I guess if I were to say that if I had a “mission statement” as a documentary filmmaker, it would be to pursue my ongoing curiosity about how each of us goes about finding our place in the world. For some it’s barely a concern, …life just seems to happen….while for others the journey may be long and difficult. I think my focus is more on people than issues per se.
My original concept was to talk to Gays and Lesbians about their individual coming out experiences, both the physical happenstance and emotionally. The first person interviewed for this effort had been having serious doubts about the whole idea of being part of the GLBTQ community, and had been influenced by one of the well know leaders of the “ex-gay” movement to return to a heterosexual existence. That’s how I was introduced to the topic. In a surprising twist, that person did not end up in the final cut of Fish Can’t Fly. (that story has a rather fascinating outcome and will be the part of another upcoming feature length work).
At one point I thought that as part of the film I would “present both sides”, but ultimately I didn’t want the film to be a debate about “ex-gay” groups. A previous film from about 7 years ago took that on. Still available, “One Nation Under God” explores the whole history of the ex-gay movement and has interviews with leaders of many of the organizations and I feel is very informative. Wayne Besen who appears in my film has done a comprehensive look at "ex-gay" organizations. His book is titled "Anything but Straight". Anyone expecting that FISH CAN'T FLY is an expose' of the ex-gay movement will be disappointed. That said, I did speak with the leader of one of the residential “ex-gay” programs who I found very sincere and strong in his conviction that sexual orientation can be modified through counseling and therapy. He spoke of his own experience, and I believe he has found a comfortable place for himself in life. I think the jury is still out on whether his situation can work for everyone. Again, as the story of the film evolved, the focus became on people who openly identify as Gay, talking about their relationship with GOD, and less about a debate. I did not include his interview in the film, but have seriously been considering another piece to “present the other side”. What the likelihood of finding people to participate after presenting this work first, is a serious question. The first leader that I mention was also contacted. After numerous cordial emails and phone conversations, he declined to participate.
My hope for the film is that people from both sides of the issue could gain a better understanding of the difficult process people can go through trying to establish a harmony between their sexuality and spirituality. Do I think everyone will agree with the path these people have taken? Not hardly. Yet I think the candor of the people I interviewed is fascinating, and enlightening and sure to stir some compassion even to the most cynical.