Country singer Chely Wright knew she was a lesbian at a young age, but she instinctively knew that her orientation was in direct conflict with her aspirations to one day perform at the Grand Ole Opry. She prayed for help from God, stayed in the closet and went on to sell more than 1,000,000 albums.
“Wish Me Away” chronicles the days leading up to Wright’s coming out announcement on national television in 2010, and it provides both an intimate look at the fear and torment behind her high-risk decision and a revealing glimpse into the multi-media P.R. campaign that attended her brave act of self-exposure. [Synopsis courtesy of Los Angeles Film Festival]
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Narrative Feature and Documentary Competitions at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]
“Wish Me Away”
Directed By: Beverly Kopf, Bobbie Birleffi
Executive Producers: Rhonda Eiffe, Richard Bever, Fletcher Foster
Producers: Bobbie Birleffi, Beverly Kopf
Cinematographer: Paul Mailman
Editor: Lisa Palattella
Music: Chely Wright
Responses courtesy of “Wish Me Away” director Bobbie Birleffi.
Your movie: In 140 characters or less, what’s it about?
Emerging from a lifetime of hiding and shame that brings her to the brink of suicide, country singer Chely Wright comes out as gay.
OK: Now tell us what it’s really about…
It’s about the first country music star with the guts to come out, knowing that she risks losing her dream, her career and her audience. This film pulls back the curtain on a celebrity in hiding and we are there to watch what happens.
Born to tell stories…
I am a natural born storyteller and world class communicator. Making movies has allowed me to reach people in a deep and meaningful way. Beverly is a writer and ardent believer in the power of pop culture to penetrate the zeitgeist and make a difference. Together, we are a potent team.
Why did you choose this subject matter?
When you get the chance to follow an unfolding story with a dynamic leading character on a hot button issue, and also reach a whole new audience and, hopefully, save some lives in the process — who could refuse?
Raising money during the worst economy in decades. Also, we could not reveal our subject for the first year and a half, as she was planning her public coming out as a surprise.
A new way to view coming out…
People in NY and LA tend to think that coming out these days is no big deal. I think audiences will feel differently after they see this film. Also, audiences will be moved by the sheet courage of one woman willing to risk it all to make a difference. This is an emotional and spiritual movie that manages to make you laugh and cry.
Who did you make this film for?
We thought of the people who came before — the shoulders we stand on, so to speak. We thought about “Word Is Out,” the first documentary with people speaking openly about being gay.
We’re writing a screenplay based on a personal story, but we can’t discuss it yet. We’re also working with the Film Commissioner of New York City, Katherine Oliver, on an exciting new project.
Check out these prior participants in the Los Angles Film Festival, courtesy of SnagFilms [Disclaimer: SnagFilms is indiewire’s parent company]
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