Camp 10: Sav Rodgers
Holy cow! March already? I am so happy that the weather is changing to something a bit warmer. This month, I am bringing back someone I’ve featured in Camp10 before, which doesn’t happen very often. However, this person has been having some amazing experiences since I last interviewed him in June 2017 (bit.ly/32pdcEA), shortly after his graduation from the University of Kansas.
This month, I present Sav Rodgers, a filmmaker who has done incredible work in documenting queer lives. I am excited to share his account of his TED Residency; his TED Talk, titled The Rom-Com That Saved My Life (bit.ly/ChasingAmyTEDTalk); and his documentary project called Chasing Chasing Amy. This project, he says in his TED Talk, is about the legacy of Chasing Amy as an LGBTQ film.
1 Wow! I can’t believe it has been over two and a half years since your first interview! SO much has happened for you since then! First of all, thank you for agreeing to another interview. Since your last interview, you’ve been busy with filmmaking, but you also became a TED Resident. What was the process to become a TED Resident?
Honestly, I just saw a Facebook ad for the TED Residency. I applied the day of the deadline and got lucky that they liked my directing reel, pitch video, and the general idea of what I could bring to the table. I applied because it was free and thought, “the worst they can say is ‘no.’” After that, I was told I was a finalist, had a final interview, and found out two days later I was chosen. I moved to New York for it a month and a half later.
2. What does a TED Resident do?
TED Residents spend three months working on a project and a talk in TED’s Manhattan office. You also get to build camaraderie with the other folks in it. It’s a beautiful experience that fundamentally changed me in the best ways.
3. TED residents work their way up to presenting a TED Talk. How did you decide on your topic?
I had initially pitched a really vague idea to TED. It was surface-level – something about exploring the value of LGBTQ+ representation in film and television. So, in my interview, they asked what I would deliver if I had to give a TED Talk the next day. I told them about my idea to do a documentary about Chasing Amy [the 1997 film], its profound impact on my life, and what that meant for me as a young queer kid. It was an instant love connection for both me and the folks at the TED Residency. After that, it just became about honing that idea [and] fitting it into the TED mantra “ideas worth spreading.” I opted to tell a deeply personal story that tied in with my initial pitch about LGBTQ+ representation onscreen.
4. So, you presented your TED Talk and your life changed. What happened?
I mean, my life changed as soon as I arrived in New York to participate in the residency. However, once the TED Talk was out in the world, I immediately got in touch with Kevin Smith [who directed Chasing Amy]. He saw it and tweeted it out within an hour of it being online. It was a completely surreal experience. [Cast members] Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams also shared it, which made me super happy. We were cooking with gas once we got access to Kevin – his participation made it possible for us to get taken a lot more seriously. I’ll always be grateful for that.
5. So, Chasing Chasing Amy is in process, and obviously, this documentary has taken a turn you didn’t expect in the beginning.
There have been more twists and turns with this doc than I ever thought would happen. I mean, Chasing Amy is over 20 years old. I thought it would just be a retrospective piece. I’m quite pleased to be wrong about that.
6. When do you hope to finish Chasing Chasing Amy?
Right now, we’re hoping to be done in time to premiere in 2021. However, documentaries can be unpredictable. We’ll see.
7. You’ve also started transitioning (FTM). Has your transition made you think about the Chasing Chasing Amy documentary any differently?
I don’t like to think of it as that I’ve “started transitioning.” I’m transgender. I’m proud to be out about it, finally. But I’m also just a dude. Chasing Chasing Amy definitely took a different direction after I came out as a trans guy.
8. As a director, you’re used to being behind the camera. Have you been documenting your transition?
Chasing Chasing Amy definitely addresses my transition. It’s painful sometimes. I’m preserving a memory of a version of myself I wish I could forget – and I wish everyone else could forget, too. However, it’s important for me to be honest with myself about where I’ve been and where I’m going. And I really hope that be being authentic about coming out as transgender can help some other trans kid in a shitty situation. At the same time, I don’t like to talk about it with people unless I’ve invited that conversation. Chasing Chasing Amy is an opportunity to tell my story on my own terms. Other than that, I’m not terribly interested in talking about it. It’s still kind of difficult right now. I had to come out publicly. When you come out, people feel entitled to ask you a lot of invasive, personal questions about your body and about what they think is wrong with you. Doing it publicly invited even more asinine questions from people I don’t know very well. I’m lucky to have really good friends, a supportive family, and a partner who has gone to great lengths to make me feel more comfortable in my own skin. And I think that’s all I really have to say about being transgender right now.
9. You attended Sundance Film Festival this year. What is that experience like?
Sundance is a really rad, overwhelming experience. It was my third time going. For me, it’s mostly an opportunity to see friends I don’t get to see every day, go to new movies, and to meet new people.
10. You became engaged a year ago. How did you propose?
Actually, she proposed. We knew we wanted to get married for a long time, but we both wanted to finish college first. So, when my partner, Riley, was done with college, she came to visit me while I was living in Los Angeles. We’re big fans of kitschy places, so she wanted to take me to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal CityWalk. She conspired with the waiter when I was in the bathroom and tried to get them to play “Islands in the Stream.” We’re huge Dolly Parton fans. However, the only Dolly song they had was “Jolene.” Not really an ideal song to get engaged to, but strangely perfect for us. So, the song started playing and she pulled out a ring. Everyone in the restaurant started to cheer. It was really sweet. I’m a lucky dude.