Filmmaker Daniel Karslake Interviewed


Local resident Bill Sievert speaks with the documentary filmmaker ahead of his June 24 appearance in Mount Dora

On Friday, June 24, Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Emmy Award-nominated filmmaker Daniel Karslake will be the highlight of LGBT Pride Month in Lake County. There will be a screening of his critically acclaimed documentary For the Bible Tells Me So at the Mount Dora Community Building and a discussion of the forthcoming sequel, For We Know Not What We Do.

Bill Sievert interviewed Karslake earlier this month for Mount Dora Pride & The Triangle Connection in advance of his local appearance. Karslake talks about his background, his movies, working with Tea Leoni and the idea of retiring to Mount Dora. Here is Bill Sievert’s Q & A with Daniel.) We reprint this interview with Bill’s permission. Do note that this Q&A was done before the recent events in Orlando.


Bill: When For the Bible Tells Me So first opened nearly a decade ago it wowed audiences at Sundance and other festivals all across North America, but now that marriage equality is the law in all 50 states, how is the film still relevant other than as an historical document?

Daniel: So much amazing progress has been made toward equality for gay and lesbian Americans since 2007.  And yet, sadly, I still get so many emails from families who are struggling with their faith and their gay kid, people who have just found the film for the first time, and they send me incredible stories of both struggle and evolution…

What’s more, we are in the middle of a major backlash from the right against the rights of LGBT people.  There are more than 100 pending pieces of legislation, like the new laws in North Carolina and Mississippi, that both make it impossible to pass non-discrimination laws and demand that transgender people use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate – all under the guise of ‘religious freedom.’

Bill: Will the sequel, For We Know Not What We Do, address those current issues?

Daniel: We are going to take a very close look at them, especially the anti-transgender phenomenon. We will profile the families of two transgender folks, including a Mormon story, and profile an evangelical couple whose son, Ryan, came out to them at 12 and then spent six years in ex-gay ‘reparative’ therapy.  That is a story of both tragedy and reconciliation.”

[The sequel also will feature one family from the original film, and retired Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson makes a return appearance. Daniel hopes to have scenes from the new film to show his Mount Dora audience if his editor, who works for 60 Minutes and is currently on assignment in Cuba, can pull them together in time. “I’m optimistic,” Daniel says.]

Bill: You are very eloquent on the subject of ending world hunger, and your film Every Three Seconds is a powerful statement about how some people are taking practical actions to combat it. Are you staying involved in that issue personally or professionally?

Daniel: Yes!  We are in the process of cutting an educational version of “Every Three Seconds” right now for schools, and I’m really excited about it.  Actress Tea Leoni is involved, and I think it’s going to be very powerful. The message of that film is that we all have a blinding potential to make positive change in the world, so I’m excited that we will spreading that message to kids all over the country!

Bill: In the Life was a groundbreaking series for American television. [Daniel was a producer and director of the LGBT-themed PBS newsmagazine in the early 2000s and received an Emmy nomination for his work.] How did you become involved in producing it?

Daniel: That’s a long story. Suffice it to say that synchronicity played a HUGE role, and my time at “In the Life” is the reason I am making films now.

Bill: What prompted you to move to Berlin? Where were you living before that?

Daniel: My husband Russ and I lived in New York for 15 years before we sold our apartment and bought a house across the Hudson in Newark, NJ. When his company asked in 2014 if we’d be interested in moving to Europe so that Russ could help start a European branch of the company, we said “of course!!”  So we’ve been in Berlin a little over two years, and absolutely love it.

Bill: We know you’ve visited Orlando and spoken there, but have you been to Mount Dora before? What sort of connections do you have with Central Florida?

Daniel: In August of 2008, I was brought to Orlando for a big screening of For the Bible Tells Me So at a large Unity church.  It was because of that screening that I connected with Sheri and Mark Dixon who became pivotal in the production of my second film, Every Three Seconds.  Sheri is now one of the producers of For We Know Not What We Do.  Because of the Dixons, Central Florida has been hugely supportive of my work, and I love it there!

My connection to Mount Dora goes back to my first kiss at four years old.  My best friend then was a beautiful four-year-old named Janet who lived right across the street from me.  One afternoon after nursery school, we stole our first kiss.

Janet and I lost contact decades ago when my family moved away, but through Facebook, we reconnected … [During his last trip to Orlando] Janet and her partner Brian invited me to come up and visit Mount Dora. I spent an amazing evening in your beautiful town, and I can’t WAIT to return!!  I’ve already said to my husband that perhaps we need to retire there someday…

Bill: Where else are you going on this trip to the States?

Daniel: Before I come to Mount Dora, I’ll be in Chicago for a fundraiser, and then in Champaign, Illinois for two more events.  After the event, my husband and I will be spending the week vacationing with my parents in Chautauqua, New York.

Interview provided by Bill Sievert