until around 7 or 8 pm.

It will be a full day, and a stressful day, but hopefully also a fun day.

I have done short films before, such as the yet to be posted Writer & Red and The ‘Lugia’ Thing, but this will be my first time working with such a large crew, and with paid actors. Today is a film I don’t take too seriously. It is a simple short that I wrote for a few laughs. Hardly a magnum opus. But I aim to give it my all. Today will be a practice run for me as far as directing goes. That has been the dream ever since I was 12. To make movies and tell stories.

Going to shower and get ready now. Wish me luck and I will tell you all about it in a rather extensive article tomorrow.

After that, it will be right back to work on writing. A friend of mine is itching to help me hammer out another draft of a horror script I put on the back burner.

As for Zhyx, don’t you worry. It has only been a day since I stopped writing, and the ideas have started coming back. Already starting to miss it, but I will stick with the plan and give both my characters and myself a much needed rest this next month before getting back to Tygan.

Sorry for any typos, but I am in a bit of a rush.