Billy Porter is known for his work as a pioneering film and television actor, writer, singer, stage director, and musical theater star—but he’s never been behind the lens of the movie camera, until now. Tony-award, Emmy, Grammy-, Tony-award winning director, made his big screen directorial debut during the Opening Gala at Outfest’s 40th Annual Film Festival. He directed the exciting teen romance. Anything’s Possible.
Porter said that it was an incredible dream to be asked to direct the movie. “And when dreams come true, you jump on it,” he told TIME.
Anything’s Possible, written by Ximena García Lecuona, It’s a modern, sweet take on the classic story of teenage coming-of-age. The film follows Kelsa (Eva Reign), a self-assured fashion- and animal-loving trans girl in her senior year of high school, who finds herself navigating the joy and drama of first love when she’s asked out by her cis classmate and crush, school heartthrob Khal (Abubakr Ali).
Prime Video’s new romantic comedy ‘Anything’s Possible’ stars Eva Reign (left) and Abubakr Ali (right)
Porter was involved in every aspect of the project, from hand-picking the cast to bringing together a team of almost entirely queer guest artists to write six new songs for the film’s soundtrack, which he also performed on and executive produced.
“I was so moved by the story, the uniqueness of the storytelling, and what it represented,” says Porter. “It was perfect for all of who I am, and what I want to say as an artist.”
‘We have to do it ourselves’
Billy Porter and Kelly Lamor Wilson are on the set together with Eva Reign.
Tony Rivetti—Orion Pictures
In a time of virulent anti-LGTBQ+ legislation and sentiment, which targets trans and gender non-conforming people in particular, Porter says he hopes the film will empower young Black trans women to “encourage and inspire” themselves.
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The set of exemplified this spirit of community self determination. Anything’s Possible, where Porter says working with a team of other queer people to tell the story, including García Lecuona and Reign (who was also making her acting debut), created “an authenticity and a shorthand.” He goes on: “This one was truly a blessing. I had everybody I’ve wanted on the team, and I think that shows in the product.”
Anything’s Possible Amazon Prime Video will release the video on July 22. This kind of human-centric, modestly budgeted story was once a possibility for a large theatrical run. The silver lining to films such as this one that are released online is their accessibility to marginalized viewers who might not have access due to safety, financial or disability reasons. “Eyeballs will be on it because you can watch it from your house,” Porter told Varietyearlier in the year. “And that’s the audience that it’s for.”
Porter has spent his career thriving in the face of racism, homophobia, and anti-queer bias in the film, television, and theater industries—from winning a Tony in 2013 for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lola in the musical Kinky BootsTo become the first openly-gay Black man to win an Emmy for a leading acting role in 2019, for his performance in Pray Tell Pose. His most recent work was producing musicals. Strange Loop Tony nomination for Best Musical won him yet another Tony. Today, he says he’s learned, “Ain’t nobody gonna come save you But yourself. You have to take responsibility for it. We must find our hope and light within. Once we do that, nothing can stop us.”
Outfest, now in its 40th Year, continues to be a symbol of activism
Billy Porter attends Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival’s opening night gala
The premiere of Anything’s Possible at Outfest, Porter also received the organization’s Achievement Award, honoring his groundbreaking contributions to LGBTQ+ activism and art.
“It’s just full circle for me,” he says of the award. “Twenty-two years ago was the first and last time I was at Outfest, with Greg Berlanti’s Broken Hearts ClubThis was my first step towards becoming a director. My first musical theatre experience was as a baby. [and] here I am 22 years later with all of the dreams coming true, and it’s just magical. I am grateful to have this kind of voice.”
Damien S. Navarro, Executive Director of Outfest and a native of Los Angeles, remembers his first time at Outfest, too: attending one of the festival’s screenings at “19 or 20, with all the stars still in my eyes.”
Today, those stars haven’t faded, but his purpose has sharpened. What began in 1982 as the Gay and Lesbian Media Conference has grown into a respected media and arts organization, as well as an eagerly anticipated annual celebration of queer creativity and culture—and Navarro has high hopes for its future. The organization recently launched The OutMuseum, a free streaming service featuring queer films and documentaries, along with, “ever-rotating stories, conversations, panels, [and] educational moments specifically for our community.”
“That kind of activism through content is where we’re really starting to double down,” says Navarro.
In creating this year’s festival program, his team focused in particular on centering the stories of trans people, and Black and brown members of the queer community—those who have historically been excluded from many spaces, including those meant to be safe havens for LGBTQ+ people. “How do our rights get taken?” asks Navarro. “Because we as the queer community are not doing the job of understanding the needs of [the most] underrepresented, disenfranchised, and highly targeted” among us.
Navarro says he’s proud of the festival’s legacy of activism, relating the story of a sit-in at Los Angeles County offices by members of the festival’s board and staff that took place in the 1990s after the county announced intentions to cut the festival’s funding. Outfest is also home to iconic and pioneering work from queer storytellers, such as Elliot Page and Sir Ian McKellan. He plans to continue the richness and legacy of Outfest.
“I do believe story is one of the most powerful things we have [but]We must make it available. It is necessary to eliminate all technological and financial barriers. And that’s something we’re poised to help do,” says Navarro. “Philosophically, that’s what I think the next five to 10 years look like.”
Porter, also a staunch believer in the power of storytelling to uplift the queer community in times of darkness, shared a Toni Morrison quote he says he lives by: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work.”
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