Pride Month 2021

Jeffrey Schwarz
The Fabulous Allan Carr
Originally published for its UK Premiere during Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest 2017 
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Allan Carr built his bombastic reputation producing the hit movie GREASE and Broadway sensation LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, but it all came crashing down after he conceived the notorious 1989 Academy Awards.

Hey Jeffrey, thanks for talking to tNC, how is everything going?

 

It's going great, thank you! THE FABULOUS ALLAN CARR premiered back in May, so we've been on the festival circuit since then traveling with the film and bringing the gospel of Allan Carr to audiences around the world.

 

The Fabulous Allan Carr is going to be screened at this years Fringe! Queer Film Fest, any nerves ahead of the screening?

Sadly I won't be able to attend in person so you'll have to let me know how it all goes. I'm nervous before the first few screenings when you're not really sure how the audience is going to react. But now that I've seen it a bunch of times and know people are having a good time, I can rest a little easier.

 

After I Am Divine, Tab Hunter Confidential and Vito has it gotten easier to see your films at festivals or do you still pinch yourself?

I never take anything for granted, so it's still a thrill for me to see a packed house for one of my films, and hear an audience enjoying themselves. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing something you've made connecting with people from all walks of life.

 

What was your first film festival experience like?

My first festival was AFIFest in Los Angeles for SPINE TINGLER! THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY in 2007. That was a story about a horror film director who specialized in outrageous audience participation gimmicks, including floating a skeleton above the audience and having life insurance policies in case you died of fright during one of this movies. So we had a few gimmicks too - I walked around with  a replica of THE TINGLER on my back and we had nurses in attendance in full costume handing out insurance policies. It was a hoot! 

 

What does it mean for you to have your film part of the festival?

I make films about people with big personalities, who might have some insecurities or issues with themselves but have big dreams. They create larger than life personas to help them achieve their goals. They’re also people who were on the margins, and through tenaciousness and insanity they became insiders. I feel that a queer audience can especially identify with these themes, so I'm really excited to be screening at Fringe.

Can you tell me a little but about The Fabulous Allan Carr, how did this film come about?

THE FABULOUS ALLAN CARR is about a producer who had his biggest successes with GREASE and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, but also had enormous flops with CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC and the 1989 Academy Awards which he produced. 

I knew all about his work but didn't really know his story until a biography by Bob Hofler came out a few years back. As soon as I read it I knew it would make a fabulous movie, a roller coaster through the highs and lows of a Hollywood career.

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Allan Carr is the focus of your latest feature documentary what was it about him that interested you so much? 

 

I was interested to find out that he was of course flamboyantly gay, but not openly gay. It was a time before celebrities were coming out and declaring themselves. And also that he infused his work with a gay sensibility which I thought was really interesting. It’s ultimately a tragedy, so I felt like I wanted the audience to go along for this ride, to fall in love with Allan, experience his triumphs and his failures, to laugh and to cry at the end. And also realize how much of our own culture has been shaped by Allan Carr.

Had you know much about him before you started the project?

I didn't know the details of Allan’s story until reading the biography, and then when we started filming we approached everyone we could find who was close to Allan or worked with him. These interviews were incredibly illuminating and surprising. He was a complicated, contradictory guy but at his core he wanted to entertain and make other people happy.

 

Was there anything about Allan's life that really surprised you?

The town's reaction to the Academy Awards in 1989 was so incredibly brutal. I got a sense that experience really hurt him deeply and that withdrew. For somebody who was so exuberant and out there to withdraw into such pain and depression was very hard to hear from his friends. I appreciated that people who were close to Allan were able to give me that perspective and help me understand him a little bit more.

Has it been easy to let the film go and hand it over to your audiences?

Yes, once it's done it doesn't belong to me any more. Everyone is going to take away something different from the film. I love hearing all the different reactions from audience members. And there's always someone there who had a personal Allan encounter, or went to one of his famous parties. As Brett Rather says in the film, "Everyone has an Allan Carr story."

"It’s ultimately a tragedy, so I felt like I wanted the audience to go along for this ride, to fall in love with Allan, experience his triumphs and his failures, to laugh and to cry at the end."

What where the challenges you faced bringing this film to life?

In a film like this about someone who's passed away, you try and find somebody who is the caretaker of the estate. Where are his photo albums, his scrapbooks, his home movies? Where is all that stuff? And it just wasn’t there. Allan had no surviving family, so his personal archives weren't available to us. So the challenge was to tell the story visually. We did find some amazing archival, and also decided to use animation to help illustrate his life.

 

Do you remember what the first film you saw that made you go 'yeah I want to do this?'

Seeing THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK in college soon after coming out was pretty powerful. I had never heard of this man, and watching this film brought him to life in such a powerful, emotionally devastating way. I've always had a powerful instinct to tell stories that have been hidden from history, or give a new perspective on a person you think you know.

Should filmmakers need to continue to push the boundaries of their art form?

That's up to the individual filmmaker. Personally I'm not terribly interested in pushing boundaries - my priority is emotional connection and making sure the audience is along for the ride every step of the way and has their heart and mind engaged. I don't want the filmmaking to get in the way of that.

 

If you could describe The Fabulous Allan Carr in 3 words what ones would they be?

Entertaining, emotional, and trashy!

 

Do you have any advice for any up and coming filmmakers?

Don't ask permission! There's no reason these days not to pick up a camera and start shooting with whatever tools you have at your disposal. Follow your instincts. If you are passionate about the subject, other people will be as well. You have to be obsessed too, because film take years to make. You have to be in it for the long haul and never give up.

 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your work?

My movies are a way to reinvigorate interest in the past, to honour the memory of my subjects if they're no longer around, and to show the world hey, these people are important. They followed their dreams. And they are an inspiration. Even if you think you have nothing in common with someone like Divine or Allan Carr, you do. I also feel kind of a responsibility to pass the torch of our history, to keep their memory alive for the next generation. I feel it’s my mission and why I'm on the planet.