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Deanna Leonard – Outfest Mom

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Meet Deanna Leonard – a proud parent and one of our beloved Outfest community members.

Best thing about being a mom:
Having people who are gung ho about your ideas (for now at least) LOL. Their imaginations are open and it’s great to watch them xperience something for the first time and see their eyes light up because they have accomplished something.

Biggest challenge as a parent:
Knowing when to let go. I always hope my kids do the right thing, that the lessons I’m teaching them are hitting home, and they become the best version of themselves. However, I can’t follow them and nag them throughout life. I have to hold my breath, know that I did my best, and watch them grow.

What is the best advice you’ve received about motherhood?
The days are long but the years are short; AND there is no such thing as supermom!

Deanna Leonard is an alumna of the OutSet program. She produced The First Date, a short film about the perils of dating, which debuted at Outfest Fusion Film Festival 2012, and continues to screen at many of this year’s festivals including The Iris Prize Film Festival, New Fest Film Festival, Long Beach Q Fest, and Immaginaria Int’l Women’s Festival in Italy. The First Date has won the OutFest Audience Award for Outstanding Narrative Short. In addition to creating films that make you laugh, Deanna’s main goal is to create content that works towards the betterment of society.


OutSet Goes into Production

Fellows in the picture from left: Melissa Perez, Damone Williams, Jimbo Bowen, Leiana Valenzuela, and Rolando Rodriguez

This Saturday January 25th they have written, produced and will be directing all with the help of industry professionals an mentors who are volunteering their time to participate in this very special program.

Meet the fellows who wrote the scripts that were chosen for production:

MELISSA PEREZ, writer, “My Mother’s Orphan”

INSPIRATION FOR YOUR SCRIPT: There was a point in my life last year where I was recording every single conversation I had with my mom. She had no idea. When I came out to my mom she said, “Not being able to tell your parents what’s going on in your life is like being an orphan.” I think I imagined it would be comforting to see my mom’s opinion about me change over time but that never really happened. I wanted to compile and organize the recordings but it hurt too much to listen to them. It was like I was hearing them in real time—like I was experiencing her words in the present. Sometimes I just liked the sound of her voice and the things she said that were loving–the part of her that wanted to understand why I was gay—not the part of her that wanted to make me straight. I would constantly ask myself how can I understand her, how can I accept her even if she can’t accept me. So one day as I was listening to music online, my iTunes came on by accident and I suddenly heard my mom’s voice and there was this deep pain inside of it. The music intensified and these images of my childhood flashed before my eyes and those images were the seeds of “My Mother’s Orphan.” It became a personal story within fictional characters in a fictional situation

HOMETOWN: The High Desert city of Victorville, CA. We lived in the outskirts closer to the mountains with less homes and more coyotes and jack rabbits. I like the peace and nature of the desert. I especially liked the few winter days that it would snow over the Joshua trees and desert brush. It was a wonderful sight. My best memories were enjoying the outside with the family. We did that as kids and I think later we forgot how to appreciate it.

DESSERT: So many. I’m a huge on ice-cream and dark chocolate. I also constantly crave boba drinks.

FAVORITE SONG YOU LIKE TO TURN UP REALLY LOUD: “Birthday” by The Sugarcubes. “Rusholome Ruffians” by The Smiths and Jonsi’s “Go Do.”

BEST WRITTEN MOVIE YOU’VE EVER SEEN: Festen by Thomas Vinterberg & Mogens Rukov.

DAMONE WILLIAMS, writer, “Gideon’s Cross”

INSPIRATION FOR YOUR SCRIPT: My love for this genre (sci-fi, horror), and the lack of depictions of people of color in significant roles in this genre is what inspired me to tell this story. Also, I wanted to turn the vampire/vampire slayer narrative on its head and take risks with a touchy subject.

HOMETOWN: I grew up in the good ol’ Inland Empire (about an hour east of L.A). Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga, to be exact.

DESSERT: That’s a tie between a Cinnabon cinnamon roll and sweet potato pie.

ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE IN OUTSET SO FAR: Rollercoaster. (I love rollercoasters, by the way!)

BEST WRITTEN MOVIE YOU’VE EVER SEEN: Another tie: Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love and Basketball and Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere.

JIMBO BOWEN, writer “Gay Over”

INSPIRATION FOR YOUR SCRIPT: Just this overwhelming pressure I was feeling in my life to make good choices involving my future. I just moved to Los Angeles with a lot of heart but no sense of direction. I became so aware that every little choice I made could dictate my future. I wanted to create a film that spoke levels about that ideology.

HOMETOWN: Reidsville, GA

DESSERT: Ice-cream



LEIANA VALENZUELA, writer, “Café au Lait”

INSPIRATION FOR YOUR SCRIPT: I was inspired to tell this story after seeing what my brother, who is transgender, experiences in his everyday life. I wanted to showcase the struggles of people who are gender non-conforming, gender queer, or transgender.

HOMETOWN: I grew up in East Los Angeles.

FAVORITE TV SHOWS: “Scandal” and “Dexter.”

FAVORITE SUBJECT IN SCHOOL: Right now Ceramics and sometimes English.


ROLANDO RODRIGUEZ, writer, Calavera

INSPIRATION FOR YOUR SCRIPT: My characters simply speak and I always listen — my characters always inspire me and from them comes the world.

HOMETOWN: I grew up in South Los Angeles, on the outskirts of Downtown LA, near the freeways, the train tracks and crowded city streets.

DESSERT: The round concha bread in local supermercados that comes in shades of white, brown and pink.

WHO I WOULD THANK FIRST IF I WON AN OSCAR: Toni Morrison for showing me that an unconventional story can penetrate the senses, manipulate the mind, alter the soul.

BEST WRITTEN MOVIE YOU’VE EVER SEEN: Well, this year at least, Before Midnight was brilliantly written and that is as far as I can allow my mind to go.