Inside Out 2015: Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story
As the gay liberation movement began to rise in America in the 1970s and 80s, so too did the world gay male pornography. Gay men were flocking to New York and San Francisco, demanding visibility and with that pornography came with it. One of the legendary pioneers of the industry was Chuck Holmes, founder and owner of Falcon Studios. Director Michael Stabile’s documentary Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story chronicles the story of how one of the most influential people in the gay world defied the odds and defined a generation of gay men’s sexuality.
Chuck Holmes was like many gay men in America in the 1970s, they travelled to San Francisco in search of freedom. With the rise of this post-Stonewall liberation movement, gay men were finally able to see that it was OK to be themselves. They were sexual beings pushing back against society’s oppressions. The rise of pornography out of the seedy underground came with it. Chuck was determined that he could do it bigger and make it better. With that, he started Falcon Studios out of his home in the early 70s. What started as a small fledgling operation quickly turned into a money-making machine. Chuck was able to tap into a need that men all across America were longing for. With his success came a fight against the prostitution and decency laws, one that many other studios could not weather. The invention of home video took his studio to a whole other level and they became the most influential producer in the business.
The onslaught of the AIDS crises in the mid-80s was devastating to the gay community. Many men were afraid to be sexually active and instead turned to porn as their sexual outlet. Through many ups and downs, this again was a market that Chuck and Falcon Studios were able to capitalize on. Resistant to change, it took a revolt from performers and directors to convince Chuck to start shooting their films using condoms. It was also around this time that Chuck himself was diagnosed as HIV positive. His realizations of his own mortality convinced him to put his money to good use and he became a political activist and donor that made him a very influential man in Washington. He and his close friends became very reflective in those years of the trail he had blazed and when he died in 2000, the Charles M. Holmes building at the San Francisco LGBT Community Centre was created in his honour.
The film is light on supporting material and at times could have been assembled better. Areas of Chuck’s life were left out or glossed over thinly and it was difficult keeping track of the dates of when certain events were happening. However, it’s the importance of the story everyone involved is telling that really matters. Younger generations of gay men likely don’t know who Chuck was and the effect the path he created has had on their identity so it’s important that this story be properly documented.
One would typically not associate a pornography producer as a pioneer for the gay community but that’s what he was. He was pushing societal and political boundaries that nobody had ever been brave enough to do before. His productions set the standards for pornography that are still sought today. Many men in the gay community looked to his films as a guidance, not just on how to have sex but for ideas of masculinity and what it meant to be gay. What he created will have a lasting impact for years to come.
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