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New Documentary Describes History of Sacramento LGBT Community Center's Founding

A new documentary about a woman who founded the Sacramento LGBT Community Center (then called the Lambda Community Center) after bringing a successful lawsuit against a reverend heads to Sacramento.

Titled "Legends of Courage: The Rosemary Metrailer Story" highlights actions leading up to the legal action against the Rev. Jerry Falwell, which led to the founding by Metrailer in 1984, who is now semi-retired in Grass Valley.

Filmmaker and executive director of 3d Media Solutions Dawn Deason speaks alongside Charlene Jones, a producer for the documentary.

The film will play at the Guild Theater in Oak Park Saturday, June 24.




On the backstory of the lawsuit filed by Metrailer


Deason: So what happened was that there was a TV talk show called “Look Who’s Talking,” it was on KCRA 3 in the eighties, and Jerry Falwell happened to be in the Sacramento Area. He was just making on appearance on his way to San Francisco, and so they invited him to come to the talkshow. So he knew someone who was an LGBT activist and minister at the MCC, Metropolitan Community Churches here in Sacramento. So they asked Jerry Sloan, who was their minister, to come to the program, because they had a question and answer session going on, and Jerry Sloan just asked him, “look, you've been saying some horrible things about the MCC church and about the gay community, you called us brute beasts, you said that heaven would celebrate when we were annihilated,” and so Jerry Falwell said, “I did not say that. I never said that and you're lying. So Jerry Sloan says that there is a recording of it, and Jerry Falwell told him to produce the recording if it's true, and he says I don't have it, and Jerry Falwell says “of course you don't have it because it isn't true and I'll say it right here on TV. I'll give you $5000 if you can prove that” and so Jerry Sloan says “Hallelujah” because he had the tape.


Jones: He (Sloan) knew Rosemary Metrailer, and so he went to her for support and representation and was successful. We have this funny clip in the film too with Judge Michael Ullman who heard the case in our local municipal court and he was given the case by the presiding judge at the time and he said that he was only told, “This should be interesting, this should be interesting.”


On how the documentary in structured


Jones: It's really a civil rights story around Rosemary Metrailer built in the context of what was happening, not only in the city, but in the state and the nation during the decades if the sixties, seventies, eighties, through the nineties.


Deason: We've interviewed over 20 people for this with people who knew about Rosemary or were associated with her in some way in order to get this story together. So what I saw were hours and hours of people talking on video and I was like “oh my god how am I going to bring some life into this project” and I listened to RadioLab, which I love. I love how the producers and the reporters are talking to each other, discussing the subject, and then the subject comes up and people that they've interviewed speak and they kind of lead into it and I said “hey Charlene, why don't we try this,” and Charlene said ok, but then we looked at each other in the mirror and we said “oh my gosh look at me I can't do this, let's get some younger people to do this.” So we hired a couple of actors to play our parts, I like to think of them as our avatars. We cut it up into different segments, so there are parts of her life that we think are really important that we wanted to talk about, and as we did that we led in with it with a preamble, a foreshadowing by showing clips of what was happening at the time, and then our actors come in, fill in the blanks, do the segways into the different parts of what she was active in


Challenges as a producer


Jones: We knew that our purpose was there to make sure that the voices that are typically not heard are heard, so it took us a lot of time to make sure that we were pulling in all the interviews  and film some of these important people, particularly women in the community contributed with LGBTQ rights, so the time element could really be called a challenge, but overall I think people were really eager to pitch in, we had a lot of volunteer experience and a lot of support from the community. I don't think we've run into larger challenges except for maybe fiscal once in awhile



On What Rosemary is doing now?


Jones: Rosemary is alive in Nevada City, she lives on a road that is way back in the back, in fact when I went to go interview her the first time she asked if I had a four wheel drive and I said oh ha ha ha, but she said no seriously you need a four wheel drive to get her place


On Project Founder Camille Butaski


Deason: Camille and I were really good friends and we used to go to coffee a lot, and she loves films so she came up with this idea, she says “you know, there's so many people in the Sacramento Area who really contributed to LGBT rights, and we don't really hear about some of them and I think it's important to preserve those stories so what do you say? Shall we do this?” and I said yeah so she told me about Rosie and I said heck yea because Rosie is amazing and I'd love to do that. As we progressed with it and started talking to people about helping us fund the project, that's when I met Charlene, and she got involved and was a great inspiration to me. Camille became sick and actually passed away. She was one of the people we interviewed. She got to see some of it but not all of it.


On future documentaries


Jones: We would love to do many more documentaries but may I mention that we are so pleased that our film on Saturday is sold out but we anticipate more screenings in the future. We have the obligation and desire to make sure that especially younger people enjoy this history and learn from it. We will be screening it at college campuses and here and there in the region.

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