One of the many revelations in Jeff Feuerzeig's riveting documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story, was that Laura Albert, the mastermind behind her fictive persona JT LeRoy, an author of some renown, also worked with director Gus Van Sant on his 2003 Elephant, a movie of a Columbine-like mass shooting at a school. She was commissioned to write the script, which was then discarded, the movie retaining only the image of a fat girl in the library, the shooter's first victim. In the post-screening Q&A at Guild Hall for the Hamptons International Film Festival's SummerDoc series, Alec Baldwin enthused about Elephant, a coincidence for him to realize the connection to Laura Albert.
As a film, Author: The JT LeRoy Story provides a unique window into this San Francisco based writer, punk rocker, con artist. Jeff Feuerzeig said Laura Albert agreed to make the film with him because he was a Jew, and because he liked punk rock. She appears onscreen against a large scrim of her writing, and tells her story boldly: how early trauma led her to expressing herself in a series of guises, most significantly as the male author of the books Sarah and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, as JT's assistant "Speedie," among others. You may have read this sensational story after New York Magazine's 2005 investigative scoop. Even her literary agent, Ira Silverberg, learned her real identity, belatedly, just like everyone else, although Albert did come out, confiding her true identity to a select few, including David Milch, showrunner of HBO's Deadwood. Tapes with everyone, including Courtney Love, who takes a moment to do a line of coke (offscreen, of course), form the mosaic of Author's intricate narrative.
Jeff Feuerzeig said his documentary was inspired by The New Journalism, a literary genre using fictional techniques in the writing of non-fiction; Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Seymour Krim, and Gay Talese whose new book The Voyeur's Motel is just released this week, are key practitioners, and some of his heroes. How does this fiction-writing strategy translate to non-fiction filmmaking? In Author, some key elements of Laura Albert's life are withheld until the end, so that the film has you on the edge of your seat.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.
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