Max Geschwind may be just 15 years old, but he possesses a sense of social and political awareness far beyond his young age. Having found inspiration from the accomplishments of San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, a trailblazer for gay rights and progressive politics in the 1970s, the Fairfax High School student was compelled to spread Milk's message of hope through film.
One of Geschwind's primary objectives for his documentary short, titled The Milk Effect, was to "show his extraordinary legacy to my current generation because lots of people my age don't know about Harvey Milk," Geschwind said. "I think that he's too important and too iconic to not have the next generation understand who he was."
Geschwind, who is an intern at West Hollywood City Hall, began the documentary project last spring in connection with the city's Harvey Milk Day celebration, which takes place every year in May.
"I mainly wanted to point out that Harvey Milk didn't just pave the way for LGBT people, but he really was a champion for those who felt underrepresented," Geschwind said. "He really did represent that leadership and optimism that he handed down to LGBT political figures today."
After the Harvey Milk Day festivities, Geschwind then decided to submit the film for Oscar consideration, which requires a minimum one-week run in a public theater. The Laemmle NoHo 7 in North Hollywood accepted the film, which debuted Friday.
Although The Milk Effect didn't make the final list of short documentaries vying for an Academy Award, Geschwind wasn't discouraged.
"It's an official Oscar-qualifying movie, and I learned a lot making this film," he said.
The documentary features Fairfax High School students as well as local politicians including the entire West Hollywood City Council, LGBT activist Torie Osborn and Richard Bloom, the former Santa Monica Mayor who was just elected to the California Assembly.
Geschwind also noted his opportunity to meet Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the film Milk starring Sean Penn.
"He was very interested in the film and wanted to learn more about it," Geschwind said. "That was a great highlight during the journey of making this film."
The Milk Effect runs through Thursday at the Laemmle NoHo 7 and will likely reappear in future Harvey Milk Day events in West Hollywood, Geschwind said.