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O'Haver, Tommy (b. 1967)  
 
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Director and screenwriter Tommy O'Haver has drawn on his own experiences as a gay man in creating films and has also demonstrated his versatility by working on a variety of other cinematic projects.

Thomas C. O'Haver was born November 30, 1967 in Carmel, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis. The culture of the state was not particularly accepting of deviation from heterosexual norms, a fact that O'Haver would learn early on.

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At around the age of five O'Haver saw Franklin J. Schaffner's Planet of the Apes (1968) on television and responded to its depiction of the male physique: "The image of Chuck [i.e., Charlton Heston] running through the woods naked has stayed with me forever," he stated.

"I remember that the first time I really said anything to anybody [about being gay]. I must have been 8 or 9 years old," he recalled in a 1998 interview. As a result, he was disinvited from a friend's birthday party.

O'Haver began his filmmaking career in the fourth grade. Using his family's Super-8 movie camera, his sister's Barbie doll and Barbie hot tub, and ten plastic dolls--purchased for 99 cents each--as a chorus line, he made a juvenile stop-action epic. Financing impeded the project. Lacking sufficient allowance to buy a Ken doll, he put his E. T. toy into the hot tub as Barbie's costar.

O'Haver's first cinematic endeavor was whimsical, but he subsequently faced bleaker times. For a young gay Hoosier, "there [was] nobody to identify with," he said, adding in frustration, "Indianapolis is the most conservative city in the entire United States."

Because of these feelings of isolation, he stated, "My parents thought I was a drug addict in high school, my mood swings were so bad." He even once attempted suicide after a male schoolmate initially responded positively to a sexual advance but then turned on him.

After graduating from Carmel High School in 1985, O'Haver enrolled at Indiana University, where he majored in journalism to prepare for a hoped-for career as a film critic.

In the somewhat freer atmosphere of Bloomington, O'Haver began to explore his sexuality, but he still did not come out to his parents.

O'Haver moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to work in the film industry. His first job was as a production assistant on Rachel Talaly's Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). He was subsequently employed by New Line Cinema, beginning in the mailroom and working his way up to a job as an assistant in the Home Video Publicity department.

While there, O'Haver took screenwriting classes at UCLA and began creating short features. Among them was "a five-minute letter to [his] parents . . . about [his] first high school crush on a straight guy." When he eventually sent the work to them, it was not well received: his mother, to whom he was already out, tossed it into the trash. She then broke the news about O'Haver's sexual orientation to his father.

In 1998 O'Haver stated that his parents were "still not all the way there" in accepting his sexuality but were supportive of him and "really proud and excited" about his success.

Another of O'Haver's short films enjoyed a much better reception. The Pitch, about selling a screenplay to Hollywood executives, was bought by the Showtime network. It also impressed the faculty at the film school of the University of Southern California and won him acceptance into their program, from which he graduated in 1995.

During his course of study at USC, O'Haver made several short films that were shown at film festivals and drew a positive response. One of them, Catalina, presented at the New York Film Festival in 1994, was the story of a photographer taking pictures at a party on Santa Catalina Island who develops a crush on one of his subjects but cannot tell whether the other man is gay or straight. O'Haver developed the idea further and made it the basis for his first full-length feature, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss (1998).

O'Haver initially had difficulty finding financial backers, but producer David Moseley believed in the project and helped raise about $250,000 to bring it to the screen. Another problem that O'Haver faced was casting because some agents advised their clients to avoid the gay-themed movie. "The fear still exists that once you're identified as a gay actor, it will affect the rest of your career," O'Haver stated. Sean P. Hayes, who subsequently played another gay character on the situation comedy Will and Grace, and Brad Rowe signed on for the leading roles.

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