Reed Cowan, former journalist, fights for equal rights with his film 8: The Mormon Proposition, a film about ho a religious group, lied and manipulated their own people in order to overturn Proposition 8 and keep the the gay community for being allowed to marry one another. It was only recently when the California Fair Political Practices Commission launched an investigation into the Mormon’s involvement in Proposition 8, did the secrets of the Mormon effort become a matter of record.
Find out what inspired Cowan to make this film in our one on one interview with him below and check out out more about it in our review…
Who do you think will see this film and how do you get it to those viewers?
Reed Cowan: It just depends on how the conversation is framed. Obviously, I think we have a built [in audience] of gay people who feel wronged and feel the open wound of Proposition 8. We know this. We have our allies; we know this. My hope is this conversation can be framed in such a way that voters will embrace this as their film, and not just as a gay film. In fact, it is not a gay film. The voters who value a democracy over a theocracy, who want transparency in the process, and who consider their votes sacred when they go into that booth and my hope is that the conversation through the media and through whatever we say in our Q&As and whatever the word of mouth is on the street, that voters will know this is a gift to them to maybe through the money changers out of the temple and purify our election system.
How is possible that nobody has sued?
RC: Well, because it happened to gay people. We are a very small minority.
That seems crazy.
RC: Yeah, it makes you wonder if it were the other way around and gay people had done this to Mormons in huge numbers, what would have happened.
There is a large community of gay people in Utah. How do you reach those people? Do you think you get this movie to ever played in Utah for the average movie goer?
RC: Well, I’ll tell you something encouraging. We premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Our little documentary sold out faster than any other film at Sundance this year. We had people waiting in line; some tell stories of waiting at 3:00 in the morning to try to get standby tickets and those tickets went within minutes. Sundance did what they rarely do, they added a screening and those tickets sold out in like 20 minutes.
We are playing in Utah… That is marvelous to me, to know. People, I believe, want to know what happened and what caused the division in their own families. Mormons have gay relatives who were hurt, pissed off, angered, or even killed by bigotry and I think that the good Mormons, that I know, want to see what happens, what to see what they inequity was, and want to fix it. There is a huge gay population there too who are very supportive of the film.
What type of feedback, good and bad, have you been getting for this film?
RC: I have had really great feedback that makes me cry; just really lovely feedback. I have been surprised that my own people, the people of my heritage, have gone for the jugulars in some instances. A little research on me and you’ll find that I was married. That marriage resulted in a beautiful little boy named Wesley. After my divorce, four years ago, he was at his mother’s house and he was killed in a backyard swing-set accident. What has broken my heart many times over is that I’ve, more than once, had e-mails and phone calls that say, or the most recent one because it is burned into my memory, “Your son was taken from you because you are a faggot and you will never see him again. Burn in Hell.” So, it breaks my heart that my own people, rather than participate in the dialogue, go for the jugular. That’s hurtful, but I focus on the positive and the positive reactions we have had.
How did Dustin Lance Black get involved?
RC: There was a girl, I believe in the Midwest, who wrote a paper on Harvey Milk and her school would not allow her to present the paper in class. I, as a journalist, heard about it and I thought how amazing it would be to connect Lance Black with this girl, as part of my story. I sent a Facebook message, and he responded immediately. He called the girl and had this beautiful conversation with her. Out of that grew a nice friendship where we just kept in touch…
Finally, I just got the cahones to say, “Can you look at my film and just consider this? You are just you and I am just me.” He was very gracious and agreed to do it, [and for] free! He even interrupted production on What’s wrong with Virginia? to sit in a voice booth and be the narration for this film. It has gone beyond just those days, he has been in Miami, California, he has been everywhere to help me with the film. He does it because he is like me. He was a 14-year-old kid who sat on the pews of a church and heard bigotry from the pulpit and knew what it was like to want to die knowing that you are one of those that they are talking about. You know. That’s where it comes from and I love him for his help.
I don’t know if this would help at all, but is there any chance of getting more celebrities to back your film?
RC: I actually would love that. I’ve waited. Rosie O’Donnell asked to see the film and she has had a personal screening. Ellen Degeneres asked to see the film and she had a personal screening, and I have heard she loved it. Maybe they are just waiting for the right time, but you bet! To that lesbian girl who looks up to Rosie or to Ellen and Portia, it would mean the world to have them come out and endorse this film. Right? I wish they would. I wish they would and I hope they will. I have faith that they will. Not for me, not for my movie, not for the numbers, nothing for that, but for the kid who is waiting for them to react and endorse. You know what I mean?
I am hopeful they’ll come around! One of the hardest parts for documentary filmmakers is balancing the good and the bad. How do you find the balance in a situation like this?
RC: We thought that out. It is too bad we can’t do a sequel because we have scenes of the inside of the Mormon Church. I am trying to be balanced and if I wanted to do a propaganda film, I wouldn’t have gone for more vocal Mormons because we have enough damning evidence on its face. I felt like Mormons deserve to have their voice heard, and in fact, I sat at Sundance and I timed the minutes of screen time that Mormon get their say, whether through their commercials, their broadcasts, or documents. Most of the film is the Mormon perspective. Really. It is not presented in a gay perspective. If you literally sit with a timer, and I did, most of the film is straight out of their mouths.
Have you ever considered adding more to the end?
RC: It would be lovely to do that, but it is just so involved. The smallest change to a film after you have crossed a certain threshold is really hard to get done. It is a killer to our distributors. To go and tack on the film means reprinting DVDs and Video On Demand and it is just damn near impossible. What we hope in the dialogue and the Q&A is that those updates that are bound to happen over the next several years will come out. It is just too hard to make changes to a film once you have reached a certain threshold. That is just the unfortunate thing. The film is 8: The Mormon Proposition and we feel like we adequately tell the story. Updates are nice, but not necessary given the scope of the film.
It seems like it is a very inspiring film. The film ends on a very inspiring note. Was this done in the hopes of getting people out there to do something?
RC: Yeah. The ending had to be a call to action. It had to be okay this happened, these things are wrong and they hurt, and they damaged people, but get up out of your chair and do something. Get up and have a conversation. Get up and post on Facebook. Do what the Mormons did in this action. You Twitter, you blog, you write on your walls, you call people, you get involved! They were really successful when they did that and if we want to be successful, we have to match them.
Get motivated! Go see Rowan’s film 8: The Mormon Proposition in theaters June 18th!