By Peter Knegt | Indiewire July 11, 2013 at 1:55PM
You may recall a heartbreaking viral video (posted below) from early last year, in which Shane Bitney Crone detailed the beautiful relationship he had with longterm partner Tom Bridegroom before his tragic death the year prior. Bridegroom's family -- who had never accepted his sexuality or his relationship -- shut him out of the funeral. Crone decided to make the video, which got over 4 million hits and and attracted the attention of Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (who notably created "Designing Women" in addition to creating several promotional films for the Clinton family). She assembled the massive amount of footage Crone and Bridegroom had filmed together into "Bridegroom," an endlessly affecting documentary (which raised $384,375 on Kickstarter, becoming the most-funded documentary film project in the history of crowd-funding to date). After being introduced at the Tribeca Film Festival (where it world premiered) by none other than Bill Clinton, it heads to Outfest this weekend.
Check out the video that inspired the film below, followed by an interview with Crone, who will be in attendance at Outfest when the film screens this Saturday.
The origin of this film is the YouTube video you made, which now has over 4 million hits. How about we start off by talking about the video, how it came to be, what your expectations were and how it felt for it to be so remarkably well received.
Basically the anniversary of my partner Tom's accident is coming up, and I wanted to do something to honor him, as well as try to prevent what happened to me from happening to someone else. After I told our story and posted the video, I thought maybe a couple thousand people would see it, like, in LA, but I didn't expect it to go viral and be shared literally all over the world. It was just kind of mind-blowing, the whole experience. I've never really been part of something like that, a viral video.
How did that happen?
I posted it and then the Huffington Post picked it up, and George Takai posted it on his Facebook page, and he has a huge following. It just kind of took off.
From there, when and how did Linda Bloodworth-Thomason approach you? Were you ever resistant? It clearly isn't a pleasant thing to keep coming back to.
It wasn't too long after the video went viral that Linda called me and wanted to meet about maybe expanding and turning our story into a feature film, a documentary. For me, it was kind of surreal, everything that was happening. But I met with her and, after talking to her for a while, she convinced me that this was a story that needed to be told and although the story is really not that uncommon, it's just that with all our footage and the timeliness of the issue that this would be a good time to tell our story. A lot of people don't necessarily know this, but she herself experienced a lot of the prejudice that a lot of gay men faced in the 80s because her mom was a victim of a blood transfusion that ultimately she ended up passing away from AIDS.
She experienced in the hospital when the nurses wouldn't even come into her mom's room. They put the pills in a bucket and kicked the bucket into the room. One of the nurses even said that if there's one thing that's going for this disease is that it's killing all of the right people. So for her, she's very passionate about human rights issues and she's always kind of been a voice for the LGBT community with her TV show, "Designing Women." So for me, it just felt right and I trust her. Ironically, my partner and I met her four or five years prior at a mutual friend's wedding. So we'd actually kind of briefly talked before.
How involved were you in the process of the film being made?
So basically, the wonderful thing with Linda is she encouraged me to be there as much as I wanted to be. There were times that were hard, you know, constantly revisiting the worst period of my life, but the thing I kept in the back of my mind was kind of what was the response to the YouTube video. So many people had reached out to me to say that that video and our story changed the way that they view the LGBT community. It kind of opened a lot of people's hearts and minds. So going into making the film, I just kept reminding myself that this could potentially do that on a much larger scale. I was just grateful I was there throughout the entire process.
She asked me to bring in all the footage that I had, and being in our generation like we kind of film everything, she jokes that I provided her with more footage than she had for all the footage the Clintons provided for the films she did for them. I guess that's kind of embarrassing.
Speaking of the Clintons, I saw the film at Tribeca, where Bill Clinton introduced the film. What was it like to have that kind of attention, and to see the film with an audience?
I was so nervous about the premiere and having a bunch of people see the film because we put so much into it and you just hope you connect with people. Being at Tribeca was a tremendous honor and it's very hard to get into a festival like that, so that was just tremendous, and then to have former President Clinton want to introduce the film because he believed in it so much. There were a lot of moments when I was just sitting there in the screening and I had to remind myself this is happening. This is real. I'm trying to be as present as possible, but it's hard at times.
The one thing too is that going into this process, I decided I was going to allow myself to be as open as possible. Following Tom's accident, throughout the year I recorded a bunch of video diaries. That started all the way back in high school, so it's something that has always been an outlet for me. So for me, just handing those over and opening myself up and allowing people to see a side of me that I really didn't ever really think anyone would see. That was hard but I felt like it was important for people to see that. So that they can see the idea that loss is loss, and the pain that I felt was just as much pain as a husband losing his wife.
Just based on the responses to the viral video and to the film now, it's been helping a lot of people and will continue to as the film continues to get out there.
You know, I hope so. About two or three times a week I've been hearing from teenagers from all over the world who are inspired by the story from the YouTube video. There's a lot of suicidal teens who say that the story has given them hope and a purpose to live. That's something that's just unimaginable to. And I feel like with this film we have a rare opportunity to potentially help a lot of people. That's why I'm doing whatever I can to get this story out there.
It must be pretty emotional to have had this film's release coincide with such monumental events in official American policies toward LGBT people. It must feel incredible to watch true change happen amidst your own considerable efforts to affect change.
On one level, it's a little bittersweet because in California -- the place Tom and I lived -- we would be able to get married now. But I'm very happy that so much progress has been made. But at the same time there's a lot of people that don't really understand that this is not the end of the road for us. It's still up to each State. There's a lot of work ahead. I hope that people, although we are celebrating, don't lose sight of that.