For nearly thirty years, fueled by the twin fires of the sexual revolution and gay liberation, Chuck Holmes’s Falcon Studios reigned as the world’s largest producer of gay pornography, using film to change the way a generation of gay men saw themselves and helping them come to terms with sexuality.
Chuck arrives in San Francisco in 1971, an Indiana farm boy with a passion for sex and a head for business. At a time when mainstream culture depicts gay life as sick, lonely and criminal, Chuck offers an alternative that is exhuberant, unashamed and available on 8mm reels. An avid collector of porn, he senses an opportunity, and enlists directors like John Travis and John Summers to begin producing 8mm reels with an eye for quality. Falcon films quickly become the standard by which the rest of the industry is judged, and business explodes. The films begin to reflect and amplify the images of gay liberation in San Francisco, documenting the changing styles of gay men.
But radical outness isn’t easy. As a distributor of adult material, Chuck faced both vice squads and FBI indictments. A trial in Texas in 1973 lands friend and fellow filmmaker Matt Sterling in prison, but Chuck beats the charges. As other filmmakers go to jail, Chuck begins buying up their companies and solidifying his position.
Chuck becomes incredibly wealthy, and mixes with gay figures like Halston, David Geffen and Calvin Klein. He also faces personal demons, including drug abuse, and the company begins to falter. In the mid-80s, he also discovers he has AIDS. Despite this, he fights putting condoms on performers, feeling it will hurt business.
But as Chuck confronts the new reality, he shifts. He gets sober, focuses on health, and begins using condoms on models. The battles transform him, forcing him to confront his own demons and realize that he could play a role as a leader in the growing gay rights movement.
Chuck’s wealth and power open doors but he remains deeply closeted about his business success, aware that the higher he climbs socially, the greater the potential fall. He begins donating money to gay causes, in particular the Human Rights Campaign Fund (now the HRC), where he serves on the Board of Directors. He also becomes a major contributor to the Democratic Party and Bill Clinton.
But Chuck’s money is not always welcome. When checks are returned and invitations rescinded, he is crushed. His health deteriorates, and he passes away from complications related to AIDS in 2000.
Even in death, Chuck’s money is not without controversy. After a million dollar bequest to a new San Francisco gay and lesbian center, causes outrage against many in the gay community who regard his public association with the center embarrasing and distasteful. Chuck is the gay culture’s Gatsby. With his vast wealth, he was as envied financially and as he was whispered about socially. Seed Money — the story of Chuck’s rise and fall and legacy — will change the way we think about sex and cinema and assimilation.
While the resources Chuck provided to gay rights were his proudest act, it was his films that may have been his most significant contribution. Through extensive use of the films themselves, archival material and interviews with Chuck’s friends, lovers, activists and fellow adult filmmakers, we take Chuck from San Francisco in the 1970s to Capitol Hill in the 1990s to tell the fascinating story of one of the most influential — if controversial — filmmakers in gay history. (Production)
“Stabile documents the enduring legacy of Holmes’s work and his influence on the adult film industry, gay culture, and politics.”
— Ryan Lathan, OUT Magazine
“Seed Money evokes the era of sexual liberation…captures a point in time in which sexual freedom for gay men was both an act of hedonism and politics.”
— Mark James, Film International
“Go see…Boogie Nights, this is not.” (FESTIVAL PICK)
— Shaula Clark, Boston Magazine
“Holmes not only re-shaped the ‘gay look,’ but walked the walk of true gay power.”
— Kilian Melloy, Edge Boston
— James St. James, The WOW Report
NOTE DI PRODUZIONE:
In 2002, pornographer Chuck Holmes’ name was installed over the San Francisco LGBT Center, and public outrage was swift. Detractors called the move — in recognition of the late gay mogul’s $1 million bequest to the beleaguered center— “insane,” fearing it would only fuel right-wing allegations about the gay community’s obsession with sex. What those critics missed, and what continues to missed over a decade later, is the role pornographers like Holmes played in building the gay rights movement we know today. As the head of Falcon Studios, Chuck Holmes might have been the most influential gay filmmaker in gay history, his work viewed by millions of gay men at a time when most representation of gay life was either homophobic or relegated the art house. He dined with politicians and power brokers, and helped fund a nascent gay rights movement. Yet, because of how he made his living, few know his name.
Starting in the early 70s, Chuck revolutionized the newly legal gay porn industry, assertive in his belief gay men deserved positive representations, and that quality gay films would help them change their sense of self. He fought legal battles and personal demons, surfacing in the late 80s as a major contributor to the growing gay rights movement — only to find that the community he helped create now thought of him as a liability.
Because little footage of Chuck exists, the filmmakers use Chuck’s own Falcon films — along with stories from Chuck’s friends, rivals, stars and politicos — to tell the vivid and dramatic story of one of the gay rights movements most unlikely heroes.
• Chuck arrives in San Francisco at the height of the sexual revoultion, and begins documenting the culture.
• Throughout his career, Chuck faced arrest and imprisonment for making gay films.
• The look created by Chuck — blonde, preppy, wholesome — was the standard emulated by the entire gay porn industry.
• Chuck’s own demons surface during the AIDS epidemic, when fearing the loss of his business, he fights against using condoms in films.
• Chuck experiences a rebirth, and becomes an important gay philanthropist, serving on the board of both the Human Rights Campaign and the Victory Fund, and as a major fundraiser for Bill Clinton.
• Chuck is often closeted about his business, and many in the gay politics see him as a liability, and his checks are returned.
SEED MONEY follows the sensational story of Chuck’s incredible rise, his role in gay culture — and his struggle to achieve respect.