"Working first for the gay presses, I wrote some of the earliest stories about the mysterious disease. When AIDS activism took root, I wrote the first story about ACT UP, for the Village Voice, and covered most of the events which I've included in my film. Deep in the backgrounds of these scenes, there I am, pressed against the walls, filling my notepads. Soon I was writing about AIDS for the New York Times, then Newsweek and New York magazine.
"I was invested in their efforts personally as well. Downtown New York City, where I lived, was a grotesque and up-close battlefield. My upstairs neighbor fell, and the guy on the fourth floor, and the two across the hall. My lover took ill. The cancer darkened his skin but it was the pneumonia that claimed him in 1992 -- four years before new medications changed the course of the plague and made AIDS survival possible.
"For a long time I have wanted to tell the story of how those dark days ended -- the combined brilliance that came together to tame a virus.
"I hope audiences see the real and rich story of the darkest years of the AIDS plague in America -- that alongside the dying and the immense loss, there was also an explosion of creativity, perseverance, generosity, and heroics, not just among the affected communities but within the government and pharmaceutical industry as well. The popular image of AIDS is only about suffering, when the truth was so much more than that."
On the challenges of getting it made: "The film is a found-footage verite documentary, which sounds easier than it turns out to be. I began assembling footage using a large archive of AIDS activism videotapes located at the New York Public Library, in Manhattan. There, I scanned over 1,000 hours of footage in search of the main characters who would propel the narrative in my film, over a ten-year period. Unfortunately, there was not enough material there to tell this story. But in each of those tapes, I could see other people videotaping. The task for me and my team then became more complicated: We set out to find the identity of those people, then undertook the arduous task of trying to find them, hoping they had retained the tapes. Many had been claimed by the plague, unfortunately, in which case we would try to locate their survivors -- their lovers, parents, or children. And when we were lucky enough to acquire another library, the process began again: searching for other shooters, learning their names and fates, finding their libraries, over and over. In this way, we compiled footage from over 30 shooters, and ultimately digitized over 700 hours of footage in which our main characters appeared. It was a massive undertaking that took most of two years and continued up to the day we locked picture."
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
Keep checking here every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.