See photos from Outfest in Star Foreman's slideshow, “Outfest Opening Night Party.”

At an Outfest panel on Sunday, gay and lesbian filmmakers gave an inside look at the continuing struggle to get Hollywood studio honchos to green-light big budget films with gay central characters, fearing Americans can't handle homosexuality and those movies will turn into box office losers.

“It's all about the money,” said Guinevere Turner, screenwriter of American Psycho and Go Fish.

Outfest, one of the premiere gay and lesbian film festivals in the country, hosted the panel, called “Writers Under the Influence: The Top LGBT Films That Inspired Us,” at the Directors Guild of America building on Sunset Boulevard.

During the nearly two-hour discussion, Turner, Making Love screenwriter Barry Sandler, and Boys Don't Cry director Kimberly Peirce, among others, often veered off the panel's main topic and instead brought up the fact that, in 2010, it's still difficult to get financial backing from major studios to attempt to make inspiring gay and lesbian movies in the first place.

Movie executives, according to the panelists, are still not convinced that the American public can handle gay leading characters, with Sandler citing the fact that he has yet to see an action hero “come home to Ashton Kutcher” rather than a female lover.

Sandler said he would like to see such big budget Hollywood films handle homosexuality in a “matter-of-fact” way.

But the panelists said risk-averse movie studio heads fret about doing anything they think will offend Americans and therefore hurt a film's bottom line.

L.A. Weekly, however, reported last year that studio executives base their concerns about what moviegoers won't accept on outdated, personal hunches rather than hard facts or in-depth market research, which was revealed in the cover story “The Secret Lives of Queer Leading Men.”

Despite such mainstream hits as The Birdcage and Brokeback Mountain, director Kimberly Peirce said Hollywood is still waiting for more evidence that gay leading characters won't hurt a movie's box office returns.

“I think it's going to take one to breakthrough that's probably going to be made on a very reasonable budget,” said Peirce, “and it's going to be a bunch of girls, or a bunch of guys, just having so much fun, and it's so much fun to watch them, that suddenly you forget the queerness and (Americans) are taken along. And (movie studios) will say, 'Oh, we can make money on that.'”

The movie industry's attitudes towards homosexuality will undoubtedly get further examination in another Outfest panel, titled “Coming Out in Hollywood,” on July 17th.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at

LA Weekly