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Denizet-Lewis film premiering at Sundance

Benoit Denizet-Lewis is a busy man these days.

In between promotional events for his latest New York Times best-selling book Travels with Casey, the assistant professor of Writing, Literature and Publishing is stopping by the Sundance Film Festival this month to attend the premiere of I Am Michael, the true-story film starring James Franco that is based on an article Denizet-Lewis wrote for New York Times Magazine.

Benoit Denizet-Lewis

Assistant Professor Benoit Denizet-Lewis of the Writing, Literature, and Publishing Department.

“It’s premiering in a theater that seats nearly 2,000 people, so it should be a lot of fun,” Denizet-Lewis said. “I’ve had a couple of my stories optioned but they’ve never ended up getting made. This one did, so that was surprising and enjoyable.”

Denizet-Lewis plans to meet up with a group of Visual and Media Arts students who are attending Sundance. Those students (see names at the bottom of this article) also have meetings scheduled with performer Bobcat Goldthwait and several alumni, including Holly Bario ’89, president of production at DreamWorks; Aaron Ryder ’94, producer of Donnie Darko and Memento; and executive Pam Abdy ’95 of New Regency Films.

I Am Michael is based on Denizet-Lewis’s 2011 article, “My Ex-Gay Friend,” which profiles the unusual true story about Michael Glatze, a former gay rights activist who later became a vocal critic of homosexuality.

I Am Michael

Actors Emma Roberts and James Franco in a scene from I Am Michael.

Denizet-Lewis used to work with Glatze at XY Magazine, which was oriented toward gay male youth.

“I talked to Michael and told him, essentially, that [the movie producers] were interested in telling his story the same way I did in my piece,” Denizet-Lewis said, “which was not to ridicule him or come at the movie with any political agenda at all.”

Denizet-Lewis is a co-producer of the film—something he called “a lot of fun.”

“I’ve been involved in the whole process, from script to title to who’s going to play me,” he said. “It was kind of surreal to see something that I’d written get adapted.”

The filming took about 20 days in August—a quick timeframe— and cost about $2.5 million, Denizet-Lewis said. He said working with Franco was a great experience, and that “there would have been no movie without James’ interest in this project.”

“He’s been really excited about the project and really on board,” he said.

Denizet-Lewis will attend the Sundance premiere on January 29.

The Emerson VMA students and alumna attending Sundance are: Nerissa Williams, MFA ’15, Anto Astudillo, MFA ’16, Heather Cassano, MFA ’17, Emily Hofelich, MFA ’15, Hannah Engelson, MFA ’15, Katerina Dejkoska, MFA ’15, and Samantha Coolbeth ’13. 

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