The Lodge Documentary: A Q&A with filmmaker Pam Walton
December 2020 | Pam Walton
Tell us more about your interest in filming The Lodge documentary?
The facts about LGBTQ residents in conventional/heterosexist restirement communities are grim. One third of LGBTQ seniors over 50 expect to hide their sexual indentity if they move to a retirement community; LGBTQ couples are often not allowed to room with each other; their recreational interests may be ignored; the loneliness and isolation of aging are often compounded by discrimination. In 2013, to help remedy this situation, Fountaingrove Lodge (FGL) in Santa Rosa, CA, was intentionally created for LGBTQ seniors and their straight allies. It’s the first-of-its-kind continuing care retirement community (CCRC ), licensed by the state, that openly reaches out to and welcomes LGBTQ seniors. Today approximately 100 residents from all over the United States live at The Lodge. The average age is 75; the oldest person is 97. It offers a continuum of care from independent living to failing health.
Ruth and I, both filmmakers, were married in 2008 in CA and decided in 2017 it was time to sell our house and retire. We moved to FGL and have been living there three years. We have seen, up close and personal, how FGL works, and we want to take audiences inside. The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle noted its opening. LGBTQ people around the country have read about FGL and want to know whether it’s succeeding where other LGBTQ retirement communities have failed. What kind of impact does it have on future LGBTQ retirement communities? What is life like in this unique experiment in gay/straight retirement living?
During the filming, was there anything that you were surprised to learn?
The most profound thing we’ve learned about FGL is about the people who live here. Unexpectedly, this retirement community of about 100 residents feels like a family.
What can other retirement communities learn about the importance of diversity and creating welcoming spaces for all through this documentary?
Considering the statistics above about LGBTQ discrimination in conventional retirement communities, FGL can stand as an example of a place where people are not only aging together as gay and straight, but also aging in a place that supports its LGBTQ residents. FGL’s example has already had an impact. Other retirement homes have begun to welcome their LGBTQ residents.
We are capturing the ambience and energy of Fountaingrove Lodge (FGL) along with the stories of some of its 100 residents. Our film starts with the first person to walk through the door. 92 year old Bill Bryan tells us about moving in on the first day in November 2013 and being afraid the gay flag that flies out front would attract anti-gay slurs from people driving by. Matile Rothschild and Joanie Zimmerman tell us about the actual building of FGL. Matile has been working on LGBTQ+ housing in San Francisco for 30 years. Bill Baird and John Kennedy , a gay couple, and Sharon and Jerry Robison, a straight couple, talk about how they met 40+ years ago. Andrew Dimas talks about his husband who recently died.
Residents (about half gay) spend their time in mostly quiet activities -- it’s a retirement community, after all. Occasionally the quiet is broken with parties and Pride celebrations; holiday events; drumming; Wine Wednesday; and association meetings about residents’ rights and fee increases. The filmmakers Pam Walton, 75, and Ruth Carranza, 71, are uniquely qualified to make this documentary because we have unique access to it. We’ve been living at The Lodge since December 2017. We want to premiere “The Lodge” in 2021 at the SF International LGBTQ Film Festival.
What message do you hope viewers will take with them and remember from this documentary?
FGL can stand as an example of a place where people are not only aging together as gay and straight, but also aging in a place that supports all its LGBTQ residents.
Is there anything else you would like to share about the importance of the stories shared in the documentary?
Most of us will face decisions about retirement. “The Lodge” offers a view of retirement in a more and more diverse culture.
How can our readers learn more about The Lodge and your other works?
The Lodge will be released in early 2021, go to Pam Walton Productions — www.pamwaltonproductions.com