Eric Slade
Eric Slade

Filmmaker Eric Slade collaborated with journalist Stephen Silha on a new feature documentary film about filmmaker and poet James Broughton.

What is it about? A chronicle of the iconoclastic life of gay poet, filmmaker, and spiritual visionary James Broughton, one of the defining voices of the sexual revolution, whose groundbreaking artistic celebrations of sexuality and the body influenced generations of the 1960’s and 70’s to profoundly embrace life and ‘follow your own weird’.

About the filmmaker: I’m a director and producer based in Portland, Oregon. I attended Emerson College (I graduated in 1981) and lived in San Francisco for 15 years.

My first feature documentary, Hope Along the Wind, The Life of Harry Hay premiered on PBS in 2001. It won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, was nominated for a Bay Area Emmy Award for Best Documentary and received numerous Best Documentary Awards at festivals around the world (including the Seattle, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Fort Worth Lesbian Gay and Film Festivals).

I’ve spent 20+ years producing and directing documentary, educational and promotional productions for broadcast, corporate and nonprofit clients. Highlights include the PBS Series History Detectives (2003-2010), Great Lodges of the National Parks and the CPB series Bridging World History. I’ve received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Council for the Humanities, the San Francisco Arts Commission and more.

I also studied magic for 10 years (and I occasionally still do shows!)

What else do you want audiences to know about your film? Through telling the story of James Broughton, "Big Joy" also tells the story of the San Francisco Renaissance, an influential yet little discussed movement that gave birth to the Beat generation. While James was a key figure during this time, he is often missing from the public imagination of the Beat era.

James was a groundbreaking queer artist who paved the way for many artists who followed. One of the first people to introduce nudity to film, he treated the human body -- both male and female -- in an open, celebratory and loving way. A bard of gay liberation (and a pioneer in the representation of gay sexuality), there was nothing pornographic about James’ work – he merged art and sex in a striking and jubilant way, free of shame, which is as revolutionary today as it was in the 1970’s. I hope audiences will be as uplifted by these celebratory aspects of James’ work as they are by his championing of individualism.

What would you like SXSW audiences to come away with after seeing your film? I hope that James’ unwavering commitment to truth in his art, despite great odds, elevates audiences and inspires them. This film is as much for artists in the traditional sense as it is for all of us, as every activity that we engage in has the potential to be creative. James encouraged us all to “follow our own weird”: to find what we’re passionate about and embrace it fully, to not hold back, to not worry what anybody else thinks, to live a big bold creative life. I hope audiences experience James’ message of “following your weird” in a visceral way – that it is possible, at any moment, to choose the path of joy.

Did any specific films inspire you? Making "Big Joy" gave me a good excuse to revisit the films of Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren and Luis Bunuel. Stephen and I worked to find a unique voice for the film – one that would reflect James’ non-linear sensibility, while remaining grounded in story.

"Big Joy"
SXSW "Big Joy"

Indiewire invited SXSW 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 2013 festival.

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