I had the opportunity to chat digitally with Billy Clift and David Millbern about their upcoming film, A Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years, which will be screening at Outfest on Thursday the 19th in Beverly Hills. Clift is the writer and director and Millbern produced this documentary feature that focuses on LGBTQ rights and examines the dedicated and important work that has been done for the community.
Throughout the course of the interview Billy Clift’s responses appear in standard font and David Millbern’s appear in italics.
Could you introduce yourselves to our readers?
I’m Billy Clift, the writer, director, editor, DP and anything else that needed to get done on this documentary.
David Millbern, actor/producer.
How would you describe A Long Road to Freedom?
BC: A Long Road to Freedom is a like a historian telling you what it was like to be LGBT from 1967 till now… a stream of consciousness of many amazing resistance advocates to celebrity advocates.
DM: A documentation of the LGBTQ experience through the lens of THE ADVOCATE and its’ 50 years of advocacy.
What inspired you to focus on this subject matter?
BC: After the election I wanted to do something too. And I’m a filmmaker, so doing a film is how I felt I could do what I do. We need to know where we came from to move forward, especially as we continue to move backwards in rights.
DM: Many of the stories of our LGBTQ elders, people who were the boots on the ground, will not be with us much longer, and we needed to capture their experiences.
As the writer and director, what went into your process for creating this narrative and connecting all of the information in this film?
BC: It had to tell me. I had to be available to do all the interviews I did and feel for what stood out. What moved me, what me sit up and listen and start adding it to the timeline. David Millbern and I came up with the three act template: 60’s, 70’s, and Early Resistance, then 80’s, 90’s, and Aids, and finishing with 2000 to now, including marriage equality to trans, black lives matters, woman’s rights. To what we need to do now. Then I had to feel the flow and move things around to hear that long story being told.
As the producer, what drew you to this project?
DM: Over the course of our year and a half shooting schedule, I’m still in awe of these brave individuals who risked it all to further civil rights for all people.
What are some of your favorite moments connected to working on A Long Road to Freedom?
BC: I have many, many moments while interviewing those amazing older activist and listening to their passion. I also had so much fun working with David Millbern, once the edit was in place and we were moving things around and polishing it. He and I see things so similarly and when we don’t agree with each other we are able to make both of us see the others point of view, true collaboration.
DM: Witnessing folks share their past and how much their work meant to them then and still does today.
What do you hope viewers take away from A Long Road to Freedom?
BC: That in 1967 everything was against one being LGBT. Every law and basically every person that wasn’t. And look what they did. Here we are now in a similar place, but we have amazing allies, we have money and we have power. Stop feeling overwhelmed and helpless and go forth and conquer. Plus learn something, lol.
DM: To realize that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and that we must now do our part to protect those hard won civil rights.
Laverne Cox is narrating the film, how did she become involved in the project?
BC: When we finally finished the film, we came up of a dream list, David Millbern, Lucus Grindly, the editor of The Advocate, and I. Laverne was on the top of our list. David and I got on a conference call with her people and told him how important this was and how important it was. That she was the perfect person to be a part of this, her voice was it. We were very fortunate that we were able to convince her that it was the right thing to do and she was happy to do it. She was a consummate pro.
DM: She was the only person we had in mind. We made a phone call to her manager and thankfully she realized the significance of the doc. She’s amazing.
What are you most looking forward to concerning the Outfest screening?
BC: I’m so very excited, scared and numb all at the same time to be at the screening and watch this film with so many of the people that were interviewed as well as the OUTFEST viewers. I’m going to be pinching myself a lot to make sure I remember what’s going on lol.
DM: I’m looking forward to shining the spotlight on many of the heroes/heroines of this film that we’re just regular folks, doing amazing advocacy work.
Watch the trailer here:
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