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A feature documentary on the life and work of Hank Wilson.
145 backers pledged $16,706 to help bring this project to life.

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Thanks to Hank is the story of a gay saint, a liberation movement, a plague, and an approach to gay activism that puts poor people first. 

Meet Hank Wilson, the fiercest gay activist you never heard of.  In San Francisco during the 1970s and 80s, Hank was the Johnny Appleseed of gay liberation. Everywhere he went new organizations sprang up. Many are still with us. The AIDS Candlelight vigil he put together, five years before the formation of ACTUP, is now the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, organized by 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries. 

A kindergarten teacher, Hank took the lead in providing for the many young queers fleeing to San Francisco after being kicked out of their homes, He quit teaching to manage the Ambassador Hotel, a derelict 150-room residency hotel in the toughest part of town as a refuge for street kids and anyone else with nowhere to go. AIDS arrived, and Hank spent the next 20 years running the hotel as an unfunded hospice for the homeless and drug-addicted who were dying of AIDS. Many hundreds of poor people died in the Ambassador.

To survive a plague you need to laugh, so somewhere Hank found the time to start the first queer comedy club in San Francisco, where Whoopi Goldberg and Lea Delaria got their start.

Through it all he maintained a modesty so extreme even his closest friends found it odd. He slept on the floor of a one room roach-infested apartment, and invited homeless people to sleep in his car.  

Like the residents of his hotel, Hank contracted AIDS and died way too soon. 

We talk so much about community these days, but what do we actually mean? Hank Wilson had a definition even his kindergarten students could understand: a community is something that takes care of its least privileged members. If this simple thing cannot be done, then you don't have much in the way of community. This was Hank’s life project, his singular, profound gift to the queer community, and to the city of Saint Francis. 

Please join star of Orange is the New Black Lea DeLaria, former California State Assembyperson Tom Ammiano, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Kronos Quartet, and  Bob Ostertag to help pass this gift on to future generations.

Why $15,000?

We are making this movie Hank Wilson-style, on a shoe string, using community resources wherever possible. Much of the work is being donated. The Kronos Quartet, Carla Kihlstedt, and Mark Orton are all donating their music. Some videopgraphers have donated their skills.

Hank was an extremely modest person who avoided the camera, and we will use animation in place of all the missing pictures and footage. We are very excited to have Jeremy Rourke as our animator. Jeremy works his magic with paper and scissors instead of digital processing, and his artistic sensibility fits perfectly with Hank's modesty. Jeremy will be working for far below commercial rates, but making animation for a feature-length film is a huge job, and he has to eat and pay the rent while doing it.

Any funds raised through Kickstarter beyond what it costs to make the film will be donated to the organizations Hank started.

The Team

Bob Ostertag: Producer, Director, Writer, Editor.

Composer, historian, instrument builder, journalist, activist:  Bob Ostertag's work cannot easily be summarized or pigeon-holed. He has published more than twenty CDs of music, two DVDs, and five books. His writings on contemporary politics have been published on every continent and in many languages. He has performed at music, film, and multi-media festivals around the globe. His radically diverse collaborators include the Kronos Quartet, postmodernist John Zorn, heavy metal star Mike Patton, transgender cabaret start Justin Vivian Bond, British guitar innovator Fred Frith, EDM star Rrose, and many others. He is rumored to have connections to the shadowy media guerrilla group The Yes Men. In March 2006 Ostertag made all of his recordings to which he owns the rights available as free digital downloads under a Creative Commons license. Though his Living Cinema duo with Pierre Hébert has done live cinematic performances at major international film festivals around the world since 2000, this will be his first conventional feature film.

You can learn more about Bob's work at his web site.

Jeremy Rourke: Animation.

Jeremy Rourke is a self taught animator, musician and performer.  His experimental animation includes the use of photo-puppetry, line animation, claymation, glass, text, paint, pens, pencils, lights, shadows, flora and myriad paper ephemera. During live performances he has been known to sing and tell stories in conjunction with instrumental music, sound samples, multiple projectors and real time interactions with the screen. He has shared these expanded cinema performances around the San Francisco Bay Area (including the Exploratorium, Other Cinema, Shapeshifters Cinema, Recology AIR), around the country (including Ashland Independent Film Festival, Cinema Pacific Film Festival, Houston Cinema Arts Festival) and internationally at the Antimatter Media Art Festival.  

You can see some of Jeremy's beautiful animation on his web site.

The Kronos Quartet: Music.

Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 60 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world's most intriguing and accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning more than 950 works and arrangements for string quartet. Kronos has received over 40 awards, including  a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance (2004) and “Musicians of the Year” (2003) from Musical America. 

Tin Hat: Music.

Since their formation in San Francisco in 1997, Tin Hat has produced an extraordinary string of 6 CDs of acoustic music combines many genres of music, including jazz, southern blues, bluegrass, neoclassical, eastern European folk music, and avant-garde. All of their CDs feature guests, including Tom Waits, Mike Patton and Willie Nelson.

Interviewees

Lea DeLaria

Lea DeLaria is an actress and comedian best known for her portrayal of inmate Carrie “Big Boo” Black on Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black. She was the first openly gay comic to appear on a late-night talk show, with her 1993 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. In the 1980s she was deeply associated with the Valencia Rose, San Francisco's first gay comedy club, co-founded by Hank Wilson.

Tom Ammiano

Comedian,  Former California State Assemblyperson and Former President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Tom Ammiano is San Francisco's highest profile politician since Harvey Milk. In the 1970s, Tom and Hank Wilson were inseparable friends and allies, starting the Gay Teachers Coalition and, together with Harvey Milk, the Bay Area Coalition Against the Briggs Initiative which played a key role in defeating the national wave of homophobic campaigns spearheaded by Anita Bryant. Tom is also a stand-up comedian, and the man who famously told then-CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to "kiss my gay ass."

Blackberri

Singer-songwriter, co-founder of Bay Area Gay Liberation (BAGL) and longtime San Francisco Bay Area gay activist.

And:

  • Randy Alfred: longtime gay journalist,
  • Stephany Joy Ashley: former President of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, former director of the Saint James Infirmary, and homeless Advocate,
  • Esteban Rodriguez:  Community Health RN with the SF Department of Public Health, former Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center intern,
  • Rev. Penny Sarvis and Rev. Glenda Hope: San Francisco Network Ministries,
  • Former Ambassador Hotel managers Donna Lisa Steward and Tom Calvanese,
  • and more.

And with the support of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Founded in San Francisco in 1979, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are a global order of outrageously dressed queer "nuns" who devote themselves to community service, outreach to those on the edges, human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. Today they have houses throughout the US and in many other countries. In 1983 The Sisters worked closely with Hank Wilson to organize the first AIDS Candlelight Vigil. The Sisters canonized Hank Wilson as a saint in December 2000, and perform a ritual in the Thanks to Hank movie declaring Hank the Patron Saint of Housing Justice, Plague Survivors, Queer Underdogs, and Compassionate Action.

And the GLBT Historical Society

Founded in 1985 with, you guessed it, the support of Hank Wilson, The GLBT Historical Society collects, preserves, exhibits and makes accessible to the public materials and knowledge to support and promote understanding of LGBTQ history, culture and arts in all their diversity. Hank's personal papers are housed in The GLBT Historical Society archives. The GLBT Historical Society is a registered 501(c)3 educational nonprofit organization, and is the fiscal sponsor for this movie. Kickstarter donations are not passed through the Society and are not tax-deductible. Please contact the Historical Society to make a tax-deductible contribution to the film independently from the Kickstarter campaign.

Links and Further Information

Organizations Founded or Co-Founded by Hank Wilson

  • Gay Community Center  (1974)
  • Bay Area Gay Liberation (1975)
  • Gay Teachers Coalition (1975) 
  • San Francisco Gay Democratic Club (1976), renamed the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
  • Butterfly Brigade (1976)
  • Carry a Whistle Defense Campaign (1976)
  • Bay Area Coalition Against the Briggs Initiative (1978)
  • Community United Against Violence (1979)
  • Valencia Rose (1981)
  • Committee to Monitor Poppers (1981)
  • AIDS Political Action Network (1982)
  • AIDS Memorial Candlelight March (1983)
  • Gay Lesbian Youth Advocacy Council (1985) 
  • Tenderloin AIDS Network (1985)
  • Gay Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force (1985)
  • Mobilization Against AIDS (1985)
  • Citizens for Medical Justice in (1987)
  • Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC) (1988)
  • Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center (1988)
  • People with AIDS (1989)
  • ACTUP San Francisco (1989), renamed ACTUP Golden Gate, then Survive AIDS!

Risks and challenges

Risks and challenges? The risk would be not to make the movie! We believe this story needs to be told, particularly now, when "gay rights" has come to be associated with the right to marry and to serve in the military, instead of being in service to others and particularly poor people.

We already have a rough cut. We are nearly there. We want to add animation to take what is already a good movie and make it better.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Music by Bob Ostertag

    One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.

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    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
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    Kickstarter Kickoff Party

    Entry for 1 to the Kickoff Party at the Tenderloin Museum in San Francisco. November 20, 2018. 6-9pm. Art by Mrs. Vera, drag by Grace Towers, sneak movie preview, remarks by Cleve Jones and other friends of Hank, blessing by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Cash bar. Snacks. Fun.

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    Your name in the movie credits.

    Have your name immortalized in film.

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    • Your name thanked in the movie credits
    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
    • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence "St. Hank" prayer cards
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    Program from Hank's 2008 memorial.

    Beautiful "Thanks to Hank" program from Hank's 2008 memorial service.

    Includes:
    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
    • Your name thanked in the movie credits
    • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence "St. Hank" prayer cards
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    Autographed Bob Ostertag book or CD

    Bob Ostertag CD or book, check his web site for titles, autographed to you with thanks for your support for this movie.

    Includes:
    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
    • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence "St. Hank" prayer cards
    • Your name thanked in the movie credits
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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    A Fabulous Face by Grace Towers

    Drop by on your way to that special party or event and get an amazing make-up look from the queen of drag make-up herself, Grace Towers! (Only in San Francisco.)

    Includes:
    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
    • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence "St. Hank" prayer cards
    • Your name thanked in the movie credits
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    Original VERASPHERE artwork!

    A beautiful, framed, limited edition photograph from the Verasphere (artists David Faulk and Michael Johnston). Long-term AIDS survivors whose work spreads color and joy. See Verasphere.com.

    Includes:
    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
    • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence "St. Hank" prayer cards
    • Your name thanked in the movie credits
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    Original artwork from film's animation.

    You get an beautiful and unique work of art, created by Jeremy Rourke for the film's animation. Only 4 available. Literally, a piece of the movie!

    Includes:
    • Original artwork from film's animation
    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
    • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence "St. Hank" prayer cards
    • Your name thanked in the movie credits
    • Kickstarter Kickoff Party Ticket
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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    "St. Hank" Processional Banner.

    The "St. Hank" processional banner, fabricated by artist Shaul Hamawi and carried in the movie by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. One of a kind.

    Includes:
    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
    • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence "St. Hank" prayer cards
    • Your name thanked in the movie credits
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    Private movie screening at your home

    A private screening of Thanks to Hank, in your home, with film maker Bob Ostertag present. Your home must be in the greater SF Bay Area.

    Includes:
    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
    • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence "St. Hank" prayer cards
    • Your name thanked in the movie credits
    • Kickstarter Kickoff Party Ticket
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    Drag MakeOver!

    Stop by on your way to that special event or party and get made up by the queen of drag fabulosity, Grace Towers. (Only in San Francisco.)

    Includes:
    • One free download of any Bob Ostertag CD.
    • Your name thanked in the movie credits
    • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence "St. Hank" prayer cards
    • Kickstarter Kickoff Party Ticket
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Funding period

- (59 days)