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Dustin Lance Black Biography

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Birth Name: Dustin Lance Black
Born: 1979
Birth Place: Sacramento, California, USA

Born in Sacramento, CA in 1979, Black was raised in a devoutly Mormon military family in San Antonio, TX before relocating to Salinas, CA after his mother's remarriage. The religious and political atmosphere of his early years clashed mightily with his sexuality; Black knew he was gay from an early age, but kept his true nature secret for fear of abuse at the hands of others. As a result, his childhood was a secretive and deeply painful one; reportedly, Black considered suicide during this formative period.

He found solace in the local theater, and delved deeply into every aspect of that world -from acting and technical work to apprenticing with local directors. Black's passion for performance took him to UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television, from which he graduated with honors. After college, he found work in film production, first as an art director, and later as the director on various commercials and music videos. He made the transition to dramatic feature work in 2000 with "The Journey of Jared Price," an independent drama about a young gay man's sexual awakening which he shot over a period of five days for $30,000. It was followed by a similarly-themed short film "Something Close to Heaven" (2000) and a documentary, "On the Bus" (2001). Originally intended as a six-part reality series for the Digital Entertainment Network, the latter project took its initial premise - a group of six gay men of diverse personalities travel by bus to partake in the hedonism of the Burning Man festival - and inverted its exploitative elements to become an incisive commentary on gay stereotypes. Critically acclaimed by gay and straight press alike, "On the Bus" helped to put Black on the map as a filmmaker.

In 2003, Black produced and directed "My Life with Count Dracula," a documentary about Dr. Donald Reed, a horror movie fan whose dedication to the genre led to the creation of the Academy of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Film, as well as the Saturn Awards. The gentle biopic, which examined Reed's contributions to fantasy filmmaking as well as the financial toll it took on his life, further increased Black's profile as a documentary filmmaker and led to work as a producer and director on the BBC series "Faking It" (Channel 4, 2000-03, 2006). The program - a combination of game show and reality series - followed individuals as they were trained in a job completely outside of their day-to-day existence, after which they were judged alongside professionals in their new line of work by a panel who tried to determine who the "faker" in the group was. A popular and award-winning series in the UK, it led to several spin-offs, including an American version for The Learning Channel in 2003.

Black returned to the United States in 2004 to join the production team of HBO's "Big Love," which concerned a polygamous Mormon family and the conflicts their lifestyle incurred with the outside world. Black served as writer, co-producer and executive story editor for the show, and was also the sole Mormon in its creative team. While working on "Big Love," Black began researching the life of San Francisco city supervisor and gay activist Harvey Milk, who was gunned down by a co-worker in 1978. After meeting with friends and colleagues of Milk, he began penning a script based on events in Milk's personal and private life; the completed script eventually made its way to friend and producer Dan Jinks and director Gus Van Sant, who signed on to direct "Milk" (2008). Praised by nearly every press outlet during its theatrical release, the film went on to net several major award nominations, including an Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay for Black. Also in 2008, his penned biopic "Pedro" received limited release, detailing the life of AIDS activist and "Real World" (MTV, 1992- ) contestant Pedro Zamora. Directed by Nick Oceana, the film premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.