Twenty-nine years after their pioneering observational doc series entranced PBS viewers, the filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond are bringing back the Loud family one last time. They are talking with WETA about offering the new hour-long episode to PBS, according to Mr. Raymond and Jim Corbley, v.p. of production management at the Washington station. If a deal is struck, the film could be ready this fall, Raymond said.
The occasion was the death Dec. 21  of Lance Loud, eldest son in the Santa Barbara family, who stunned his family and became a symbol of gay liberation in 1973 by coming out on national television. Loud, who lived with HIV for 18 of his 50 years, was killed by complications of hepatitis C.
Though Loud had mixed feelings about his celebrity–he said his family had become “a recurring question on Hollywood Squares” — he asked the Raymonds to film his last days in a Los Angeles hospice. Loud wanted the film to tell the story of a social outsider and serve as “a cautionary tale” about the health risks of his partying ways, Mr. Raymond told The Advocate, a national gay magazine.
“Though for years I had told myself that all my unbridled drinking, drugging and unsafe sex were going to lead exactly here, I never really believed it,” Loud wrote in recollections for The Advocate composed in his hospice bed.
The original series was produced by Craig Gilbert at WNET and filmed by the Raymonds, but the Raymonds’ 1983 followup went to HBO instead. They began work on An American Family Revisited with WNET, Raymond said, but the station “abandoned” the project because of a “personality clash” with a WNET executive. The follow-up program did have a PBS run in 1991. Now, after a string of projects with HBO, the new Loud film came up while the filmmakers were working with WETA on a future series, The Congregation. (That series, about community service in a mainstream Protestant church, is now moving toward production.)
“The Loud film was a part of PBS’s legacy,” Raymond told Current. “Lance Loud was an important cultural icon in the first reality-based series. I think Lance’s show should be on PBS.”
Loud, who was a rock musician in the 1970s and a journalist in the ’80s and ’90s, was “the funniest guy I ever met,” Raymond said. “I hope the film will be somewhere between a laugh and a tear.”
The Loud family requested that donations in Lance Loud’s memory be made to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, 6255 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028.
The original 1973 documentary gets a PBS airing in 1991.
While the Raymonds’ camera rolls, another subject comes out of the closet, 2004.
Video interview with filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond in the Archives of American Television.