Karl: Today is April 11, and I’m with local writer, producer, director, and film-maker, Glenn Gaylord.
Glenn: Two Ns in Glenn. Gaylord is how it sounds.
Karl: We are at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Santa Monica Blvd. with… Who is your friend here?
Glenn: Sydney. She’s an Aussie Cattle Dog/Shepherd mix. I rescued her about three-and-a-half years ago.
Karl: She’s beautiful. And a red-head.
Glenn: This breed is called a Red Heeler.
Karl: What is your age? You are welcome to approximate.
Glenn: Am I rounding up or down these days? I’m fifty two.
Karl: Current relationship status?
Glenn: Single and miserable.
Karl: Are you dating?
Glenn: Oh God. Hopefully by the time this comes out I’m not dating. On a good day this is a flaky town. People don’t hesitate to cancel at the last minute if something better happens. I say the word “dating experience” in quotation marks because people just don’t show up. I have a friend who said, “I just want to meet somebody nice.” I said, “Oh God, my standards are way lower… I just want to meet someone who shows up.” That’s as low as it’s gotten. Sure, I want to meet someone kind. But kind only gets you so far if they’re not at your door.
Karl: Current occupation? Film-maker? Although you do film and TV?
Glenn: I’ve done both, but I have two careers. I’m also a full-time clinical research director.
Karl: Wow. And you do film on the side.
Glenn: I’m doing one right now.
Karl: How long have you been making films?
Glenn: The first short-film I ever made was in 1999 and I’ve been building a body of work ever since.
Karl: Which project have you gotten the most notoriety for?
Glenn: Probably the last feature film I directed got the most acclaim and notoriety. It was a feature called I Do. It was a film about gay immigration and marriage equality. It won fourteen film festivals around the world, was released in theaters last year, and is now out on DVD, on-Demand, and all the different platforms. It was the first drama I ever directed. I had typically done comedy or musical or satire. It affected my family personally so it was a very important film for me to be a part of.
Karl: Was it a different dynamic working in drama than working in comedy?
Glenn: I’m allergic to melodrama. Whenever I see people being dramatic I break out in hives and I can’t stand it… So this really challenged me to not be disgusted by my own work. It was great. I got to work with some really notable actors. It was an incredible gift to be able to have people like Jamie-Lynn Sigler from The Sopranos be one of the co-stars of the film who brings so much experience and kindness to what she does. It was such a great lesson to work with someone of that caliber who upped everybody’s game. Comedy is so tightly controlled by, “is it funny?” You spend all of your time and concentration on that and sometimes you lose visual creativity. With drama, it was much more of a visual challenge.
Karl: After winning all of these film festivals, have you been inundated with people pitching you scripts?
Glenn: Yes. I would love to be reading more books as personal enjoyment, but I spend a lot of my free time reading other people’s scripts. It’s not even always being pitched to me, it’s “will you read this and tell me what you think?” And I’m a tough audience. When I’m reading someone’s script I always ask them, “Do you want your opinion or mine?” If they want my opinion they’re going to get it. I’m going to compliment what I like, but I’m also going to be very specific about what I don’t.
Karl: How do you find the time to work in research when you’ve got so much film activity going on?
Glenn: The research job comes first. It pays the bills. It’s traditional hours, and anytime I’m not doing that, I’m doing the other thing. I got off work yesterday at 5:00 and we worked all through the night recording vocals on two songs for our film… You just make it work.
Karl: Tell me about the research you do.
Glenn: I’m the director of a clinical research study on something called PrEP… Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s taking people who are HIV negative, at risk of HIV infection to some degree, and they may be given an HIV medication daily to stay negative. It’s something that was approved by the FDA in 2012 but this study is looking at real-world application of it… Adherence, behavioral change, cost-per-person… And it may help develop medical protocols all over the place because it’s pioneering.
Karl: That sounds stressful, but rewarding and humbling I imagine.
Glenn: It’s stressful but I also have a front-row seat to some really fascinating information. In addition to being the director of the study, I also do the counseling on it. So I really have an insight into the behaviors of our participants.
Karl: That probably gives you a unique perspective on things.
Glenn: It’s like being in a snow storm where no two snowflakes are alike, so every moment is different than the last. That part of it is really exciting. It’s doing quantifiable work. That’s something that I got out of working non-profit… At the end of the day you could actually quantify how many people you helped. You can’t always do that in other professions. At the end of each day I could say, “I think I actually saved nine lives today.”
Karl: What did you study to get into research? Is this what you had planned to do?
Glenn: No, I studied film at UCLA. I’ve supported myself as a film-maker, but that’s such an up and down career that sometimes you can do it, sometimes you can’t. It’s nice to have a back-up plan. I worked at AIDS Project LA for the entire decade of the 90s as a treatment educator. My background in non-profit and HIV treatment led me to another non-profit that I helped found for people with HIV in jails and prisons. I worked in the jail system for about five years. So the fifteen years experience in non-profit and HIV education and advocacy led me to this job.
Karl: What do you do when you’re not working? Do you get any down time?
Glenn: I’m a movie buff. I go to a ton of movies. I pretty much see everything out there. I also have a great variety of exercise regimens. I hike a lot with my dog. I take a Broadway dance class called Broadway Bodies. You learn a Broadway dance routine every session and dance it. It’s hilarious and also an incredibly challenging work out. I take a hip-hop class called GROOV3 where you learn a hip hop routine, (just to take the nerdishness out of the Broadway class). But the Broadway class is actually harder! And I bicycle like crazy.
Karl: Where are you from originally?
Glenn: I’m from a town called Youngstown, Ohio. It’s a former steel town that’s smack in the middle of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, right on the border of Pennsylvania. The steel mills all closed up in the 70s, there became rampant unemployment, the town died a slow death, and now it’s kind of bouncing back because land is so cheap and it’s so beautiful there. It was actually culture shock coming here ’cause it’s all desert and completely the opposite of how I grew up.
Karl: Please tell me about that. What brought you here from Ohio? Why LA?
Glenn: I moved to LA right out of high-school to pursue a career in film. I went to UCLA and got into their film school with the intent of becoming a writer. My mom was a writer for a local newspaper and she instilled in me the love of writing and of movies. She would take me to movies as a kid. Did you ever see the movie Almost Famous?
Karl: Of course.
Glenn: At the beginning, Frances McDormand is walking out of a movie theater with her young son and they’re analyzing the film. Well, that was my mom and I. She would take me to movies that were way beyond my years and I’d see Taxi Driver, The Exorcist, and she would analyze them with me. She taught me how to look at the film directing and the writing. I was just in awe of it. So I moved out here with the intent of being a writer, and when I went to film school I never thought I would be a director, but I fell in love with that aspect of it too.
Karl: You were just a kid. It must’ve felt so different than Ohio.
Glenn: I was seventeen. I was too young to rent an apartment. I had to find my own way and get a job. I couldn’t get over the lack of green. I’m used to rolling hills, endless trees, smelling the fallen leaves, and here it’s one season all year long. And I always pictured Los Angeles to be this very liberal, crazy open, Bohemian city, but when I got here it was the Reagan 80s. UCLA was hyper-conservative. I thought, “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?” But I fell into a group of people that opened my eyes to different parts of this city and different ways that people saw things and I started to love it.
Karl: What brought you to West Hollywood?
Glenn: After film school, I moved around town to different parts. I lived in LA proper, Koreatown, and I worked on a movie called Hoosiers in Indiana. When I came back from that, one of the crew members, a local Indiana person, wanted to move out to LA. So we decided to get an apartment together in West Hollywood and I’ve lived here ever since.
Karl: Where was that?
Glenn: That was on San Vicente just below Sunset. Then I moved to Palm Avenue, two blocks over. Now I’m just east of La Cienega and Santa Monica. I have a love/hate relationship with West Hollywood. I hated it until I got a dog. I thought the place was filled with sociopaths and mean-spirited people who would not just eat your mother to get ahead, but would eat their own mother to get ahead. I would see people walking around with sour expressions, never saying hello to each other, their faces buried in their cell phones, and just not being friendly. That all changed when I got a dog. All of a sudden all the people light up and everyone says hello. My dog is like the best “wing girl” ever.
Karl: She is incredibly charming.
Glenn: It’s completely changed how I look at this city because I’ve made so many friends with other dog owners. Now I look at it as one of the friendliest places in LA. I’d like to say that I rescued my dog, but she rescued me too because she changed my whole outlook.
Karl: What was it like when you first moved to West Hollywood? Tell me about all those assholes.
Glenn: *laughs* I don’t want to sound like I’m down on everybody. First of all, this is a city built on dreams. People come here from all over the world to pursue that dream, many of whom pursue it very single-mindedly. So that necessity doesn’t make for great social skills. It’s a city where you have to be incredibly choosy about who you interact with. You have to understand that people have different agendas and would probably kill you if you’re in the way of somebody who could help them.
Karl: You’ve been stabbed in the back, huh?
Glenn: Yes. People have stabbed me in the back. Absolutely. The stories aren’t that interesting, just people going back on their word, stealing your ideas – that sort of stuff I have experienced. I have managed to surround myself with people I love and trust, and I’ve carved out a satisfying niche.
Karl: How would you describe the city to someone in Ohio who has never been here before?
Glenn: West Hollywood is sculpted, planned, neat, pretty… Every tree has its place, nothing wild grows here. It’s fashion forward, architecturally sleek, and low to the ground. Unlike a lot of other major cities, because of earthquakes, most buildings are a couple stories and that’s about it. It’s very very congested, very crowded, and people like to stay out late and have a good time. It’s the center of the entertainment industry. We’re in the heart of the TMZ for those who know what TMZ is. Do I need to explain that?
Karl: Yes, please do.
Glenn: It stands for Thirty Mile Zone. The Beverly Center is actually the heart of it, and everything thirty miles around is considered local production. Anything outside of that, you would have to put an actor up in a hotel and give them per diem and it would be considered an out-of-town production. So we are in the center of the zone of shooting films.
Karl: How long have you lived here?
Glenn: I’ve lived in LA since 1979 but in West Hollywood since 1985 – twenty nine years. I’ve lived in West Hollywood longer than anyone on Earth!
Karl: What has changed the most since 1985?
Glenn: When I first moved here, West Hollywood was predominantly gay. That has changed dramatically over the years. It’s very mixed as far as sexual orientation and the Russian immigrants. That mix has created a far more diverse city than it used to be, and I love that part of it actually.
Karl: That’s a good thing?
Glenn: Yeah, you look in gay bars now and they’re actually mixed crowds. You can’t even tell they’re gay bars anymore, which is far closer to what you see in Europe. You just see people mixing together. I’ve never been fond of segregation, so if the whole world’s getting along, I think it’s better. That’s what it seems to have become here and it doesn’t feel like a ghetto anymore. It used to feel very much like the gay ghetto.
Karl: As a single gay man, does that fuck up the vibe of the bar scene for you?
Glenn: No. Because I think the reason people go to bars has changed. Back in the 80s, people went to bars to get laid. Now they go out with friends to have a good time. They get laid with social apps, or online. It’s different. That social vibe takes the onus of trying to find somebody to be with out of it, and you can just relax and have a good time now. I love that part of it. There are those that miss that, but there are still plenty of places to go where you can get that experience… Just not in West Hollywood strangely enough, at least for this old guy!
Karl: What sorts of things would you like to see more of here?
Glenn: I would love to see a bike lane that doesn’t stop and start. It’s kind of ironic that the bike lane stops in front of City Hall. You’re riding along, you feel protected, and all of a sudden you get in front of the government main office and you think you’re going to get killed.
Karl: I think it takes balls just to get on a bike here.
Glenn: I know all the safer routes. I stay off a lot of the main roads. But yeah, you definitely are taking a chance being on a bicycle here.
Karl: Where will this city be in twenty years?
Glenn: It will be higher. It’s necessary to accommodate everybody that wants to live here. You see that in the high-rise apartment buildings going up like crazy. I think that the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor is always going to be the main hub for business in West Hollywood, but I see a lot of the ma and pa shops going away. There seems to be so much development that they’re losing some of their individuality. It’s a shame. I saw a lot of that go away years ago when they widened the streets here. They closed one lane and put up dirt piles, and a lot of the ma and pa stores couldn’t sustain themselves. This has always been a city that thrives on individual creativity and I miss that part of it.
Karl: Will it hang onto the gay identity?
Glenn: I don’t know if it will. You look at a city like New York, their neighborhoods that were predominantly gay have shifted dramatically over the decades. There it seems to move around. Here, there are many neighborhoods that have gay populations all over town. They shift in popularity. Downtown has become a new hub and is developing as well. I don’t know that it’s a bad thing that gay populations aren’t ghettoized and centered in one particular area. I think that as there is a more accepting vibe out there, people assimilating and getting along is a better thing to me. I am very aware that there are people that want separatism, want a specific area, and there is a necessity for it for people that want to get out of whatever environment they’re in that isn’t accepting. But I think the change I’m talking about is welcome and exciting.
Karl: Well, my next question is “Are you happy here?” but you’ve been here so long and people are finally starting to be nice to you.
Glenn: *laughs* People ask me if I like it, and I say, “Every other day,” which is pretty good! 50%! Not everybody says that about where they live, right? It’s very dog-friendly. It’s very open and innovative. There’s an endless amount of things to do whether it’s a live concert, a movie, restaurants, art, outdoors… Well, there could be more parks actually, but there’s so much to do. Other things are so close by, like the beach, skiing, hiking… That part of it’s great.
Karl: What are your goals here? What’s the big picture for Glenn?
Glenn: Some of my goals I’ve already achieved, which is making films, and by films I mean high-tech campfire stories. That’s what I would be doing had I been born a few hundred years ago. It’s so easy to say, “I want to be a millionaire and win an Oscar,” and I wouldn’t say no to either one of those, but that’s not really why I got into it. I got into it because I like story telling. I like something as simple as an exciting cut from one scene to another. If that can have an impact on somebody and evoke an emotion, then that’s why I got into it.
Karl: What mistakes have you made along the way?
Glenn: I don’t call things mistakes, I call them “educational opportunities.” I’m happy to own up that I’ve made a ton of mistakes and will continue to. That’s the only way you grow. Life is filled with second, third, forth chances anyhow and you can always turn a mistake into an opportunity for something else. In film-making, I’ve learned that you better get along with people because that’s 90% of it. A long time ago my mentor said to me, “If anybody ever tells you this isn’t a popularity contest, they’re totally wrong. This is high-school and you need to be the king of the prom to succeed. That means being liked, being respected, and learning how to listen to people.” Truer words have never been spoken to me.
Karl: What advice can you give to up and coming film-makers?
Glenn: If you want to get into film-making, you need to find your voice. Know what you bring that’s different than anybody else. You can be someone who works on other people’s ideas and have a very successful career. But if you want to be a singular artist, you need to know what your voice is and what you bring to the table. That means living and breathing your perspective. That can take many forms. That might mean you live and breathe movies and you know everything about them. Other film-makers I know live and breathe being outdoorsmen, but that’s part of their voice. There’s room for all types of perspectives and people are hungry for them. They want to hear something different and experience something that they haven’t. So if you’re going into it to be famous or rich, you may succeed and fine… But if you want to lead the industry instead of just follow it, you need to have a voice. And… Buy people gift baskets! *explodes into laughter*
Karl: Is there anything you would like to end with before I turn off the recorder?
Glenn: I moved out to LA to pursue a specific career in film, and by and large I’ve been able to do that. What I didn’t expect was how eye-opening living in this city would be. I came here with a very mid-west sensibility, and that is a sensibility that likes to make people smile, be the caregiver, and entertain people. Living here, my perspective has changed. While I still want to do that, my goals have been more to rip the band-aid off of things that people may be uncomfortable with or haven’t experienced themselves. That can be entertaining but being in such a diverse culture compared to where I grew up has irrevocably changed my perspective. I have learned so much more about other cultures in the world by living here than I think I ever would have by living in a small bubble. When I moved out here, I wanted to make movies like John Hughes. I wanted to make Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club and movies in that populist ilk. The funny part is, the first feature I directed was a raunchy, gay version of Sixteen Candles. I never thought that that’s the type of thing that I would make, and yet, it’s so much better than I ever could have imagined.