Hamish Downie’s Five Questions With Josef Steiff


Editor Note: Hamish has another in his series of Five Questions With…

Hamish came up with this idea because he was accumulating too much material for his Famous News Sushi column and asked if he could do these mini-interviews. Why would we say no?

Thank you Hamish for being such a trooper for us. We really appreciate all for your hard work.

Let us know what you think of these interviews in the comments below.

TGG: Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers?

JS: Hi, everybody, I am a filmmaker and writer originally from North Central Appalachia where I worked as a social worker before becoming a filmmaker and teacher. My first film to ever be in a festival was entitled “How Will I Tell?” and I’ve since realized that that title pretty much encapsulates all of my creative work: I tend to make films and write about people trying to find their voice, to speak of what’s important to them, what they’re struggling with. It might be the social worker in me, but I’m always fascinated by the ways we try to make sense out of events or situations that are in effect senseless or random.

TGG: Could you please tell us about your film in the Gilbert Baker Film Festival?

JS: “Jesse James” is a good example of a film that I knew I wanted to make years ago but wasn’t ready to tell. Sometimes you have to recognize when you’re ready and when you’re not. Once I was ready to tell it, there were a number of challenges in getting it to the screen. So it’s been a long road. But ultimately a good one. This was definitely one of the very best sets I’ve ever been on — that’s thanks to the cast and crew who were all amazing to work with; despite being a pretty heavy topic, we had a lot of fun making it. But I will say, if I had known it was going to go out into the world just as COVID hit, I would have probably made a light-hearted comedy. We got rejected from a lot of festivals at first because they felt the subject matter — domestic violence — was too depressing at a time when the world was pretty depressing already. But then we sort of took off, ultimately winning about 50 awards in 116 festivals. Gilbert Baker Film Festival looks to be our last one, and I can’t think of a better festival for us to end our two-year festival run with.

JJ Trailer trees 60sec v3 from Josef Steiff on Vimeo.


TGG: What was the biggest thing you learned while making the film?

JS: I learn so much from every film I make. I think this one taught me that if you surround yourself with the right people, are realistic about how long you need to shoot, and give yourself the time to plan well, filmmaking does not have to be as stressful as a lot of people make it. I think the nature of independent and short film production is often that we’re working with such small budgets that everyone has to do several jobs and you’re rushing nonstop. I think I’ve only had two films, this one and one other, where that hasn’t been the case, and they’re a good reminder that it’s possible. “Jesse James” had an amazingly talented cast and skilled crew all the way through from preproduction to postproduction — you can’t beat that.

TGG: What does Gilbert Baker’s Pride Flag mean to you?

JS: I think the Pride Flag was the first positive symbol of the LGBTQIA+ communities I ever encountered. Even today, when I see it in someone’s yard or at a business or on a car, it reminds me I belong. It’s a visual acknowledgement that we’re not alone and that our communities are a presence in this world.

TGG: What’s next for you?

JS: I’m currently in pre-production on a new lgbtqia+ short — this time a love story — called “Emerald City” about two guys traveling along the U.S. / Mexican Border. Rigo has spent most of his life in foster care after his parents were deported. Upon aging out, he has been searching for a direction… which he may have found with rumors of a religious community based on Santa Muerte, the Saint of Death. Paul dropped out of college after a fight with his father, who was laid off from his job at a GM factory. Paul plans to join the Border Patrol but tells people he’s heading for the Pacific Crest Trail… in fact he’s really exploring something else, a side of himself that he can’t tell anyone about. The script is by David Bobrow, and we just locked a great cast and crew. Keep an eye out for us in about a year.

TGG: How can we best support you? (where can we watch the film, where can we follow you on social media etc.)

JS: The next place you can see “Jesse James” is at the Gilbert Baker Film Festival! But if you miss it there, you will be able to find it streaming on GayBingeTV and QueerBee. Also please check out our crowdfunding campaign for “Emerald City” through From the Heart Productions — all donations to the film are tax deductible, which is definitely a nice bonus, and you can see picture and bios of our cast and crew as well as read more about the film and see a trailer:



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