A trailblazer way ahead of the zeitgeist, Rob Epstein alone or with Jeffrey Friedman, won two Academy Awards, three Peabodys, four Emmys, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among many other honors, for his/their gay documentaries The Times of Harvey Milk, Common Threads - Stories from the Quilt, The Celluloid Closet, and Paragraph 175. Then they decided to try narrative features, making the Allen Ginsberg obscenity trial movie Howl, starring James Franco, Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels, and Mary-Louise Parker, which grossed $617,334. Last year saw their first non-gay feature, the biopic Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried as the porn starlet, Sharon Stone as her monstrous mother, and again James Franco as Hugh Hefner. It grossed $356,582. (To compare, The Celluloid Closet grossed $1.4 million in 1996.) More than a year ago they announced a movie about Anita Bryant, starring Uma Thurman, which does not appear to have begun production. In December, for World Aids Day, HBO aired their new short The Battle of amfAR. In February, TCM screened their 90-minute special offering an inside look at the Oscars. Masters of the documentary, Epstein and Friedman have written a how-to book called The Art of Nonfiction Movie Making.
Auspicious from the start, in 1985, Joseph Olshan saw his first novel Clara's Heart win the London Times/Jonathan Cape Young Writers Competition, get great reviews, and three years later become a movie starring Whoopi Goldberg as a Jamaican housekeeper in Rye, New York who transforms a boy's life. In 1994, he published his best-known gay novel Nightswimmer, the story of Will Kaplan's struggles to reconnect with life, and a new boyfriend, a decade after his partner Chad either drowned or intentionally disappeared. In 2008 he released his eighth novel, The Conversion, again about a gay man untangling memory and doubt in the aftermath of his lover's death (this time in Paris and Tuscany, an American translator mourning a famous older poet). Yet again Olshan earned impressive reviews comparing his work to that of Graham Greene and Andre Aciman. His most recent book Cloudland is a mystery inspired by the real, unsolved serial murders of six women in the Connecticut River valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, where he lives. His work has been translated into sixteen languages.