Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Right To Love Advanced Screening...Standing In The Spotlight
It's finally here!...."The Right To Love: An American Family" is finally finished!
... and after nearly three years I have been able to view it in it's entirety. But I can say that it was worth the wait. We were been very blessed to have the extremely talented folks of Jaye Bird Productions take on this topic as well as and the generous efforts of the folks at Skywalker Sound take the project under their wing and donate their time to give the movie their magic touch. That ALSO meant that I got to geek out...AGAIN, by getting to see the advanced viewing held at Skywalker ranch this last Monday. After nearly three years of donating our footage, interviews with Cassie, Nena, and Christina of Jaybird productions, I couldn't believe the moment had come when I actually got to see it all come together and it was everything I had hoped for and more. It was an emotional,.... sometimes overwhelming thing to be the focus of something like this, so I thought I would take a moment to talk about the experience that is taking our family on a whole new adventure....
For me, the days leading up to the viewing were days filled with nervous speculation about what I was going to see. I knew my father, grandmother, and brother had given interviews that would be included in the movie and that made me nervous about how they would be portrayed. I had envisioned them going on long rants about "the way things are supposed to be" and "how we love him but we don't approve" among other kinds of crazy stuff that would mean that I couldn't share the movie with them if it made them out to be bad guys....and while I have had my disagreements with my family, I love them and don't want them to be perceived that way. So I was already programmed to be nervous about what was coming up.
Then the guest list began to fill up.....friends and those who gave their time and talents to the movie where going to be there, as well as Senator Mark Leno. Adam Bouska of the No H8 Campaign and Perez Hilton had rsvp'd....as well as one of my favorite "It Gets Better" contributors. Randy Roberts Potts. The numbers were shaping up to be around two hundred people, and with every new RSVP my anxiety would climb that much higher. What if the movie was awful? What if my family went on a homophobic tirade? It is all out their in digitally enhanced Skywalker quality for all to see.....just thinking about it all was enough to make me hyperventilate. Oh...and did I mention they wanted me to speak before hand?....Someone get me a brown paper bag please....It's all going black. But then the time came for it all to happen and I no longer had time to fill the room with my anxious thoughts.
The day before, Randy Roberts Potts came to stay with our family and we got some time to get to know him and his awesome children. I had a lot of emotion around meeting Randy because I, like many people, had grown up with his Grandfather, Oral Roberts, every Sunday morning. Those same Sunday morning sermons had gradually built the framework that I had to overcome to survive as a gay man and I wondered over the fact that Oral had a gay grandson. It was just too amazing to me. And then I met Randy and saw what a genuine, real, and sweet guy he was and an awesome dad to his three children. I realized in that moment that everything I was putting on him was not fair. He deserved to be Randy...not the guy who sent to earth to clean up his grandfathers messes....which were actually MY messes to deal with anyway. I hope in the time that Jay and I got to know Randy that we made a good friend.
Then the day came....we all got dressed up in our new outfits and tried to look as if we always dressed that way.....LOL.....yeah right. While we looked good, we also looked like kids who couldn't wait to get out of their Sunday church suits. Except for Selena, who looks good all the time...and... who can look like a diva in a toy tiara and Hello Kitty pajamas. We were ready. It was really time to go do this. No more waiting!....Off we drove to San Rafael and Skywalker Ranch. Being a Star Wars fan...this was really an unexpected dream come true and my inner nerd was going through palpitations.
Once we arrived, we met and mingled. Among the attendees were Sean Chapin, sexuality educator Dr. Doug Kirby from Cassies previous production of "Daddy I Do". A highlight was meeting Senator Mark Leno who was a very nice and very gracious man....especially when we hooked him up with the director of our adoption agency(TLC)...she really wanted to bend his ear on adoption/fostercare questions and I knew their was going to be no stopping her. We also met Trey Lockerbie who wrote and performed our very popular intro song called "Hummingbird". We also met the awesome benefactors to our film...our producers Ford Austin and Marc Wasserman. Jay was in his element....and mingled like the social butterfly he is. I tried to just enjoy the experience(because it was awesome) without passing out. Eventually the time came to take our seats followed by Cassie, Christina, and I saying a few words in introduction to the film and then it was time to dim the lights.....
Don't worry...I won't spoil the movie for ya....needless to say it was quite the ride. From From Day of Decision to our first Youtube video and on to where we are today. Cassie, Christina, and Nena caught it all and turned it into something amazing. It is one thing to live your life...it is another thing to see it presented to you in that way. All those familiar moments take on a new color and emotion as if you are seeing them again for the first time. Pictures that I live with everyday became a part of breath taking moments that made me tear up. Pictures of Daniel and Selena so small set to music and flashing by in the dark made me want to smile, laugh, and cry all at once. I got caught up in in it all, all over again.
Another of my secret concerns about how the movie might be, was that the reason we make our Youtube videos would get lost in focusing so much on just our family. After all, we are only one of thousands of other gay families that live just like we do. And yet, as I watched, I noticed that what they did was to tell our story in such a way that it enhanced what we do and made it crystal clear. You got so swept up in the way they told it the story. The movie WAS about us....but it really served to highlight the battle for marriage equality more for having real people to connect it to. And that is our mission in a nutshell...to put a human face on what for many is just an abstract issue. I laughed...I cried...I jeered at news segments of Maggie Gallagher and Glenn Beck contrasted against the interviews they took of us and our old Youtube footage. Seeing them against each other like that showed how ridiculous the rhetoric can be and how damaging it is to real families. When we laughed or cried, all of us in the audience did it together collectively....those were great moments to be a part of.
And in those moments Jay and I knew that those three ladies really got what it was all about. They understood what we were trying to tell the world and they took our random segments of badly shot video and weaved them together into a story that made you feel and carried you away into the events we all saw unfold over Prop 8. Talking about it on the ride home with Jay we both thought, that anyone who had never seen a single one of our videos before could watch that movie and know everything we were about. That's incredible and a very difficult task to do with three years worth of Youtube videos and total carte blanche. However, that was why we allowed Cassie and her family to have such a free hand in telling the story they wanted to tell in the first place. We knew from their first movie, "Daddy I Do" that they can take a topic that sharply divides people and bring it down to its most human terms. That is a mark of skill not only as documentarians, but also as storytellers. It is something that Cassie and her family are especially masterfull at. And also I give massive Props to the folks at Skywalker Sound who took all that grainy video and turned it into something that looks and sounds nothing short of amazing.....I still don't know how they did it but I am gratefull they took this film under their wing and donated their efforts to the project.
Though I still have a bone to pick with them for including the video of me being the toothfairy for Selena and Daniel. When Selena saw that part her eyes got as big as dinner plates....oh well...I guess I'm out of another closet....
As the credits rolled and the house lights went up I was so emotionally bowled over I didn't even know how to react to what I had seen. Because I was so impressed and awed with what they had done...and yet that was us! People were shaking our hands and telling us how amazing we are and I offered some lame responses. I simply was so stunned by all I had seen....and my dad, grandmother, and brother who I was so worried about, had all given me reasons to go give them huge hugs. I simply did not know how to react. Grateful seemed to be the only correct response...and I truly was.
But... it also touched on another issue that is uncomfortable for me. Whether it's meeting long time Youtube viewers or this crowd of appreciative movie goers....being told that we are amazing or in some way extraordinary does not sit well with me. It goes back to our very first video three years ago. We wanted to show ourselves as just ONE gay family and hopefully inspire the thousands more to do the same. We are just one very visible example of a thousand other homes with same-sex parents or LGBT single parents. It doesn't feel fair to take a bow for something that they do everyday just like we do. We are just a family....their are thousands like us out their doing their thing everyday...our just happens to have two dads. If it ever does become about advancing us as individuals, over fighting for marriage equality, then it will not be worth doing anymore. So when people tell me we are celebrities...I politely disagree. I am not a celebrity. A dad, a gay man, a son, a star wars fan, a gamer, an introvert...there are many titles I wear proudly, "celebrity" isn't one of them.
This night was an amazing experience and one I am still working to understand but I am so grateful to Cassie and Jaybird productions for putting together such an amazing movie. They really cared what we thought about it and I don't think I did a good enough job of telling them how proud I was of them and how happy I was with the film. Our family is honored to be a part of it and I hope it does something good in the world and something wonderfull for Cassie, Christina, and Nena...they deserve it.
But where will this movie go next and when can all of you get the chance to watch it...stay tuned as we will post film festival dates as well as when you will be able to purchase DVD copies of the film. Believe me...as soon as we know.. you will hear it first!
Until next time dear readers......