DTLA Proud

In lieu of its annual festival, DTLA Proud is creating a documentary focused on the queer community during the pandemic. 

DTLA Proud and drag artist Miss Shu Mai will host “I Choose You,” a virtual panel and fundraiser that will be streamed on Princess Party’s Twitch Channel at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13. The event will feature performances from prominent queer voices and a panel of the organization’s upcoming documentary “Proud in a Pandemic.”

“The event is a suggested donation of $10, but if people donate $50 or more, they will get a tier gift box to help celebrate,” said Dennis Caasi, development manager at DTLA Proud.

Donations of $50 will feature $100 worth of sponsored items, and a $100 donation yields the donor $200 in swag. The Proud Boxes will be filled with specialty curated, festival-at-home items provided by partners including Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Capital Group, US Bank, Equality California, Papa & Barkley, Product of LA, Gay Pins, Kinda Fit Kinda Fat, DW Home Candles, Sobre La Luna and Scared Society Apothecary. Tito’s Handmade Vodka will match donations up to $15,000.

DTLA Proud has hosted a festival in Pershing Square since its inception five years ago, except for summer due to the pandemic. In lieu of the festival, the nonprofit has been creating a documentary called “Proud in a Pandemic” to celebrate and inspire its community during this time of uncertainty and challenge.

“When the pandemic hit last year, it was evidently clear that large-scale events can’t happen and the board decided to get together and figure out what to do to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community,” Caasi said. “We had just felt it was trying, and (Zoom) became very saturated. At DTLA Proud, we are always about breaking rules and going against the grain, so we were like, ‘Why don’t we do a film?’”

In came advisory board member of DTLA Proud and director of the documentary Scottie-Jeanette Madden, who, according to Caasi, “is pretty much the only person that has experience directing a film.”

“DTLA Proud celebration is usually in August. So when we went into lockdown, to me, it felt like minutes before Christopher Street West was announcing the LA Pride was canceled,” Madden said. “But we thought, ‘Well, we’re in August. We should be safe,’ and that reality existed for about another 5 minutes until they went away.”

Madden has been a professional director, writer and producer for more than 35 years, completing several documentaries and reality TV shows. She ended up arriving late to the board meeting that announced who would take on the role of directing the film.

“I said, ‘Wait, guys, whoa, whoa, whoa. What do you mean we are going to do a documentary?’” Madden said. “I was like, ‘First of all, who is going to direct it?’ figuring they caught some A-list director by the ear, and they said, ‘Well, you are.’”

Madden and the board were then tasked with deciding what the documentary was going to be about.

“I like the organization and I want to make a good pride celebration, but just documenting that we’ve done it in the past didn’t feel good to me at all,” Madden said.

“But in the middle of this conversation, as I was starting, it must have been the sour look on my face. One of the board members Andres (Rigal) said, ‘You know, this moment is a moment in time and the queer community is hurting big time. We need to seize this moment and make a time capsule, because generations in the future are going to look to us and say, ‘How the hell did you get through it?’” 

And so, the theme of the documentary was set.

The feature-length documentary is slated to be completed and released during the summer.

The panel will also include director of photography Pony Gold, DTLA Proud president and founder Oliver Alpuche, DTLA Proud Creative Director/Board of Directors Rigal and community advocate Chandi Moore.

“We are going to play (a sneak peek of the documentary) and then have Scottie-Jeanette and Pony Gold and some other (people involved in the film) discuss the process of making it, what they would like the film to do and why they participated in it,” Caasi said. “Around that, there will be performances just to keep the vibe interesting and entertaining, too.”

Viewers will enjoy musical performances DJ Rubella Spreads, drag queen Meatball, drag king Johnny Gentleman, film composer Josh Bartley and singer Drew Arriola.

DTLA Proud is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that strengthens and empowers the local LGBTQ+ and ally community in Downtown Los Angeles through visibility, volunteerism, partnerships and events. Founded by a grassroots group of local residents, business owners, community leaders and nightlife promoters, DTLA Proud was born form the idea that together it could create an all-inclusive community that represents the diverse LGBTQ+ population that lives, works and plays in the thriving heart of the city.

To learn more about DTLA Proud and the upcoming virtual event or to donate, go to dtlaproud.org.


—Staff reporter Annika Tomlin can be reached at atomlin@timespublications.com.