A lot of things. When Matt [Livadary] first called to ask if I’d join him on this project, I think it took me all of 2 seconds to say, “Are you kidding? Of course!” Not only is Matt an incredibly talented and thoughtful filmmaker who I’d follow just about anywhere, but an opportunity to tell the story of the International Gay Rodeo Association was just too special to pass up.
Growing up with an openly gay father, I was acutely aware of how hard it can be to stand up and own your identity in a world that won’t always reward you for it. A lot of us know what that’s like. But like my dad, the cowboys and cowgirls of the IGRA are fiercely proud of who they are, and they’re not willing to give up an ounce of it for anyone. Realizing that fact hit me like a ton of bricks. Needless to say, there was something familiar and emotionally significant for me right at the heart of this project, and I knew that I could bring something a little different to the table as a Producer.
Q: What obstacles did you face along the way?
When Matt came home from the field, he had hundreds of hours of footage and a lot of different stories he wanted to tell. Our fist epic task was to sit in the edit bay and painstakingly decide which characters had the strongest story arcs throughout the season, and how we were going to structure the movie as a whole. Anyone who’s ever made a documentary knows how daunting a task that can be, and we must have gone through 10 different iterations and a hundreds of color-coded post it notes before we settled on what has become “Queens & Cowboys”. A lot of great footage, characters, and interviews ended up on the cutting room floor, and letting them go was tough for the both of us.
Funding has also been an incredible challenge nearly every step of the way, but no surprise there! Heroic friends and family made the film’s early $35,000 Kickstarter campaign a successful one, but “Queens & Cowboys” has largely been self-funded. It’s a sacrifice, and a lot of blood, sweat, and favors have gone in to finishing this movie, but we have never once stopped to ask ourselves “Is it all worth it?” We know it is.
Q: What do you hope audiences take away from this film?
For one, I hope that people see “Queens & Cowboys” as a movie for everyone, not just for the LGBT community. Sure, the movie is about gay people. But it’s also about straight people, and everyone in between. And furthermore, the whole story is told through the lens of one of the manliest, most iconic American sports there is! Because of this, I hope that the movie can help inform the conversation on how we codify “gay” and “straight,” “progress” and “tradition,” and reveal to us the common threads that bind them all.
The beauty of this film is that everyone seems to find their own unique takeaway – their own favorite character, or core message. For some, the takeaway has been how universally the cowboy code can apply to all of us: live everyday with courage; finish what you start; when you make a promise, keep it. For others, it’s the idea that to move forward, sometimes it’s necessary turn around and look to the past, to our roots. The men and women of the IGRA find wholeness in one of the oldest traditions of the American West, one that hasn’t traditionally been accepting of them. But we all have the challenge to find where we fit in this world, and sometimes that means throwing away the box of what’s expected or assumed, and hanging on for dear life while a bull charges around the ring and tries to buck you off into the next county. Simply put, I love the potential of this film to move people in very different ways, and I hope that it inspires a few folks to go in search of their own bull, whatever that may be.