'I'm From Driftwood' Added to LGBT Film & TV Collection

Michiganders Featured in Xfinity Series of Documentary Shorts

BY JASON A. MICHAEL

For those who have the Xfinity X1 Platform and haven't checked it out yet, the month of June is the perfect time to browse through the LGBT Film & TV Collection - a prideful library of over 800 shows and movies featuring LGBT characters and storylines.

Recently added to the collection are 20 new episodes of the "I'm From Driftwood" series of short documentaries, several of which feature stories from LGBT people across the state of Michigan.

Since March 2009, the non-profit "I'm From Driftwood" project, funded in part by the Palette Fund and the Arcus Foundation, has collected and shared over 1,000 stories from across the country. The stories are developed for the purpose of creating a sense of community, increasing empathy, driving social change and preserving LGBT history, according to the website. These first-person accounts provide an honest and genuine look at what it's like to be LGBT throughout the country and world.

Five of the 20 new stories added to the collection this month come from Michigan residents, including the story of James Felton Keith who was fired from Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan's office for what he alleges was discrimination based on his sexual orientation. Also, the story of Michael Coulter, a Flint resident who told his first boyfriend he loved him only to find out his boyfriend didn't feel the same way.

These stories provide authentic glimpses into the lives and issues of LGBT people today.

"The process of finding storytellers is very organic," said Nathan Manske, founder and director of the series. "Sometimes people reach out to us directly, sometimes we do a call-for-entries on social media, sometimes I'll meet someone at an event, sometimes it's a friend of a friend. In the case of Xfinity, they introduced us to some of their LGBT employees who then shared their stories with us."

Taking its name from the city Manske hails from - Driftwood, Texas - he said the stories have the potential to make a great impact.

"The stories on 'I'm From Driftwood' have saved young lives, helped people come out of the closet at all ages, helped pass laws, and ultimately increased empathy, understanding and acceptance," he said. "That's why we're so excited about having the stories on Xfinity, to make them accessible to an additional 21 million viewers around the country."

The partnership with Xfinity is one that Manske said he hopes will be longstanding.

"Xfinity wanted to provide meaningful LGBT content to their subscribers," he explained.

"We talked about the best way to partner and came up with a plan that involved sharing some of the best stories from 'I'm From Driftwood,' but also about working on a new program together."

The new program, called "What Was It Like?," documents stories specifically from LGBT elders and will premiere exclusively on Xfinity for two weeks before being published on the "I'm From Driftwood" site.

"Far too many LGBT stories have been lost to the closet, to the AIDS epidemic, and to time itself," said Manske. "'What Was It Like?' gives LGBT elders a way to pass their legacy on to future generations and allow LGBT youth to gain a valuable, first-hand perspective on the LGBT experience and history."

But the new series will definitely not mean the end of Driftwood.

"I plan for I'm From Driftwood to not just continue indefinitely, but to expand into different forms of media," said Manske. "We want to ensure first-person LGBT stories are available in books, podcasts, graphic novels and on the stage. We hope to continue expanding around the U.S. but also in countries around the world. What's so great about the partnership with Xfinity is that they're helping ensure the stories are seen by more people in more places around the country. We hope our partnership with Xfinity will continue every step of the way."

Jean-Claire Fitschen, executive director of Comcast Multicultural Services and Xfinity LGBT Film & TV lead, said in development of the collection, their customers "expressed a strong desire to see stories representing the rich diversity of experiences throughout the community, inclusive of different ages, races and genders. The 'I'm From Driftwood' video series provides an open, honest and genuine look at what it's like to be LGBT throughout the country and the world, including Michigan. These videos remind people they are part of a larger community and are never truly alone."

To subscribe to the Xfinity X1 Platform, call 800-Xfinity. For more information about the I'm From Driftwood series, visit http://www.imfromdriftwood.com.
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