Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Far out

As we start post-production for our documentary Out Here In Kansas in early 2016, Kenny wants a unique background for the part where I'm narrating. (One of those "I'll know it when I see it" things.)
Here are some of the locations we scouted last weekend in Towanda, Kansas. They didn't make the cut, but they were just too cool not to share.
You can see a more complete photo album here.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

That sounds like a lot

A few days ago, I mentioned what a painstaking process it was to edit this film down to 30 minutes. Since then, I've been asked just how many hours of raw footage we have.
The answer, according to my editor, is about 30 hours.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nice timing

According to the website NewNowNext.com, the worst place in America to live if you're gay is ... Wichita, Kansas. This piece comes right as we're diving into post-production of the documentary Out Here In Kansas.
Now ... this is a somewhat subjective conclusion, since there were other cities (Olathe, Kansas, for example) who scored lower than Wichita's 21, but there you have it. It was based on data provided by the Human Rights Campaign and its annual "Municipal Equality Index," which rated 408 cities nationwide on specific criteria for LGBT equality.
I'm not an expert on every city in the country, and I know Kansas laws are tough on the LGBT community. But I find it hard to believe Wichita is the absolute worst city for gay people. I mean, we do have gay-friendly churches. There are at least a couple gay bars and organizations like Wichita Pride Inc. For crying out loud, we can even claim Matthew Vines, the man behind an enormously popular gay Christian movement.
You can read the piece from NewNowNext here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Behind the scenes with Coach Lew

These quips from Monty Lewis, who was Burt Humburg's football coach in college, will not make the final cut of Out Here in Kansas. Nonetheless, Kenny and I got a laugh out of these during our last editing session.

"There's a myth that offensive lineman are dumb, and they're only gonna get dumber."
"Burt was quick and fast. Me, I was quick but I wasn't fast. Hell, I couldn't run out of sight in a day."
"He wasn't mean. He just wanted to do his job to the best of his ability. Burt would say, 'I'm to hook him and drive him back - how far do you want me to drive him back?' And we finally got to the point where we'd say, 'Well Burt, we want you to drive him back six and a half !#&@ yards. And make sure you get that half in there.'"

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Our first rewrite


That's how I'm spending my Saturday morning.
If you don't think my notes look like they make any sense, don't worry. I know what I'm doing.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Had a feeling that's what he'd say

Last week I had a serious talk with my editor Kenny about how long we should make "Out Here In Kansas."
I said from the beginning that I wanted to make this a short documentary, and I wanted to keep the story moving. However, I was starting to question the "short" part. In the past year we've filmed so much. Hours and hours and hours. Our debate between Burt Humburg and Pastor Joe Wright was 90 minutes by itself.
So I asked Kenny what he thought, and if we should re-evaluate the length of our film.
"Our goal," he said, "should be 30 minutes."
So that's our goal. I mean, I'd be foolish not to listen to Kenny. Nobody is the world is more qualified to answer that question than him.
But damn, that's gonna be a lot of good stuff on the cutting room floor.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A very '70s Christmas


That's baby Burt Humburg, the main character of "Out Here In Kansas," on the far right.
We sifted through many old videos and hundreds of photos for our documentary, but nothing screams "1970s" like this one.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Not so close, dude

Here's a little behind-the-scenes look at the drone shot we did on Halloween in Lawrence. That's Kenny holding the laptop and Savannah wearing the ball cap.

This snippet struck me as funny for two reasons ...
1. The look on Kenny's face as the drone drifted closer to him.
2. If you listen closely, you can hear Kenny watching the video and realizing he's wearing the same exact clothes he had on that day.

Monday, November 30, 2015

KISS legend shows us some love


I really wasn't expecting this (not by a long shot) but a link to last night's blog post was Retweeted by Dr. Love himself, Gene Simmons.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why are Christians fair game?

I was watching the Kansas-Kansas State football game yesterday with a couple of friends. Actually, we weren't really watching. We were talking, and the subject of my movie came up, and that raised the topic of Christianity.
One friend felt guilty because she has occasionally mocked the Christian faith. I am a Christian, and so is the other friend, and we both acknowledged there was times when Christians set themselves up to be mocked. Nobody likes a hypocrite.
As I've stated many times, part of my motivation for making "Out Here In Kansas" is so certain Christians and certain gay people stop tearing each other apart.
Which brings us to Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback who proudly wears his Christianity on his sleeve. He's been in the news because apparently his relationship with a former Miss Universe just ended, reportedly because he wouldn't have premarital sex with her. The tabloids are having a field day.
"Tim Tebow still can't find the end zone," announced a New York Daily News headline. Ha, ha.
(There's even been speculation that Tebow might be gay, but I'm not going to touch that one.)
Anyway, I saw this morning that Tebow and his Christian faith are being fiercely defended by - of all people - Gene Simmons, co-founder and bass guitarist of KISS.
To me, this is like Bizarro World. I grew up in a time when KISS was considered public enemy No. 1 by Christian parents everywhere. I've told this story many times, but I wanted to be Gene Simmons for Halloween one year. My mom said no. Neither of us budged. Finally, it started getting dark on Halloween night, so I hastily covered my face in red lipstick, threw a red towel around my neck and announced I was the devil before bolting out the door.
That's right: My mom was happier with me being the devil himself than Gene Simmons.
And now here's Simmons, a Jewish rock star with his own family-friendly arena football team, using his fame to defend a man who believes in Christ his Lord.
The video is just a minute and a half long, and I encourage you to check it out here.



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Steve Balderson: A Kansas original

Steve Balderson is from Kansas, he's gay and he's an accomplished filmmaker. So when he offered to help with our film about being gay in Kansas, what were we going to do - say no?
We caught up with Balderson over the weekend in his hometown of Wamego. Balderson's directing career has taken him all over the world, but he's never really left Wamego, where most of his family still lives and works. (His sister owns a winery in town, which I'm guessing sweetens the deal.)
What was most interesting about Balderson's story is just how attached he remains to Kansas, and how growing up gay in little Wamego was never a huge issue. When I asked how he came out of the closet, Balderson explained that he was never really "in." He was allowed to be true to himself from the day he could talk, and has had a solid support system around him his entire life.
I just started watching Balderson's documentary trilogy on Wamego, which I highly recommend if you're interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of filmmaking. It's fascinating listening to him talk about his dealings with movie icons like Dennis Hopper and Sissy Spacek, and some of the agonizing decisions he's had to make as a director.
And he's worked with Karen Black, which means he's one degree separated from both Jack Nicholson and Rob Zombie. Seriously, how many people can say that?


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Worth the wait

Today was our last scheduled shoots before post-production, the first of which I've been trying to schedule for close to a year.
Matthew Vines is a busy guy these days, ever since his book God and the Gay Christian and Reformation Project movement have taken off. His travel schedule is heavy and his speaking engagements are many, so I'm thankful editor Kenny and I finally got the opportunity to catch up with him in Kansas City.
As I anticipated, Matthew was knowledgeable, thoughtful and passionate. Toward the end of the interview - and I don't know what made me do this, because it certainly wasn't on my list - I asked him why he thought God created gay people. He said he would never presume to know what God is thinking, but followed with an answer that blew me away. 
Our last interview was a couple hours away, on the other side of Topeka. It was terrific, too. But I'll tell you about that later this week. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thank you, pastor

There's a little coffee shop in downtown Towanda, Kansas called "Hebrews." It's been closed for awhile, but I became attached to the place and even got permission from the owner to do some post-production shooting inside.
I haven't talked to him in months, but this morning he gave me a Facebook message. He and his wife were in possession of my wallet, which they found on the highway.
How it ended up on the highway, I'm not sure. But I am sure I'm lucky they're the ones who found it. He is also the pastor of the church in town, and he didn't even realize who I was until I called him.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Keep your eye on her

It was a whirlwind of a week since I last posted - I started a new gig as a sports talk show host - but I didn't want another day to go by without mentioning this interview with our friend Savannah Rodgers, a young filmmaker based out of Kansas City and Lawrence. (This is the cool logo from her production company.)
Truth be told, Savannah is becoming more than a just a friend of our project. In fact, if you've been interested in the progress of Out Here In Kansas - or if you're just a fan of filmmaking - you may want to start following Savannah on Twitter or Instragram.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Up in Lawrence, up in the air

We had a crew of four working a shoot in Lawrence yesterday. Why Lawrence? Well, let's just say we weren't focusing on Jayhawk football, which is on its way to a historic winless season. (Even though it was homecoming, and Halloween, the pregame atmosphere was bleak.)
Anyway, we were fortunate that Lawrence happens to be the current home of the young dynamic filmmaker Savannah Rodgers, who I met in June. Savannah even connected us up with the operator of a drone. Why did we need a drone in Lawrence? Because that's how the scene was written.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wrapping things up with Pastor Joe

Since I spent so much time with Burt Humburg earlier this month, I thought it was only right that I get together with Pastor Joe Wright one last time before "Out Here In Kansas" is finished. We visited for an hour and a half yesterday afternoon.
I shared my stories about people close to me who are gay, and he did the same. My only real agenda with Pastor Joe was to again thank him for being such a big part of the documentary ... and to again be crystal clear about what it is about.
Pastor Joe isn't afraid of any backlash the movie might bring him. This is a man, after all, who has received death threats for his outspoken views against homosexuality. Even though Pastor Joe and I don't agree on some things (like whether or not someone is born gay), there's never been any question that he loves me. I love him, too. Not only was he Burt's pastor, he was mine too. I don't believe Pastor Joe wants gay people to hate him. He simply wants people to go to heaven by accepting Jesus and obeying God's word, which he strongly believes condemns the gay lifestyle.
We talked about Matthew Vines. We talked about Central Christian Academy, where his daughter was a teacher and my kids were students. Then I mentioned a text exchange the other night that was started by my friend, who voiced his concerns that my movie will be biased against conservative Christians. Pastor Joe just laughed, and reminded me that Bible warns against trying to please everyone.
"Anybody with strong feelings going into this is going to think your movie is biased," he said.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Is this movie biased?

A couple days after the trailer for "Out Here In Kansas" debuted, a conservative Christian friend of mine sent me a lengthy text message expressing his concerns about my motives for making it.
He also reminded me that when I told him my plans for making it, that I was going to make it non-biased.
I don't remember putting it like that, exactly. But I have earned a pretty good reputation as a non-biased journalist the last 20 years or so. My motives are ...
1. To tell Burt Humburg's story.
2. To tell his former pastor's view of the story.
3. To tell how the story affected my life, since I've known both men since the late 1990s.
4. For the movie to be viewed by millions - including gay people, Christians, people who might be both or people who might be neither. The church's and state's relationship with the LGBT community is such a hot-button in Kansas.
As I've said all along, I'm been a Christian my whole life, and I strongly believe God is telling me to make this film. I don't know if it's going to look biased; I'm just going to make the best movie I possibly can. And who could argue with that?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Trailer on the big screen

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I'm fan of the Tallgrass Film Festival, which is why it was such a thrill to be a small part of it this year.
video
Our trailer for "Out Here In Kansas" was shown at Tallgrass three times yesterday. I meant to catch the first one, which was shown at the Wichita Historical Museum, but I misunderstood what time it started and arrived too late. (Nonetheless, I enjoyed "Out To Win," the documentary about gay athletes that followed it.)
It didn't show again until 9:15 p.m., and I knew I wasn't going to make that one because of a previous commitment.
Because of that commitment, my date and I had to high-tail it from Andover to the Orpheum in time for the 11:30 p.m. movie. My editor Kenny did a wonderful job on the trailer. Not only was it gratifying to see it on the big screen in a theater I love, it was an honor to have it shown previous to the fascinating independent feature "Tangerine." (Warning: Strong language in that trailer.)
We'll unveil the entire trailer for Out Here In Kansas" on this website tomorrow.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Good suggestion, sis

I've shown our trailer to just a handful of people so far, and I have to admit I was a little shy about showing it to my own family.
But a few weeks ago, for some reason, I decided to show it to my sister and my sister-in-law. They weren't exactly cheering afterwards. Most of my family is firmly on the conservative Christian side when it comes to gay issues. (All issues, for that matter.)
When the trailer was over, my sister broke a couple seconds of awkward silence.
"Who is Burt talking to at the end?" she said. "Is that Pastor Joe?"
Of course it's Pastor Joe, I replied. Wasn't it obvious?
Well, maybe it wasn't obvious enough. Andrea's question nagged at me so much that I raised the issue to my editor Kenny. He agreed it might be worthwhile to show a glimpse of Pastor Joe's face while Burt was making a point during their debate. And that's just what we did. It was easy enough, since there was a camera for each side when we filmed it at KPTS studios.
I'm extremely proud of the trailer, which will be shown three times during the Tallgrass Film Festival on Saturday: 12:15 p.m. at the Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum, and 9:15 and 11:30 p.m. at the Orpheum.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Our trailer premieres next weekend

As I mentioned a few days ago, the trailer for Out Here In Kansas will premiere at the Tallgrass Film Festival, which is Oct. 14-18 in Wichita.
According to the production manager, it will be shown before the movies Out To Win, Summer of Sangaile and Tangerine. If you've done any reading up on those films, you've probably realized on some level, they all have LGBT themes.
While I'm a little disappointed to be categorized, mostly I'm appreciative of Tallgrass - which after all, didn't have to show our trailer at all. And hey, you've got to start somewhere.
A complete guide to this year's festival can be found here.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Arrivederci, Burt

Burt Humburg isn't exactly the warm and fuzzy type, but I couldn't resist giving him a rare hug before leaving Iowa this afternoon. This was the last shoot we had planned with him, which means I have probably interviewed Burt for the last time.
Then again, when I first wrote about him in 1997, I never thought I'd be making a movie about Burt 18 years later. So who knows? I do know he's changed my life, and I know I'll forever be grateful for the access he gave us to make "Out Here In Kansas" possible.
I'm also thankful for marketing/PR specialist Jodi Ball and the entire staff at Mercy Medical Center. Shooting video in a hospital is no small task these days. Instead of simply telling us no, they recognized the value of the project. We didn't have unlimited access, of course, but I was impressed by how they accommodated what we went up there for.
In other words, it's awesome to work with professionals.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Full day, full evening

 I learned at least two things about Burt Humburg after spending the day with him on his current turf ...
1. Apparently he is considered a "hunk."
2. There were a lot of disappointed women in Mason City, Iowa, when they discovered their town's new single doctor was gay.
Kenny and I didn't travel more than 500 miles just to learn that, of course. We pretty much set up camp all day at Mercy Medical Center, where Burt works as a hospitalist. Got a couple of great interviews, lots of B roll and a heck of a meal from this place Burt insisted on taking us to. (That's him on the right, Kenny in the middle and me on the left.)
It was a full day, for sure. But we're not done yet.




Friday, October 2, 2015

Made it to Mason City

Greeting from Mason City, Iowa, current home of the subject of "Out Here In Kansas," Burt Humburg. Kenny and I just rolled into town and tomorrow we're looking at our longest day of shooting yet.
By the way, I had no idea Mason City was so close (nine miles) to Clear Lake, Iowa, home of the Surf Ballroom, which I've visited before. That's where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper played their last concert the day the music died.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Well, that's disappointing

We started September with some great news. Unfortunately, we're ending it with some not-so-great news. It doesn't look like Gov. Sam Brownback is going to be agreeing to an interview for "Out Here In Kansas."
As a journalist who prides himself on being fair, this drives me nuts. Brownback should have a chance to defend himself after being labeled a homophobic by the Kansas City Star, among other media outlets. Our team has been trying since February to get his team warmed up to the idea. (Here's me doing just that earlier this year.)

Monday, September 28, 2015

No distractions in Dallas

For reasons that aren't particularly interesting, it looks like I am going to be stuck at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport all afternoon and all evening.
The good news is, I really don't have any excuses not to hunker down and concentrate on "Out Here In Kansas." This screenplay is a constant work in progress (and no doubt it will change even more after our shoot in Iowa in a few days).
So have a great week, dear reader, and here's hoping I am back in Wichita sometime tonight.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Live with the local legends

If you happen to near a radio Friday afternoon, I'd like to invite you to listen to what should be an interesting interview.
Bob Knight, the former seven-term Wichita mayor, and local funnyman Bucky Walters have invited me on their radio show to promote "Out Here In Kansas."
The show will air from 5-6 p.m. CST Friday, Sept. 25 on KQAM, 1480 AM. It is live and listeners are invited to call in at (316) 721-8255.
Couple of things here.
One, earlier this year I convinced Bob to be in my silly little skit for Wichita Gridiron. (That's him in the angelic white robe. Bucky, in the dress, has been performing in Gridiron for more than 30 years.)
Two, if there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that this interview could spin off in different directions.
So there's that. But it promises to be fun.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Hitting the road

I realize I haven't written much on this blog since the Melissa Etheridge announcement, and I guess that's because I've sidetracked with planning.

It looks like I'm going to be gone for the next three weekends, including a much-anticipated trip to Mason City, Iowa, which is where Burt lives and practices medicine.

After that will be a trip to Kansas City for an interview that's been out of our grasp for months. Stay tuned, dear reader.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

They said it


“Wait. Have you ever seen Jaws? Have you seen Star Wars?”
- My sometimes-sarcastic editor Kenny Linn, who was incredulous that I’d never seen the Steven Spielberg classic "Saving Private Ryan."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Back down to Winfield

Our editor Kenny wanted to get B roll with scenes from a football game, so last night we trekked back down to Southwestern College. Here he is taking a break at halftime.
One thing about college football in Kansas. When the season starts, it's usually in the 90s. When it ends, you usually need a coat.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Yep, we got a rock star

I’ve been waiting a long time to announce this, and here it is: Grammy Award winner Melissa Etheridge is going to be part of our movie “Out Here In Kansas.”
This is huge news. Etheridge has been a household name since her album "Yes I Am," which featured the hits “Come To My Window” and “I’m The Only One.” Even before that, she rocked my world with “Somebody Bring Me Some Water.” I never realized Melissa was gay until her unforgettable cameo on the groundbreaking episode of “Ellen,” but I always knew she is a proud native of Leavenworth, Kansas.
(By the way, if you haven’t checked out Melissa’s new album, “This is M.E.,” you need to. Publications like Rolling Stone gave it stellar reviews, and the whole album just sounds great.)
How is Melissa going to be involved? Well, I can’t give away everything. Let’s just say she’s every bit as cool as I’d hoped. (If there was ever any doubt, check out this tribute she did to Janis Joplin at the 2005 Grammies ... as she was battling breast cancer.)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Burt's baptism

Since I’m not sure if this photo is going to be used in our movie, I’m putting it on this blog. The boy is Burt Humburg, the subject of Out Here In Kansas, being baptized at the YMCA.

I’ve seen baptisms in lakes, rivers and even outdoor swimming pools, but I’ve never seen one at the Y. Until I saw this picture, I'd never even heard of that. Is this still a thing?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Can we leave politics out of it?

It's not often I de-friend someone on Facebook - I have a thick skin and I'm certainly not petty - but I'm think it might be a good idea to drop this dude. I've never met him and I don't even know what he looks like, but I somehow doubt he is on board with what we're trying to do with "Out Here In Kansas" (which is not a "liberal movie," just for the record).
In fact, being liberal or conservative doesn't have much to do with our story, and it's definitely a dumb time to bring it up in wake of the Roanoke, Va., shooting this week. WDBJ is a sister station of Wichita's KWCH, where I once worked and still have many friends. It's obvious many of them are shook up, including my friend Pilar Pedraza, who is in Virginia with several others from the KWCH team to cover the story .



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

So glad I did this

This is a little write-up about me that appeared in the newsletter for “Leadership Butler,” an organization in which I was immersed right about the time I wrote the article that sparked this documentary.
I was a newspaper editor at the time. Most of my classmates were city officials in Butler County (the largest in Kansas, geographically - and it's also where the subject of the movie grew up). It’s a time intensive program. We had to take several days away from work – and in my case, that meant I had to work twice as much the next day. 
So what’s the point? Well, no two classes get quite the same experience. But speaking from mine, it forced me to learn more about my community’s challenges and about myself. 
In other words, Leadership Butler doesn’t teach you how to be a leader. If you’re accepted into the program, you probably already are a leader. 
I can’t imagine that any class before or after us was as close as we were, or had as much fun as we did. To this day, I can’t run into one of them without grinning from ear to ear.
I’m not involved too much with Leadership Butler these days, just like I’m not really involved with my college alma mater, Wichita State, or my high school alma mater, Bluestem. But when any of them ask me to do something, I do it. Why? Because I'm comfortable with them, and I know they're always behind me.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Speaking of sports ...

You may have missed this, but a first baseman in the Milwaukee Brewers organization recently came out of the closet. David Denson hasn't made the major leagues yet, but he's just 20 years and is considered one of the organization's best prospects.
It's been interesting to follow gay athletes like Jason Collins (basketball) and Michael Sam (football) come of the closet the last couple of years. It's a development that's come about much more slowly in men's sports than women's.
OutSports.com did a story getting reaction from those in the Brewers organization, including the team's biggest star, Ryan Braun.
"I've never met him, but I hope baseball as a whole is at a point where we judge people by their ability and not their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality," Braun told OutSports.com. "I can't speak for everybody on our team, but he would be accepted and supported by me. And I would hope all of my teammates feel the same way."
Let me be clear about something. I don't like Ryan Braun because of this. But that was a pretty cool thing of him to say. I guess is dislike him a little less now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

In praise of sports

This photo is my daughter and me before one of our soccer games a few years ago. Since then, she's played softball, basketball and is currently a sophomore on her high school tennis team.
She's hinted that this may be her last year of playing organized sports. If so, 10 years is a pretty good run. My goal all along was in keep her in in sports as long as possible, because I believe it's an excellent way to build confidence, self-esteem and all that good stuff - especially for girls. It certainly worked with her.
And of course, sports have been a major part of my life, too. I made a living writing about them for a long time. And if I hadn't done that, I never would have met Burt, which means I would never be making this documentary. Again, good stuff.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Coming to Tallgrass ...

Our official trailer will debut at the Tallgrass Film Festival, which is Oct. 14-18 in Wichita.
This is not to be confused with the videos our editor Kenny put together to promote the film earlier this year. This is the preview in which we try to give people an idea of “Out Here In Kansas” in 90 seconds or less.

There are many ways we could do that, but I don’t think any are better than what Kenny and I agreed on this week. I wrote it, but that didn’t take much. The ideas he brought and the work he’s put into it are what make it really pop. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Kenny somehow managed to make it gritty and beautiful at the same time. Which is so Kenny. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A quick word about Westboro

Some of you may think that Westboro Baptist, a little church in Topeka, Kan., that has gained worldwide notoriety for its anti-gay protests, is going to be a significant part of our movie.
It’s not.
First of all, there’s already a documentary about Westboro and its founder, Fred Phelps. It’s called “Fall From Grace” and it was well done by writer and producer K. Ryan Jones, who was a student at the University of Kansas at the time.
Secondly, Westboro is just not a big part of the story I’m trying to tell.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. The people at Westboro are going to hate this movie. Then again, they also claim to hate the United States of America and the soldiers that protect it.
Just watch “Fall From Grace” and tell me it doesn’t send a little shiver down your shine, particularly when Jones interviews the children from the church.
I’ve had a couple of little brushes with Westboro the last couple of years, the most fun of which was playing Fred Phelps’ gay guardian angel in Wichita Gridiron. And one of them started following me on Twitter. But when we spent the afternoon documenting a celebration at the gay-friendly Equality House, which is right across the street from Westboro, nobody heard a peep out of them.
Westboro was actually in Butler County earlier this year, protesting the graduation of El Dorado High School, for some reason. This photo is from that day. It’s a motorcycle group that does its best to shield people from Westboro’s nonsense.
The bikers call themselves the “Guardian Angels,” and they’re interviewed in Jones’ documentary. I encourage you to check it out.

Monday, August 10, 2015

My brother-in-law's last sermon

For the past three weeks, my brother in law has been preaching about sex.
I should first of all mention he is a pastor at Real Life Christian Church in El Dorado. And yes, the potential for awkwardness is ripe. For one thing, he is married to my sister. I’ve been seated next to my teenage daughter for every minute of the series, and my parents too.
So there are the family dynamics … and then there’s the fact that I am making a documentary about the relationship between Christians and gay people.
Until this morning, the word “gay” hadn’t been brought up in the series. But it was yesterday morning.
I should also mention Corey is really conservative, as is most of my family. At the heart of this series is what Corey calls the “sex circle,” which includes a husband, a wife, and nobody else. Go outside the circle, Corey warns, and you’re asking for trouble.
Corey spent five minutes talking about the gay issue, and you can read what he said below. It pretty much falls in line with Central Christian, Newspring and all the other churches I've attended in my life.
 I will post this without further comment.
When it comes to this issue, we’re expected to keep our opinions and our ideas to ourselves. You can have that view, you can have that idea of scripture, as long as you keep your mouth shut and don’t talk about it. That’s the first rule – just shut up.
But the other option is, to actually express what the Bible says about this issue, and then be labeled as somebody who supports hate crimes, as a homophobic. We’re expected to either keep quiet about our convictions, or if you’re vocal about it, you can be accused of a hate crime.
If you’re here today, and you’re gay, or you really struggle with same-sex attraction, there are a few things I want to tell you this morning. The first one is this: I’m glad you’re here. I’m genuinely glad that you felt you could walk into Real Life Church this morning and you could participate in singing and communication and the things we’ve done this morning, I’m glad that you’re here. If this is your first time with us this morning, I’m glad you’re here. If you’ve been coming here for awhile, I ‘m glad that you continue to come. I am glad that you’re here.
The second thing is, I’m not mad at you. I don’t hate you. And maybe some other Christians have, that hate you, or have pushed that on you, I’m sorry for that. But I don’t hate you. The reality is, I’ve got way too many issues in my life that I’ve got to get worked out with my savior to spend my time throwing rocks at you.
The third thing is, I apologize to you, for the way the church has treated you in the past. Because chances are, if you fall into that category, you’ve been made to feel like you’re on trial and that you’ve already been found guilty and everybody wants to throw stones at you. And I’m sorry.
But I also want to tell you, because I love you, that being gay is outside of the circle that Jesus made, that he said was right and good for a husband a and wife, for a man and a woman. And I don’t tell you that because I hate you. I tell you that because I love you, and I think Jesus has better things for you in this life. See, I’m going to tell you the truth about God’s word as accurately and as closely as I possibily can when it comes to the issue of homosexuality, just like I do when it comes to the issue of adultery, or fornication, or sexual immorality of any kind – or stealing, or slander or gossip or any of those things. I’m going to do my best to tell you the truth about all of those issues.
I do the same as a parent. I want to tell my kids about the truth and things they’re going to go through in life and the things that they’ll face in this life – not because it’s easy, not because it’s always a joy to tell the truth to your kids, but because it’s what’s best for them. And just because I may not agree with you on this issue doesn’t mean that I hate you or I’m intolerant, because I’m not mad at you.
In fact, I hope you come back next Sunday. And I hope you keep coming to Real Life. Because just like you, we’ve all got issues. We’ve all got sin. We all need the mercy of a loving Savior. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Our friend Hollis has a new album

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that musician Hollis Smith has a personal connection with us. She flew here from Florida to play a benefit concert for us earlier this year, and her song "Even Angels Bite The Dust" was my first musical selection for our soundtrack.
Hollis, also known as "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," just came out with a new album, and you can check it out here. I encourage you to give it a listen, especially if you're into Southern folk. At least, I think that's how you would describe her sound. The album is called "I Used To Thing I Was Simple, But I Was Wrong," and it's a little more upbeat than the dark, gritty sound I was used to from her.
Soon Hollis will begin to promote the album with a southeast tour of Atlanta, Asheville and Wilmington.
Hollis even gave me a sneak peek of her album cover a couple weeks ago. (That's her and her partner "Skinny" above. I'll let you figure out which one is which.)
I told Hollis she should use the picture of the left. I may be biased, though, since I'm the one who took it. The day after her concert here, I had lunch with Hollis and her friend who had driven in from Denver. Since neither of them had been to Wichita before, we decided to go to Cowtown. This room was one of the exhibits, and it was roped off to visitors.
I dared Hollis to jump over the rope and go in anyway. And if you know anything about Hollis, she cannot resist a good dare.
However, she refused to consider the picture for an album cover because Skinny wasn't in it. Women.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Good news and bad news

Experience tells me if you give someone a choice, they always want the bad news first. So …

There’s no way “Out Here In Kansas” is going to ready in time for the Tallgrass Film Festival this fall.

I’m disappointed in that, because I’ve been a Tallgrass fan since its inception, and I once met its late founder, and it’s local and … well, being in Tallgrass was just one of our goals.

So what’s the holdup?

Well, that’s the good news. There have been a couple of developments, as far as people wanting to be involved in the movie. You’ll recognize the names. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Our narrator is in town

We reached another milestone today, as our narrator finished his part of "Out Here In Kansas." If you're not a regular reader of this blog, the narrator is my Uncle Brad, who has done countless commercials, television shows and movies over the years.
This was a big relief. The words looked good in the screenplay I'd written, but I couldn't be completely confident until I heard them spoken by him. Fortunately, they were just as I'd pictured them in my head. Most of them, anyway. I did a little re-writing on the fly. Like the professionals they are, Uncle Brad and editor Kenny were patient with the process, and none of us left until we were all happy. (Except for these photos, but I blame our iPhones.)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It was just as exciting as it looks

Here's a picture of Kenny at U.S. Highway 77 and 142nd by Winfield, waiting for a semi to cross in front of his shot.
When one finally did, I gave the trucker the age-old fist-pumping symbol, trying to get him to honk his air horn.
And he did. Good times.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Love to be Jinxed

Kenny and I had a full afternoon Thursday, spending most of it at Southwestern College in Winfield. That's where the main character of our documentary, Burt Humburg, played football for four seasons and came out of the closet his senior year.
I always loved covering games at Southwestern as a sportswriter. The place has so much character. The Moundbuilders have some cool traditions, the best of which is their unofficial mascot, a black cat who lives in the gymnasium. (Here's a picture of Jinx himself, greeting us upon our arrival.)
The whole purpose of yesterday was to collect more B roll for the film. We got plenty. Most of it was outside, and it was in the mid-90s. Thank goodness for Moundbuilders basketball coach Matt O'Brien, who gave us a couple of cold bottled waters from his office.
So thanks to him, and the fine folks at Southwestern, and my mom. On the way home, Kenny and I made a little detour out to my parents' house for a fantastic lasagna dinner. She's always good like that.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kenny's back

Kenny Linn, our film editor extraordinaire, has spent the last few days in Greensboro, N.C., participating in The 48 Hour Film Project. You can see his team's submission here.
There were 30 teams in North Carolina, and it won't be known until next month where "Hell On Hells" placed. You may recall Kenny was part of the team that won the Tallgrass Film Festival's 24-hour "Down To The Wire" competition last month.
Speaking of North Carolina, our narrator flies in to do his speaking part for us this weekend.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Our new business manager

A couple days ago I mentioned our new business manager. Her name is Leah Ford, and she's actually been a friend of our team since the beginning. Here she is pictured with Jon Pic on one of our trips to Topeka earlier this year.
When discussing the film, Leah often mentions a quote from Margaret J. Wheatley: "You can't hate somebody whose story you know." That's a great quote. And Leah, who met through Leadership Butler and got to know through my brother-in-law's church, is a great addition.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Writing away

Well, I'm at a quiet-but-busy point in the film making process.
Our editor Kenny is is Greensboro, N.C., participating in The 48 Hour Film Project.
Our narrator is flying in to do his thing at the end of the month. Jon Pic, who does so many things it's hard to give him a title, is working on illustrations.
Our final shoot in Iowa is on hold until I can get things worked out with the hospital in which Burt works.
In the meantime, our new business manager has charged me with several tasks - not the least of which is visiting with a representative from the Tallgrass Film Festival, which I did earlier today.
But the No. 1 thing on that list is to complete the screenplay by the time Kenny gets back July 19. There's a lot of moving parts here, but I think that's doable. To write screenplays, by the way, I use software called Final Draft, which I highly recommend, if you're into that sort of thing.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Burt and me

Last week a reporter asked me how my relationship with Burt had evolved over the years. And it made me think.
When Burt and I met, we were both in our 20s. He’s accomplished great things since then – not the least of which is becoming a physician. But his personality has pretty much stayed the same and I guess mine has, too. I have a great deal of fondness and admiration for Burt. As any one of his parents, friends, coaches, teachers or colleagues will tell you, Burt won’t hesitate to question you if he feels something can be done better.
But I don’t take that personally. I can’t. I’m just so thankful Burt signed up to do this. I’m fortunate he’s been generous with his time and resources, especially when it comes to arranging his travel schedule just to meet us for a shoot or whatever. He’s not asked for a single ounce of editorial input. In fact, he hasn’t asked for anything. He’s invested a lot simply because of his faith in me to tell his story, and that’s an honor. Truly.

Monday, July 6, 2015

'Know ye not that you are peculiar people'

That's a passage Burt threw out during one of our interviews and I have to admit, I wasn't quite sure what it meant. He was describing his childhood, and in particular the way he was brought up.
"You're supposed to be not of this world," he went on to explain. "You're supposed to be reading the Bible when all your other friends are watching movies or checking out comic books or trading baseball cards ..."
I don't think I've mentioned it on this blog, but Burt's knowledge of the Bible is impressive. While kids his age were in children's church, he and his brother were sitting in the regular service with adults. That's where he was taught at an early age that being gay was a sin. And that's why he suppressed his gay feelings until he was well into his 20s.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Guess I told him

As we were looking through more footage yesterday, Kenny said it would be a good idea for us to capture some B roll of a farmer harvesting wheat. There's an image that's unique to hard-working, Christian-value Kansas, right?
"When do they harvest wheat?" Kenny said.
I just shrugged my shoulders and thought back to my high school days of attending the Harvest Home Festival. "August?" I guessed.
Kenny made a couple of calls, and I decided to put a call out on Facebook, which led to this exchange. Last I saw it, my response had 10 likes and counting. High five!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Editing is underway

This isn't the most glamorous aspect of film making, but Kenny and I spent a few hours editing footage today. We have lots more to do this week, and for the rest of the summer.
The best part of working with Kenny is we're usually on the same page. I can use another movie or direction as an example, and he'll know exactly what I'm talking about. He's got so many great ideas of his own, too. What can I say? The man's a pro.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Is making this movie starting to get to me?

video

On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court made the historical decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide, my daughter’s Christian singing group performed its only Kansas concert of a seven-state tour.
Friday was the first time I’d seen her in two weeks. She was actually gone for both my birthday and Father’s Day, but that didn’t bother me. I was so ecstatic that she tried out for this group and made it. It’s been the experience of a lifetime, and I know she didn’t want the tour to end. (I know this because she told me on the way home. Ha. Their last concert was last night in Joplin, Mo.)
If you're reading this on a laptop, this video is a little sample from Friday night. It’s difficult to describe my emotions while I was taking it. It was such a happy day for millions of Americans – and I’m assuming it was particularly great for gay Christians who wish to be married in a church.
And it was such a happy atmosphere inside the church, even though I’m told many there were disappointed with that morning’s SCOTUS decision. The subject never came up, which was appropriate. It was clear from the prayer before the concert that the focus would be on simply praising God.
During the entire concert, I was fighting back tears. Totally unexpected. If someone wants to offer an explanation as to why, I would love to hear it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

How today's ruling affects our film

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide this morning, I thought it would be appropriate to share the new Facebook profile picture of Burt Humburg, the main character of "Out Here In Kansas." (Besides, it made me laugh.) The reaction on social media has been incredible. I haven't seen too many people decrying the decision yet.
But Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback isn't happy about the ruling, naturally. You can bet Pastor Joe Wright, the other central figure of our film, isn't either. The Kansas Marriage Amendment, which Wright and Terry Fox worked so hard to get passed by voters to make gay marriage illegal in 2005, is now void.
Well, it's void for now, anyway. If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's this is going to be a hot issue for years.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Thoughts from the Doc Sunback Film Festival




Here are a few pictures I took from the inaugural Doc Sunback Film Festival, including the creators of "Franklin," picking up their award for Best Kansas Film.
I really meant to take more photos, but I guess I got so caught up in watching movies and meeting new friends that I forgot. My personal favorites were "Pokey Pokey" (a creepy animated short), "Franklin," ""Killshot," "Elevator," "The Unveiling," "Mount Lawrence" and "Politically Correct." I'm sure I'm forgetting a few. I had an all-access pass and I watched a lot of films.
Actually, the biggest thrill was probably visiting with the creator of "Politically Correct," a University of Kansas student named Savannah Rodgers. Her short was hilarious, as I somehow knew it would be, given the subject matter. I'm always inspired by meeting fellow filmmakers, and Savannah is a dynamo. We even talked about working together in the near future.
Finally, I really have to give it up for downtown Mulvane and the festival's organizers. They took great pride in their event, and I can't wait to return next year.