LGBTQ History Month
Originally published in 2016 during BFI Flare Festival
Coming Out follows young filmmaker Alden Peters on his journey coming out gay, capturing everything on camera as it happens. This groundbreaking coming of age film places viewers directly inside the raw, intimate moments when Alden reveals his true identity to his family and friends, ranging from the painfully awkward to the hilariously honest.
Hey Alden, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have things been?
Of course! Things have been wonderful.
Congratulations on having Coming Out selected for this years BFI Flare how does it feel to have your film part of BFI Flare?
Thank you! It's surreal to have my film at the festival. It's a world-renowned festival on its 30th anniversary, and the other films that are playing are really wonderful. It's an honour to be in their company.
The reaction has been amazing, Sold Out screening to boot at #Flare30, did you ever expect you'd get this reaction to your documentary?
We just sold out recently! And the second screening only has a handful of seats left. Super exciting. It’s the first time we’ve sold out a show, and at the biggest festival, we’re playing at, too! The reactions to the film have far exceeded my expectations. When we were doing test screenings in New York City last year, the best compliment I received was “that was better than I expected,” which is high praise for NYC gays. Then the film started winning audience awards at festivals in the US, where people have come up to me in tears after screenings thanking me for making this film. After that, the film got acquired by Wolfe Releasing, and now we sold out a show at #Flare30! It’s been quite a journey.
Tell me a little bit about Coming Out what was the inspiration behind the film?
The biggest inspiration and the passion that drove the entire project was the desire to create the film that I wanted so desperately to see before I came out. So often when we talk about coming out of the closet, we talk only about that moment where you tell people your LGBTQ identity. The years leading up to that point and the moments afterwards are usually left out, but I wanted to know more about those pieces of the process, so that’s the film I set out to make.
This is very much your experience of coming out, what made you want to document it in this way?
Documenting the entire process acted as a safety net for the whole experience. I had no idea how my friends and family would react, but I knew that I’d at least have footage if they reacted negatively. It allowed me to be much more confident during a very vulnerable time.
Did you have any reservations about being so open and frank on film in this way?
You probably wouldn't guess it because I made a feature documentary about myself, but I'm actually a shy, quiet person. I don't share a lot of details about myself with anyone who isn't a close friend. So I had horrible anxiety about putting all this in a film. When we were in production, I made a commitment not to censor myself, ever. I would talk about anything and everything, knowing that I’d be able to exclude certain subjects later while editing. Ultimately, though, there is a lot of agency in telling your own story on your own terms, so everything in the film (and everything left out of the film) was very intentional. That control made the whole process easier.
Once you came out, how did you feel?
The first feeling was definitely a relief, followed by a realisation that I wasn't done. It felt like there was another step of settling into an out identity and lifestyle that needed to happen. The journey continued, so we see that next step in the film as well.
Did you talk to other LGBTQ folk about their coming out stories?
Yes. We had a bunch of people submit their own coming out stories to us, which we see in the film. It's a personal film with a singular narrative, but these coming out stories broaden the perspective. I also speak with a sociologist, a developmental psychologist, a writer, a YouTuber, and author Janet Mock, which puts the personal story into context.
Were you surprised that a film about coming out hadn't already been made?
Yes! Coming out stories online have become very common, and people filming themselves coming out to their family or friends have also become a bit more common. But there hasn't been a feature documentary that shows the entire process over the span of decades, with every step unfolding on camera. I hope this is only the first, and we'll continue to experience other cinematic coming out stories from more diverse points of view on screen for years to come. The world is ready for those stories.
What has been the hardest part of putting this film together?
I started working on this project in June 2011, so we’re approaching the five-year mark. It’s been hard to keep the passion for the film to stay motivated to make sure that the film gets seen. It’s a huge achievement to finish a feature, but that’s only the first half of the job. Fortunately, people’s reactions to the film and the messages I receive on social media really keep that passion alive.
Looking back would there be anything you would do differently?
There are a million things I'd do differently, and also nothing I'd do differently. It was all part of a process that lead here to BFI Flare, so for that reason, I wouldn't change a thing. I'll just take what I've learned and apply that to the next film.
How did you get into filmmaking, was it something you always had a passion for?
I've always been fascinated by cameras, and my parents documented me and my siblings on VHS camcorders our entire lives. (A lot of that VHS footage is in Coming Out.) Soon I started recording all the home videos, and that turned into a passion for making films which I’ve had since childhood. I spent most of high school in my room learning After Effects from video tutorials and went on to study at New York University’s film school.
I currently run a production company out of Brooklyn, New York, that I co-founded in 2014 (casaveraproductions.com). The passion for filmmaking is still alive and stronger than ever. Baby Alden would be proud.
"Be flexible, be inventive, be disruptive, and as Connie would tell you, be yourself because you know who yourself is."
How much has your approach to filmmaking changed since your debut film?
The biggest thing that's changed is that I'm a bit more intentional with my work. I kind of stumbled through this film step by step, trusting my taste even if I couldn't articulate what exactly I was going for. Since finishing Coming Out, I have a clear vision for the types of films I will continue to make.
Is it difficult to let go of your films once you've completed them?
Oh, yes. I’ve watched the film so many times that I notice all sorts of things I keep trying to fix, especially the colour. I recently had our composer Ben Ash add some more music to replace a couple of songs we had licensed, months after the film was “finished.” Every festival the film has played at has shown a different version of the film because I keep tweaking it. But I’m ready to move on to the next project, fortunately.
What advice would you offer an up and coming filmmaker?
I'd tell them to get a team together. You can't do it on your own. Not only is there too much work to be done, but a team will help keep the project going even if your passion wains temporarily.
For those LGBTQ yet to take the steps to come out what advice could you offer them?
The best advice I received was from a sociologist who is featured in the film, who told me to stop asking people what I should be doing. “It’s more difficult than that. It’s you, struggling on your own to figure it out.” Coming out is a personal process that affects you and those around you, and you’re the best expert in your life, so it’s up to you. Listen to others’ advice, but make your own decisions about whose advice to listen to based on what feels right for your circumstances.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your film?
I hope people have an emotional connection to the film that allows them to sympathise with anyone coming out of the closet today.