Merce is a winner! We were included in the Official Latino Short Film Festival in New York City, and nominated for both Best Webisode and Best Screenplay of a Webisode. And holy crap, I won for Best Actor in a Webisode! We also just found out that Merce is an official selection to the NYC Web Fest coming up in November, and we are tied for most nominations with SIX! The cast is honored with a nomination for the I Love NY Award, Tyne Firmin is nominated as Best Supporting Actor, Kenny Kruper for Outstanding Achievement in Music, Colleen Hawks for Special Guest Star, and, (he humbly says) I’m up for Best Actor and Outstanding Achievement in Writing. (Check out all the nominees and info for NYC Web Fest here.) And Merce is about to be seen on OUTtv in Europe, and throughout the US on the LGBTQ app, REVRY. Merce is continuing to make waves!
One of the unexpected benefits to creating Merce is that it’s made me an HIV advocate. I’ve blogged for TheBody.com and the Huffington Post. I attended AIDSWatch in Washington D.C. in February, meeting with senators and representatives to speak to them about HIV issues. I was a part of the HIV Divide Flash Collective, which brought together HIV+ and HIV- gay men to discuss the similarities, differences and misconceptions between the two groups, ending in the creation of images and messaging that was projected on to the side of the Bronx Museum for the opening of the Art, AIDS, America exhibit. (That message was “The Virus Divides. It Doesn’t Have To. No Walls Between Gay Men.”) I was included in some PSA’s that are coming out soon from the CDC as part of their Start Talking. Stop AIDS. campaign. I am a part of the Prevention Access Campaign’s Undetectable = Untransmittable movement (see video above). Most recently, I was a Social Media Fellow at the United States Conference on AIDS in Hollywood, FL. (I wrote a little something for TheBody.com on my experience at USCA.)
When I was at the conference, I was privileged to hear Ken Like Barbie (Ken Robert Williams) speak. He told his story about being diagnosed with HIV and the shame and the stigma surrounding it. One thing he said stuck with me, he said, “Stigma is oppressive to the point that it kills.” It’s absolutely true. People are still dying of AIDS at a time when it can be prevented, and stigma is a huge reason. As a society, we have this collective tragic emotional memory around the AIDS crisis. Those scary and sad images of AIDS in the 80’s and 90’s are so embedded in our world consciousness, feeding fear, so much so that it keeps people from getting tested, from seeking treatment, from staying in care. We need to fight those old memories with new, modern images of HIV, and show that someone with HIV can live a full, happy life, with friends, family, a healthy love life, and joy. It’s become more clear to me than ever: We need to fight stigma with Merce.
Recently we did a fundraiser for Season 2 through Indiegogo, and raised almost a third of our budget! Really amazing, but we can’t make a third of a show. SO, we’ve pushed back production to the spring to give us more time to raise the money. Tyne and I are looking into other ways to fund the show, including applying for grants and such. And Merce is launching what I’m calling the “AIN’T TOO PROUD TO BEG CAMPAIGN.” We’re going to get back online and reach out to friends and family to try and raise more tax-deductible donations of moolah, shekles, dinero, cashola. We feel so excited about the possibilities ahead of us, and now that we’re starting to get noticed, we have the opportunity to really make a difference. Fundraising is the hardest part of production (okay, it’s a freakin’ humiliating, frustrating, baffling nightmare), and we hope that we don’t offend anyone by asking over and over and over again, but it’s the way independent projects get funded, so we’re gonna come a-beggin’!
(You can shut us up right now, by donating online at our website, www.MerceTV.com and clicking on Donate Here, or send a check, made out to our non-profit umbrella organization Fractured Atlas, with “Merce” in the subject, to Skipping Boyz Productions, 115 Cabrini Blvd., #B31, New York, NY, 10033. Any amount will help bring the season to life and continue Merce’s stigma shattering message that “Life can be positive when you’re positive.” And if you’ve already given, you can bask in the glow that you’ve helped create a second season of this amazing and unique show. And you can always donate more. More is more, after all!!)
In the meanwhile, keep your fingers and toes crossed for Merce on November 10 and 11!