Real estate investor Joy Tomchin never imagined her name on a movie marquee. But a phone call from a stranger changed that. David France, a journalist and author, had found Tomchin through mutual friends; would she consider producing his film? “I said, ‘Who is this guy? He’s just asking for money,’” she told the Forward. “But we met, and he was so smart he blew me away.”
Their documentary, “How to Survive a Plague,” opens in more than 30 cities nationwide this month. It uses archival footage and new interviews to tell the story of activists who confronted the government and medical establishment during the darkest days of the AIDS crisis. It’s a devastating, infuriating, and inspiring piece of work. Tomchin talked to The Arty Semite from her home in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
Michael Kaminer: This is your first experience as a producer. What surprised you about getting a movie made?
Joy Tomchin: I didn’t expect it to take three-and-a-half years. I didn’t expect to get so emotionally involved. And I didn’t expect to have such good times. David and I are now talking about making another movie. I’m not a creative person, but I can raise some money and get some people excited about it.
“How to Survive a Plague” is a story of survival amidst enormous tragedy. Do you see any parallels to the Jewish experience?