Scroll To Top

Christopher Racster Named New Head of Outfest Film Festival

Christopher Racster Named New Head of Outfest Film Festival

Christopher Racster (L-R), Outfest Achievement Award recipient John Cameron Mitchell and Outfest Director of Programming Lucy Mukerjee-Brown

The newly-appointed executive director of the nation's most prestigious LGBT film festival (pictured: left) talks to The Advocate about the state of queer film. 

L.A.-based Outfest, the leading organization creating, sharing, and protecting LGBT stories on screen, announced Christopher Racster was officially selected by their board of directors to take over from Kirsten Schaffer as the new executive director.

Through Outfest's original film festival as well as Outfest Fusion, the film festival celebrating LGBT people of color; educational programs such as OutSet, a workshop for young LGBT filmmakers; and archival efforts like the Legacy Project, the only program devoted to preserving classic LGBT moving images, Outfest has helped push the needle forward for queer creators, actors, and stories in cinema since it was founded by students at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1982.

Racster promises the best is yet to come and sat down exclusively with The Advocate to discuss the impact and future of the organization.

The Advocate: How did you originally become involved with Outfest?
Christopher Racster: I have been a part of the Outfest community since the late 1990s. I started out as an attendee. I was really impressed with everything, and the executive director at the time convinced me to become a major donor. He really showed me what Outfest was doing could affect change. Then eventually I became a filmmaker myself, and it was the programmers at Outfest who took my films, made sure they got into theaters, and ended up with distribution deals. Personally, I have been tremendously affected by Outfest. So to have that responsibility now to continue that tradition for others is both humbling and exciting.

What can people look forward to this year from Outfest?
In the coming year what the community will see so much more of is what we do beyond the festival. Outfest produces a brilliant film festival, but we also do so much within the community year-round to help nurture emerging voices, such as our OutSet program that we do with the Los Angeles LGBT center. That program produces five films every year from young people aged 16-24 and helps them to find their voice and tell their stories. For me the next year is going to be making sure people know everything we do year-round like this to try and support the LGBT community, as well to try and shift perception and create greater acceptance of LGBT people.

What are you most excited about as you step into this role?
I'm most excited about working with the board of directors and the community to help determine what Outfest needs to be for the next 30 years. We're at a point where we're ready to take a look and say, "What does the community need today and in the future?" Where is the filmmaking, TV, and video community and what do they need from us in terms of support, access, and opportunity? To work with this board and help shape our programs to make sure we are truly serving that need, that's hugely exciting to me to be a part of that change.

As the LGBT community becomes more integrated into mainstream entertainment, how can groups like Outfest continue to help push the envelope for greater visibility?
I'm a 40-something white gay male. I see a lot of depictions of people who look, sound, and have experiences like me, but that doesn't mean the rest of the LGBT community does. So I think it's important for us to be honest and look at the scope of our community and realize that there are many voices and many stories that aren't getting out into the world -- whether that be a Latino story, a bisexual story, more stories of the transgender experience after transition. These things are not as prevalent. Those stories still need to get out there, and they're still critically important in creating safe places and moments for affirmation.

What are some of the ways you've seen Outfest affect others?
I have seen how our ability to give access, to teach, to mentor can personally shape and affect the trajectory of someone's life. The more we're able to grow those programs and take them out into other areas, the more people we can affect. Even if those people never make another film in their lives, we've taught them that their voice matters, and that's the most rewarding thing to be able to take home at the end of the day.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Jase Peeples