by Michael Lemma & Davon Woodard
photos courtesy of Michael Lemma

As an artist, I definitely feel that the pieces I make massively echo my own life and experiences. I create art as an internal reflection on something - I can extract it, I can look at it, experience it. Art has always been a type of therapy. It is a way to not only pay homage to the profound experiences in my life, but also to put conflicts to rest.

This is what Stitch is about. The story, told through animation, is a bittersweet reflection on the beauty and agony of leaving one’s childhood behind. The roughly ten minute short film follows the relationship of two young men, a poetic telling of the way love and loss forever changes who we are. These two boys sew themselves together as a testament to the profound comfort and solace they find in each. As the relationship dwindles, they become separated, forcing the main character to try to make sense of this loss. In doing so he rediscovers his aging mother, and makes amends with his own mortality. 

The story is autobiographical, and may seem sad. It is my first experience of love and dedication to a caliber he never thought was possible juxtaposed against the single most devastating thing that had ever happened to me. Stitch is my personal way of accessing and interpreting this profound pain, wonder, and odd beauty of growing up.  Particularly in the months following the breakup, as I struggled to reclaim the bits of me of who I was before, and the simplicity of my childhood when life was so painless. It was at this point that I realized that the people and relationships that we believe to be so permanent in our lives are all temporary.

Stitch is a story of the universal human experience of childhood and first love, with characters who happen to be gay.  Crafted from passion, love, and truth, Stitch depicts the multi-dimensionality of the LGBT community; it will be an honest reflection of the relationships we share, both romantic and otherwise.  

I want the film to appear as a reflection of the joy that these experiences have created within me. Aesthetically, this will be achieved through heightened, intense golden lighting, metaphorical concepts, and dreamy imagery. I want my film to capture the abstract, childlike version of the world. One of endless summer days full of wonder, exploration, and discovery which take on a quality far beyond reality.

In daring to make an animation that shows a beautiful, pure relationship between two young men, I am also helping to change perceptions in the way mainstream media perceives gay life. 

When it comes to most television shows and films, mainstream media overwhelmingly presents  one-sided,stereotyped LGBT characters as “the sassy friend,” “the hairstylist,” and “the fashionable narcissist.”  As a filmmaker, my goal is to create serious portraits of the gay lives that exist beyond the stock “gay” portrayals of offered as an accent to a pre-existing straight story-line. Gay characters have more to contribute to a story other than their sexual orientation or the exaggerated stereotypes.

I want to create works that can truly help to change these perceptions. Living in my small Italian Catholic town, I was one of very few out gay men. There was no outreach in my community to help me feel like I wasn’t completely alone. I felt like such an outcast because of my sexual orientation.  That’s when I turned to the wonderful world of film to get me through so many of the pains along my road.  However, even in my sanctuary I felt like my life existed on the fringes because of my sexual orientation.  

When I was young, I wasn’t told that being gay was wrong. I just didn’t even know who gay people were! Because I saw nothing. I want young people to be able to turn on a television and actually see positive images that reflect who they are, and they can see a love story between two men can play in a movie theater and be viewed for its story, rather than its taboo and controversial content.

I am fascinated by a filmmaker’s ability to bring such a vast array of experiences to so many people around the world. I want to make films because I have so many stories to tell. To move others in the way that films have moved me. I have so many things in my head that I want to share. I want to fill the world with my own unique brand of beauty.

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