So this week’s blog post may sound less interesting, but in reality, I have momentarily run out of people to be angry at. Well, that’s a lie; there is always something to fight for. But unfortunately as much as this project may seem like it should be titled “Emily’s Bitch Fest” this truly is related and created for a college course. So I do, once in a while, have to blog something somewhat comprehensible and academic. But don’t worry, next week’s blog post is going to address the big anti-LGBTQ companies and how hypocritical they are. So there will be lots of ranting and sarcasm to go around. Plus, to make up for the fact that this blog post won’t be as thrilling I decided to compensate with GIFs to help ease your pain if you’re reading through this.
I’ve surprisingly received a couple of questions about how I’m actually producing this documentary. So, I thought I would tackle the more technical side of the project for this week’s blog post and maybe still leave some room for a few moments of ranting.
In my “Applied Digital Studies” class, my professor assigned us the task of picking a digital project we wanted to pursue for the semester. I knew right away that I wanted to make some type of film since that is my area of expertise. But my original vision was a bit different. I wanted to tackle the subject of homeless LGBTQ youth, and the correlation of their homelessness to religious beliefs.
I have done a few projects in the past involving the homeless population, and one commonality I noticed was the connection between homeless LGBTQ youth and their family’s affiliation with being part of a religious community. I started by researching youth homeless shelters around the NOVA/Richmond areas. But after about two weeks of consideration I realized that traveling to Richmond/Nova to film every week would just not be plausible, and would also not look uniform or professional.
For documentaries to look professional they need to look consistent. Meaning, same backgrounds for the interviews, no outside commotion, clear audio, and so on. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to achieve this by interviewing in the homes. I considered shuttling the youth back and forth for the taping, but then quickly realized not only does that sounds super creepy (Hey you, get in my car. I just want to film you for a few hours) but also is not financially possible.
You see when I turned 16 my dad bought me a car; which was unbelievably nice. The only thing was I had a choice of choosing between a 2005 Volkswagen Jetta and a 1995 Honda. Of course I chose the Jetta, but my dad said, “Nope, they’re too expensive to fix, you’re getting the Honda.” So, that being said, I don’t exactly trust my car to get me back and forth between FredVegas and Richmond several weekends in a row.
Anyway, back to the point. So with this dream slowly circling the drain I had to reimagine what I was going to be spending my semester doing. I knew I still wanted to do something with the LGBTQ community, but I just wasn’t sure what. It wasn’t until a few bigoted Facebook posts later that I realized I could broaden the topic and just plainly explore the world of religion and how it affects the LGBTQ community.
Now the only issue was finding LGBTQ people to participate. Well lucky me, I go to one of the most liberal, gay-friendly, homofabulous schools in the country; and just have thousands of LGBTQ students to pick out of. No seriously, I always joke with people that Mary Washington has a 7 to 1 girls to guys ratio and about a 3 to 4 gay to straight population. I’m not sure if there is something in the water here or what, but we sure do love our rainbow population.
Anyway so I began with the simplest way to approach finding volunteers…I scrolled through my Facebook messenger list and clicked on anyone and everyone who I thought was or could be LGBTQ. I sent them all a general message saying something along the lines of:
“Hey, remember me? Your ol’ pal from freshman year? Remember we sat across the room from one another in history class and never spoke a single word after the semester ended? And we don’t make eye contact on campus walk so that we don’t have to be stuck in the realm of awkward small talk? Yeah, that’s me. Well I’m making a documentary about the LGBTQ community and how religion has affected it. Would you be interested in being interviewed for it?”
Most of these acquaintances responded within the hour. All but one agreed to meet for the interview that upcoming weekend. I also made announcements on various Facebook pages, in all of my classes, as well as at our school’s own LGBTQ club (PRISM), that I was producing a documentary and needed volunteers. I’ve had about 50 participants sign up so far. Which is way more than I expected, but so amazing. I’ve also been in correspondence with several pastors, priests, licensed psychologists, and religion professors at Mary Washington. They have all agreed to meet me for interviews, which is more than I ever could have hoped for. After that was all figured out it was time to plan how I was going to execute the filming.
Last year I took a “History of the Information Age” class where we produced a documentary at the end of the semester about digital identity. When the school was still poor and couldn’t afford a whole green screen room, we filmed this documentary in front of a green sheet. No literally, it was a giant green sheet. We used a decent handheld camera that captured HD video and edited the whole thing in FinalCut Pro. So I figured I would do the same for this project. Well little did I know, over the summer, our school went all out and built an “Advanced Media Production Lab.” This includes as entire room painted green, three tripod black magic 4k cameras (that’s REALLY REALLY HD cameras), boom microphones, teleprompters, portable microphones, hyperdrives, lighting and sounds panels, head sets…the whole works.
Here is a little taste of what it looks like:
After bribing my friend Jessica to teach me how to use all the technologies, I was soon on my way to becoming a filming expert. HA! Just kidding, I can press the record button and that’s about it. But really, I just need to brag a minute about Jessica.
We’ve taken classes together since freshman year. We’ve never been particularly close until we happen to stumble into yet another history class where we were project partners for the whole year. You know those people in the movies that sit there and can code, and css, and hack shit really quickly and solve every technology problem there ever was….yeah that’s her. She’s a genius when it comes to computer stuff.
Well thankfully we started working together again this year only this time she’s actually hired at Mary Washington and I work in the same office as she does. I was telling her all about the project and she said she wanted to help. “Help” being a severe understatement. She not only taught me how to work the whole room…
but has showed up every single Saturday to help me film. She comes in on her days off, to sit in a stuffy room and listen to people talk into mics.
Praise be to this girl!
So after the participants showed up, we would hook them up to the portable microphones, test their audio levels, and soon start recording. I have the same series of questions I’m asking everyone. Simple things like “What do you identify as?” and “How has religion affected you or your sexual orientation?” The answers I have received, so far, have been tremendously diverse, emotional, and controversial. I’ve only teared up during five interviews so far (out of about thirty). No biggie. But seriously, sometimes I don’t realize how easy I had it/have it.
My older sister, Sarah, came out before I did. So when I told my parents, they reacted so nonchalantly that I wasn’t sure if they heard me or not. My friends were all ecstatic, the kids I nannied couldn’t care less, and every one seemed to be super supportive. But I know in reality this type of outcome is extremely rare. So far, in my interviews, I’ve heard stories of one boy’s parents sending them to sexual orientation conversion therapy. One girl divulged that her mother told her it was just a phase and that God doesn’t make gay people. One girl told me that her parents won’t let her talk about it, and won’t even speak about or let her feel emotional about her girlfriend passing away last year. I mean think about that. This girl was dating her partner for almost a year when she passed away. They were in love and planning on spending the rest of their lives together. And when all of that got taken away, this girl couldn’t even turn to her mother for comfort; because her parents don’t acknowledge that she is gay. Could you imagine your significant other passing away and you not being able to talk about it to your parents? Having to bottle it up when you’re home? Not having them there at the funeral?
Yeah, this project has been kind of an emotional roller-coaster so far, but I would expect nothing less. When I’m done with all of my filming (which should be about another three weeks), I will be using FinalCut Pro to edit and produce the film. I still need to interview a few more Christians, the pastors and psychologists that agreed to come, and of course myself. I also need to collect some basic b-roll footage.
I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to put it all together, but I’m hoping I’ll have a spark of creativity one of these nights. I just know for sure that I will producing all of this to equal a 7 to 10 minute documentary, by November. And hopefully by the end of December I will produce a “director’s cut” version that includes all of the interview footage, for those of you who want to watch more.
The only thing I do know is no matter how much I think I know the technology I still somehow always end up messing it up. For about three weekends in a row now something has gotten screwed up. The first weekend for some reason, the wrong camera was recording. So everyone I interviewed, and told to look at the main camera, was actually being recorded off to the side from the secondary camera. The second weekend I had about five people come out for interviews, only to shortly turn them away after I couldn’t get the footage to record to one of our SSD cards (after hours of trying). This last weekend I got really solid interviews from several transexuals, only to find out later when I was trying to move it on to my external hard drive, that it only recorded the audio and none of the visual. So I have a big black screen with all the audio but no footage of them…what…the…fuck. Jesus is seriously punishing me! And you want to know how I know? I also recorded some Christians the same day, within hours of each other. And for some unknown reason, both their visual and audio was recorded but not the LGBTQ people!!! Coincidence? I think not. I just picture God sitting up on his golden thrown laughing in my face.
Most people would laugh this stuff off, or call it a “learning experience” but for me it is wasted time. I have a very strict deadline as to when this documentary is due. Which means I need to wrap up my filming by October 24th. And if the technology keeps screwing with me then there is no way I’m going to be able to produce a solid/quality documentary. I not only hate wasting time due to the deadline, but I hate wasting other people’s time as well. I now have to ask these people to come back to be re-interviewed and I have to spend yet another Sunday (10AM-8PM) in the green room filming.
Okay, pity party over. Because seriously this project is so much more than a few wasted weekends and technological difficulties. This documentary has now transitioned from being just a class project to being something people depend on. It is my job to tell people’s stories (both LGBTQ and religious) and it is my job to do so in a way that it can inspire and make a difference. No fucking pressure. This is the only thing keeping me motivated. Even if it is just one person that finds hope, even if it is just one Christian that becomes more accepting, even if it is one person I make stop and reflect…I feel as though this is all worth something.
I can kind of rest easy knowing that this project has already produced some changes on campus. The campus christian organization, whom I’ve been in very close contact with throughout this documentary, has implemented some changes. I explained to them that InterVarsity (the student run christian organization on campus) was not exactly a welcoming place for the LGBTQ students at Mary Washington. Maybe because some of us already hold prejudices towards religion or maybe because of the turmoil in the recent news between Christians and the LGBTQ community (example: Kim Davis & the Westboro Baptist Church). But unless a religious organization straight up says “gay people welcome” we feel as though we are not. And I can’t speak for all LGBTQ people, but from my experience this seems to be the trend.
InterVarsity accepted this opinion and almost immediately started making changes. Mickinley, the small group coordinator for InterVarsity, created an LGBTQ friendly bible study on campus starting October 14th!
If this is the only difference my project has made, then I’m satisfied. I could not be more proud of InterVarsity and their concern with making LGBTQ people feel welcome in the realm of Christianity. Even though I’m still not 100% set with Jesus, I’m going to be sure to show up and give it a try!
If anyone ever has any suggestions about the project or questions please feel free to comment below or private message me through my email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Also next week’s blog is going to include an anonymous Q&A section. I’ve created an “Ask Me” page where people can submit questions anonymously. See the link below. Feel free to ask me about myself, the documentary, LGBTQ aspects, or anything else you are curious about. It’s completely anonymous, so there’s nothing to lose!
Until next week!