A Conversation with Producer & Director Joe Atkinson

Ahead of the premiere screening of Out & About: A Gay History of Evansville, we had a chance to talk to the documentary’s producer and director. This is our conversation….

Graphic for Out & About: A Gay History of Evansville

"Out & About: A Gay History of Evansville" is a documentary produced and directed by Joe Atkinson

Ahead of the premiere screening of Out & About: A Gay History of Evansville, we had a chance to talk to the documentary’s producer and director. This is our conversation.

Q. What prompted the creation of this documentary at this particular moment in time? What were the motivating factors behind its production? 

A. You can trace the genesis of the film to Kelley Coures’s new book, Out in Evansville; a senior honors project on the same topic by a University of Evansville student named Shane Ranschaert; and a conversation between Shane and WNIN Tri-State Public Media CEO Tim Black. I came in after all of this; because I had done several documentaries with WNIN in the past, Tim reached out to me about the possibility of tackling this project.  

Kelley’s book did a terrific job of exploring the issues and challenges that brought us to this point. To me, what made the idea of complementing that with a film was to bring those issues and challenges to life by putting modern faces on them. 

Q. As a director, what were some of the challenges and rewarding moments you encountered while working on a project that delves into such a significant and sensitive historical narrative? 

A. I think the biggest challenges, as a director, involved determining who to interview and earning their trust to the point where they felt comfortable opening up for that interview. Not being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I was, to a large extent, learning while I was filming. Being able to take what I was learning and find a way to pass that along via the film has been one of the more rewarding parts of the process. 

Questions Answered by WNIN President and CEO Tim Black

Q. Why is it crucial to explore a community’s history, even when it includes challenging aspects? 

A. Exploring a community’s history, even when it includes challenging aspects, is crucial for understanding the present, preserving memory and learning from past mistakes. It allows us to celebrate achievements, promote empathy and foster understanding within the community, encouraging open dialogue and inspiring positive change. By acknowledging both the highs and lows of history, we document cultural evolution, promoting a more inclusive and equitable future for all members of the community. 

Q. How do you anticipate the Q&A interaction will enhance the audience’s understanding and connection to the documentary?  

A. The Q&A session following the screening is expected to deepen the audience’s connection and understanding of the documentary in several ways. The Q&A facilitates discussions about the documentary’s relevance to contemporary LGBTQIA+ issues, encourages audience engagement and dialogue, and inspires advocacy for LGBTQIA+ rights and acceptance. Overall, this interaction fosters a stronger connection between the audience and the documentary’s themes, creators and the LGBTQIA+ history of Evansville. 

Q. Can you elaborate on the significance of using humanities as a tool for engagement in the community screening event? What conversations do you hope will be started?  

A. Using humanities as a tool for engagement in the community screening event for Out & About: The Gay History of Evansville is significant because it offers a framework for contextualizing LGBTQIA+ history within broader historical, cultural and ethical contexts. This approach encourages critical thinking, empathy and ethical reflection among the audience, as it explores topics like discrimination and identity. The event aims to initiate thought-provoking conversations that inspire reflection and dialogue about the LGBTQIA+ community’s journey in Evansville. It encourages viewers to appreciate the cultural contributions of the community, fostering a sense of pride and recognition while promoting a more inclusive future for all residents of Evansville.  

Q. What message would you convey to individuals who hold reservations about this documentary? 

A. This documentary aims to provide historical context, foster empathy and promote understanding within the community. It’s an opportunity to learn about the experiences and challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community in Evansville, which, like any community, has a rich and diverse history. By watching the documentary and participating in discussions, you have a chance to gain new perspectives, ask questions and contribute to a more inclusive and accepting society. We encourage you to keep an open heart and mind as you engage with this important piece of local history, as it has the potential to spark meaningful conversations and promote positive change in our community.