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"Reclaiming my time" / Project Updates / Tribute to Stephen Kempfe

Here we are, nearing the end of the first quarter of 2021, and I realize that I’ve yet to give a single update since last December. Sorry about that.

Work on this project is often a series of fits and starts. When things get rolling, a lot can happen in a very short time. But then other things get in the way, and I’m sometimes forced to put things on a temporary hold as I juggle other responsibilities.

Admittedly, COVID threw a wrench in a lot of my plans for the film last year. There are still a number of people I’m hoping to interview, and now that I’ve (finally) received a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, I’m starting to pick up the pieces and reach out to people again. To those of you whom I've lost touch with, please feel free to reach out to me...

One happy hurdle that is now more or less done involves archival research. While selecting specific clips and photos – and then dealing with the torturous process of licensing them – will have to be handled as the editing comes together, I’ve worked with a terrific team on assembling a database covering a variety of topics…

The first concerns the subjects of Amsel’s work: the figures and celebrities he created portraits of, and the movies and TV Guide covers he created illustrations for. We also want to show the scope and popularity of his work, such as period photos of Amsel’s movie poster artwork featured in Times Square.

The second involves framing the chronology of events within their historical time and place – spanning Amsel’s life from his early years in Pennsylvania in the late 1940’s, to New York City in the late 1960’s through the mid 1980’s, and his short time in Los Angeles in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This was by far the broadest and most challenging topic, as I want to detail the political and social views and style of gay life (and the many challenges gays faced), as described by Amsel’s friends.

The third and final topic, inevitably, concerns the rise, identification, and impact of AIDS, and how it devastated both Amsel’s life, as well as his circle of friends.

This process has been no easy feat, and I’m forever thankful to the following people for their leadership and assistance:

Brendan Abbott

Erin Cherniss

April Anne Edquiban

Bryan Harris

Samantha Kwan

Parker Jacob Obregon

Erin Richmond

I’m also extremely grateful to the following people who helped transcribe the 100+ hours of interview footage I’ve shot over the last six years. Transcription is a painstaking, seemingly thankless task, and asking someone to handle it is like condemning them to the tenth cycle of Hell. But it’s a critical part of the editing process, and will prove even more valuable when I work on the book.

Erin Cherniss

Anthony Dollar

Eli Fénix

Max Lerner

Xinjie Li

Ethan Montaug

Richard Schertzer

Brendan Abbott

Pranav Agarwal

Hafeezat Azeez

Jackson Goldberg

Bryan Harris

Paul Laukaitis

Tyler S. Perez

Erin Richmond

Miranda Torrez

Esbeth Heredia

Finally, I'd like to close this post by paying tribute to the late STEPHEN KEMPFE, who passed away March 13th at the age of 30. That he was so young is only the beginning of his family's grief.

Steve was a brilliant photographer, and a huge supporter of this project. He was also my cousin, my godson, and one of my best friends -- and one of the kindest, gentlest souls I've ever known.

I’ll miss him forever.




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