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THE HEART'S WHISPER: THE INTIMACY OF 'NEIGHBORHOOD STRANGER'


Steve Long Director of Global Film Exhibition in conversation with Fred Paul Bailey 

FRED, the heart of "Neighborhood Stranger" lies in the delicate threads of family and self-acceptance. Could you share with us a personal memory that echoes the familial bonds portrayed in your film?  


 I grew up in a small town and gay was not a thing anyone ever talked about.  When I was in my teens I always knew I was different - Experimenting with school-mate boys.  When I moved to Chicago after graduation a whole new world was opened up for me.  With the help of gay friends I met I realized what gay was and that I in fact was a homosexual.


 The mentorship Craig provides is a beacon for many. Was there a figure in your own life who stood as your Craig during challenging times?


When I came out it was not a positive experience,  My parents did not handle it well.  We became estranged.  At the time I was living with a man named Mike.  He offered me solid advice and comfort and I was able to handle the stress of my family and move on.  Eventually, my parent came around and accepted me and my lifestyle.  Today they are two of my best friends!


 Coming back home to care for an estranged parent is a narrative steeped in personal history. What inspired you to delve into such a complex emotional landscape?


 My husband's parents both suffered from Alzheimer's and Dementia.  We took care of them during their illness.  Even though we were not estranged it was not always easy.  Differing from Craig we did it out of love and not obligation.


 The young man's story in your film is a powerful narrative about the struggles of coming out. How did you go about capturing the authenticity of such a vulnerable experience?


 My husband (who was not out to his family at the time) had a friend who was attracted to the same man my husband was dating.  In a fit of jealousy, his friend called his Mother on his Sister’s wedding day and ‘outed’ him!  He didn’t have a Craig – So I gave Nelson my Craig.


 Generational perspectives within the LGBTQ+ community can vastly differ. Can you talk about a personal conversation or encounter that illuminated these differences for you?


 In my early years, I was always attracted to older men (20-30 years my senior!)  You could say with this project I ‘Flipped the Script’!


 Craig's encouragement is a turning point in the film. Is there a piece of advice that's been instrumental in your life that you wove into his character's guidance? 


Yes, I mentioned Mike above.  Through my relationship with him, I was able to meet friends and associates that further helped me 'Move on and move up'. 

Bridging generational and personal gaps is a significant theme in your work.


What experiences from your own life helped you to portray this bridge-building on screen?


 As I said earlier I was always attracted to older men.  I always just went along with what they wanted to do, where they wanted to go, followed their instructions, etc.  In my mid 30's I met and fell in love with a man my own age.  We shared similar wants,  interests, and ideals.  We've been together 28 years now and he is completely supportive of my creative endeavors. 


 The creative journey often teaches us about ourselves. What personal discoveries did you stumble upon while bringing "Neighborhood Stranger" to life?


 That I am completely happy and content with my life.  All the experiences I've had (good, bad, or ugly) have had a positive effect on my life!


If you are a young LGBTGQ+IA member of our community find a mentor to help you – There are a lot of organizations and help groups out there.  If you are an older member, step up.  Volunteer.  Lead by example.  Right now my husband and I are mentoring a young 28-year-old young man who just came out in the summer of 2023 and is having a hard time dealing with it.  We meet with him for drinks and/or a meal.  We listen to him and share our years of experience.  I think we’re helping.


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