By Ty Nolan
I had a chance to interview self-identified “straight and city raised” film maker Matt Livadary about his recently premiered documentary, “Queens and Cowboys: A Straight Year at the Gay Rodeo.”
“Queens and Cowboys” chronicles a complete season of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA)” that Livadary describes on his IndieGoGo campaign by saying that “Roping and riding in 15 rodeos across North America that year, the IGRA’s courageous cowboys and cowgirls brave challenges both in and out of the arena on their quest to qualify for the World Finals in October. And along the way, they’ll bust every stereotype in the book.”
Compete: Could you comment about the experience of crowdsourcing to finance your work and what you feel you learned from it? For example, I suspect the process puts you more in direct contact with a lot of interested people who might have helped you to better understand your audience?
Matt: This film wouldn’t have been possible without crowdsourcing. We’ve had two great campaigns – a Kickstarter early on to fund the production of the film and an IndieGoGo campaign more recently to help fund our music and licensing costs. We knew early on, without any “names” making this film or real documentary experience to speak of, that we’d have to fund this movie from the ground level by people who were passionate about the film.
That’s what makes crowdsourcing such an empowering opportunity, because they really take on a life of their own. If your message is strong and appeals to something within your audience then the support grows – not just by people donating but by people blasting links and helping promote the campaign. We were incredibly fortunate to have some wonderful support from the web community who backed this film early on – it wouldn’t have been possible without it. As far as our IndieGoGo campaign, we got some wonderful and strong support as well.
While we didn’t reach our entire goal … well, that’s what credit cards are for! They say you’re not making movies you love if you’re not going into debt. Seriously, I’m grateful for anyone who’s ever donated one dollar or tweeted our cause – it’s made an incredible impact and has been a continual re-motivating reminder that the work we’re up to is hitting a nerve.
Compete: The mission statement of Compete Magazine is “to unite the world through sports,” in essence to promote diversity and unity between the LGBT and straight communities using sports as the vehicle. This seems to sum up your documentary as well. Can you share some of the things you learned in both the making of the documentary as well as in getting ready to screen it? For example, it’s obvious the LGBT press has an interest in your work. Do you find a similar or different interest from the “straight” press?
Matt: My goal when I first set out was to make a film about predominantly gay people and have it appeal to a straight audience. I’ve been very satisfied with some of our test screenings where people came from the theater saying they were a little shocked that it “wasn’t more gay.” This seems to call into question what we consider “gay”…. I take that as a huge compliment for a film that focuses on members of the LGBT community – it seems to me that it transcends the distinction of “gay” or “straight” media. Most people who show up to a gay rodeo say the exact same thing; … they’re shocked it “wasn’t more gay.” It’s the entire point and really the thing that sparked me to finding stories within the gay rodeo in the first place. It’s challenging what our expectations are, forcing us to reconsider a wider array of people.
Compete: What would you like your audience to take away from having seen your work?
Matt: It’s a hard question to answer. There are many themes in this film and many characters that I think I personally identify with far beyond sexuality. I hope that the audience identifies with the humanity in the subjects’ stories of feeling empowered to live life authentically, regardless of the expectations. As great campaigns like the Trevor Project point out, there are many out there who still feel it’s not going to get better, who feel they’re the only ones in their communities. I hope this film gives them an ally and a reminder that whoever we are, there’s always a place we can belong.
Compete: Have you continued to keep in touch with the people you met while filming? Do you foresee any further work with the rodeo community?
Matt: I’m fortunate to say I still keep in touch with most of the people in the film and consider them friends. They know if they’re ever in L.A. they have a place to stay, just as they’ve graciously put me up on their couches or in their horse trailers throughout this whole project. It’s part of what went into it being such a shoestring production; it’s also what really allowed me to live the day-to-day of each of the subjects and get a real sense of who they are. I still love the rodeo and enjoy attending them. I don’t currently have plans to do another story within this world but I’m certainly not opposed to it if the right one comes along.
Compete: What are some of the future projects you have planned? Will you do more with the LGBT community?
Matt: I have several projects in various stages and I love that they’re about as different as they could be! I’m developing a documentary on consciousness, another on an unlikely Olympian and a third that is an international story set in Cuba. I love finding good characters. And after that, I remain forever open and excited to venture into any genre in any community. I’m a huge fan of the LGBT community, an ally for life who will continue to explore stories that expand our awareness.
Thank you again for taking the time to learn more about this project, it means so much to me, Ty!