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OutFront Colorado: Filmmaker seeks funding for documentary featuring Denver gay couple hoping to become parents

Filmmaker seeks funding for documentary featuring Denver gay couple hoping to become parents

By Matthew Pizzuti
July 26, 2011 | 9:28 am

New York filmmaker Edward McDonaldFilmmaker Edward McDonald is producing a documentary about friends “Ian” and “Troy,” a Denver gay couple hoping to have children through surrogacy.

Edward McDonald, a New York filmmaker and West Point graduate who was discharged from service under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, is racing to raise funds for a documentary featuring a gay Denver couple expecting children by surrogate.

McDonald, 30, is using Kick Starter, a competitive, high-stakes social website that helps artists raise funds for their projects.

McDonald is halfway to his goal of $25,000, including $5,000 from a single donor.  But the race is on. With 13 days left in the 30-day fundraising period, McDonald needs to make enough money through his project page on Kick Starter before the deadline is up, or come away empty-handed.

“The thing about Kick Starter is that if you meet your goal you get your money, but if you don’t meet your goal, you get nothing,” he said.

“More than a Village” will be a film about McDonald’s friend Ian Shipps, who graduated from West Point a year before McDonald and is now hoping to become a father with his partner, Troy Zabel.  The process requires help from a community of supporters: Ian’s sister embarked on a tiring routine of hormones and procedures to donate eggs, and Kelli Lara, a volunteer from Castle Rock, will be the surrogate mother.

Days ago, 25 eggs were harvested from Shipps’ sister, Leandra, fertilized with Zabel’s sperm, and implanted in Lara; McDonald said doctors will test to see if Lara is pregnant in 10 days.

So close to McDonald’s fundraising deadline, it should be a tense and exciting week for all involved.

McDonald, who is studying film production in NYU’s film school, won awards for previous work but has not produced a serious documentary yet.  He said he was in Colorado for a wedding when he heard his friends’ story, and knew he had to make a film to help people understand what it’s like to be gay and hopeful parents.

“We were having lunch one day and Ian told me what was about to happen,” he said.  McDonald has so-far paid out-of-pocket for filming that has already begun, and is in a “mad dash” to raise funds, he said.

McDonald said he was inspired to create the project because his friends and Lara are “like a family.”  Lara, already a mother of three, wanted to be a surrogate and met with the gay couple through an agency.

Kelli Lara’s husband Jason Lara, Lara (surrogate), Zabel, Shipps and Filmmaker Edward McDonald the day embryos were transferred into the hopeful surrogate.

“They all loved each other,” McDonald said.

He said it’s an important time to make this type of film, as same-sex marriage is a rapidly-evolving political debate and same-sex couples who are able to get married are increasingly likely to face the next step in their process of becoming a family, raising kids.

“Some people don’t think they should allowed to be parents,” McDonald said.

In some states it is illegal for same-sex couples to adopt a child together; meanwhile in New York, it is against the law for any couple to hire a surrogate.

“With all the stuff that’s going on with gay marriage, for me, the whole thing is redefining what we see as family,” McDonald said.  “It’s so difficult for them and expensive for them; it’s not an easy process.”

The couple needed help from family, friends — and strangers — to have children; McDonald has his full confidence that his friends will be great parents, he said.

McDonald’s military career ended short when he was kicked out under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell with an honorable discharge.  He moved to New York and worked in finance before he decided he wanted to do something more meaningful, so quit and enrolled in film school.

Shipps – who served as a medic in Iraq – was also discharged honorably after five years of service. McDonald said his friend would have liked to continue serving if not for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  Zabel, his partner, is a doctor.

Click Here to learn more about “More than a Village” on Kick Starter or donate to the project.  The deadline to raise $25,000 is Monday, August 8.

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