A group of veterans-turned-filmmakers spent four months at the Los Angeles LGBT Center last year pouring their energy into the making of the documentary Our Service, Our Stories.
Their 20-minute film explores the lives and unique perspectives of LGBT veterans ages 50 and older before, during, and after their military service. It will be streamed live for free on November 11 in honor of Veterans Day.
“I’ve been in touch with the filmmakers, and they are excited to have the documentary out there in time for Veterans Day,” says award-winning filmmaker Andrew Putschoegl who supervised the team. “When you are entering it into film festivals, you can’t show it publicly. Finally, we have the ability to put it out there to let everybody see it.”
The documentary had its world premiere last year at the Center’s Renberg Theatre and has since been screened at 10 LGBT film festivals nationwide: aGLIFF (Austin); Damn These Heels (Utah); Fargo-Moorhead LGBT Film Festival; Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival; Long Beach QFilm Festival; Out at the Movies (Winston-Salem, N.C.); Out Film CT (Connecticut); Out on Film (Atlanta); QFest St. Louis; and Reel Out Charlotte.
Putschoegl, whose directing credits include the feature film BFFs and the documentary HAM: A Musical Memoir,describes the reaction at the film festivals as “universally great.”
“People appreciated the fact that the film got made and that the people who were featured in it actually made it,” he says.
The veterans filmed each other’s stories then interviewed fellow servicemembers during a Veteran Stand Down event hosted by the Center in September 2019. The interview subjects represented all four branches of the military with their years of service spanning from 1951–2017.
“All of us had a story to tell, and the story we discovered was a common story: situations in the service pertaining to our sexual orientation or gender identity,” says Warren Tymony who served in the Air Force from 1971-73. “The [short film]format enabled us to share our stories with each other and with future generations.”
For many of the filmmakers, it was their first time positioning and holding a video camera and using digital editing software. It was also the first time many had talked about their experience on camera.
“I had never, until the film, talked about my discharge from the service,” says Neil Beecher who was kicked out of the U.S. Navy in 1959 when he was suspected of being gay. “The film brought it out. It was very hard for a number of years going around with the (dishonorable) discharge burden. But I survived.”
The silver lining was that he met his husband—a fellow soldier—during his three years of service, and they went on to spend 56 years together.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the official U.S. policy barring openly gay, lesbian or bisexual persons from military service, was repealed in 2011. But in April 2018, the Trump Administration began implementing a ban on transgender people serving openly.
This documentary activity was supported in part by a $16,200 California Arts Council grant awarded to the Center’s Senior Services department.
The film can be seen on November 11 at lalgbtcenter.org/watch.
To learn more about the Center’s Senior Services, including upcoming activities and workshops, visit lalgbtcenter.org/seniors.