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See How They Run; Scout's Honor

Wednesday, Dec 20 2000
The Contender It's not unusual for indie filmmakers to throw fund-raisers for their works-in-progress. But it is a shock to see the mayor at one of these shindigs, given his preference for socializing with deeper-pocketed citizens. Yet there he was, front and center, at a posh SOMA live/play space (complete with basketball hoop), attending a benefit for See How They Run, Emily Morse and Kelly Duane's chronicle of the 1999 mayoral campaign. Morse was the women's outreach director for Brown's '95 mayoral bid (following stints with the Boxer and Migden campaigns); in early '99 she decided to make a film about the race for S.F.'s top job. "I pitched the mayor, not having taken a film class," Morse recalled. ""What [would] you think if I followed you around with a camera?' Willie never had a problem, but his handlers [occasionally] said, "Whoa, you can't come in this meeting.'"

The project quickly expanded to include Clint Reilly's challenge and, late in the game, Tom Ammiano's write-in campaign. "Reilly gave us no access," said Duane, a photojournalist who met Morse in a Film Arts Foundation class and joined up as co-producer. "Tom didn't give us much, but there were some lovely people in his camp who were extraordinarily open with us." With two months of editing still ahead, Brown is inevitably shaping up as the film's central character. But the novice filmmakers aren't worried about making a movie for which everybody already knows the ending. "Our goal is to have the film feel like a feature, where you're watching a plot develop," Duane explained. "We want people to be caught up in the moment." Added Morse, "I almost don't want to call it a documentary; it's a reality film. I don't think people will say [when the film comes out next year], "The election happened two years ago. We don't care.'"

Back at the party, Willie Brown and a couple hundred pals and supporters of the filmmakers turned to watch the humorous seven-minute trailer for See How They Run projected high on a wall. After the lights came back on, the filmmakers introduced the mayor to a smattering of applause; he said something that only the 20 people standing closest to him heard, then detonated his patented, too-hearty-to-be-genuine laugh. A few minutes later, when everybody went back to tapping the keg and pouring some red, he exited into the night.

Boys Don't Cry Sight unseen, I'll wager that Tom Shepard's Scout's Honor nabs the Audience Award at Sundance. Shepard's documentary centers on Steven Cozza, a straight Petaluma kid whose objection, at age 12, to the Boy Scouts' ban on homosexuals led him to found Scouting for All with 70-year-old Scout veteran David Rice (see "No Boy Scout," Sept. 20). "Steven's holding the Boy Scouts to their own oath, and he believes their policy goes against what he learned in scouting," Shepard explained. "This film is about what happens when straight people stand up for gay rights and come together with gay people, and it's about the moral life of a 12-year-old boy in modern society."

A spring theatrical release is a possibility, with a subsequent TV broadcast certain. The S.F.-based Independent Television Service (ITVS) funded Scout's Honor, and it will place the one-hour film with PBS affiliates around the country (in the event that PBS's "P.O.V." series doesn't snap it up first). Meanwhile, Shepard has a lock on the hottest giveaway at Sundance: He's printing 500 neckerchiefs with the Scout oath, including the phrase "morally straight," which the Scouts used to justify banning gays. Only the scarves will be pink, not yellow.

About The Author

Michael Fox


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