Fascinating new doc debuting today at the Boston LGBT Festival, Seed Money, about porntrepeneur Chuck Holmes who founded the Falcon gay porn studio back in the early ’70s. He made a fortune, then tried to use that money to help propel the gay rights movement forward – only to find that while his money was welcome, he sometimes wasn’t.
In the ’90s, he was a major donor to the Democratic Party, the National AIDS Memorial Grove, Project Open Hand, Project Inform, and Amnesty International among others. Says Accidental Bear: “Despite his prodigious donations, his participation in the LGBT rights movement was not without controversy. He often had checks returned and invites cancelled when the source of his money was disclosed.”
As the gay rights movement grew, see, it was trying to become more respectable, more mainstream, and many felt that porn was a dirty little secret to be swept under the rug. They forget though, that it was gay porn that gave birth to the movement in the first place,
In an article in HuffPo “How Gay Porn Helped Build the Gay Rights Movement” Seed Money director Mike Stabile points out: “It wasn’t political tracts, but pornography that provided most gay men with their first connection to — and awareness of — a larger gay culture.
At a time when mainstream media portrayed homosexuals as pathological, depressive and criminal, porn offered a sunny alternative. We might scoff at porn theaters now, but looking up at that screen, a closeted man could see a promise of gay life that was open and positive, with larger-than-life men who were bold and unashamed in ways he might only aspire to be.
For those who lived outside city centers, that same promise came in the form of mail-order magazines and 8mm loops — Chuck Holmes’ business. As the owner of the legendary Falcon Studios, Holmes had the widest reach of the early pornographers, and he was vocal about creating imagery that would make gay men feel proud of their sexuality. For tens of thousands of closeted customers in small towns across the country, those Falcon films were the “It Gets Better” videos of their day.
Videographer Chuck Holmes almost singlehandedly took gay porn from the back alleys to the mainstream with his legendary Falcon Studios, building a worldwide empire of flesh and fantasy and contributing mightily to gay pride along the way. But when he attempted to use his fortune to fund the growing gay rights movement, he was dealt a much harsher reality.
Says Accidental Bear:
Seed Money traces Chuck’s early days in San Francisco, and the business acumen and passion that built Falcon Studios, still the largest gay porn company in the world. Under his sometimes-fierce command, Chuck took a quasi-legal industry and revolutionized it, realizing that for gay men to truly imagine equality, they needed to see positive representations of themselves.
“I think that Chuck saw his contributions to gay politics as his lasting legacy, but to me it’s those early films that may have had the biggest impact on gay culture,” says Stabile. “They were the original “It Gets Better” videos, giving gay men across the country a vision of gay life that was unashamed and unapologetic in its sexuality. What I wanted to show in the film was the connection between that work and his tremendous philanthropy.”
The film features interviews with stars who knew and worked with Chuck, including Jeff Stryker, Tom Chase and Jim Bentley; Falcon directors like Steven Scarborough, Chi Chi LaRue and John Rutherford; politicians like Mark Leno and Carole Migden, and those who loved the films, like John Waters and Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears.
(via Accidental Bear)
Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story premieres at the Boston LGBT Film Festival on April 9, 2015 at 7PM. For Tickets and Information, visit Boston LGBT Film Festival.