In Emily Esperanza's queer DIY film, Make Out Party, outsiders are the protagonists. The writer/director created the no-budget, high-style comedy as a love letter to Chicago's underground, highlighting members of the city's LGBTQ+ community to tell a story of misadventure through three characters: Madame X, "a leather-clad Venus with too many lovers;" Band-Aid Box, "a dapper-femme do-gooder just trying to make it through their day;" and Bambi, "a peppy Satanist with no time for catcalls."
Stacked with a lineup of queer Chicago darlings, Esperanza, cinematographer Greg Stephen Reigh and producer Eve Rydberg wanted to challenge archetypes often seen in cinema by putting different kinds of performers in front of the camera. This, they say, "can radically upset the structures that be," and make for a more inclusive, diverse production. Names like Glamhag (Molly Hewitt), Dorian Electra and Imp Queen all make appearances, as well as costumes by An Authentic Skidmark and Eda Yorulmazoglu.
In writing her characters, Esperanza developed the narrative regardless of race or gender, and adjusted pronouns accordingly when the film was finally cast. The director's method instilled a sense of liberation in Make Out Party, as the characters navigate their weirdo world without any tokenism. This energy frames the film's playful approach to sensuality, as well, dismantling cinema's longtime demonization of sex, and instead leaning into it by celebrating the act of making out as a joyous, judgement-free event.
Now, the cast and crew—composed of 70 percent gender non-conforming folks and women—is asking for financial support in the post-production process. They're aiming for $8.5k total and have teamed up with co-producers Full Spectrum Features, a 501c3 nonprofit, allowing for donations of $50 and up to be tax-deductible. Fundraising will help pay for things like editing, color correction, sound design, live-action end credits and festival submissions.
Lean more about Make Out Party, below, and click here to donate.