Hollywood is desperate for a villain for the next Lethal Weapon-style explosionfest, now that Nazis, Russians, white South Africans, and generic Arabs are either geopolitically passé or just plain clichéd. So why not make the bad guy a SOMA landlord? Thanks to the onerous real estate market, Lavender Lounge, the 5-year-old production studio at Sixth and Folsom operated by Mark Kliem, is on the verge of shutting its doors. Kliem's lease is up April 1 and then Lavender Lounge figures to be gone, depriving student and community-based filmmakers of a cheap, convenient, 1,200-square-foot studio space.
Another group of local filmmakers made regular use of the Lavender Lounge studio: producers of gay adult films. Kliem himself wrote and produced eight gay flicks (including Laid for Work, Streetfair Meat, and the evocative title that -- pardon the expression -- heads this column), which were sold to the home video market by one of the dozen or so major local gay adult studios. "My goal for this year," Kliem declares, "is to do 10 adult films that I produce and distribute." Sounds ambitious to me, but Kliem sets me straight. "Falcon, the top gay production company in town, probably does 10 a month," he says. Yow! Maybe I'm not covering the local film beat as thoroughly as I thought.
Thanks to leaks and an inadequate electrical system, Kliem was limited in the size of productions he could accommodate at Lavender. So he began booking still photography shoots and took a day job as Webmaster for Naked Sword, a gay online adult movie theater. "I haven't done any advertising [for the studio] since I started this job," Kliem says, "but I'm getting a lot of calls because studios in this price range are suddenly all gone."
Even if it's the end of a brief, shining era -- and Kliem is talking about moving to Oakland or even L.A. -- Lavender Lounge will be remembered. "There have been sex parties, stage shows, fund-raising events with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and private events at Lavender Lounge that have been legendary," Kliem says. The studio closes on this high note: A gay porn flick that was shot at Kliem's place, Titan Media's Chapters, starring Jason Branch and Blake Harper, is nominated for best sex scene at the upcoming Gay Video Awards bash.
Tell the Truth and Run
Not surprisingly, local filmmakers dominated the documentary competition at Sundance, as Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffmann's wrenching Long Night's Journey Into Day snared the Grand Jury Prize and Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein received the Directing award for Paragraph 175. A benefit screening of Long Night, which movingly profiles four cases before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has been penciled in for June 1 at the Castro, although the S.F. International Film Festival in late April would seem the perfect stage for the doc's San Francisco premiere.
Speaking of the S.F. fest, master animator Faith Hubley will receive the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award, previously bestowed on iconoclasts Robert Frank and Jan Svankmajer. Methinks the Kabuki will be aswim with computer animator dweebs that night. ... S.F. IndieFest was so successful that a college tour of Santa Cruz and Sacramento is on the horizon. ... SFMOMA went all the way to London's Institute of Contemporary Arts for its new curator of media arts, Benjamin Weil, who starts at his post this week. Look for the French-born Weil to put up a show of Web-based art -- and to spearhead forays into digital film and video -- in the not-too-distant future.
Michael Fox is host ofIndependent View, which airs Fridays at 10:30 p.m. on KQED Channel 9.
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