Fifty years ago, Florida’s Legislative Investigative Committee, led by Senator Charley Johns sought to remove homosexuals from Florida’s state universities. As a result of the “Johns Committee’s” efforts, more than 200 gay and lesbian students and teachers were expelled or fired. Featuring two of the victims and one interrogator, The Committee exposes the committee’s subversive activities and how its effects are still felt today.
The 30-minute documentary film traces the committee’s origins in the era of McCarthyism and anti-gay propaganda while detailing the personal stories of those intimately involved with its activities. One of the committee’s survivors interviewed in the film is Rev. Ruth Jensen-Forbell, a UCF alumna.
In fall 2011, professors Robert Cassanello and Lisa Mills taught an Advanced Documentary Workshop class at the University of Central Florida. This interdisciplinary seminar was a cooperative effort between the History Department and the film program in the School of Visual Arts and Design.
The students, with backgrounds in English, accounting, journalism, computer engineering, art, and radio/TV production, were assigned into production teams where they would best be able to use their abilities.
Documentary filmmaker and video producer Aaron Hosé, representing the UCF Center for Distributed Learning (CDL), was brought onto the project as Producer and Supervising Editor. He would assist Dr. Cassanello and Dr. Mills in guiding the students through the various technical and creative facets of the film’s post-production and marketing phases. In the spring of 2012, the film began screening in film festivals in Florida and over the next two years it screened in festivals all over the world, winning many competitions, prizes, and awards. The students who made the film graduated, but stayed in touch with Cassanello and Mills about the film’s success.
Same-sex marriage became legal in Florida in January, 2015. On June 1, 2016 the film began airing nationally on local public television stations.