Perhaps Naomi Davis is not the most likely person to be making a film about the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, but as someone who was denied entrance to the Air Force in the early 1980’s because I answered “yes” to the homosexual tendencies question, I’m glad she is.
I’m also glad you’re reading this, because Naomi needs our support! I learned of Naomi, a senior in Film/TV at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts when she introduced herself to me via email as part of her efforts to increase awareness about, and raise funds for her thesis film.
Naomi explained that DADT is a narrative film of a gay American soldier dealing with life during and after the Iraq war.
She wrote, “I am extremely passionate about spreading the word on the injustice of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ and the cruel rejection and pressure many homosexual Americans face. I went to lobby for repeal in Washington DC and met the men and women who have been discharged. This policy is disgusting and needs to be gotten rid of. Since cinema is a language that I am fluent in, I have decided to fight the best way I know how.”
Later, during my exclusive interview with Naomi, I asked if her upbringing had predisposed her to take on such issues in her early adulthood.
“I grew up in a very religious conservative Caribbean American family,” she responded. “My entire life it has been pushed into my head that homosexuality is wrong and that all gays are sinners and are going to hell. That all changed as my friends and the people who I am closest to began coming out.
“How could all these people who I know are good be going to hell just because they’re gay? That thinking has really propelled me in support of human rights. I have seen firsthand how the ‘conservatives’ treat homosexuals and would like to fight it so that my children and grandchildren will live in a world that is equal.”
What was clear for Naomi was that her dream has always been film.
“It began at five years old when I decided I wanted to be an actress and be the next Betty Davis or Katharine Hepburn. That dream turned to writing and then finally at ten years old I decided to be a director like Martin Scorsese. The dream of directing has only been made stronger through my years in film school. I am on the writer/director track at NYU. I am writing a feature and making a short film, both of which count as a thesis and will propel me to not only my degree, but a career in film.”
Okay, since she started dreaming at such a young age, Naomi had quite a while to figure out where she wanted to go to school, but how she got there is quite inspiring.
”Coming from the Bronx, NY, NYU’s film program is a long shot,” Naomi confessed. “Guidance counselors and teachers told me that I shouldn’t reach so high and wanted me to go to city or state school. NYU’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and TV is one of the top three film schools in the country and is very intense. Besides the normal essays and recommendation letters, they demand a portfolio, a resume and creative writing projects. They want you to prove that you not only have the talent, but you have the drive. I think that I proven that I have both of those things as they have given me scholarships which allow me to attend a school that is not only prestigious, but expensive.”
This would be the appropriate time to say to Naomi, “You go girl!”
As she explained, she chose DADT as her thesis film subject “because a very good friend of mine is a lesbian in the army. I didn’t understand what the big deal was at first. When she enlisted there was a huge conflict between her and her girlfriend which resulted in their breakup. As a result I did some research and began to discover all the politics that makes DADT such an awful policy. As the months went by my main character Martin began to whisper in my ear and I began to write.”
For the most part, DADT is fiction, but Naomi has met discharged soldiers and has taken into account numerous articles, blogs, journals and real-life events which have “inspired the traits and circumstances” of her characters.
At the time of our interview, the film had yet to be cast.
“In terms of production I have been getting lots of feedback and critiques from classmates and professors at NYU,” she added. “I have workshopped the script and will continue to do so, making it the best possible story I can. We are also in preproduction and working to bring the story to life.”
As I mentioned, Naomi needs our help!
“Filmmaking is a very expensive art form and right now the film really needs funds in order to continue,” she stressed. “There are also other ways to contribute such as donating costumes, craft services and all other aspects of tools needed for a safe and productive film shoot. I have gotten a few messages from people telling me they support me and the project. Kind words are always appreciated.”
Naomi is one of the many creative people using Kickstarter.com to raise money for her project.
Kickstarter is “a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.”
The web site creators believe that “a good idea, communicated well, and spread fast and wide,” and “a large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement. Kickerstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.”
So, in other words, Naomi must raise the full $10,000 at Kickstarter.com on or before December 31 or she will not get any of the funds. Donations may be for as little as $5. If you want to help click HERE. A video preview is also available for viewing.
“I am also very passionate about the state of education today,” Naomi saod. “Our public schools need money and our children need the best possible education. Whenever the government needs money, education is one of the first things to get cut and I will never understand why. I am also very passionate about all LGBT rights, not just DADT. The fact that young people are killing themselves because we live in a society where differences are still not accepted is disgusting to me.”
Without knowing Naomi’s sexual orientation (and I still don’t, nor do I need to), I did ask if it had informed her process in any way.
She responded, “My sexuality I don’t think is relevant to the project. I think anyone who believes in our rights and Americans and human beings could make this film.”
And what gives Naomi courage and hope?
“Although we do not agree on politics, my mother will always be my major source of inspiration,” said Naomi. “She is a single parent and she has worked hard to give my siblings and myself every possible opportunity. She has supported me and made possible everything I have ever wanted, including helping to send me to Dublin for a four-month screenwriting course. She is an incredibly strong human being who lets nothing stopped her. I have seen nothing as amazing as my mother’s battle and victory over breast cancer. She is a true survivor.”
“Since writing and talking about this film I have discovered how little people understand the ramification of the policy that is ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ Naomi emphasized. “They don’t know about the spouses who are locked in the closet and going without the benefits and support the army gives to straight families. I strongly believe that cinema is a language that everyone understands and I would like to use film as my way of showing the country what these soldiers go through in their personal lives.”
For more information, check out dadtfilm.com, follow dadtfilm on Twitter, or email Naomi at [email protected]. And don’t forget to search for Naomi Davis at Kickstarter.com and make a pledge. Thanks, Naomi for your original email. You asked. I told!
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