On the eve of an issue that thrust San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom into national prominence, he called producer Geoff Callan and simply said, “Grab your cameras and meet me in my office tomorrow morning.”
Not sure what to expect, Callan arrived at City Hall with his production crew on the morning of Feb. 12 to record the first quiet moments of an event that later ignited a media frenzy — Newsom’s decision to lift the ban on same-sex marriage in San Francisco.“I had given the idea a lot of thought and talked to close friends and family about it,” Newsom said in a telephone interview about his decision. “They all thought it was a bad decision, but it was a decision I believed in so I did it.”
Callan’s film, Pursuit of Equality, takes viewers into the heart of what has proved to be the most controversial civil rights issue in recent history.
The film begins with the union of two major icons of the lesbian movement, Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, and features the only video coverage of Rosie O’Donnell’s union with her partner Kelli Carpenter, who traveled cross-country to wed in San Francisco.
Drawing from over 4,000 hours of recorded footage, the movie captures President George W. Bush’s call for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, the resulting court rulings, the overturning of the marriage licenses and the response of thousands of disappointed couples who were turned away before they could be wed.
“Who are we to say who can and cannot be married?” Newsom asked. “This film puts a face on the issue of same-sex marriage because it is about real people, their lives, stories, and narratives.” Callan worked relentlessly with producer and director Mike Shaw and associate producer Paul Byrd for over a year to produce Pursuit of Equality, drawing from donations as they went.
“We dropped everything to do this film,” Callan said. “We wanted to put a face on discrimination and we were lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of history in the making.”
The film even has ties to Mills — Public Safety officer Lewis Nelson, who has worked with Callan and Shaw in the past, provided voiceovers for the film.
“When they approached me with the opportunity to work on Pursuit, I jumped at the chance,” Nelson said. “I believed in what they were doing and the impact it will have on Americans across the country.”
Shaw, who was busy putting the final touches on the film, said it adds to the nationwide discussion about same-sex marriage.
“It’s a way to look at this a little bit deeper,” Shaw said. “A little more access and at the end of the day a little more heartfelt.”
Callan said he believes the film will change people’s view of same-sex marriage.
“People only have three view points — they are either for, against or on the fence,” Callan said. “We feel that those for will love the film, those against will, or should, have a better understanding of the issue and either love it or hate it and if we’re lucky some will change their opinion and those on the fence will make a decision to be either for or against same-sex marriage.”
Newsom said he has no regrets about his decision.
“In fact, after all of the controversy and criticism I received from my party and the Republican Party, I would definitely do it again. I have no regrets,” Newsom said. “Every single day, moving forward, there’s not been a moment when I’ve given it a second thought.”
Pursuit of Equality will premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival on April 24, at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. Tickets are on sale now. For more information or to see a trailer of the film, visit www.pursuitofequality.com.