Love, death and costumes: Meet the SF Pride Grand Marshals who introduced their community to art and reclaimed fashion.

KQED's documentary acquisition series Truly CA: Our State, Our Stories brings a feature film adapted from a previous short film released last season. The short, Verasphere: A Love Story in Costume, followed partners, David Faulk and Michael Johnstone; their story of love, survival, creation and self expression during the AIDS epidemic.

Now, the hour long documentary has come to the light, titled Mrs. Vera’s Daybook.

Micheal Johnstone (L), Photographer and David Faulk (R) pose at their gallery opening at the Harvey Milk Center in San Francisco. (NuReality Productions)

During one of the darkest periods in US History, two men decide to bring joy and color to a broken community for which an entire movement has emerged.

Directed and Produced by Robert James, Mrs. Vera's Daybook, a NuReality Production, tells a story of historic activism and community art through the works of two San Francisco artists, David Faulk and Michael Johnstone, who also happen to be long-term AIDS survivors.

Becoming the unofficial costumers of the SF Pride Parade, the Verasphere Community has grown as the years go by. Supporters, fellow activists and members of the Queer Art Community join the film to help paint this vivid portrait of perseverance, compassion and outrageous dime-store fashion.

Having received the coveted Community Grand Marshal appointment for the SF PRIDE Parade in 2019, Daybook subjects celebrate 25 years of making sensational art together.

Directors Statement,  Mrs. Vera’s Daybook

A flamboyant subject from a feature documentary film I made wrote me an email and said ‘You should make a film about Mrs. Vera’.  I didn’t know who or what Mrs. Vera was but after speaking with several people in the San Francisco art world, I set up a meeting.  I soon learned that Mrs. Vera and the Verapshere was a costume-art collaboration born during desperate times when two people fell in love. Michael Johnstone and David Faulk, both long-term AIDS survivors met at a time when love was the last thing they were looking for.

This story turned into the Short Film VERASPHERE: A Love story in Costume in the summer of 2019 and aired on Truly CA thru KQED (PBS); but these two men that have created community art together for 25 years and delighted thousands of people was a much bigger story of historic activism and art, so we kept shooting.

This may be the sweetest film I’ve ever made.  The idea that something shimmering and magnificent could spring from the plague years in San Francisco may not be the most original story, but the alien art experience offered for free by two loving souls that wish to include everyone sure is.

Mrs. Vera's Daybook Director, Producer & Writer

Director Bio

Robert began his film-making career at the age of 46 in 2009.

After 3 semesters of film production classes, he left school to intern for a celebrated documentary filmmaker in Los Angeles. Traveling the world with camera in hand he assisted on several projects learning videography and editing skills. This led to Robert co-directing his first short film ‘Library of Dust’ in 2011.  

Producing that film and winning several awards inspired him to launch right into future projects and soon after NuReality Productions was born.  This small independent documentary film company located in Berkeley has fostered many talented collaborators that would assist in an array of diverse media ventures. Two documentary short films, a doc feature film and a five-part series along with a rich collection of commercial work, music video and web content has Robert and his crew busy with several future projects in the works.

 

Producer, Editor & Co-Writer, Nick Blond

Producers Bio

Since moving from Humboldt County to the SF Bay Area in 2011, Nick Blond has worked as a freelance videographer, capturing and editing commercial productions, corporate events, music videos, and award winning documentaries including Ruminations (2018), VERASPHERE: A Love Story in Costume (2019), and King of the Road (2019).

Though focusing primarily on editing, Nick has worn almost every hat in the industry at one point or another.  With a wide range of projects under his belt, Nick finds most of his passion in telling lesser-known stories that educate, challenge, or otherwise make an impact on viewers and promote positive social change.

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Production Credits

Written, Produced and Directed by Robert James

Executive Producer - Howard Grothe

Produced, Edited and Co-Written by Nick Blond

Cinematographer - Rudy Behrens

Original Music by Steven Clark & Andy Cowitt

Cast

David Faulk

Michael Johnstone

Dave Christenson

Nicola Bosco-Alvarez

Don Bapst

Jon Harris

Larry Boly

Jack Collins

Ron Cordova

Mark Trevorrow

Julie Blankenship

Dale Van Dusen

Michael Wertz

Cameron Wolf

Annie Sprinkle

Beth Stevens

Joshua Grannell

Nell Jehu

Daniel Dagucon

Sean Lord

Andy Cowitt

Crew Cont’d

Production Sound - Steven Lagosh

Camera Operator - Nick Blond

Additional Camera - Susan Bradley, Robert James, Julian King, Ruby Rieke

Additional Media Provided by - Michael Johnstone, Rick Gerharter, Don Bapst, Ben Iliili, Qi Zheng, Sean Lord

Title Design and Motion Graphics - Susan Bradley

Additional Motion Graphics - Nick Blond

Sound Mixer - Dan Olmsted

Colorist - Mark Sterne

Archival Footage Courtesy of Michael Johnstone, Emma King, Mark Trevorrow, Eric Smith, Rand McIlvenna, Oddball Films, KPIX CBS Bay Area, Warner Bros. Television, ABC7, Kron 4, KOFY-TV

Fiscal Sponsorship Provided by Center for Independent Documentary

Legal Clearance - Justine Jacob

Special Thanks

Very Special Thanks - Anthony Cianciola, California Academy of Sciences San Francisco, Carl Linkhart, Carolyn Johnston, D’Arcy Drollinger, Ethan Rayvasg, Frameline, Gabrielle Javier, Heklina, Irene Tsouprake Holombo & Hilarious Family, Jennifer Kroot, Jon Harris, Kat Kai, Mark O’Connell & Elliott Fabian

Special Thanks To Our Contributors - Alex Nellas, Anne Whiteside, Antonio Leony, Bruce, Cameron Wolfe, Devon Popora, Francoise Herrmann, Gary Hutton, Gloria Kemper, Jean Johnston, Jeff Jackman, Jennifer Kilpatrick, Kay Jones, Marcello Forte, Mary Lanin, Michael Cullen & Gerald Lawson, Nancy Freedman, Peter Toscani, Radu Raduta, and Sheila-Merle Johnson

 

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