About the Film
Fifty years ago, Florida’s Legislative Investigative Committee, led by Senator Charley Johns sought to remove homosexuals from Florida's state universities. As a result of the “Johns Committee’s” efforts, more than 200 gay and lesbian students and teachers were expelled or fired. Featuring two of the victims and one interrogator, the film exposes the committee’s subversive activities and how its effects are still felt today.
The film traces the committee's origins in the era of McCarthyism and anti-gay propaganda while detailing the personal stories of those intimately involved with its activities.
In fall 2011, professors Robert Cassanello and Lisa Mills taught an Advanced Documentary Workshop class at the University of Central Florida. This interdisciplinary seminar was a cooperative effort between the History Department and the film program in the School of Visual Arts and Design.
The students, with backgrounds in English, accounting, journalism, computer engineering, art, and radio/TV production, were assigned into production teams where they would best be able to use their abilities.
Students were required to read And They Were Wonderful Teachers, a book by Karen Graves, Ph.D., about the Johns Committee’s persecution of public school teachers. The class also watched the only documentary previously made on the subject, Allyson Beutke’s Behind Closed Doors: The Dark Legacy of the Johns Committee.
The class sought out interviews with experts who could speak with authority on the Johns Committee or the current state of LGBTQ affairs in the state of Florida. Interviews were conducted with members of the Florida public school system, survivors of the Johns Committee, a retired police officer who worked with the committee, and former Florida governor and retired U.S. Senator Bob Graham. Students also interviewed Judith Poucher, Ph.D., who recently released her book State of Defiance: Challenging the Johns Committee's Assault on Civil Liberties. Not all materials collected were included in the resulting new documentary about the Johns Committee.
Documentary filmmaker and video producer Aaron Hosé, representing the UCF Center for Distributed Learning (CDL), was brought onto the project as Producer and Supervising Editor. He would assist Dr. Cassanello and Dr. Mills in guiding the students through the various technical and creative facets of the film's post-production and marketing phases. In the spring of 2012, the film began screening in film festivals in Florida and over the next two years it screened in festivals all over the world, winning many competitions, prizes, and awards. The students who made the film graduated, but stayed in touch with Cassanello and Mills about the film’s success.
Same-sex marriage became legal in Florida in January, 2015. Efforts to revise the ending of the film began shortly thereafter and WUSF-TV in Tampa agreed to pitch the film to the American Public Television Exchange for national distribution. Cassanello, Mills, Hosé and their former students launched a fundraising campaign to cover the cost of licensing images and music in the film. On June 1, 2016 the film will be released to more than 70 local public television stations via APT.
Watch The Committee Now
WUCF-TV is now streaming The Committee for FREE on their website! Feel free to share it around.
Winner Historical Documentary
Suncoast Emmy Award Nomination - Editor Suncoast Emmy Awards 2014
Love Your Shorts Film Festival 2014
International Jury Award, Best Documentary Film
Durban Gay & Lesbian Film Festival 2014
Hampton Dunn Broadcast Award
Florida Historical Society 2013
Best of Brouhaha
Brouhaha Film & Video Showcase 2012
Best of Competition - Mixed Video
Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts 2012
Atlanta's Out On Film LGBT Film Festival 2014
Out Twin Cities Film Festival 2014
Orlando Film Festival 2014
Florida Film Festival 2013
Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 2013
Gasparilla International Film Festival 2012
The following people and organizations have made the public television broadcast of our film possible through their generous contributions.
- UCF College of Arts and Humanities
- UCF Office of the President
- UCF Office of Undergraduate Research
- UCF Office of Diversity and Inclusion (for closed captioning)
- Kroll, Inc.
- Susan L. Gallagher
- Dr. Raymond Bellamy
- Ernie Hilts
- Richard H Harrison II
- Andrew P. Williams
- Barbara E Thompson
- Paolo E. Kespradit
- Mischelle Burbridge
- Elizabeth C Blake
- Kimberly W. Oliva
- Ronald H. Greer
- Nina R Streich
- David L Roberts
- Jen Ackerman
- Daniel R Schorr
- Edith L Macdonald
- Julia A Monticello
- Stephen Crowley
- Charles Edouard St-Georges
- Stella Sung
- Milton W. Kirkpatrick
- Mark C Abbott
- Alvin Y. Wang
- Emily Nemeth
- Sandra Runzo
- Katharine Freeman
- John Demshock
- Leah Marks
- Monica A Monticello
- Mary Rachel Dudley
- Julie M Artau
- Aubrey A Kuperman
- Nancy Helen McLean
- Barry Sandler
- Crystal Browning
- Christopher K Walker
(in order of appearance)
Produced and Directed by
Produced and Edited by
DR. ALVIN WANG
DR. JOSÉ FERNÁNDEZ
UCF College of Arts & Humanities Web Team
LOU ELLEN KRAMER
N. ADAM WATSON
CARL VAN NESS
Program Director/Executive Producer
ARTSERVE FT. LAUDERDALE
COMMANDER MICHAEL CALDERIN AND THE
BROWARD COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
LEARNING INSTITUTE FOR ELDERS (L.I.F.E.) AT UCF
UCF OFFICE OF LGBTQ SERVICES
Archive Footage and Photos Courtesy of
STATE ARCHIVES OF FLORIDA
STONEWALL NATIONAL MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
LYNN AND LOUIS WOLFSON II
FLORIDA MOVING IMAGE ARCHIVES
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, SMATHERS LIBRARY SPECIAL AND AREA STUDIES
COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA
Stock Footage Courtesy WPA Film Library
Photo from The New York Times, July 2, 1969.
Used by permission
Cover From Newsweek, June 6,1977, IBT MEDIA
used by permission and protected by the
Copyright Laws of the United States,
Photos taken by Flip Schulke © Flip Schulke
& Sepp Seitz © Sepp Seitz
Anita Bryant "I Believe" Album Cover
Anita Bryant Orange Juice Advertisement
The Florida Orange Growers Association
Music provided by
KILLER TRACKS - Los Angeles, CA
This film was a collaborative effort of the
UCF Burnett Honors College
UCF History Department
Film Program in the School of Visual Arts and Design
UCF Office of Instructional Resources
UCF Center for Distributed Learning
© 2015 - University of Central Florida
All rights reserved
Beginning in June 2016, the film will be broadcast on more than 70 local public television stations through the American Public Television Exchange, via presenting station WUSF-TV. The broadcast version of the film is significantly different from the film festival version, in that it highlights USF’s role in bringing media attention to the Johns Committee, ultimately causing the committee’s downfall. The broadcast version also updates viewers on same-sex marriage in Florida.
Check your local listings for air dates and times. Here is a partial list of stations that will air The Committee. If you do not see your local station listed here, we urge you to contact them and ask them to air this film.
GEOR, IOWA, KAET, KBDI, KCET, KCPT, KCTS, KENT, KENW, KLRU, KLVX, KNME, KOOD, KPBS, KQED, KQEH, KRCB, KRMA, KRSU, KTOO, KTWU, KVCR, KWSU, NDAK, NEWH, NEWJ, OREG, SDAK, WCET, WCFE, WCVE, WEDU, WFSU, WGBY, WGCU, WILL, WITF, WJCT, WKAR, WLIW, WMHT, WMVS, WNED, WNIN, WNIT, WNMU, WNPT, WOUB, WPBA, WPBT, WPTD, WPTO, WQED, WQPT, WSRE, WTIU, WTVI, WUCF, WUSF, WXXI
We would like to thank the following individuals without whose advice and assistance the broadcast version of this film could never have happened:
Contact & Feedback
For information about screening the film as an individual, in a classroom setting or for your organization, please complete the following form and we'll be back in touch soon.
Have you watched the film on your local PBS station? We'd love to read your comments.