Out filmmaker: Growing up gay motivates his success

Out filmmaker: Growing up gay motivates his success

BROOKLYN – If you were to ask film director Sean Robinson what his favorite memory of growing up in Danville, Va., he’d tell you it was “leaving.”

The openly gay up-and-coming film director admits that growing up as the youngest child in a family of five — in a “very loving but eccentric Christian household” — in the town alongside the North Carolina-Virginia border left him with a sense of urgency to make his mark on the world.

Which, he wryly admits, he did as soon as he turned 18 when he packed up and and moved to New York City.

Sean Robinson
Sean Robinson

Robinson says that his need to live his life as an openly gay man was his principal motivation for his “escape to New York.” He said that his need to come out was also coupled with his love for the performing arts which is a career choice that he had always dreamed about from childhood.

“I told my parents and their reaction was as long as it wasn’t immoral or went against the bible,” he says. “So if I acted in a play with foul language, sex or nudity, they’d disapprove of it immediately. Of course that was the same thing as their disapproval of me sleeping with another man.”

Fast forward ten years, Robinson, now a successful film editor and award winning director, has been commissioned to direct a film documentary for the LGBT Academy of Recording Arts (LARA) 9th annual OUTmusic awards in January 2014 in Las Vegas, Nev.

The documentary, entitled “For Which WE Stand (One Queer Music Nation In The Visible),” will track the progress of LGBT musical artists with the culmination being the awards ceremony.

This new opportunity to direct the film for LARA excites him, and he says will expand his skills as a filmmaker and as an editor.

The film will feature live performances from the OUTmusic Awards with behind the scenes footage, interviews with pioneers, recording artists, activist, industry executives and various creative industry professionals.

Robinson says that he finds it difficult sharing stories about his work accomplishments with his parents even now, as it seems that they immediately point out “what is ungodly or immoral about it.”

However he says, they do acknowledge that he “did a good job editing, or acting,” in particular a gig but still tell him that they can’t approve or support his efforts.

But, he explains that a driving force for his creatively is his sexual orientation and the conflict he has experienced with his parents over the “gay” issue — they view it in absolutes, he says.

“It’s a sin and they won’t budge on that” attitude has influenced his approach to storytelling, he says.

“I guess that because of my parents, and how hard I have tried to convince them that being gay is normal, well… my work will always have recurring themes of how religious fundamentalism is a destructive force,” says Robinson.

“Hopefully, my films can enlighten and help others who have been ostracized by intolerant families, schools and religious communities,” he adds.

Robinson credits New York-based film and theatre director Paul Warner, his mentor at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), for keeping him focused. Warner has directed more than fifty stage productions and numerous films, including the award-winning “In the Name of the Father.”

He now works full-time in the digital film medium and shyly admits that thus far he has never worked with traditional film.

Film making has become his passion, he says, noting that with Warner’s support and encouragement, he has garnered several festival awards for two of his films, “Outer Banks, Naked – A Musical Short Film” and his 24-minute short film, “The Puritans.”

“The Puritans” premiered in March 2013 and has been an official selection in over 40 film festivals worldwide winning Best Original Concept at the NW Short Film Festival (Vancouver, Wash.), Best International Short at the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival (United Kingdom), and most recently The Grand Prix Award at the International Short Film Festival “Kharkov Lilac” (Ukraine).

Today, Robinson lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York with his partner Conor, an actor from Dublin, Ireland and their dog, Freckles, an Aussie-Lab mix.

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