Today’s interview is with Ryan James Yezak. Ryan is both a filmmaker and an activist. More on him can be found at his YouTube channel. Also check out his imdb profile.
Justin Samuels: You’re in the process of filming your documentary Second Class Citizens. How is that going?
Ryan James Yezak: It’s going well. It’s been in production for over a year now, and we are inching our way closer to completion. We successfully organized the first-ever National Gay Blood Drive on July 12th. Now we are currently searching for the final documentary subject, someone who would be fired by their employer for being openly gay.
JS: Second Class Citizens is about anti gay discrimination. Aside from not be able to donate blood, in what other ways have you felt discriminated against or marginalized because of your sexuality?
RY: Despite the recent Supreme Court victories, there is still marriage inequality in the majority of our states. Same sex adoption is only allowed in 19 states & Washington DC – it is decided on a case by case basis in most of the other states and is prohibited in 7 of them. You can be fired for being gay in 29 states and fired for being transgender in 34 of them. There is housing discrimination. There is a lack of anti-bullying policy that protects sexual orientation & gender identity. Private organizations like Boy Scouts of America & religious institutions can freely discriminate against sexual orientation however they want. And finally, minors continue to be kicked out of their homes and on to the streets simply because they are LGBT.
JS: As an activist, do you think things are getting better or worse for gays? What areas do you think still need improvement?
RY: Absolutely things are getting better. We have minor setbacks here and there, but not a day passes that I don’t feel some form of change happening. It’s happening so quickly that it’s challenging to keep up with while making this documentary. The areas of discrimination I listed in the previous question are where we need improvement here in the US. We also need to shift our focus worldwide because there are some terrible things happening out there.
JS: What was it like to do the Peacock video for the Katy Perry song, Peacock? What inspired you to do that?
RY: Peacock was a unique experience for me because it was the first time someone in the industry gave me an opportunity to bring my creative vision to life. It would not have been possible without Katy’s wonderful team at EMI. They let me hear the song in advance, but I couldn’t download it. I could only stream it. I remember driving to/from work with my laptop in the passenger seat and my headphones on just so I could perfect my creative ideas. I come from a conservative background, and so the temptation of promiscuity and how we view it as a society served as the sources of my inspiration.
JS: Three weeks ago you your latest entry on YouTube was about a Scout being kicked out of the Scouts for being gay. Has anything else happened with that?
RY: The Scout subject in the documentary was both an eagle scout and an adult leader at the time of his dismissal from Boy Scouts of America. BSA voted to lift their ban against gay members in May, and so I r eleased a clip of him being kicked out in hopes that they would also vote to lift the ban against gay leaders. Unfortunately they did not. So while we made progress with the vote to lift the ban against gay youth, our work for full equality within that specific organization continues.
JS:Which of your parody videos have you had the most fun doing?
RY:Just to clarify, I don’t consider any of my work to be parody. While parody is imitation, all of my videos are original. My videos were created without me seeing the artist’s version. In fact, most of my music videos were created before the artist made theirs. I refer to my music videos as creative/artistic/visual interpretations. I can honestly say that I have had an equally stressful and amazing time making each one of them. I got to work with many talented individuals while freely expressing my creative vision and it’s something that I miss tremendously.
JS: How did you learn filmmaking?
RY: I studied film in college. It’s what I majored in at the University of Texas. However, I wouldn’t say that I’ve learned filmmaking. I’ve become quite pleased with my technique, and I am proud of the work that I’ve created. But I have a long road ahead of me in which I will continuously evolve as an artist. I have been fascinated with content my entire life . Not just any content, but content that moves me. When I connect with media, I study that connection and I incorporate it into my own work. I remember when I like something, and what it is I like about it. I make it a point to constantly stay in touch with my creativity, as that is the root of everything that I do.
JS: When and why did you start YouTubing?
RY: I started YouTubing because I had no other place to express my creativity. I moved to Los Angeles right after college and was unable to get a job, so I took matters into my own hands and started making videos. Since then, I have made every possible effort to put my ideas out into the world. Some hit and some miss, but no matter what I have the freedom to stay true to my vision, which is incredibly satisfying as an artist and content creator.
JS: Do you think the internet has helped gay filmmakers and entertainers get their product or message out there much better than the previous old media did?
RY: Without a doubt. I owe so much of my success to the internet and would be nowhere without it.
JS: Will Second Class Citizens have theatrical or television distribution? How will audiences be able to find it?
RY: We will see once it is complete. The goal is to get theatrical or television distribution, but it’s a very competitive industry. I am making the best possible film that I can make and then I will do everything in my power to get it to the largest possible audience.
JS:As you move forward in your career in film, will you just do documentaries or will you move on to narrative/fiction?
RY: I have so much I want to do. There are days when I get depressed because I have so many ideas and am unable to implement them. Then there are other days when nothing comes to mind, and I feel like I’m done. There will definitely be more documentaries to come. I am starting to view the word in such a different way than before, and I want to show the world how/why I am doing that. I believe that our society is going to drastically change in the coming years and I want to be a part of that change. No matter whether it be in documentary or narrative/fiction form.