Michael Gamilla, Programming Director, ImageOut Rochester LGBT Film Festival
When Michael moved to Upstate New York, his passion for arts and culture, and his desire to be active in the LGBTQ+ community both led him to ImageOut, the Rochester LGBT Film Festival where he has been a volunteer for 20 years and serving as the Programming Director for the past 19 years. A systems analyst and computer programmer by training and profession, volunteering for the film festival since 2003 has allowed Michael to indulge his artistic and creative side. Since taking over the ImageOut programming helm, he has introduced the Flower City Flicks Competition for local filmmakers with the hope of inspiring more LGBTQ+ content coming from the Western NY and Rochester Region. It is still his dream to make this a regular tradition. Michael has also created the ImageOut There! Series as a sidebar in order to introduce the festival audience to content that may be hard-hitting, challenging, edgy, and perhaps, even innovative, as opposed to the usual festival fare. It has become a popular series year after year as it feeds people’s curiosity. Michael also renewed the festival’s dedication to the leaders of tomorrow by adding an official youth series called Next Generation, with emphasis on including stories for, about, and/or by LGBTQ+ youth and making the films easily accessible to them.
At the start of the pandemic, Michael spearheaded the effort to quickly adapt to the restrictions of in-person events and ImageOut moved to a virtual-only platform for the first year of the pandemic. In 2021, at the time when most festivals were cancelling, postponing, or downsizing their events, Michael introduced ImageOut First Cut Spring Edition, which is now on its second year. This new festival allows ImageOut to also adapt to the new distribution model of films as the demand for streaming becomes stronger, so the Rochester audience is not missing out on good quality LGBTQ+ films. Since the pandemic, ImageOut has organized and hosted a virtual-only festival, and three hybrid film festivals, offering films both in physical venues and streaming in the comfort of people’s homes.
Being part of a vibrant international arts and culture community has been rewarding for Michael. He has been invited to serve on international LGBTQ+ juries for film festivals in Berlin (Berlinale), Cardiff (Iris Prize), Toronto (Inside Out), Tel Aviv (TLVfest), San Francisco (Frameline), Miami and Fort Lauderdale (OutShine), Boston (Wicked Queer), Tampa (TIGLFF), Atlanta (Out on Film), as well as jury duties for the DC Shorts Film Festival and the Rochester 24-hour Movie Challenge. But it is when his work and contributions are recognized locally that it even feels sweeter. In 2011, The Little Theatre honored Michael with the Friend of Film Award for his individual contributions to local cinema. Michael has also been honored as one of the 2015 Outstanding Community Champions by the Empire State Pride Agenda for his work with ImageOut. Michael is humbled by being recognized as one of the 2021 ROC Pride MVPs presented by the Rochester LGBTQ+ Together.
Charismatic, insightful and compassionate are commonly used to describe Michael’s spirit. Through his festival work, he builds bridges throughout the community by connecting the hearts and minds of people, families, and allies, while trying to bring understanding and equality for all through the cinema.