“Denial” VOD 11/16 | A Story of Transitions in Energy and Gender

The Two Gay Geeks received this press release from our friend Jonah over at Potent PR.

This being Trans Awareness Week, we are happy to run this true story of a CEO of a major company making the transition and then running for Governor.

Here are the details:


Before Christine Hallquist was running for Governor of Vermont, she was David Hallquist, the CEO of the largest locally owned electric utility in Vermont. A self-described “closet environmentalist” Hallquist is dedicated to addressing the way electricity use in America contributes to climate change. But his mission is balanced with the utility’s charge to provide affordable and reliable service. For Hallquist, increasing the efficiency of the grid is the only meaningful route to merging these priorities.

He implements one of the country’s first ‘smart’ grids, decreasing outages, increasing the capacity for renewable sources and building a national reputation as an energy pioneer. Resistance, however, comes in many forms – traditionalists balk at the renewable intermittency, solar and wind advocates think Hallquist is dragging his feet, and the public fears that ‘smart’ meters on their homes will send private information about their energy use to the government.

As Hallquist struggles to build the kind of transparent company whose honest approach can get stakeholders to accept the realities of how we generate and deliver electricity, he realizes he must apply that same transparency to his personal life and reveals to his son a lifelong secret. Dave Hallquist, who presents as a chainsaw-wielding, hard hat-wearing CEO in a male-dominated industry is a woman inside.

Now, Derek’s family must face facts that feel far more immediate than the melting of the polar ice caps and denial emerges as a common theme linking all of these issues. Ultimately the personal and the societal come together as Derek learns that his father, newly named Christine, is still indeed his father – and that Christine’s unique perspective as the first American Transgender CEO to transition in office, may be just the what the limiting, binary worldview on energy and the environment needs.

The Subjects:

Christine David Hallquist (CEO-VEC) Christine David Hallquist is the first Transgender candidate for Governor in the United States. She moved to Vermont in 1976, first living in Essex Junction, and then settling with her spouse Pat in 1984 in Hyde Park next to the Green River Reservoir. In 1998, she joined Vermont Electric Coop as an engineering and technology consultant, bringing a background in process engineering from her work with leading information technology companies and consulting for top manufacturers. In 2000, Christine became Engineering and Operations Manager, and then its Chief Executive Officer in 2005, after the Coop acquired the assets of a larger investor-owned utility. At the beginning of Christine’s tenure as CEO, the Coop was in severe financial distress, and the state was considering pulling its certificate of public good.

Christine has always believed that people begin each day wanting to do the best job possible. As head of VEC, she viewed her job as empowering the Coop’s employees by giving them the tools they needed to do so. Embracing this philosophy, Christine worked with VEC’s 107 employees to not only rebuild the Coop’s finances, but also to transform it into a national leader on using renewable sources of electricity production to combat climate change. She was the chair of the strategies and technical advisory committees of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association where she advocated for innovative technology that enabled high penetration of renewables onto the grid. Today, under Christine’s visionary leadership and steady hand, VEC’s bond ratings are solid, and the Coop has not had a rate increase in more than four years. VEC meets 96 percent of its energy needs from carbon-free sources, compliance with the state’s goals to achieve the 100 percent renewable mandate for 2050.
Over the years Christine has also devoted her time and leadership skills to her local community. She has served as Hyde Park Town Meeting Day Moderator for the past five years, served twelve years on the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation Board, chaired the Sterling Area Services Mental Health Board, and served on the Hyde Park School Board. She is a member of United Community Church in Morrisville. In speaking about her time at VEC and her work at the community level, Christine has stated that “the values of cooperation among cooperatives and concern for community are a great basis for leadership at the state level. The power of people who want to do good, working together, is more powerful than their individual skills.”

Christine’s experience as head of VEC and her national prominence as an expert on the electric grid and climate change inspired her cinematographer son Derek to direct the biographical documentary about her entitled Denial. While in the process of filming Denial in 2015, Christine made the decision, after years of holding it inside, to come out as her true self, a transgender woman, becoming the first business leader in the country to transition while in office.
For relaxation, Christine is happiest when floating on the reservoir in summer in her old tractor tire inner tube. She also enjoys playing the piano, telemark and backcountry skiing, running, fishing, and sharing stories with friends and family. One of the things people often recognize Christine for is her great sense of humor and positive energy. Christine has three wonderful children and two grandchildren. Working to ensure that Vermont remains the special, inclusive and progressive place that it has always been, not only for her children and grandchildren, but also for future generations of Vermonters, is what motivates Christine to seek the honor and opportunity to serve the people of Vermont as its next governor.

Dr. Cortney S. Warren (Clinical Psychologist) Raised traveling the world as the child of two professors, Cortney has a unique perspective on human nature. She is an award-winning expert on eating disorders, addictions, self-deception, and the practice of psychotherapy from a cross-cultural perspective. With over 40 peer reviewed journal articles, Cortney’s work appears in some of the field’s top journals, including the International Journal of Eating Disorders, Appetite, and Obesity. She also wrote a book called, Lies We Tell Ourselves: The Psychology of Self-Deception. She also writes a blog for Psychology Today.

Dr. Phillip Schewe, (“The Grid”) Phillip F. Schewe is a scientist, photographer, and writer. He has a PhD in physics and has spent much of his professional career popularizing physics research. His plays have been produced in New York and Washington, DC, and he has contributed articles to the Washington Post and the New York Times and many other publications. He is the author of two books: The Grid (published in 2007 by the Joseph Henry Press), a look at how society uses and loses electricity (and declared by NPR as one of the science books of the year); and Maverick Genius (published in 2013 by St. Martin’s Press), a biography of physicist Freeman Dyson. He lives in Takoma Park, Maryland and is now at work on a novel.


The Filmmakers:

Derek Hallquist (Director, Writer, Producer), Derek Hallquist received a filmmaking degree from Emerson College and started his career in Los Angeles shooting TV shows for the Discovery networks. Derek was Director of Photography for The House I Live In, which won the 2012 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and won a Peabody award with Independent Lens in 2013. He also shot extensively for Reagan, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and won an Emmy Award with HBO in 2012. Derek’s production company, Green River Pictures, released his short documentary The Opiate Effect in, 2011, which Attorney General Eric Holder used it for outreach and is part of the Library of Congress. He has spent most of his life working on the Documentary DENIAL, which premiered at the LA film festival in 2016 and has won awards at film festivals around the country.

Aaron Woolf (Executive Producer, Producer, Writer) Aaron Woolf is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has focused on the human dimension of government policy. He is the director and producer of the critically acclaimed film, King Corn, his sixth feature documentary, for which he was awarded a 2008 George Foster Peabody Award. His work has been released theatrically in the US, Europe and Japan and broadcast on PBS, the Sundance Channel, and numerous international networks including Italy’s RAI, ARTE, and Australia’s SBS. Woolf has also expanded on his documentary exploration of social issues in business and politics. In 2007 he opened Urban Rustic, a Brooklyn NY grocery specializing in locally sourced and organic foods and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for Congress in New York’s 21st district. He lives with his wife Carolyn and daughter Eloise in in Elizabethtown, NY.

Shirel Kozak (Producer) Shirel Kozak is an Emmy-winning producer based in New York City whose work focuses on historical and social issue topics. Most recently, she produced Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (HBO) which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Prior to that, she produced Get Me Roger Stone (Netflix), which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and co-produced The King, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. She produced Denial (ITVS) and co-produced the Emmy and Sundance award-winning film (T)ERROR (ITVS, BBC), as well as the Peabody and Sundance award-winning film The House I Live In (ITVS, BBC). Additionally, she served as co-producer on the Amazon series, The New Yorker Presents.

Anoosh Tertzakian (Co-Director, Editor, Writer) Anoosh Tertzakian is an editor based in New York. Most recently, she edited Alex Gibney’s Emmy-nominated Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All. She has worked on many feature-length documentaries including Alison Ellwood’s The History of the Eagles, 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, and Eugene Jarecki’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner The House I Live In. She studied film at the American University of Paris and received her M.A. in Cinema Studies at NYU Tisch.

Christopher St. John (Producer) Christopher St. John (The House I Live In, Reagan, Freakonomics) is a producer and journalist with broad experience in print, broadcast and documentary film. He began his career in production at ABC News, working for Good Morning America before moving to the News Magazine division, where he contributed extensively to 20/20 and Primetime. Prior to producing DENIAL, he produced (T)ERROR (2015), THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (BBC/ITVS, 2012), which won the 2012 Sundance Grand Jury Prize, and received wide theatrical release in the fall of 2012. Christopher also co-produced FREAKONOMICS (Magnolia, 2010) and the Emmy Award winning REAGAN (HBO, 2011). Prior to entering production, he served as a regional correspondent in Southeast Asia for a number of US and international publications.

Daniel DiMauro (Producer, Additional Editor) Daniel DiMauro is a Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker best known for his work as co-director, writer, editor and producer of the Netflix Original documentary Get Me Roger Stone, which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Variety called the film “lively, fun, sickening, and essential.”
DiMauro’s passion for both filmmaking and social justice has guided him throughout his career, and led him to work as an editor and producer on multiple award-winning political and social issue-oriented documentaries for outlets such as HBO, PBS and BBC, including The King (2018), Denial (2016), (T)ERROR (2015), Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner The House I Live In (2012) and Reagan (2011), which won an Emmy. As a writer DiMauro has contributed to The Daily Beast and Talkhouse. As a guest speaker, he has given talks at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Columbia School of Journalism.

Eugene Jarecki (Executive Producer) Eugene Jarecki is an award-winning filmmaker, public thinker, and author. He is one of only two people to have twice won the Sundance Grand Jury prize for documentary, most recently in 2012 for The House I Live In which examines the crippling effects of the American War on Drugs. His prior film, Reagan, which examines the life and legacy of the 40th US president, received wide critical acclaim and won an Emmy Award after premiering on HBO for the occasion of Reagan’s 100th birthday. In 2010, Jarecki worked alongside Morgan Spurlock and Alex Gibney as director of a documentary film inspired by the bestselling book Freakonomics. Earlier that year, he directed Move Your Money, a short online video and attendant campaign encouraging Americans to move their money from “too big to fail” banks to well-rated community banks and credit unions. The film went viral, becoming an online sensation with over 7 million hits in just its first three weeks online. To date, an estimated 4 million Americans have ‘moved their money.’ Jarecki’s film Why We Fight, winner of the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and a Peabody Award, has been broadcast in over forty countries and released theatrically in over 250 US cities. In 2009, Simon & Schuster published Jarecki’s acclaimed book, The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril, which explores how militarism disfigures America’s foreign and defense policies as well as her broader national priorities. Jarecki’s first documentary, The Trials of Henry Kissinger was released in over 130 U.S. cities and won the 2002 Amnesty International Award, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and has been broadcast in over thirty countries. In 2002, TRIALS was selected to launch BBC’s prestigious digital channel BBC4 and the Sundance Channel’s documentary division. Jarecki also executive produced 2015 Sundance Special Jury prize winning (T)error. Most recently, Jarecki directed an episode of Amazon’s The New Yorker Presents entitled El Cyclist which looks at U.S. – Cuban relations on a endearingly personal and intimate level.

The Specifics:


Christine David Hallquist, Cortney S. Warren, Phillip Schewe

DIRECTED by Derek Hallquist
CO DIRECTED by Anoosh Tertzakian
WRITTEN by Derek Hallquist, Anoosh Tertzakian, Aaron Woolf
PRODUCED BY: Daniel DiMauro, Derek Hallquist, Shirel Kozak, Christopher St. John, Aaron Woolf
CO-PRODUCER: Savannah Woods
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Eugene Jarecki, Aaron Woolf
TRT: 93 minutes

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