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Christine Vachon

Christine Vachon

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: November 21, 1961 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: producer, director, production assistant, production coordinator, screenwriter, assistant editor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A prime mover in the increasingly established "new wave" of gay independent filmmaking, Vachon gained notice by producing two highly stylized and ambitious features: Todd Haynes' "Poison" (1990) and Tom Kalin's "Swoon" (1992). She has built a reputation for nurturing film projects that deal with American gay life as well as for working with first-time filmmakers from other media. One of the founders (with fellow Brown University alums Haynes and Barry Ellsworth) of Apparatus Productions in 1987, Vachon produced seven short films in five years. The most notorious of these was the first, Haynes' experimental biopic "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story" (1987), which details the meteoric rise and tragic fall of the anorexic pop star using Barbie dolls.After graduating from college, Vachon returned to NYC, where she had been raised, and found work in various production capacities on low-budget independent features. She was a production assistant on Bette Gordon's "Variety" (1983) and assistant editor on Bill Sherwood's "Parting Glances" (1986). Vachon also wrote and directed her own "personal" shorts, "A Man in Your Room" (1984), "Days Are Numbered" (1986). To make ends meet while pursuing her muse,...

A prime mover in the increasingly established "new wave" of gay independent filmmaking, Vachon gained notice by producing two highly stylized and ambitious features: Todd Haynes' "Poison" (1990) and Tom Kalin's "Swoon" (1992). She has built a reputation for nurturing film projects that deal with American gay life as well as for working with first-time filmmakers from other media. One of the founders (with fellow Brown University alums Haynes and Barry Ellsworth) of Apparatus Productions in 1987, Vachon produced seven short films in five years. The most notorious of these was the first, Haynes' experimental biopic "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story" (1987), which details the meteoric rise and tragic fall of the anorexic pop star using Barbie dolls.

After graduating from college, Vachon returned to NYC, where she had been raised, and found work in various production capacities on low-budget independent features. She was a production assistant on Bette Gordon's "Variety" (1983) and assistant editor on Bill Sherwood's "Parting Glances" (1986). Vachon also wrote and directed her own "personal" shorts, "A Man in Your Room" (1984), "Days Are Numbered" (1986). To make ends meet while pursuing her muse, Vachon also found work on some cheapie horror flicks.

Her career took off with Apparatus, a non-profit, grant-giving organization which funded new independent filmmaker, through which she produced shorts dealing with gay themes, women's issues and African-American life. Two 1990 shorts were in the latter category: the provocatively titled "Oreos With Attitude" wherein a NYC "buppie" couple adopt a white child to promote racial harmony; and "Anemone Me," a gay interracial love story set in Maine about a blind black bodybuilder and a white "mer-boy," which marked the directorial debut of playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

Vachon produced and served as assistant director on Haynes' acclaimed debut feature "Poison" which told three disconnected stories in wildly different styles. She reteamed with Haynes to produce his award-winning short "Dottie Gets Spanked" (1993). Set in the 1950s, the experimental film told about a six-year-old boy obsessed with a Lucille Ball-like sitcom star and wary of his real-life authoritarian father. The creative pair ventured closer to the mainstream with the elegantly stylized "Safe" (1995), starring Julianne Moore as an affluent suburban housewife stricken with an environmental illness that causes extreme allergic reactions to everyday chemicals.

"Swoon," Vachon's first collaboration with producer-director Tom Kalin received some criticism from the gay press for its highly styled presentation of the crime, trial and punishment of Leopold and Loeb, the wealthy, Jewish, homosexual pair who murdered a 14-year-old. They were represented by celebrated attorney Clarence Darrow who used their "difference" as mitigating circumstances to save them from capital punishment. Vachon has fended off criticism for working primarily with gay white male filmmakers rather than women, lesbians and people of color. She quieted some of these qualms as the executive producer of Rose Troche's "Go Fish" (1994), a delightful racially-integrated comedy of manners involving a group of young lesbians living in Chicago. Vachon also produced "I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996), documentarian-journalist Mary Harron's feature directorial debut, which featured an acclaimed performance by Lili Taylor as the crazed radical feminist and Warhol Factory fringe figure Valerie Solanas.

Vachon also courted controversy as the co-producer of photographer-turned- filmmaker Larry Clark's "Kids" (1995), a supposedly realistic depiction of the sexual habits of a group of middle-class Manhattan teens. She also endured complaints that her production of the late Nigel Finch's "Stonewall" (1996)--loosely based on historian Martin Duberman's nonfiction chronicle--fictionalized the events and people central to the historic 1969 uprising in NYC's Greenwich Village that heralded the birth of the modern gay liberation movement. This peculiarly American story was wholly funded by the BBC after Vachon failed to find interested backers stateside.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  Way of the Wicked, The (1989) Director
3.
  Days Are Numbered (1986) Director
4.
  Man in Your Room, A (1984) Director

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in NYC
1983:
Returned to New York City after college
1983:
First feature credit, production assistant on Bette Gordon's "Variety"
:
Worked on several small independent films such as Bill Sherwood's "Parting Glances" (1986) and Sheila McLaughlin's "She Must Be Seeing Things" (1987) in various production capabilities including production assistant, assistant editor
1984:
Wrote and directed first short, "A Man in Your Room"
:
Worked on several low-budget horror films
1986:
Wrote and directed a short entitled "Days Are Numbered"
1987:
Started Apparatus Productions with Todd Haynes and Barry Ellsworth
1987:
Producing debut, Todd Haynes' "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story"; first collaboration with writer-director Haynes
:
Produced seven short films
1990:
Produced "Anemone Me," an experimental fantasy short that marked the directorial debut of playwright Suzan-Lori Parks
1990:
Served as an assistant director on Chilean surrealist filmmaker Raul Ruiz's "The Golden Boat"
1990:
Produced "Poison," Todd Haynes' controversial directorial debut (also served as assistant director)
1992:
Produced Tom Kalin's "Swoon" (also assistant director)
1995:
Served a co-producer on "Kids," the controversial, high-profile directorial debut of photographer Larry Clark
1995:
Formed Killer Films with Pamela Koffler and Katie Roumel
1998:
Killer Films signed to two-year, first-look deal at Goldwyn Films (a division of MGM)
1999:
Produced the award winning film, "Boys Don't Cry"
2002:
Produced "Far from Heaven," directed by Todd Haynes
2004:
Produced "A Home at the End of the World," based on the 1990 novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Michael Cunningham
2006:
Produced "Infamous," a biographical film drama about Truman Capote
2007:
Co-produced the Todd Haynes directed "I'm Not There," about the life of Bob Dylan; earned an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best Feature
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Education

Brown University: Providence , Rhode Island -

Notes

The following is quoted from QW magazine (September 27, 1992):

QW: Any girl directors on the horizon, Christine?

CV: No! I'm only going to work with gay men! White gay men! I've been attacked for being a bad lesbian. There's one project I think could be very interesting--but relationships like I have with Tom [Kalin] and Todd [Haynes] don't come along very often; our projects are ultimately most important to me. It also looks like I'll be producing Derek Jarman's next film--James Purdy's novel "Narrow Rooms".

QW: What do you think the political climate demands from gay filmmakers?

CV: I think they all want that one positive image that's going to make everyone say "That's us, that's me. That's my life"! It's almost impossible for one film to do that. I don't believe in bashing "Longtime Companion" because it's about gay, upper middle class white men; I don't think that's fair. But its also unfair to position it as THE positive representation, period. It doesn't really have a hell of a lot to do with me.

". . . It was producer Christine Vachon, known for her ability to find the commercial potential in way-out-of-the-mainstream product, who pushed Kalin to make his next project a theatrical feature. `I want the films I produce to be provocative, original, intense, and uncompromising,' says Vachon. `But I also want them to make their money back.'" --From Premiere, October 1992

The following letter was published in the Village Voice (July 11, 1995):

Re: Maria Maggenti's "The Man I Love" [June 27]: publication of this piece was clearly meant to provoke discussion about gender politics, so I feel a little silly rising to the bait. But here goes:

I guess all of us square, politically correct dykes who still like to fuck other women are suppressing the expressive freedom of the real radicals--straight people who are gay but look and act like straight people.

It's wonderful that Maggenti has found true love, but I find her outrage that she and her boyfriend are perceived as heterosexual when they walk down the street holding hands naive. Her article underlines the same tedious cliches: we lesbians disallow diversity and are so threatened by men that we cannot handle their intrusion into our (utterly sexless) existence.

CHRISTINE VACHON

"She can scare the hell out of people. . . . She can be very tough. She can also be extremely witty and funny and loyal, but she is focused on what she does, and that kind of intensity can be intimidating." --Tom Kalin quoted in The New York Times, July 21, 1996

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Marlene McCarthy.

Family close complete family listing

sister:
Gail Vachon. Director. Directed experimental films; older.
daughter:
Guthrie Vachon. Adopted at nine months in April 2000.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Shooting to Kill: How an Independent Producer Blasts Through the Barriers to Make Movies That Matter" Avon

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