They called us “Edgy American attorneys,” and “Thugs,” in the documentary and it’s promotion. We flew to Auckland for a meeting with David Farrier and Tool (aka Dylan Reeve), a meeting they now claim was for the purpose of threatening them. This is patently false.
It was shortly after Farrier started his Kickstarter project, when I arranged for myself, my photographer, and at the last minute my assistant (a former participant), to go to Auckland to meet with David Farrier and Tool. To see if we could explain what it is we do, and, among other things, dispel any anti-gay concerns they might have. The arrangement was clear: We would meet with him off the record until we were sure of his intentions, and if we felt we could get a fair hearing we would go on the record.
After a fourteen hour flight, we arrived in Auckland. As we walked into the airport there was, at the bottom of the walk, David Farrier holding a sign welcoming us. While it struck me as odd, I said hello. If you notice he is not holding a microphone, as he does in an interview, and the camera was hidden between two people. I did not see it, but my assistant saw it fairly quickly and told me that we were being filmed. Immediately, it was obvious he had broken his word to us, and I expressed my displeasure. He started to say he had a right to shoot in a public place, ignoring the promise of “off the record.” I told him good luck with that and walked away to find my assistant. He was visibly upset, as he came with the promise he would not be on camera. I walked around the corner into a magazine stand where my assistant was shaking and crying at the violation of the promise given to him. Farrier seems to think that no one has a right not to be in his documentary even if assured they would not be. As I talked to him, Farrier alone approached us, and I did not mince words. I told him he violated his word to us, and he could see that my assistant was shaken and crying, he apologized profusely and did his best to calm him down. He told him that he is making a documentary, which is why he was shooting, but if he used the footage he would blur out his face and no one would know it was him. He calmed him down somewhat with that promise. Not that he needed a reason not to want to be in a documentary, but in his case as we went as three gay people, he did not want to be outed to certain members of his family. That is an issue that Farrier cares nothing about. In fact, outing people seems to be part of his Modus Operandi. I told him we would think about meeting with him and we left the airport.
We discussed what we would do next, I was of the opinion that Farrier could not be trusted and we should leave, but my photographer pointed out that we had traveled ¾ of the way around the world, and it was important that we give Farrier our side of the story. The photographer had had contact with him and was trying to live up to the decency of Anne Frank “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank never met David Farrier.
I reluctantly agreed with the reiteration that we would be “off the record,” as you hear the photographer say in the documentary. Of course, the photographer was not told he was being recorded, and as he does throughout the documentary, he edits the conversation so that he cuts it off before he agrees to the terms and conditions. Any of you who believe that we would meet with him without those assurances, I have a bridge here in Brooklyn to sell you.
The next day Farrier and the Tool arrived at our hotel, and the photographer and my assistant met them in a conference room as I was on the phone. They(The photographer and my assistant) confiscated everyone’s cell phones and asked if there were any recording devices or if it was recorded in any way. We were told there were none and it was not being recorded. As you can see in the documentary that was a lie. It is a shame that it was not the Legend of Pinocchio we were in, because we could have flown back to the US on Farrier’s nose and saved the airfare.
About 5 minutes after everyone else, I entered the conference room. The first thing I did was get the assurance from Farrier and his Tool that this was off the record and was not being recorded. They assured me it was off the record, and not being recorded and we proceeded. The first 10 minutes were taken up with my admonishing them for recording us at the airport, after promising we were “off the record,” and my assistant explained to him how he felt. I was very clear in telling Farrier that he was worse than the person he was after, and the proof was sitting right in front of him. A real person with real damage, not words on a computer. That subject came up throughout the meeting every time they tried to get us to take responsibility for things we had not done, and at my insistence that two wrongs don’t make a right. Farrier again promised that he would blur my assistants face out and for the moment at least, we agreed to proceed.
We explained that there was no discrimination against gay people. We were gay after all, and that gay people were hired all the time. We showed them 30 plus emails from participants, who were saying how well they had been treated and could they please come back and work again. They knew full well we were not lawyers and that we worked hard to make the experience as rewarding for the participants as we could. All of these guys(participants) became fast friends, and especially with the photographer, formed bonds that went well beyond the shoots. None of the true information we gave them in Auckland was listened to, or used in their documentary. Our truths didn’t fit with their preconceived agenda apparently.
The only time legal issues were mentioned were in response to what were obviously, in retrospect ,set up questions to try to get us to say something incriminating. Never at any point was anyone threatened. When asked if the would be sued, the truthful answer was yes. That was not a threat. It was the reality. Telling them something that was a certainty was not threatening them, but if you listen to a part of a statement out of context without hearing what was said before or after it, the truth of what we were saying was hidden.
After close to an hour, the meeting deteriorated, with the Tool not liking what he wasn’t hearing on the one hand, and not liking my telling them that they were far worse than who they were after. The proof was sitting right there with us. They kept trying to bully us into admitting things we had not done, things we had nothing to do with, and our not accepting their trying to use their judgment as to what we should do in our lives. The Tool called an end to the meeting. In retrospect it was probably the end of time for their recording device.
About all we got out of the meeting was a promise that they would blur out my assistant, and another lie to the photographer that he would be left completely out of the documentary. By this point we could have taken Pinocchio’s nose to the moon. The photographer gave Farrier a book as a parting gift and we left. Of course we had no idea that they had secretly recorded the meeting and had someone outside the conference room filming their images through the smoked glass.
The photographer and my assistant thought at the time that I had been too hard on them, but I did not buy their schtick for a minute. (My Irish grandmother used to say “Burn me for a fool and you will have wise ashes”). To try to make some sense of all of it, I requested a private meeting with Farrier the next day with just the two of us, thinking that perhaps with just the two of us we might make some headway. He came to the hotel the next afternoon and as per our agreement we went for a walk around Auckland harbor. I frankly did not trust them or a word they said. We met. He had a cup of coffee as did I, and I thought nothing of it. We talked for about an hour, and it was a deeply personal conversation that focused mostly on AIDS and how it decimated my generation. We talked about how it took my cousin in 1995 and how seeing death around me brought into focus what was important. And how I chose to live my life and the choices I made. He was very gracious and told me that he had decided no longer to participate in the documentary as he felt that we were good people, and basically he was wrong in his approach to us, and did not want to cause us any harm. We parted amicably and I met with my guys and told them what had transpired, and we prepared to leave New Zealand. He told me he could not speak for the Tool, but as far as he was concerned he was out of it. He then sent this tweet to the photographer:
I called the Tool that evening and he was bad cop again. He said that Farrier had not said that to him and he was still in. I said okay, and as long as Farrier was not lying he was out. By this point Pinocchio’s nose was hitting the sun. The last thing I did in New Zealand was to send Farrier this link http://obit.glbthistory.org/olo/index.jsp . It is a list of those that died of AIDS in the San Francisco area throughout the crisis, including my cousin and dozens of people I knew. That was the level of the conversation we had and the place I thought we were. (It only took a week to find out it was all a lie to try again to get me to say something he could use against me) We got on a plane and flew home.