Jenni Olson

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Jenni Olson
Jenni Olson 2015 Headshot .jpg
Filmmaker and historian Jenni Olson (2015)
Born (1962-10-06) October 6, 1962 (age 59)
Alma materUniversity of Minnesota
OccupationFilm Curator, Filmmaker, Author, LGBT Film Historian
Notable work
Co-Founder of LGBT website, Co-Founder of the Minneapolis/St.Paul Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Transgender Film Festival

Jenni Olson (born October 6, 1962) is a writer, archivist, historian, consultant, and non-fiction filmmaker based in Berkeley, California. She co-founded the pioneering LGBT website[1] Her two feature-length essay films — The Joy of Life (2005) and The Royal Road (2015) — premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Her work as an experimental filmmaker and her expansive personal collection of LGBTQ film prints and memorabilia were acquired in April 2020 by the Harvard Film Archive,[2] and her reflection on the last 30 years of LGBT film history, in The Oxford Handbook of Queer Cinema, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2021.[3] In 2020, she was named to the Out Magazine Out 100 list.[4] In 2021, she was recognized with the prestigious Special TEDDY Award at the Berlin Film Festival.[5] She also campaigned to have a barrier erected on the Golden Gate Bridge to prevent suicides.[6]


Olson was born and raised in Falcon Heights, Minnesota and was educated at the University of Minnesota where she earned her degree in Film Studies. In 1986, while still a student, Olson co-founded the Minneapolis/St.Paul Lesbian, Gay, Bi & Transgender Film Festival, initially under the name Lavender Images.[7] Olson was inspired in this move by Vito Russo's book, The Celluloid Closet. In 1992 Olson was hired by the company Frameline and moved to San Francisco to work as guest curator on the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, before being appointed co-director alongside Mark Finch.[7] After three years Olson left this position to co-found the website[8] Olson worked as director of entertainment and e-commerce for the site, as well fulfilling the same roles for She created the PopcornQ section of the website, basing the section on her book The Ultimate Guide to Lesbian & Gay Film and Video.[9][10]

In 1997 Olson attended the Sundance Festival and arranged, along with Outfest executive director Morgan Rumpf, a small brunch aimed at fellow queer attendees. The event has happened annually since then being co-presented by and Outfest until 2005. Since the demise of PlanetOut, it is now presented solely by Outfest.[11] The sponsors described it in 2005 as "the premiere gay and lesbian industry event during Sundance".[12] By March 2005, Olson was named Director of E-Commerce & Consumer Marketing for Wolfe Video/Wolfe Releasing.[1]

In 2021, she was recognized with the Special TEDDY Award at the Berlin Film Festival— for her service to the LGBTQ film community.[5]

Olson is currently co-director of The Bressan Project, devoted to restoring and re-releasing the films of pioneering gay filmmaker Arthur J. Bressan Jr.[13] Her work as a film historian includes the Lambda Literary Award-nominated[14] The Queer Movie Poster Book and her many vintage movie trailer presentations (Homo Promo, Afro Promo, etc.). Jenni's film criticism has appeared in numerous publications including Filmmaker Magazine, The Advocate, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian and she is currently a film columnist for Logo TV's NewNowNext.[15]

In July 2021, Olson also joined GLAAD to lead their Social Media Safety Program.[16]


Olson initially compiled trailers into documentary features, showing Homo Promo, her compilation of vintage gay movie trailers at the Amsterdam Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in 1991,[17] and her work in this area has been recognised as instructional in teaching students contextualisation.[18]

She continued compiling trailers throughout the 1990s, with her last such compilation released to date being Bride of Trailer Camp, released in 2001 (others in the series include: "Trailer Camp", "Neo Homo Promo", "Afro Promo", "Trailers Schmailers"). During this period Olson also wrote Ultimate Guide to Lesbian & Gay Film and Video (1996). The book was based on Olson's BA thesis.[19] Her next book was The Queer Movie Poster Book (Chronicle Books, 2005). This book was suggested in 1991 by Stuart Marshall, who recommended Olson pitch the idea to London's Gay Men's Press. Although the book was turned down by both them and Serpent's Tail, to whom the idea was pitched as a follow up to her previous book, Olson was eventually commissioned to write the book in 2002 (published in 2005, it went on to be a Lambda Literary Awards nominee). Olson based the work in part on her own collection of such material, which she has subsequently donated to San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society.[17] Her collection was exhibited at the San Francisco Public Library in 2004, with Olson delivering an accompanying lecture.[7]

In 2005 Olson released The Joy of Life, her debut feature, which won Best Outstanding Artistic Achievement at the 2005 Outfest and at the 2005 Newfest received Best U.S. Narrative Screenplay,[20] and has been favorably reviewed in a number of publications. It garnered Olson the Marlon Riggs Award by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle in 2005. Working on the film led Olson to pen an open letter to the San Francisco Chronicle on the matter of the Golden Gate Bridge's position as the top suicide landmark in the world. Her former colleague, Mark Finch, had jumped from the bridge on January 14, 1995, and Olson used this event to inform her own film. Her letter was published on the tenth anniversary of Finch's death and supported the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California's launching of a campaign for a barrier to be installed on the bridge.[21] Olson also distributed her film to the bridge's board of directors, noting "several of the bridge directors told me they appreciated seeing the film and found it illuminating",[8] and in March 2005 the board voted to explore the installation of a barrier to prevent jumping.[6]

Olson's 2009 short film, 575 Castro St. was shot on the empty Castro Camera store set of the Academy Award-winning drama Milk.[citation needed]

In 2015, Olson's film, The Royal Road premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.[citation needed]

In 2019, Olson directed a short film, In nomine Patris. She is currently in development on an experimental film, The Quiet World. [22]


  • Dagger: On Butch Women (1995), (contributor) Cleis Press, ISBN 978-0939416820
  • Cookin’ with Honey (1996), (contributor) Cleis Press, ISBN 978-1563410765
  • Lesbian Words: State of the Art (1996), (contributor) Richard Kasak Books, ISBN 978-1563333408
  • Images in the Dark: An Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Film (1996), (contributor) Plume, ISBN 978-0452276277
  • The Ultimate Guide to Lesbian & Gay Film and Video (1996), (editor) Serpent's Tail, ISBN 978-1852423391
  • The Queer Movie Poster Book (2004), (author) Chronicle Books, ISBN 978-0811842617
  • The Queer Encyclopedia of the Visual Arts (2006), (contributor) Cleis Press, ISBN 978-1573441919


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Work Result
1998 Black Maria Film Festival Director’s Choice Award Blue Diary (1998) Won
2005 NewFest Best U.S. Screenplay The Joy of Life (2005) Won
Outfest Outstanding Achievement Won
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Marlon Riggs Award Won
2015 Ann Arbor Film Festival Best LGBTQ Film The Royal Road (2015) Won
Queer Porto LGBT Film Festival Best Feature Won
Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema Avant Garde & Genre Special Jury Mention Won
Dokufest Special Jury Mention Won
MIX Copenhagen Documentary Special Mention Won
Ashland Independent Film Festival Pride Award Won
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art SECA Art Award Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Diduck, Ryan (June 2006). "Inside the Homo Studio: with Jenni Olson". Offscreen. Offscreen. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Jenni Olson Queer Film Collection - Collection". Harvard Film Archive. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  3. ^ "Oxford Handbooks - Oxford University Press". Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  4. ^ "See the Full 2020 Out100 List Here". 19 November 2020. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Jenni Olson: 'I remember walking out of the movie theatre like, "Yeah, I'm a cowboy!"'". the Guardian. 2021-06-15. Retrieved 2021-06-27.
  6. ^ a b Blum, Andrew (March 20, 2005). "Suicide Watch". The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Ford, Dave (October 15, 2004). "S.F. film historian's latest book uses movie posters to shed light on changing mainstream views of lesbians and gay men". SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  8. ^ a b Matt Baume (July 8, 2005). "Interview: Jenni Olson". SFist. Archived from the original on August 30, 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-19.
  9. ^ "Contributor Biography: Jenni Olson". Archived from the original on 2006-10-17. Retrieved 2006-12-19.
  10. ^ "Cast and Crew". The Joy of Life official website. Archived from the original on 2006-12-08. Retrieved 2006-12-19.
  11. ^ Jenny Stewart (January 20, 2005). "Where the indie-film A-gays play". Retrieved 2006-12-19.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "here! Networks to Present 10th Annual Outfest Queer Brunch at Sundance Film Festival" (Press release). here! Networks & Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. December 8, 2005. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012. Retrieved 2006-12-19.
  13. ^ "Home". The Bressan Project. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  14. ^ "Jenni Olson - Artist". MacDowell. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  15. ^ "Jenni Olson | NewNowNext". LOGO News. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  16. ^ Ring, Trudy (July 29, 2021). "Jenni Olson to Lead GLAAD's Social Media Safety Program". The Advocate. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  17. ^ a b Morris, Gary (August 2004). "I Changed My Socially Constructed Sexual Identity!". Bright Lights Film Journal (45). ISSN 0147-4049. Archived from the original on 2009-07-14. Retrieved 2006-12-19.
  18. ^ Siegel, Marc (May 1997). "Spilling out onto Castro Street". Jump Cut. No. 41. pp. 131–136.
  19. ^ "Drama and Film". Gay & Lesbian Research Guide. Yale University Library. 2006-08-05. Archived from the original on 2006-09-02. Retrieved 2006-12-19. originated as her B.A. thesis at the University of Minnesota
  20. ^ "Press Materials, Reviews, Upcoming Screenings". Official website. Archived from the original on 2006-11-02. Retrieved 2006-12-19.
  21. ^ Olson, Jenni (January 14, 2005). "Power Over Life and Death: Another toll goes up on the Golden Gate Bridge". San Francisco Chronicle. p. B9.
  22. ^ "Sundance Institute Announces Films in Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, New Frontier for 2015 Sundance Film Festival". Sundance Institute. December 4, 2014. Retrieved October 28, 2020.

External links[edit]