With all the projects seeking crowdfunding in this day and age, it’s tough to pick through the projects that really matter; the ones that can make a difference. I’m not sure yet where I stand with “Queens & Cowboys,” a documentary showcasing a year in the Gay Rodeo circuit (yeah, I didn’t know it existed either). Started up on Indiegogo, the documentary was a journey into a niche that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, and fairly, is still up for consideration as to whether it deserves attention.
There’s a lot of subcultures and cottage industries — not all of them matter. A gay rodeo doesn’t feel to me like one of those “essential stories,” but I could be wrong. At the end of the day it depends on the personalities involved. And so rather than me be the asshole doorman, I decided I would give it as much hype as I could muster and see what you all decided to do with it. Especially since I am clearly not the best judge of what crowdfunding projects really matter.
I’m certainly not against “Queens & Cowboys” (which has already been filmed) — and in fact, I hope the campaign does get the funding. My conversation with the director, Matt Livadary, certainly convinced me that there is passion for the project. And maybe that’s the only thing that’s really needed — passion. I think Livadary and “Queens & Cowboys” will find a way, but like the Gay Rodeo itself, I think “Queens & Cowboys” has a tough journey ahead. But I think they already know that. So meet Matt, watch the video, and if you like what you see, donate. At the end of the day, the story branches out beyond the rodeo circuit and into the deeper world of LGBT issues in a “straight world,” and maybe that’s the story that really needs telling.
How did the idea for all this come about in the first place?
Matt Livadary: I was originally doing research for a scripted show set in the world of rodeo. I traveled to traditional rodeos across American and found the world of it to be incredibly homogenous, until I was in Colorado and I sat next to a lesbian couple. They informed me that they rarely come to straight Rodeo events. This is where I learned about niche rodeo scenes: black rodeo, Mexican rodeo but, most surprisingly to me at the time, the gay rodeo. Upon further investigation I decided that a documentary would be far more meaningful than a scripted show. So I quit my job and went on a three-year journey.
Would you say that the gay rodeo itself is more of a fun-based initiative or a political statement about rejecting the conservative nature of a more traditional rodeo scene?
Gay rodeo’s not meant to be a political statement; it sprung out of a genuine need for a safe place for gay cowboys and cowgirls to compete in rodeo openly. If you’ve ever been to a traditional rodeo you’ll understand the need for gay rodeo. There are many gays in the rural west, and rodeo is the practice of the working values of ranching life — it’s fun, it’s dangerous, it’s an adrenaline rush. Rodeo is as much a sport as it is a way of life.
What was the craziest thing you saw during your time on the festival circuit?
Drag shows. Endless and elaborate drag shows, all to raise money for charity. My first experience filming them, I was in Phoenix and “Sarah Palin” came out with an assortment of accessories from a fake tommy gun, a Playgirl magazine, and she sang “Stand By Your Man” to a photo of Obama. It was the first of many indications that I had basically no idea what the hell I was in for.
Why should people back your project? Why does it matter?
I see this film as a bridge. A bridge between the LGBT and straight communities; between city folk and our more frontier roots; a place where old and new meet. I think it’s similarly important to start bridging our traditionally black and white world view — this film does this by re-defining what means to be a cowboy in a way that includes a wider array of people than traditionally allowed. While the majority of the people featured in the film are gay, it was my goal to make a story that transcends sexuality — it’s a story about people. It’s important to begin looking beyond the differences in our sexuality and more towards the commonalities that unite us. And my hope is that this film starts that conversation.
Is there a reason you chose Indiegogo over Kickstarter?
This film’s production was funded in large part by a successful Kickstarter campaign for which I’m incredibly grateful. For our post-production, we are attempting to target a fresh group of supporters to help us finish this film and IndieGoGo offered a perfect outlet.
How much access were you allowed during filming? Did the participants welcome the exposure or were there some who felt it was exploitative?
I was filming the ho-down after one of my first rodeos and a man approached me, terrified of me and my camera. He said he didn’t want to be filmed — he explained he was a teacher and wasn’t out in his community; if his school district discovered he was gay, he’d lose his job. The gay rodeo was the only place he felt safe being himself — and my mere presence threatened that. It was a huge wake up call into what gay rodeo represents, and it immediately upped the stakes for me and my responsibility with honoring the many similar stories along the rodeo circuit.
Being both straight and a city kid, I definitely had to earn the trust of those I wanted to feature in the film. People would always say, “Well what in the hell brings you here??” But once they understood that I wanted to paint an honest portrait of the IGRA community that didn’t play on stereotypes I think it warmed people up to me. By the end of the process I felt like I was a part of the IGRA family.
What other projects do you have coming up?
In addition to freelance editing, I have three documentaries I’m beginning to explore set in a variety of worlds — one has to do with consciousness, another set in a particular niche of baseball and a third about an unlikely Olympian. Telling stories is my passion and I’m grateful to get to wake up and do this every day!
Here are other crowdfunding stories that might interest you: