One of the best documentaries of the year, which has been showing at film festivals around the country, makes it way to New York July 28 as part of the Newfest Film Festival.
“I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole” will likely get the hero’s homecoming as Poole’s career mostly takes place in New York.
“Yes” shows how Poole has intermingled more lives than even the likes of Kevin Bacon as Poole’s six degrees of separation include being a mentor to Tony winning choreographer Michael Bennett (“A Chorus Line”) to a late in life career as a chef cooking for Calvin Klein.
Poole’s roots may be in New York, but the beautiful, interesting and comprehensive film looks deep into his life and includes his tenure in San Francisco as well where he befriend Harvey Milk.
The depth and avenues the film takes can definitely be attributed to director Jim Tushinski, who spent over seven years working on the film. “I started shooting interviews in NYC in 2007 and we completed shooting the summer of 2010, ” Tushinski says. “But. then it took about three years to edit. The reason it took so long was money. I had none.”
Tushinski says that this movie has become a labor of love as he wants to get Poole’s story to a bigger audience – but he has invested pretty much all of his money into producing the film that there really isn’t anything left to help on the film festival circuit and beyond.
Tushinski became interested in the story after he read Poole’s autobiography “Dirty Poole.” He says, “Not long after that I met him while shooting an interview for my first documentary ‘That Man: Peter Berlin’ so I was well-versed in his other ‘lives,’ ” referring to Poole’s earlier career of dancing and choreography. “In fact, we bonded over his Broadway career since I’m a huge Broadway fan,” he adds.
Poole reached the pinnacle of his career as the director of the first mainstream gay porn film “The Boys in the Sand,” which was much like the straight porn film “Deep Throat” in which society as a whole had an interest in seeing it. The audiences, like “Deep Throat,” went in droves to see “Boys” and it wasn’t just gay men – straight men and women went to see what all the fuss was about.
The documentary successfully transports even earlier in Poole’s career back to his days in musical theatre, including Poole’s relationship with Bennett. “Michael and Wakefield were friends and colleagues,” Tushinski says. “Wakefield got Michael one of his first dancing jobs in the 1964 television version of ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ with Carol Burnett for which Wakefield choreographed the closing credits. They remained friends until Michael’s death.”
While the film also reviews Poole’s life in San Francisco and his relationship with Milk as well as Poole’s working for Calvin Klein, “I Always Said Yes” has received a few lukewarm receptions from some film festivals while audiences have sung its praises.
“I would say about 65% of festivals we submitted to turned us down and we’ve had zero interest from DVD distributors. So it’s a strange paradox – audiences love the doc, but we are having a hard time getting it in front of audiences. Most LGBT film festivals don’t seem to think a pioneer like Wakefield Poole will bring in an audience. It’s puzzling,” he shares.
Tushinski says that after its July 28 screening at NewFest the film will be in limbo. “We need to raise about $8000 to release the doc on DVD and VOD. We don’t see theatrical as an option and frankly, it really isn’t necessary for niche market films anymore, especially doc. The money is needed to expand some of the clip licensing for commercial release,” he says before the film can be available on multiple VOD platforms.
With his own resources tapped out, Tushinski is turning fund raising over to the film’s fans and supporters. “People can donate money to the doc through the San Francisco Film Society, which is our fiscal sponsor. All donations are 100% tax-deductible and we have great thank you gifts. All donation info is at www.ialwayssaidyes,com.”
While hoping that campaign is successful, just in case it’s not this might be your last chance to see the film on the ground breaking visionary Wakefield Poole.
Get tickets at and learn more about the film at www.newfest.org.
Get some Poole’s DVDs and his book at www.gf-productions.info/iasy/