CVIndependent

Tue07142020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

The 100 or so community judges were watching the sixth of 22 entries in the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s “In a Center Minute” Commercial-Making Contest.

Shortly after that sixth commercial started playing, the judges knew they were watching something special. In fact, when the commercial finished, the audience broke into a spontaneous round of applause.

The commercial—which would go on to take top honors in the contest’s student category—was made by College of the Desert student Daniel Meyers. Using dry-erase drawings, the commercial tells the story of Aaron, an 18-year-old who discovers he is gay as he is dealing with the death of his father. He goes on to find low-cost grief counseling and a community of friendship at the Center.

Meyers’ commercial, simply put, was amazing. (It’s the first commercial embedded below. Go ahead and stop reading, and scroll down to watch it; come back here when you’re done. Seriously. Go watch it.)

Impressive, huh?

The contest was the brainchild of Shann Carr, the Center’s outgoing volunteer coordinator. (Carr—a friend of the Independent—is returning to her stand-up comedy career full-time.) She joined her “Secret Meeting Volunteers” (disclosure: I sat in on some of those early “secret meetings”) to put on the contest as a gift to the Center.

When all was said and done, the contest received six entries from students, and 16 from the general public. Around 100 community members arrived at the Desert Regional Medical Center’s Sinatra Auditorium on Monday, July 15, to serve as judges at the aforementioned screening; two days later, many of the contestants and other community members were invited to the Sinatra Auditorium for a screening and the announcement of the winners.

While Meyers ran away with the win in the student contest, the mother-and-son team of Katy and Sam Wilkerson took top honors in the general-population category. Their impressive documentary-style commercial features clips of volunteers and members discussing the various services provided at the Center. (It’s the second clip embedded below.) This isn’t the first time that the Wilkerson family has made figurative waves with video cameras: Their short film The Pride of Palm Springs, about the inclusion of the Palm Springs High School marching band in the local pride parade, recently impressed audiences at the Palm Springs International Shortfest.

The two winners received $1,000, thanks to sponsorship by Hunters, Snowden Construction, the Coachella Valley Independent (yep, that’s us), The NestEggg Group, Southern Wine and Spirits, and Ripe N’ This World.

The second-place finishers—Cindy Kendall in the general-population category, and Cheri Smith (the daughter of a Center volunteer and also a College of the Desert student) in the student category—received $250.

All of the entries can be viewed at inacenterminute.com. The Center will use the entries at public events and for fundraising. They may also be submitted to local media as public-service announcements.

Katy and Sam Wilkerson signed up for the contest after someone at the Shortfest told them about it, Katy says.

“We thought it would be fun, and kind of up our alley,” she says.

However, the Wilkersons’ winning submission almost didn’t come to fruition. Sam's father and Katy’s husband, Steven, passed away rather suddenly during the contest period, on June 25. Despite the shock, Sam and Katy decided to press on.

“My husband would have wanted us to do this, and we decided to go on with it,” Katy says. “He was in the room with us the night we won.”

Understandably, the Wilkersons got a late start on filming: Katy says the day before the submission deadline, Sam went to the Center and did his filming after they talked to friends who were familiar with the Center. He then edited the footage—and had just enough good stuff to flesh out the documentary-style commercial.

“It all just flowed,” Katy says.

In the end, the commercial was just the latest honor for the family Wilkerson, which has been into films since Sam, now 20 years old, bought his first camera with birthday and Christmas money at the age of 10.

Sam was unable to attend the awards screening on Wednesday, July 17, because he was on a film shoot in the Los Angeles area. He’s now working as a pro in L.A. after learning film-and-editing ropes at Palm Springs High School.

And as for the commercial that left the audience cheering: A visibly shy Daniel Meyers told the audience on Wednesday that he based the character of Aaron on his own life. However, there is one big difference.

Unlike Aaron, he didn’t discover the Center until a bit later in life. He told the audience that he wishes he’d learned about it sooner.

Below: Daniel Meyers, the student-category winner, poses with LGBT Center volunteer coordinator Shann Carr; and Katy Wilkerson, the mom in the mom-son team that won in the general-population category, poses with Carr. Photos courtesy of the Center.

Daniel Meyers, the student-category winner, poses with LGBT Center volunteer coordinator Shann Carr. Photo courtesy of the Center.

Katy Wilkerson, the mom in the mom-son team that won in the general-population category, poses with Shann Carr. Photo courtesy of the Center.

Published in Local Issues

Shann Carr thinks that The Center—the Coachella Valley’s community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks—is grossly underutilized.

She says that when she discusses The Center with locals who are L, G, B or T, she learns that a shocking number of them aren’t familiar with the services it provides. “Half of them have never even been here,” says the center’s volunteer and community outreach coordinator.

Therefore, she’s decided that it’s time for The Center to get the word out—and that’s where its Commercial-Making Contest comes in.

(Disclosure time: I’ve helped Shann and her “secret meeting volunteers” here and there as they got the contest off the ground—and the Coachella Valley Independent is a sponsor of the contest. That's just how we roll.)

The rules for the contest, which can be found at thecenterps.org, are pretty simple: Anybody can sign up for the contest, and winners will be selected in two categories: One category is for the general public (i.e. anybody, from anywhere); and another is for students between the ages of 14 and 25 who have been enrolled in a school of some sort within the last year. Submissions of the 60-second commercials are due on Wednesday, July 10, and the winners in each category get $1,000 each.

And to make it even more simple, after contestants sign up for the contest via thecenterps.org, they’ll get an link to a resource kit containing pictures, PDFs, video clips and more that can be used in the 60-second spots. And if that isn’t enough, The Center and its NestEggg Food Bank will be open for contestants to come by and shoot their own footage each Thursday (preferably before noon) between now and the July 10 deadline.

So why a 60-second commercial contest?

“Because tiny bits of information are how people communicate now. Sixty seconds is as long as anyone will stare at anything anymore,” Carr laughs.

The Center hopes to use the winning commercials online, as public-service announcements on local stations, and at the numerous local festivals and events where The Center has a presence. The ultimate goal: for more people to know about all of the services The Center provides, from health-and-wellness activities to job-training to a computer center.

The entries are starting to trickle in, Carr says—and they include one contestant who plans on making the commercial using only a smartphone. However, she’s hoping for a larger turnout of contestants—especially in the student category.

“Some people won’t read an article, but they’ll click on a 60-second ad. It’s the lazy person’s article,” Carr says.

To enter or receive more information, head on over to thecenterps.org.

Published in Local Issues

This Saturday, several hundred folks will descend upon the Sand Acre Estate, and they’ll all have one thing in common: They’ll all be wearing red dresses.

Yep. All of them.

Tickets to the second-annual party, which benefits the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, are $85, or $75 for center members. It takes place from 7 to 10 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at the Sand Acre Estate, 953 N. Avenida Palmas, in Palm Springs. For tickets or more information, call 416-7790, or visit thecenterps.org.

The Independent recently spoke with Shann Carr, the center’s volunteer coordinator (full disclosure: Shann is a friend), and learned five things worth knowing about the Red Dress Party.

1. OK, about the dresses: This event is not about drag queens; it’s for everybody. In the past, Carr says, some folks have expressed reservations about attending, because getting all gussied up in dresses is not something they do. And that’s the point, Carr says. “Ninety-seven percent of the men and women who come would never wear a dress. That’s what gives it a ridiculous, fun feeling.” The result is a non-stuffy cocktail party that benefits a fine cause. “There’s no dinner; there are no political speeches,” she says; in fact, the only real speaker will be a volunteer at the center who’s the mother of a gay kid.

2. There’s help for men or women out there who want to go, but are clueless about makeup, hair, etc. It just so happens that the center’s next-door neighbor (both are located at 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive) is the Champion Institute of Cosmetology, and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Champion’s students (supervised, of course) will be available to help for an affordable fee. Call 322-2227 to make an appointment.

3. The red is for a reason. Center representatives have recently been visiting area schools with an anti-bullying campaign, and the red dresses represent solidarity with anyone who has ever been humiliated or bullied—and hence left red-faced.

4. The venue is kind of awesome. The Sand Acre Estate was reportedly Marilyn Monroe’s favorite Palm Springs hangout back in the day—and it’s an utterly gorgeous place for a party, Carr says.

5. The emcee is also kind of awesome. Michael Holmes will be one of the few dudes present who is comfortable wearing a dress. He’s known for playing Judy Garland in his The Judy Show, a parody of the parties Garland used to host at her home in the ’60s. “He’s beautiful; he’s smart; he’s talented,” promises Carr. His main job as emcee will be to run the contest at the party: Guests will be honored in the categories of Sexiest Dress; Best Marilyn; Best Team Effort; Most Outrageous; and Best Couture (whatever that means).

In any case, Carr encourages attendance by everyone who wants to enjoy a fun, non-pretentious three-hour cocktail party—while helping out a great cause.

And to repeat, it’s not about drag queens.

“It’s about people who never do drag; they’re doing it for charity,” Carr says.

Published in Local Fun

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