Pride executive producer Christine Vachon

Christopher Patey

Performer Justin Vivian Bond and playwright Kate Bornstein appear in the first episode of Pride , “1950s: People Had Parties,” directed by Tom Kalin.

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June 29, 2021
In The Mix

Sharing Their Pride

With an array of diverse directors, an FX series documents the 50-year struggle for LGBTQ civil rights.

Christine Champagne

"I don't want to say unequivocally that there hasn't been anything like this, but I certainly haven't seen anything like this."

So says executive producer Christine Vachon of Pride, a six-part docuseries chronicling the LGBTQ civil-rights movement decade by decade. The series, which covers the 1950s through the 2000s, premiered on FX on May 14.

Pride's producers, from Vachon's Killer Films and VICE Studios, hired a different director from the LGBTQ community to helm each installment. "I loved the idea of having six directors — one for each episode — and letting each episode really find its own artistic integrity," Vachon says.

In searching for directorial talent, Vachon and the team, including showrunner and executive producer Alex Stapleton, sought a diverse mix — and "not just in terms of people of color and trans people," Vachon says. "I thought it was really important that there be age diversity as well." Ultimately, they chose seven directors: Tom Kalin, Andrew Ahn, Cheryl Dunye, Yance Ford, Ro Haber and the team of Anthony Caronna and Alex Smith.

No two episodes employ the same storytelling or visual approach. Kalin's episode on the 1950s, for example, makes use of re-creations, which Vachon says are "very much Tom's style." Jumping to the 1990s episode directed by Ford (whose 2017 doc Strong Island won an Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking), Vachon says interviews are used "to masterfully bring out the culture war that is so resonant to what we're going through right now."

One element that unites all of Pride is a focus on unsung heroes in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights. "At FX, they were very clear that they wanted our shows to be motivated by the characters," Vachon notes, "which the filmmakers were completely on board with."

Stapleton worked with the directors to bring out the best in each episode. "It was — on paper — a really great idea: let's get these six different directors," Vachon says. "But in practice, each director has a different process, a different level of experience. So Alex had to be a producer, a diplomat, a psychiatrist... and a lot of this was happening during the pandemic."

Vachon — whose prominent film producing credits include Boys Don't Cry, I'm Not There, Carol and Still Alice — has ventured into television in a big way in recent years. As an executive producer, she has been Emmy-nominated for the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce and the series Mrs. Harris.

An icon herself in the LGBTQ community for her groundbreaking work in cinema, Vachon is confident that Pride will make a real impact. "For all of our progress, there are so many young people who still feel isolated and alone because they're queer or trans, or however they are defining themselves," she says. "The sense of recognition and community that I believe the show will generate will be extraordinary."

The first three episodes of Pride debuted May 14 and the last three on May 21; all episodes will be available the next day on FX on Hulu.

Writer Christine Champagne has lived with this project in her New York City apartment during lockdown. Her wife, Rosella Tursi, is an editor of Pride.

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 5, 2021

More articles celebrating Pride Month.

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