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Megan Rossman filmed three short documentaries about the Lesbian Herstory Archives: ‘A Lifetime of Making Change,’ ‘A Brief Herstory’ and ‘Love Letter Rescue Squad,’ which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017.

The spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus, has brought all community activities to a halt. That holds true for the film industry, too. Hollywood has postponed all major movie premieres and is working to move some from the big screen to streaming services.

Filmmaker Megan Rossman, a former Bay Village resident, was set to showcase her first feature-length documentary at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

However, the festival switched to online streaming today and will go through April 28. Tickets to view each film begin at $8 and viewers will get a chance to see a handful of movies from the festival, including Rossman’s film.

“While I would have loved to be there in person, this is a great solution for a time when people are stuck at home watching a lot of television,” Rossman said. “I was so elated to be able to bring this film home and show it to the community in person but I’m hoping everyone in Ohio is staying safe and healthy.”

Rossman, an assistant professor of communications at Purchase College in Harrison, New York, planned to showcase her new documentary, “The Archivettes,” at the festival. The film is about Deborah Edel and Joan Nestle, founders of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, New York.

The archives contain the world’s largest collection of lesbian history, and Rossman’s film covers why the its founders preserved it. In addition to recounting history, the film analyzes the challenges the group faces today.

“Being accepted into the Cleveland International Film Festival made me believe that there is an audience in Ohio that really does want to know more about these things,” Rossman said. “I was really open and excited to bring the film home.”

The effects of COVID-19 on the film industry haven’t stopped at film festivals. Last month, it was projected that the industry will see a $5 billion loss because of the pandemic, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Last month, an estimated 120,000 film industry workers lost their jobs in Hollywood as companies shut down productions, according to the U.S. entertainment industry union IATSE.

This ripple effect is hurting independent filmmakers like Rossman, who says she might scrap her next project altogether.

“Right now, I’m just happy that I have a stable job with regular income to help get me through all of this,” she said. “However, I do have friends that make their living in creative fields and are struggling financially because of this.”

This is the fourth film that Rossman has made about the archives and its creators. She was inspired to document the group in 2015 after discovering the archives were around the corner from where she lived. Her film premiered last year at the Stamped Film Festival in Pensacola, Florida, and Reeling 2019 in Chicago, where it won Best Documentary.

“I never knew something like this existed,” Rossman said. “The first time I entered the Lesbian Herstory Archives, I felt like I was coming home. I had no knowledge of the lesbian history before going there and have found myself and my own history in these archives.”

Born and raised in Westlake, Rossman moved to Bay Village when she was 14. There she was inspired to become a journalist by her mother, Deborah Loiacono, whose stories have been published in various publications.

“I’m so proud of her and in awe of all the things she’s accomplished,” Loiacono said. “I remember when she was little and she had a camera, she would take these amazing photos and we would talk all the time about being able to express yourself through writing and other forms of media.”

After graduating from Bay High School, Rossman studied photojournalism at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and received her diploma in 2008. The same year, she landed her first job, at The Washington Post. As a photojournalist, she covered then-Sen. Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.

Rossman has also won awards for other documentaries, one about a college student who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and the other about a nonprofit organization working to ensure that New York beekeepers have mentoring and training.

Regardless of how the virus affects the film industry, Rossman, who came out when she was 24, encourages other people to do the same with their own culture and history.

“History often gets whitewashed,” Rossman said. “I think if we’re going to try to tell an honest account of history, then everyone needs to start playing a bigger role in documenting their story. This is my contribution to that.”

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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