One of the excitements about Outfest is seeing LGBT stories told authentically. As a history buff, it is also invaluable to see documentaries about LGBT people, places and things that could well be lost to apathy or our inexplicable disregard for contributing to our pantheon of collective memory.
The impact of the loss of a loved one, for instance, is not a story confined to the AIDS crisis or LGBT seniors who shared their lives, incomes and homes for years and with the death of one, the survivor faces a cruel, perhaps poverty-stricken future. Young Los Angeles-based Shane Bitney Crone knows the abject pain of losing his first and only true love, Tom Bridegroom who died accidentally May 7, 2011. When, in his agony on the anniversary of Tom’s death, Shane posted a YouTube video that received more than 2.7 million hits, he saw that his pain connected with so many others – as did the superseding truth about what happens to same sex couples when one is left behind without the legal protection of marriage.
Now Shane wants to make a documentary about their relationship and what happened when Tom died – which I see as a contribution to the fight for marriage equality and making such discrimination and anguish a thing of the past. Designing Women co-creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason has offered to help (see why below) – but they need to raise $300,000 to make it happen. They are using a Kickstarter page and as of Sunday, have raised $233,765. But the way Kickstarter works – they will only be funded if at least $300,000 is pledged by Thursday Jul 19, 7:00pm EDT. Here’s Shane’s story (see his “It Could Happen To You” YouTube video below).
Here’s the YouTube video Shane posted last May:
A message from Director/ Producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason:
In March of 1986, my mother was diagnosed with AIDS, after receiving a contaminated blood transfusion. This occurred just as the pilot for “Designing Women” was getting underway. As I wrote much of the first season, sitting beside my mom, I was witness to the incredible prejudice and prevailing ignorance inflicted not just on her, but all the homosexual men who shared her hospital floor. Because of this, I was honored to write the Emmy nominated DW episode, “Killing all the Right People,” which was television’s first scripted show to tackle the hateful prejudice surrounding gays and AIDS.
Little did I know that I would someday be provided with another opportunity to address this same kind of bigotry. It all began when I attended a gay wedding ceremony in Palm Springs, California. That night, a couple of unforgettable, young men named Shane and Tom joined my table. I learned they were “Designing Women” fans, madly in love and literally brimming with all their big plans for an exciting life together. Sadly, that possibility ended when Tom was killed in an accident last year. When I heard the news, I was haunted by the sheer weight of Shane’s loss. Even though I barely knew them, their good-hearted demeanors and earnest love had made an indelible impression on me.
Then, a few weeks ago, I saw Shane’s YouTube posting, along with his bone crushing grief and the story of what happened to him after Tom’s death—and all because they were never allowed to marry. Like so many others who saw this video, I was deeply touched. And angered. I called Shane told him I wanted to make a documentary that would tell his and Tom’s love story from beginning to end. I have now seen all of Shane and Tom’s videos and home movies. Like a lot of young people, they routinely documented their lives—but this recorded history is so prolific, it almost seems as though they had a premonition or unconscious fear of not getting to live out something important.
Tom and Shane were each other’s first and only loves. They are devoted, hardworking, unassuming and funny. Each is from a small town and each, in his own way, is imbued with the best kind of small town values. They are, in fact, the sort of young people who hold within themselves the promise of America. And that is why I want to bring to life, on film, this real life Romeo and Romeo—so that all who condemn them, might come face to face with exactly what it is they are opposing.
Certainly the fact that Tom’s last name is Bridegroom is a lucky and serendipitous gift to a filmmaker. But it is so unusual, even a skeptic would find it hard not to also feel that Tom, in his own way, is now standing in for something larger than himself. I can think of no more powerful opportunity to change hearts and minds on this very important issue of human rights, than to tell the story of Shane and Tom, which at its core, is the struggle of all people who yearn to be who they are and love who they love.