Looking through a lens of self-discovery

Queen’s grad Michael Kenney says Canadian LGBT films and productions are breaking societal boundaries

Playing it Straight was inspired by Kenney’s love of comedy.
Playing it Straight was inspired by Kenney’s love of comedy.
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Doing what you love is a journey of self-discovery, something Michael Kenney, ArtSci ’08, found through filmmaking.

Kenney’s film Playing it Straight was voted as a Festival Favourite at the 2013 Cinema Diverse! Palm Springs Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It will be playing at the Reelout Film and Video Fest in Kingston on Jan. 30.

“I was inspired to direct this film for very personal reasons. Two months before I decided to write my thesis, I came out of the closet,” Kenney said. “This was a very hard time in my life, and putting my creative energy into making a film about being gay really helped me to cope.”

Since then, Kenney said he’s been on an amazing journey, which has allowed his work and his confidence to flourish.

“Writing has really helped me enhance my creative energy and I feel very in touch with myself now,” Kenney said.

He had always been deeply inspired by films. Even though he didn’t expect to be pursuing a career in TV production, his early childhood was spent in front of a TV screen.

“I loved watching movies with my siblings. A lot of people call television the idiot box. To me, it was an amazing place where I could let my imagination run wild,” Kenney said. “I wanted to create characters of my own and that’s how I was inspired to pursue filmmaking.”

When reminiscing about his entrance into film, Kenney recalled his time at Queen’s with nostalgia, citing his work with Queen’s TV (QTV).

He majored in political studies but his involvement with QTV inspired him to apply to film school after graduating.

After studying television at Humber College and witnessing the television scene in Toronto drying up after the financial crisis in 2008, Kenney was on his way to California to pursue his dreams.

“It’s still a struggle here trying to establish yourself. I was very young and naïve when I first came here but I have learnt a lot from my peers,” he said. “It helped me discover what I’m really interested in pursuing, and I realized I love writing comedy, and hence Playing it Straight took form.”

Playing it Straight is a film about a young man, Patrick, who wakes up on the day of his wedding after a drunken night with his future bride’s brother.

“It’s a film about acceptance and honesty. It’s really important to be comfortable with who you are if you want to be true to yourself,” Kenney said.

Canadian LGBT films and TV productions are breaking boundaries by striving to change society in order to make it more tolerant and accepting, he said.

“I really admire what producers did with the show Degrassi,” Kenney said. “Allowing the characters in the show to deal with issues on being gay and transgendered really made it an outstanding production.”

Playing It Straight will be screening on Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. at the Screening Room. Tickets are $8 for students. Visit www.reelout.com for more information.

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