Bill Sherwood only made one full-length independent feature, yet "Parting Glances" (1986) stands as the first film to deal with the effects of the AIDS crisis on the gay community and one that treated...
Washington, Washington D.C., USA
|Started studying the violin at age 10|
|Wrote two unproduced screenplays|
|Worked in the finance department of CBS News; first met Kathy Kinney|
|Handled foreign rights to American TV shows while working at Italtoons, a distribution company|
|Raised in Battle Creek, Michigan|
|Hired by Columbia Pictures, primarily as a screenwriter|
|Feature directing debut, "Parting Glances"; also wrote and edited|
|Taught directing at SUNY, Purchase|
|Left Juilliard because he was "fed up with the limitations of avant-garde music" (date approximate)|
|Assisted Jill Godmilow on an unfinished documentary about Elliott Carter|
|Worked as a cutter on motion picture trailers|
|Directed two music videos for the Swedish punk band Ebba Gron|
|At age 5, began studying piano|
|Was writing the script for a remake of "Ball of Fire" at the time of his death; film never made|
|Made short film, "Variations on a Sentence by Proust"; aired on PBS in 1982|
|Wrote the screenplay for "Parting Glances" over a two month period (December to January)|
Born in Washington, DC in the early 1950s, Sherwood was raised in the Battle Creek, MI area and proved to be something of a child prodigy in music. He began piano lessons at age 5 and added the violin to his repertoire at age 10. Upon graduating from the Interlochen Arts Academy, he won a scholarship to Juilliard's School of Music. Sherwood moved to NYC in 1970 and spent two years studying composition with Elliot Carter before dropping out, claiming that he was "fed up with the limitations of avant-garde music." While attending Hunter College, he switch majors from English to film and made his first two shorts. Graduate work at USC followed, but Sherwood found the curriculum limiting and dropped out. He returned East and held a variety of jobs while constantly writing. Sherwood served as assistant to Jill Godmilow an unfinished documentary profile of Elliot Carter, cut movie trailer and saw his 12-minute short "Variations on a Sentence by Proust" aired on PBS' "Independent Focus" in 1982.
While working in the finance department at CBS News, Sherwood wrote two screenplays; one was even optioned but was never produced. Frustrated, he wrote the script for "Parting Glances" in a two month burst of creativity in December 1983 and January 1984. Teaming with Arthur Silverman and Yoram Mandel, he formed a limited partnership to raise he necessary $300,000 to produce the film. Working with a non-union actors, including future indie stalwart Steve Buscemi, Sherwood began work on the film, but ran out of money with one week of production left. John Pierson in his book "Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes" (New York: Hyperion/Miramax Books, 1995) details how he came to be involved in the film's distribution, including its first screening at the 1985 Independent Features Film Market (IFFM) where Cinecom bought the film for release. The film, shared a jury prize at the 1986 US Film Festival (the precursor to the Sundance Film Festival) and went on to earn respectable reviews. Many praised the assured camerawork and use of both classical and contemporary music on its soundtrack. It was marred slightly by Sherwood's use of fantasy sequences and the unpolished quality of the leads. Most reviews, however, praised Buscemi, who had the showiest role as a musician coping with AIDS. (The film also marked the debut of Sherwood's CBS co-worker and future TV star Kathy Kinney.)
Despite his modest success, Sherwood never made another film. He spent the next four years writing various projects that never got produced (including a remake of 1941's "Ball of Fire") and teaching filmmaking at SUNY, Purchase. Sherwood succumbed to complications from AIDS in February 1990.
|Les Sherwood||Father||survived him|
|Agnes Sherwood||Mother||survived him; died of complications from stroke in 1995|
|University of Southern California|
|Interlochen Arts Academy|
|The Juilliard School|
|"It's weird when people accuse us of trying to make a glossy, sleek-looking thing, because we were just trying to do the best we could." --Bill Sherwood on criticism of "Parting Glances", quoted in VARIETY, March 26, 1986|
|"I think the compelling thin about this story is the portrait of gay life . . . In the movies, 99 percent of everything you see is about straights, so this is sort of like relief, letting gays have their say. I think many filmmakers have wanted to do this and so I'm certainly not alone. But I did not feel compelled to kind of present of gay point of view" --Sherwood in DRAMA-LOGUE, March 27-April 2, 1986|
|Sherwood continued to DRAMA-LOGUE: "Because I think gays are absolutely fantastic. I think that as a group they're absolutely extraordinary and in so many ways this isn't really recognized. I think many straights think of gays as Martians or something like that. Gays are very much a part of the world and contribute all kinds of wonderful, positive things, but as I said, gays are virtually unnoticed. Gays also seem to have more compassion and feeling for the human condition . . . They seem to have a real feel for the emotional needs of human beings and this needs to be told."|
|"Bill had sworn off sex and boyfriends; had he done otherwise, we might have been lovers. Although his temper sometimes scared me, it often suited him. He was so sensitive, such a softy at heart, that even his near-constant bitching was endearing. If he hadn't had such a creative mind, I think he would have been a terrorist--his dedication to what he believed in was that intense." --Barry Walters eulogizing Sherwood in VILLAGE VOICE, February 27, 1990|
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