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Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #25: Ryan White & Ben Cotner Go Behind-the-Scenes of a Five Year Struggle in ‘The Case Against 8’

Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #25: Ryan White & Ben Cotner Go Behind-the-Scenes of a Five Year Struggle in 'The Case Against 8'

Ben Cotner and Ryan White both hail from the film industry with different backgrounds. Cotner
has been an acquisitions executive for the last decade; White has
been a documentary filmmaker for the same time. They met at Sundance
five years ago, just after Proposition 8 had passed, and partnered to make
this film just a few months later when the legal challenge to Prop 8
started quietly brewing.

What it’s about: “Shot over five years, the film is a behind-the-scenes look at the
unlikely team that took the first federal marriage equality lawsuit to
the U.S. Supreme Court.”

What it’s really about: “It’s a film about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary
circumstances when they have to fight for their civil rights.”

Biggest challenge: “Our biggest challenge was to stay embedded in a five-year long lawsuit
and maintain a high level of access to the main players. The case took
so many unexpected twists and turns along the way, and there were
literally hundreds of people involved in the lawsuit. Our job as
filmmakers was to remain as unobtrusive as possible and establish a
level of trust with the characters we were filming. The more time we
spent with the main players and the more we filmed the lawsuit evolving,
the more comfortable they became with having us in the room.” 

Any films inspire you? “‘The Staircase,’ ‘The War Room,’ and ‘American Dream.'”

Cameras used: “Sony F3, Sony EX1, and Sony V1U.”

Did you crowdfund? “We did not, mainly because our film had to remain confidential for so
long. Because the lawsuit was extremely sensitive, we had to make the
film very quietly, so crowdfunding unfortunately wasn’t an option.”

Hopes for Sundance audience take-away: “Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was just recently ruled unconstitutional,
so Sundance should be a really interesting place to premiere the film.
What happens in Utah right now is in limbo – the case is on appeal, and
same-sex marriages could be stopped at any moment. So we hope the film
gets people talking – about bipartisanship, equality, and where Utah and
our country are headed in relation to marriage equality.” 

What’s next? “We’re concentrating right now on getting this film out there to as many
people as possible, and hopefully sparking a dialogue about the issue of
marriage equality in all parts of the country. The issue is at a
tipping point, so it’s the perfect time to capitalize on the national
attention. We have new projects in development that will take the front
seat once The Case Against 8 has been released, but for now we live and
breathe same-sex marriage.”

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2014 festival. For profiles go HERE.

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