Aaron Bear - Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

 Aaron Bear is a filmmaker from Seattle - who directed and
produced an award-winning feature-length documentary released in 2016 called
Finding Kim - regarded as one of the truest tellings of a transgender person’s
life. His influences as a filmmaker are as varied as his interests a person,
ranging from the oft-maligned to the universally lauded. His new film, Yes I
am: The Ric Weiland Story, chronicles the life of the brilliant programmer
and queer pioneer who was one of the earliest employees of Microsoft. It
details his battle with mental health during the AIDS epidemic – it’s a
stunning film with narration by Zachary Quinto, interviews with people from Ric
Weiland’s life, including Bill Gates, and passages from Ric’s own writings. 

We chat with Aaron about his creative process in putting the
film together, the AIDS epidemic, mental health in the LGBTQ community, the
legacy that Ric Weiland left behind, and the future of LGBTQ filmmaking…with
host Alexander Rodriguez.   

This is Metro Source Mentes, theofficial podcast to Metro, Scorte, magazine and home of short forminterviews with your favorite personalities from the lght world andbe on quick fun and informative. It's not a source on the go out in coins lie. Well, hello, hello, hello. This isMetro Horse Minnies, I'm your host Alexander Rodriguez, lead rider forMetro source magazine and Avid podcast Er. So I'm going to be totally honest.I'm not really one to sit and watch documentaries. My add and my you knowjust it's not good for me, but this prime month. All of thatchanged. I have seen a beautifully put together artfully done. masterful filmcalled Yes, I am, which is the Rick Milan story, and today's a companion tothe article and my interview on Metro Scorso, I am chatting with thefilmmaker himself Aaron Bear Aron Bar is a filmmaker from Seattle. HeySeattle, he directed and produced an award winning feature lengthdocumentary released in two thousand and sixteen called finding Kim and it'sregarded as one of the truest tellings of a transgenic life and his new film.Yes, I am the Rick Wyland Story. Chronicles the life of the brilliantprogrammer and queer pioneer who is one of the earliest employees of Microsoft,and it details his battle with mental health during the AIDS epidemic. It's astunning film, with narration by Zack requite interviews from the people fromwhere Rick Milan's life, including Bill Gates by the way and passages fromrick's own writings. This film will premier at Province, town film festivalfrom June sixteenth to the twenty six. Please welcome, filmmaker Aaron BearRobert Alexander. It's a pleasure to finallymeet you. It's a pleasure to finally meet you. That was funny came whenever I see yourname, I'm like. Is it bare just for like the bear community like Rob, RobPride, or is that really your last...

...night? It's really my last name, but Ihave been asked before if it's my stage name and if I changed it to that, I've had every every single nickname inthe book that you can imagine so it I think I'm getting to some sort of likebaby bear status. I Bend Forty this year and you knowit's just you know your body starts changing and but it's it gets me into bars drink. Sometimes I should say well yeah,so you know a baby bear is called a cup just so you know cause you on four yearold, cub, Rotha's e okay. So I want to know how you got involved with the RickWillen Story. It's a very unique story, and how did how did it come to your plate?Well, it's I get asked this question quite a bitand it I had just finished my finding him and I had Michael Phela, who wasone of its best friends. That's featured in the film approach me aftera screening and say he said Hey. I have this idea, if not a friend of mine who, who is named Rick and help startMicrosoft, and you know you're on a film. So when you're having all these.Like thirty second conversations- and I thought you know- yeah yeah yeah and Isaid, email me so he did, and then that was in August of two thousand andsixteen and it's now June of two thousand and twenty one. So whenever to his house to see, I waslooking for another project, and I would ever t s have to see. Is thissomething that I wanted to do is the something that I could tell anauthentic way until truthfully, and little did, I know how much work wasactually going to be involved in in finding out who rick was and in hislegacy, but I spent about a year doing...

...a research and was very difficult because rick wasthis when I say Pridie, it's it's, he was hidden from the world. I mean thisis somebody who gave away so much of himself and so much so much money andchanged the way. As for all of us, queer folk of how we're treated andhelp change laws, and nobody knows who he was, and so it was like cracking. It felt likecracking open a cold case and there was such a finite amount ofmaterial available, because if you, if you just search him, go o him there, there are no videos, henever gave an interview. There's I mean he was photographed, buthe never gave an interview on TV there's nothing. I mean I searched hiand low with the Microsoft archives, Nothing. So that was part of thechallenge of making this film, and I think people you know like you weretalking about a lot of people. You say. Oh I make I make, you know,documentaries, you, you already lose half the audience. You lose. You knowit's like you can see. I can see people's eyes sort of glaze over alittle bit, but they, I think, the the way you just the way one describes itin the passive behind it and feel up this whole process. I kept askingmyself I'm like. Why is it so important to me because the further I got into it,the more emotional it became for me and the more I looked at my own mentalhealth and I started seeing a therapist for the first time and it just a lot ofricks life started to parallel my own life in a very strange, I don't say,twilight on kind of way, but in a very positive up with life sort of way andgoing back to saying like. Why is it so important to me? It's because I thinkthat...

...there's no denying ricks legacy and how he is affected and the whole L GT I spectrum and how thathas carries on a continues to live on. Well, you know, I think we spent lastyear's pride under lock down, but I think that gave us time to kind of takea moment and learn more about the history of pride, where it came frombesides the festivals and the parades and the circuit parties and the nightclub life, and so a lot of these stories have been coming out. Also withthe content that's coming out like hble. Did that whole Daku series on herheroes from our community that we should know that we don't necessarilyknow and finding out that right about Rick Wiland through your documentarywas shocking to me for for many many different reasons. How would you describe who rick was tosomebody that knows the word, Microsoft? Obviously, but that's about it. Howwould you tell a lay person from the outside who rick was and what his life wasabout? I would describe Rick is a a very complicated person, but also someone who suffered a great deal ofinternal strife and but also turned it into this monumental legacy that he didn't.Even he didn't want any attention for. So it's like. I don't know what youdescribe that as it's like. He had this sort of genius level, brain andpossibly on a spectrum of something, but he going I mean I read, you know hekept the daily Journal in one thousand nine hundred and seventy five and having to go in and read daily journalsand pull out the bits and the nuggets, and you slowly start to find out who a person is. I mean I don'tknow if I would want somebody, you know...

...creating my journals, but it's itreally. It was revealing in a sense of this person who had many were all sortof this. We all have this like, like different parts of our lives, and weshow different parts of ourselves to certain people. You know he had this.You know one life with Microsoft and then this like kind of really wild party life with his friends, sothey this core group of friends- and you know this was the the height of thethe AIDS epidemic in and Rick was giving. I mean glad, would not existwithout rick act up would not exist without rick andit's and he didn't want any recognition from it. And you know when you'regiving millions of dollars away and usually people want. You know theirname on the plaque or something or to get in a word or something like that,and he didn't want any of that. So he he had all of these different partsof his lies that he only showed, and then he had his family. It was justlike you know this. He was different peopleto depending on where he was, and you know he was a very even bill gateSysina film, its like he was a very hard guy to figure out, and you know trying to to tell someone'slife story that you've never met and how how Iconnected with it was just you know, first being a queer person, but thenalso the further I got into it. The more Ilike what Rick inspired me to do has inspired me to do better in this worldand has inspired me to me as a queer, filmmaker saying like what what kindsof stories do I want to tell in the future, so it's like the long, winded Anto per putwell, I d had to say you know when I, when I got the press release about thefilm, and I think I joke with you about it and I'm like wow documentary aboutyou, know money and fin ance and...

Microsoft, and then the AIDS epidemic,which is so heavy you turned it into. It was a great and intimate telling itseemed like you know him that you knew him very well, and that also came inpart with a lot of the interviews that you were able to get the narration byZakret O. I felt like he was talking to me and at the start of the film I waslike, I couldn't be more different than this person and, like you said by theend of the film, I attributed a lot of what he went through to aspects for mylife and kind of that duality that we still continue to live as gay men. Youknow being out coming out earlier in age, it's more prevalent, but there'sstill aspects, and we learn this in our last administration that we do keepthat duality and there's that gay part of us that is not always accepted outin the real world, and you captured that duality of the party life when hewould dress up in fund, drag the way that his friends, you know that hewould hang out with his friends at the club life. But then his role as abusiness person in Microsoft with all this money and he kind of had thisinherent guilt for having the money for doing what what he was good at and alsoseeing people around him dying because they couldn't afford health care or they were being firedfrom their job and finance with such an important part to these people's livesthat were suffering from their AIDS and HIV diagnosis. There was just this kindof isolation, and you know from the outside. You think you know rick hadthe money he had the friends he had the looks whatwhat could he be depressedabout? But then there's this big sense of isolation, because when you do kindof hide yourself in all of these different groups, where they don't mix,you shut yourself off on some level from all of those groups, and it isvery isolating and we just came through out of Ovid,where a lot of us didn't even have that fellowship aspect and we were eitherlodged at home. Some of US got kicked out of homes from coming out as gay.You know during Ovid and it was very,...

...very isolated now. Why do you thinkit's so hard for us, as gave men to talk about our mental health? Well, I I mean it's kind of in a waythis. It's almost like learned, behavior that you learn at a young ageof wanting to hide yourself and not be out, or youknow, deepening your voice in a public setting or not doing something in frontof your parents, and you almost like create this. This, like other, like other personaabout yourself and then and then you come out, and then you like you'redigging to like all of this shit and mean like what do I actually care about?Who, who am I, who am I and I think, as as gay people,a lot of us go through guilt and shame, and then you get older and you're able to look at it under neat microscope alittle bit and whether it's through therapy or but youknow, a lot of people. I mean, let's be honest. A lot of drugs are a problem in the queercommunity. Alcoholism is a problem in the Cu community, even like smoking in cigarettes and,like you know how it's I mean, do you ever remember how I now sure they didthis? It straight bars. But you know how, like you know, camel, would comethrough the gay bars and like get out like we ast and t shirts and lightersand fun things that you would do and then literally free packs and even ifyou're, not a smoker, everybody else looked cool doing it so you're like.Why not I mean I saved my camel past for years, but I really think that it's it'salmost ingrained inness as at least within our generation of...

...of trying to fit in and wanting to fitin, and when we don't get that sometimes it's like a miss fire and youyou can fall into addictions. You can become angry for no reason and then it's and then it's kind of up.You know whether it's getting help through friends or family or whatever,and I think rick did. He did all of those things he did hereached out for help multiple times and it just it goes to show you that it'ssometimes it's just so deep. That, unfortunately, sounds sad, but like no one can help. You know this is. This is something Ireally wanted to point on. I have friends who suffer from depression, whoare bipolar or even to suffer from addiction, a heartbreaking part of thisfilm. Yes, I am the Rick Wiland story was his friends that really wanted tobe there. They didn't know how to be there or they were there, and it stillwasn't enough, and so you know rick did what he did,regardless of the fact that he did have this circle of friends that was aroundhim and and the heartbreak during these interviews, where they were talkingabout not still not being able to be. There there's still a very importantfact that when you are dealing with somebody, a friend or a family memberwith clinical depression or or some sort of mental health issue, sometimesit's still not enough, and you know, unfortunately, that personwill do whatever that person does and even though it it like instills thisguilt that you could have done more. Sometimes you really can't do more andit's a person's own journey, and sometimes you just kind of have toaccept that you know it's not just about being with them every moment ofthe day or calling them five times a day or, however, sometimes it's stillnot enough, and that is a scare re fact of mental health disease,...

...and you were kind of talking about thisduality and it really picks up on what a hot topic is. Today we we're talkingabout kink and pride when this whole kind of you know a topic came out, Ithought. Well, you know we don't need to be half naked out at pride, but themore you think about it. It's exactly what you talked about. Why should Ihide that sexual part of my life or that sexual liberation, when for yearsI was told to hide it or this sexual feeling that you have is not right,it's against nature, and so it's like. Why do we need to to hide that? That'syou know going to like rick felt like he had to hide a aspect of his life,and this is exactly what this hot topic deals with. Yeah, it's kind of I've had a couple ofriends recently talked about that, and it's almost to me, based in shame offeeling of they were saying that God it's like so gross that you knoweveryone has to be naked at pride and Bah. Bah Bah, and I think it'sbeautiful, that it can be pride, is all things and it is a spectrum of of loveand sex, and I think you know people need to get over themselves with. Youknow like the again. The sex is mad and it's you know rooted in somethingsomething evil and disgusting, and I think it's I think it's more. To behonest. This film deals with a very specifictime. It's during the aides epidemic. What do you think younger generationsof our ljot today should learn most from that time, and you know youreading those daily journals, you kind of got an intimate sense of what wasreally going on. I think the the youth today can there is the there's, never enougheducation around HIB and eights, and I was recently reading an interview with an actor who was on. What's the English show that just cameout...

...that was sort of based around the theas epidemic in the UK, and they were interviewing him and they said well,what did what do you? What did you know about HIVANS during this time beforeyou started this role and he said nothing, I knew nothing and he was he'san out clear actor young, but it just goes to show you that queer history is is imperative and it'sessential you have to you, have to people have to bring these stories tothe surface and when people say like you know, why is why is pride important? Why do you need to go out and apparatesand stuff? And it's like it's these reasons? Why I have I mean even youngqueer folk, don't even know the history of AIDS in Hab. Now, let alone you know, remember who you know, Judy Garland orMacDonald was Oh, my Lord. I went on a date and they did not know who JudyGarland was he's going to who would have been a hundred by the way nextyear and I believe the the program you're talking about is H. Blax is it'sa sin. It's Jus same yeah, which was so hard creaking, yeah yeah I mean I had.It was also a heavy show to watch and but also important because it showed itshowed. You know these young people's lives in a particular area of the world and I think for young people having someonelike Rick, who was this brilliant programmer and also a party guy, andalso this amazing amazing philanthropist. So it's he's in he'sinspiring on so many levels. Let's talk about you for a moment. I know how many years you worked onthis project and how intense it must have been, and also the kind of feelingof reading ricks, daily journals and...

...kind of being engrossed in that. So youhave a boo you're in a relationship yeah, we know dating somebody in theentertainment field, especially a filmmaker, that kind of becomes theirwhole world. How? How have you worked through that relationship, wise withbeing engrossed on a project and then being under lock down? Is it difficultto be your boo and and how do you work through some of that relationship stuff? So I should preface, with I've beenwith my husband for this year will be twenty years. Oh my did you guys meankindergarten. Give me a break that would get read we met. I was twenty. Hewas twenty six and you know your different people through.You know you from your twenty to your fourth Pisen. We've always found thatwe come together, no matter what and butmaking a film I I was working in a very corporate environment. I work forMicrosoft for years and then I worked for a gigantic coffee chain, doing commercialwork in their creative studio for years, and then that also revealed to me. Thatis this. What I want to do like is just where I want to be for the rest of mylife and then that led to making finding Kim- and I quickly realizedlike this is this- is this- is exactly what I want to bedoing and there was a shift, and you know it's. I think it within my ownmarriage and my own relationship. It's been, I think, a bit of an adjustmentfor my husband to fully realize this. Oh, I'm not going to this like eight tofive job anymore and there's like not a steady, paycheck anymore and there'sall of these changes and shifts so that...

...in an upselai difficult to, but thenthere's been lots of conversations around them, but mostly I'm a I'm, apretty easy going person incredibly empathetic, almost toa fault, and but that's why I think I'm dary say like good at makingdocumentaries, but it also it takes it almost is like like a psychicafterwards, where they're, just like so exhausted after they finish the reading,that's kind of how it feels is that being able to talk truthfully about it?You know truthless. My relationships when with and about the film is veryimportant to me. So thanks, I'm Aaron so being in a long termrelationship at such an early age. Can you share your coming out story with US yeah? So I was. I came out to my myparents when I was sixteen and I had to come out to my best friend and his sister and I grew up in. I was inDayton, Ohio and I was this- is look in the days of a Ol,chats and stuff. So I remember that s yeah I was I was I was going into. Youknow the men for men, rooms and and meeting older gentlemen off of o. Youknow off the Internet and one thousand nine hundred and ninety five so and Iwas doing that kind of risky things,because I was, I won't out O my parents. So I was like lying a lot and where Iwas and I at one point it sort of life or the universe. It kind of backfiredon me and my parents sensed something what's up so it was like about a yearand then they started asking me: Is there anything you want to tell us, andI just couldn't bring myself to tell...

...them to say it out, laugh or some again.It's like based in this like shame and fear, and so one day my mom said write me aletter and I wrote them this. Like fuck you letter, it was like guess what I'm gay and if you canaccept it, fuck you I'm fully prepared to move out like this just fiery letter and I left it on my bedand I went to my friend's house and I was just Kiein a days and I said to him.I said I just came out to my parents and he was just like Oh cool, and thatwas it and then all so en the phone rings and it's my mom he's like heyyeah, Yep, Yep, amy, Yo yeah. I knew I knew he's like here. She wants to talkto you. I was like I can't. I can't talk to her, so I get on the phone with her and she says Aaron. We knew and of course you know want she was just I.There was a little bit of like of it education that happened that had tohappen on their end to because you know having you know, my mom had gay friends butlike having you know a gay son, and it's like what does this look like andshe also had friends diabetes. So she was worried about aids and andeverything, and then I was dating an older guy. So there was this like a little bit of arocky introduction, but I don't it was my parents are were fully, I would saymostly accepting and loving, and wanting to understand too right. Thank you for sharing that we're allsharing or our coming out stories this month, and I think we should continuetelling our stories to everybody. So thank you for sharing that yeah. Whatwhat kind of story do you want to tell next? I am working on two different things.I'm working on a t V show called. There...

...is a light that never goes out based based on true events, not adocumentary but dis, entur events about growing up gay in Milwaukee in the lateS, R s part of the as epidemic, and getting kicked out of your parentshouse that old chestnut and then he sort of finds his way downtown to thisbuilding called the Norman, which I was a real building and finds his way into this building, whichis like full of you, know: Weirdos and quirts, and punks and old people, andfind this sort of chosen family and- and I know it's weird- that how thishappens, but I used to see who o d this is based on he's to see Jeffrey dummerout at the bars. Oh, my God, yeah, and I know that this new dummer show iscoming out with there's like six dome projects like what is going on which asale on his life rights or something I know it was so strange, and I was justlike Holy Shit. This is this is very odd, but so Morkan that I have a wholepopular rope for that and then I'm working on a future film based on one of my bestfriend's life growing up in a small town, Texas. In the S. that's all I cansay about it right now, because we're still working through some legal stuff,but so yeah to two features that I'm working on right now. Do your parents ever say do a comedy I mean I want to. I mean I M. I need something: that's like a littlelighter right now so yeah I mean I tell that to myself, I'ma big Hor film fan, so I like I want to do a Horfield like let's show lifekeeps navigating me towards these type of stories and what I, what I havegleaned from all of this is like I like...

...to sell survivor stories and because I think that they can affectpeople in a really positive way that creates change. Did you see the conjuring three? Ohgirl? I just watched it yeah the day I came out and I thoughtit was beautifully shot and I love the little non e as one thing to theextraites. He gets out of the car there's to how the lighting was at buthalf way through. I was just kind of thinking: Wait, who's, cursed like what's the was first for having to watch it andthe Patrick Wilson didn't take his shirt off even once by now, and he wasin a wheel chair the whole time. Now it's like yeah, Lord. I love. I lovethat franchise and I have a cute I M. I love like the law of of those two andlike their hat, like the haunting investigations that they've done. Ithink that whoever licensed that like could a seeyou because Yeah Yeah and tot warrants I'm obsessed with studying the warrantsand the real life and yeah. So I the franchise, a good idea,but something went wrong and this was supposed to be the scariest one of themall, and I mean I laughed a few times I went to the bathroom I we face booklike I was like a yeal right Aaron. I have a question for you. This one isfor social media yeah. What is your message to your fellow l?Gt Q plesion this prime month. My message to my fellow crew voke isthat there is people out there to help you. There arelots of resources. The Trevor Project is a big one and also to be inspired to to go out and find your for, Pin your happiness. Imean I did it and I...

...mean it sounds so cheesy, but like so,can you? But you really can yeah. I think the I've always said the essenceof rich and his story and the film is death is not the end and our storieswill live on forever, and this was my love letter to to him and to hispartners and friends. I love that. Can you tell our audiencewhere you want them to find you and follow you? I I'm pretty active on Instar. I dostill check my face book. I'm I'm diving into twitter currently becauseeveryone keeps telling me that I need to have a twitter, so I'm trying to dothat. I do have a yes. I am I yes. I am film at Twitter, but I'm chat me up. Send me some some D,MS on Insara. Thank you. Thank you. So much for yourfilm. Thank you for sharing your time with us. It's a pleasure speaking withyou, and I can't wait to see what you have next. Thank you so much Alex Ander. That has been my chat with filmmakerAaron Bear. You can read my indebt article with him and some moreinformation about the film at Metro, Sarcoma and that's your episode. I'myour host Alexander Rodrigues, you can follow me on Instar at Alexander, is onair and until next time stay true, do you and stay sexy happy pride that has been another method sourcemany black shared subscribe on your favorite podcast player and check outthe latest issue. lectrocuted on new stands or online at Mespot, follow uson face boom, instar and natural sort, and on twitterers Ma El next time, as.

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