In the short film “CHANGE,” we meet Jamie, an African American teenager grappling with his sexual identity on the night Barack Obama is elected President and Propostion 8 – the voter iniative to eliminate same-sex marriage – is passed. When one of his gang initiates the bullying of an openly gay classmate, Jamie uses his wits to try and prevent it, but when things don’t go the way he predicted, he is forced to face his fears head on.
Melissa Osborne is writer, co-producer and co-director of this award winning short film, “CHANGE” Ms. Osborne has recently finished the Professional Producing Program at UCLA where she’s learned a lot, but feels that her experience of making this film has taught her so much more. She is currently interning at The Dan Jinks Company/Bruce Cohen Productions (MILK, AMERICAN BEAUTY), where Bruce has been kindly helping with script development.
Osborne is British, straight and happily married but doesn’t believe that any of that means she shouldn’t care. She believes equality is an important issue for all. She feels that when the Prop 8 ballot returns to the polls again California must get it right. She hopes to have “CHANGE” shown anywhere it can help to draw attention to the cause and HOPEFULLY change people’s hearts and minds.
PRIDEINDEX: Share with our readers the events or “moment of epiphany” that lead to your decision to make the movie, “CHANGE.”
MELISSA OSBORNE: I knew that I wanted to make a short film – as a calling card for myself as a new Writer/Producer/Director and I knew that I wanted to make a provocative film – to say something about an issue that I cared about. So I thought back to the morning of Nov. 5, 2008 and how disappointed I felt with the world after we had elected an African American to the highest office and then taken away the rights of another section of society on the same day. The irony of that rang out clear as a bell to me; perhaps because I have a black mother and a gay brother. (I am white and straight) So then I need a vehicle with which to express my feelings and I thought the most provocative way to tell the story would be through the eyes of a black, gay teenager. I set about writing CHANGE.
PI: Why was it important to include both the election of President Barack Obama and the vote on Proposition 8 as the backdrop for the movie?
MO: Because that’s the irony of the day. The film is essentially about prejudice. On the one hand is shows how far we have come to elect a black man as President but also how far we still have to go – we are still extremely prejudice towards the LGBT community.
PI: What do you want movie goers to take away from it?
MO: A sense of hope. In the end the lead character Jamie makes a stand for what he thinks is right. It doesn’t go very well for him but that stand is what is needed. If individuals all over the world really stand up for what’s right then I believe things will get better. Also, an appreciation of what still needs to be done. The title of the film ‘CHANGE’ is there to celebrate the change we achieved – Obama, and the change that we didn’t – Prop 8.
PI: Tell us about some of the film festivals “CHANGE” has played in and where do plan on showing it next.
MO: We have played in:
San Diego Black Film Festival – WINNER
Minghella Film Festival, UK – WINNER
Texas Black Film Festival – Nominated Best Short – Feb 2011
FUSION – by Outfest – March 2011
Cleveland International Film Festival – March 2011
Still to come:
Newport Beach Film Festival
Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, Australia
Athens Film Festival, Ohio
And hopefully many more…
PI: Briefly describe any notable challenges you faced during the production of the film and what you did to overcome them.
MO: Fundraising – I approached students of a prestigious MBA program passionately describing the project and how unconstitutional Proposition 8 was. Unfortunately, they disagreed with me and I had my first lesson on how not to assume everyone was on my side.
Locations – I couldn’t risk not getting what we needed so it became “A film about Obama winning the election” – which it is – in a way.
Production – Ironically, the protest scene – where our extras brandished signs promoting Prop 8 – was where I felt the most comfortable. Cars drove passed and beeped and supported us, not knowing what the true intent of our work was. When a child of about twelve asked me if we were for or against Prop 8 I instinctively lied and said we were for it. I was secretly pleased when he said he disagreed with me.
On the last day of shooting we shot the final scene with our two lead male actors sitting on the sidewalk holding hands. A car drove into our shooting space and stopped whilst men leaned out of the window and hurled abuse at our actors. We were all shaken but continued anyway knowing that this film had something important to say.
PI: Why did you make “Change” into a short rather than a full length feature film?
MO: Because the idea to make a short came before the idea to make CHANGE. Also, money. Fundraising is very difficult and it was unlikely an investor would want to invest in a first-time Director without proof of my abilities.
PI: Do you plans to make a full length film?
MO: We hadn’t planned to at first, but since the film has been so amazingly received it is something we are looking in to. But again, it’s all about money. If we can find an investor relatively quickly, then yes, we would love to make the feature.
PI: What were some of the thought processes used to cast the lead characters?
MO: We sent out a casting breakdown to various places to encourage actors to audition and then we held 3 days of auditions. It was very important that our lead character, Jamie, didn’t play ‘camp’ or look ‘gay’. This kid is from the hood and very much in the closest so that was important. Essentially finding a straight boy willing to play gay was what we needed. I also needed very skilled actors that could pull off the realistic style we were going for. We needed a group of boys that would work well together and a family that looked like a family – very difficult!
PI: How did you become interested in filmmaking?
MO: I used to act so I’ve always been interested in film and it’s been a gradual progression since then. First I started writing scripts and then I started producing and then I directed. I never thought I would direct but now I definitely have the bug.
PI: Name at least 3 artists that have most affected your artistic style.
MO: Darren Aronofsky (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM / THE WRESTLER)
Steven Soderburgh (SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE/ THE INFORMANT)
Gus Van Sant (GOOD WILL HUNTING, MILK)
PI: What has been the reaction of youth to this film?
MO: Very good. They seem to understand what it’s about and appreciate what it’s trying to say. They often want it to go on for longer!
PI: Have you considered showing this film to educators to use a teaching tool to discuss tolerance?
MO: Yes, we are talking with distributors about doing this. I believe it could be a wonderful teaching tool.
PI: What do you think we all could do to become more tolerant of other people who may not share our own ideas, background or religious beliefs?
MO: At the beginning of the film Jamie quotes one of Obama’s speeches in class. I put it in there as a message to Jamie’s friends on what they will need to do overcome their prejudice towards Jamie and also for what Jamie will need to do to understand his Grandmother. “Change… it starts with changing our hearts, changing our minds, broadening our spirit…It’s not easy to stand in somebody else’s shoes. To see past our own difference.” I don’t think it can ever hurt to imagine ourselves in somebody else’s shoes.
PI: What other projects do you have on the horizon?
MO: We are still busy with the festivals and securing distribution for CHANGE and also possibly making it into a feature.
I am also writing 2 feature length scripts and want to finish those in the coming months.