Saturday, November 18, 2017

A few words about Russ Thomas

Russ Thomas has been my best friend for so long, my parents still refer to him as “Eddie Haskell.” (I’ll make sure Adam doesn’t get into any trouble tonight, Mr. and Mrs. Knapp!”) I helped Russ and his family move from Kansas to his wife’s hometown of Orrville, Ohio a couple years ago. That was the same week he told me he and Jenn wanted to be executive producers for “Out Here In Kansas.”
Here’s the weird part, though. They’ve gone all these months without seeing it, because I wouldn’t send them a link. I kept thinking it was going to play at a film festival near them, or that they’d catch one of our screenings on a trip back to Kansas. I really wanted them to see it on a big screen, but never happened.
Fortunately, they have a pretty large television at home. I finally emailed Russ a link so he and Jenn could watch it.
Russ called me the next morning, which was yesterday. He said following the movie, he and Jenn had a long discussion about what it meant to them. They didn’t agree on everything, but that was OK.
Then Russ and I spent the next 30 minutes talking about what it meant to us. Really, that’s a huge reason why I wanted to make “Out Here In Kansas” in the first place.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Silent partners

The first thing you see in the closing credits of "Out Here In Kansas" is a list of five couples. They are our executive producers, which means they made the film possible by funding it.
I've written about my uncle, Bradford Devine, and his wife Norma. They never hesitated with their support, even when I painstakingly had to replace Uncle Brad's narration with my own after our story changed direction. (That was not an easy phone call to make, considering Uncle Brad flew in from Florida to record his lines. But he couldn't have been more cool about it, especially after seeing the finished product.)
I've written about Dave and Trish Powell, who became the first to write us a check after reading about "Out Here In Kansas" online. When I met with them, I don't think they were even expecting to be in the credits, let alone as executive producers. They just wanted to help a worthy project.
I've written about Kyle and Shelly Steadman, who always support the arts and are two of the biggest reasons why Mulvane might be my favorite town in Kansas.
I've written about John and Jenn Stephens, longtime friends who really took care of us anytime we had a screening in the Kansas City area. ("Spoiled us" might be a better description.)
But you know who I still haven't written about? Russ and Jenn Thomas. Which is kind of funny, considering Russ is my best friend. I should probably save him for another post.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Finishing our tour on top

"Out Here In Kansas" finished its film festival and college tour by winning "Best Documentary" at the Outlaw Film Festival over the weekend. (I still can't believe we beat out "Peaceful Progress: A Graffiti Story," which was beautiful.)
Anyway, by my count, that's the fifth time we've won our category in an out-of-state festival. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know this one had special meaning to me.

Monday, October 30, 2017

They didn't know me from Adam

A reporter from the University of Kansas Daily Kansan interviewed me tonight. At one point she asked me what my favorite part was of making "Out Here In Kansas."
The question caught me off guard, since nobody has ever asked me that. Finally, I answered it was convincing so many people to be a part of the movie, when they had no idea who I was or what it would look like. They had faith in me, anyway. That feels good, and I hope the documentary serves them well.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Now playing at Tallgrass ...

If you're out participating in the Tallgrass Film Festival this weekend, we'd like to encourage you to check out a pair of short films made by our producer, Savannah Rodgers.
They are both seeing shown in the Kansas shorts block, which is 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22 in the Ruffin Building Auditorium. The first one is a two-minute microshort called "For Sale," and the second is a seven-minute short called "Dragtivists."

Friday, October 20, 2017

Jesse James ended here, and so will we

Next month, "Out Here In Kansas" will be screening in St. Joseph, Mo., the town where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended. It's also the town where my journalism career started, and where our film festival circuit will end.
The Outlaw Film Festival will be held Nov. 2-4 on the campus of Missouri Western State College, home of the Griffons. (That's the team I covered, and I maintain the Griffon is one of the best mascots in college sports.)
Our documentary is in Block 4. That will be shown from 7:30-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3 and again from 3-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4. More information can be found here, and I have created a Facebook event here.
I'm really excited for what will probably be our last film festival. I have some great memories of St. Joe from the mid-1990s, and I can't wait to Lisa Erdman, the passionate director of the Outlaw
 Film Festival, in the flesh.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Screening in Salina

I'm proud to announce another Kansas screening of "Out Here In Kansas," this time Saturday morning in Salina.
The Smoky Hills Independent Film and Television Festival (SHIFT) starts today (Friday, Oct. 13) at Kansas Wesleyan University. The event is free to the public.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, "Out Here In Kansas" will be shown at the end of a screening slot reserved for our producer, filmmaker Savannah Rodgers.
More information about the festival can be found here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

It's National Coming Out Day ...

... and it's also the one-year anniversary of our world premiere for "Out Here In Kansas." As I told the crowd at Roxy's Downtown, it was the best night of my life.
We think it's almost time we released our documentary unto the world. But we have a few more announcements first.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A shout out to Boise

In all the excitement of the Austin Film Festival, I overlooked an important stop on the "Out Here In Kansas" tour that was going on at the same time: The Boise Film Festival.
This was the third year for the festival, and if you've never been to Boise, you should. My sister and her family lived there in the mid-1990s and it became one of my favorite cities.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Austin: Part 3


I thought I was done writing about our trip to Austin last weekend, but I've got to explain these two photographs I've grown to love dearly.
First, there's the one of me posing with these two guys. I found it on my phone on the way home from Wichita. It was texted to me at 2:08 a.m. from a number I didn't recognize, and my immediate reaction was "What the hell?"
Then I remembered. At the Austin Revolution Film Festival, our documentary "Out Here In Kansas" was paired with a hilarious series of PSAs by "Pot Brothers at Law." They are actual California defense attorneys who are - you guessed it - champions for cannabis legalization.
The guy on the left, Marc Wasserman, is also an actor who as a child appeared on "CHiPS," "Magnum P.I.," "Family Ties" and "The A-Team."
Some of the Pot Brothers' "tips of the day" can be found here. (Warning: do not watch if you're opposed to strong language and marijuana use.)
The reason I love that picture is that we were having such a great time despite our vastly different backgrounds. They're Jewish dudes from the west coast, I'm a Christian dude from the Midwest, and they admitted that they didn't have much interest in sticking around for our documentary once their five-minute segment had finished. But they got sucked in by the story, which is about the highest compliment a filmmaker can get.
Speaking of filmmakers, the other photo is of our editor/cinematographer Kenneth Linn (left) and producer Savannah Rodgers hugging the night "Out Here In Kansas" won best documentary short. I would not describe either of them as big huggers. Maybe I'm wrong.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Austin: Part 2


So, first thing's first. We won. "Out Here In Kansas" had a terrific screening and was named best documentary short at the Austin Revolution Film Festival over the weekend. So there's that, and I have a belt buckle to prove it. (Not kidding. They gave me a real Texas belt buckle.)
Funny story about that, actually. Kenny and I couldn't even get into the ceremony. It was completely full. So we made a couple of drinks and hung out with other people who couldn't get in, who included Josh Hope, director of the Twister Alley and Windy City Film Festivals, as well as dozens of actors and directors. I like to think we had more fun than if we'd actually been sitting inside. (Although it was a little awkward when a woman walked out and said "where were you guys?" Anyway, producer Savannah was inside to accept it for us. That's her in the video I attached.)
Awards aside, the whole weekend was an incredibly rewarding experience because of the people we met and the movies we saw. There are far too many of both for me to name. But I would like to thank festival director James Christopher and his team, who put on first-class event that we'll remember for the rest of our lives. It was an excess of film, fun and food. (Did I say food? In between Denny's and Whattaburger, Kenny and I went to a place in downtown Austin called Cooper's Old-Time Pit Bar-Be-Que. I've been eating the leftovers for two days now.)
You can see a photo gallery of our weekend in Austin here.




Saturday, September 23, 2017

Austin: Part 1


This is a little look at the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. It is a delightfully campy place to watch a movie - or several movies, as was the case last night. Kenny and I took a "party bus" there to watch the horror shorts block at the Austin Revolution Film Festival.
We took in another movie when we got back to our hotel, which serves as the festival's headquarters. Yesterday was a long day. We started it in Dallas, where we caught up with former Wichita sportscaster Steve Dennis to do an interview for our current project. When we arrived in Austin, the first person I saw was festival director James Christopher. I was then hugged from behind by our producer, Savannah Rodgers. You could say I felt at home right away.
Along the way, we've chowed down on some serious beef at Cattlemen's Steakhouse (Stockyard City, Okla.), drank a few Shiners at Two Charlies Bar and Grill (Denton, Texas) and I bought Kenny his first In & Out burger somewhere along I-35.
We've already met a ton of interesting people, and we expect to meet more when "Out Here In Kansas" screens here in a few minutes.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gearing up for Austin

Kenny and I leave Thursday for Austin, Texas, where "Out Here In Kansas" will be screening next weekend. From what we've heard, it will be three days of fun events, great movies and networking with other filmmakers.
"Out Here In Kansas" will play 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Doubletree Austin. If you're interested in attending, here is a map.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Best podcast of the summer

One of the highlights of our summer was being interviewed by the hilarious Lester Rowe. That's him in the picture, reacting when I called him "soft" for liking Hall & Oates.
Lester has a highly entertaining podcast called "I'm Kinda Famous." Back in June, he sat down with editor/DP Kenny Linn and me to discuss "Out Here In Kansas." We cover a wide range of new topics in an hour and a half, including ...
* How Kenny learned to trick me during the editing process.
* Why writing a documentary can be an exercise in futility.
* My original plan for the movie's premiere.
* The hardest part of the movie to edit.
* Why Kenny doesn't feel he fits the title of "DP."
* How much easier it's become to make a documentary in recent years.
* Our favorite movies of the last five years.
You can listen to the whole thing here.
Kenny and I love Lester. We tease each other a lot, but Lester has become a good friend and he's been a big supporter of our project since the day he heard about it. He's an accomplished filmmaker himself, having raked in awards for "Wifi at Rock Bottom," and is best known locally for his work with MMA fighter David "Caveman" Rickels.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Austin award nominations

Not only is "Out Here In Kansas" headed to the Austin Revolution Film Festival next month, it's even up for a couple of awards.
One is for Best Documentary Short, which is awesome. Another is for Best Documentary Director, which, as I've alluded to on this blog before, makes me feel pretty undeserving.
Our producer Savannah Rodgers is such a filmmaking machine, I'm not even sure which of her many films have been nominated. But I do know she's up for the Producer Award and Female Filmmaker of the Year.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Our videos on YouTube

This is long overdue, but today I finally tried to condense most of our making-of videos for "Out Here In Kansas" onto my own YouTube channel (which I haven't paid much attention to until now).
If you're at all interested in "Out Here In Kansas," or in documentary filmmaking in general, I invite you to check them out here.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Got a minute for a movie?

A quick note about our producer, Savannah Rodgers ...
She is in the running for a Sundance fellowship, based largely on her film "For Sale," which is a micro short. When I say "micro short," I mean it tells the story in less than 60 seconds.
So do us a favor and check it out here. I know it puts a serious lump in my throat every time I watch it.
If you like it, just hit the "Appreciate" button and log in through Facebook, Google or Adobe. It's simple, and it will really help Savannah. (And our "Out Here In Kansas" team loves Savannah.)


Monday, August 7, 2017

More out-of-state awards

While "Out Here In Kansas" has received plenty of love in our home state, to win awards we've had to go ... well, out of Kansas.
Our documentary took home a couple more first-place honors, this time at the Glitter (Okla.) Film Festival. It won best documentary short, which is amazing, because I can attest first-hand how great the films were there.
We also won best director for a documentary short. I guess that's me. I should note how sheepish I feel about accepting individual accolades, simply because I'm so aware how influential editor Kenny Linn, as well as producers Jon Pic and Savannah Rodgers, were in shaping the story. We even had a focus group to give us notes on our rough cut, which wasn't even my idea.
But hey, I'm glad to receive the award, it's wonderful publicity for "Out Here In Kansas," and I still think we've got big things coming.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Making new friends at Glitter!

McAlester, Okla., is more than a 500-mile round trip from Wichita, but I had a good reason for driving there Friday: The Glitter! Film Festival, recently featured by NBC News.
The four-film block that included "Out Here In Kansas" had to have been one the best ones. It started with "The Symphony of Silence," a tear-jerking narrative directed by Cedric Thomas Smith (pictured on the far right).
Next up was our film, followed by "Upstairs Inferno," a feature documentary I was well aware of before Glitter! It's the story of a gay club in New Orleans being set on fire, resulting in the murder of 32 people.
The block ended with "Your Way Back to Me," which was directed, shot and edited by first-time filmmaker Alexandra Dietz (second from right). It's a documentary about Native-American Hannah Sheridan (far left), her career as a lesbian in the Navy and her family's way of coping with death.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Introducing our new film project

The subject matter won't have much in common with "Out Here In Kansas," but the same film crew has already begun a still-untitled documentary about an indoor soccer team called the Wichita Wings.
This film will focus on the 1980s Wings, who quickly became a pop culture phenomenon in Wichita with their long hair, tan legs and flamboyant personalities. They were mostly European players with large appetites for fun, and they couldn't have come along at a more perfect time.
This will be a bigger project than "Out Here In Kansas." We'll have more photos, more B roll, more history and more interviews (we're already done 12).
But it's safe to say Wichita Wings: The Movie (that's our working title) will have a similar look. I'm sharing the director's role with Kenny Linn. Jon Pic is back as producer. Tim O'Bryhim, who co-wrote a history of the Wings book with Michael Romalis, is also a producer.
You can follow the project on our Facebook fan page, or our Twitter account.

Monday, July 24, 2017

What's going down in this photo?

I'm not sure what's exactly being discussed in this picture, taken earlier this year during a Q&A session at Southwestern College. But the look on our faces is kind of funny. (Click to enlarge.) That's editor Kenny Linn on the far right, me to the left of him and producer Jon Pic to the left of me.

Our evening with Melissa Etheridge

Rock legend Melissa Etheridge performed at the Wichita Orpheum last night. "Out Here In Kansas" producer Jon Pic and I were fortunate enough to meet her backstage before the concert.
Etheridge, for those who haven't seen our documentary, plays a significant part in "Out Here In Kansas." She is from Leavenworth and is practically an icon in the LGBT community, not to mention a brave cancer survivor. (Watch this and tell me it doesn't give you a few goosebumps.)
Melissa called Jon and me "the movie guys" and just couldn't have been nicer. She offered to sign our movie poster (Jon was smart enough to bring a silver Sharpie.) I thanked her over and over again for being a part of our film, and she thanked us "for the important work you're doing."
Jon and I got fifth-row seats to the concert, which was incredible. She played a two-hour set, including an encore, and pretty much blew everyone away with her showy guitar playing and trademark raspy voice. At one point she even took over the drums.
She talked to the audience a lot about growing up in Kansas and her experiences in Wichita - which included church camp, "believe it or not." She sang "Wichita Lineman." She's clearly proud of her home state, even though she's now lived most of her life in Los Angeles.
"Kansas rocks," she told the audience. "Don't you ever say any different."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Back in Oklahoma next week

Here are the details of our next screening of "Out Here In Kansas," which will be highlighted at the Glitter! Oklahoma LGBT Film Festival in McAlester, Okla.
Our movie will be shown at 4:45 p.m. Friday, July 28 at Spaceship Earth Coffee, 312 E. Choctaw Ave. in McAlester.
Following that will be a directors Q&A from 5:30-6 p.m. Admission is free to the public.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Austin, here we come

Now this is cool. It wasn't official until this week, but a while back we learned that "Out Here In Kansas" was a shoo-in for the Austin Revolution Film Festival, one of our most prestigious honors to date.
"Out Here in Kansas" will screen 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23 at the festival. (That's 11 weeks from today, by the way.)
We've terribly excited about this one. It's been a month of Sundays since I've been to Austin, but everyone knows its reputation for food, fun and incredible love of the arts. It's been called "the third coast for film making." (It's also one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.)
But enough about the city. The best part is going to be seeing some film making teams we already know, meeting new people and of course, seeing a ton of independent films.







Thursday, July 6, 2017

Texas loves us

Here's the first of our exciting July announcements: "Out Here In Kansas" will make its Texas premiere at the San Antonio Film Festival.
The festival will be July 31-Aug. 6, and will have several screenings in downtown San Antonio. We'll inform you on this blog when the exact time and place of our screening is announced.
Also, keep reading this blog for an announcement about another film festival. Hint: It's in Texas, too.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Three cheers for Free State

This was a good problem to have, but editor Kenny Linn and I had to made a hard decision last weekend. Do we try to leave Wichita Friday night and make it to Chicago by Saturday morning, when "Out Here In Kansas" was screening at the Windy City Film Festival? Or do we just relax and take in every movie we can at the Free State Film Festival, where it wasn't screening until Sunday night?
We ultimately chose the latter, setting up tent the entire weekend in Lawrence, where we kept the restaurants on Massachusetts Street busy both days (not that they needed our help).
My personal favorite film was "Lane 1974," an eye-opening (and at times, heart-wrenching) story about a 12-year-old girl trying to survive in a hippy lifestyle gone wrong. It was followed closely by the narrative features "The Scent of Rain and Lightning" and "The Tree."
The shorts block was equally outstanding. Our film was the only documentary among the eight shown, and it was the very last movie screened at the festival. We weren't sure if that was a compliment or not, but everyone seemed happy with it. Afterwards we made sure to get this picture with producer Savannah Rodgers, since we don't get too many chances to see her in person these days.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Free State Film Festival is underway

The Free State Film Festival started this week in Lawrence. "Out Here In Kansas" will be screening in the festival's short films block, which runs from 6-8 p.m. Sunday night at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire Street.
Following the block, cinematographer/DP Kenny Linn and I will be part of a Q&A. Producer Savannah Rodgers will be included in that; her short "For Sale" is playing in the same block.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Doc Sunback: A Kansas filmmaker's dream

Had the inaugural Wichita Taco Fest not been on Saturday, I probably would have gone (and from the way it sounds, I probably would have been standing in long lines most of the day).
But I was not about to miss my favorite day of the third annual Doc Sunback Film Festival, especially since "Out Here In Kansas" was screening there again. What an amazing event this has evolved into. Once again, I was able to meet filmmakers from all over the country and was able to see independent movies I never would have heard of otherwise.
I got there at noon and started the day with the documentary "Elephants in the Coffee," which was followed by our own screening.
After that was a filmmaker roundtable, which I left early to see the hilarious dark comedy "Mr. Lee." The rest of my evening was spent with blocks of shorts, one of which was outside in the park, the awards ceremony and a righteous after party at Uncle Roy's Tavern.
Because our editor Kenny Linn is a co-founder of Doc Sunback, we made the decision that "Out Here In Kansas" should not be considered for any awards there. Nonetheless, I was so happy for the winners and especially for the organizers of the event. As far as I'm concerned, it's a Kansas filmmaker's dream.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Our screening today in Mulvane

For the third year in a row, I am personally inviting you to the Doc Sunback Film Festival, one of my favorites events of the year. It will continue throughout the weekend in downtown Mulvane, and a full schedule of the films can be found here. (A VIP pass, which allows you into the lounge at Luciano's and access to the parties, has got to be one of the best bargains in Kansas.)
If you haven't seen "Out Here In Kansas," here's another chance. It will be screening at 1:45 p.m. today (Saturday, June 24), an event that will be followed by a meet and greet with myself and many of the other filmmakers in attendance this weekend.
I arrived at the festival yesterday, just in time to record a podcast with "I'm Kinda Famous" host Lester Rowe and Kenny Linn (that's Kenny and me pictured here). Lester is an accomplished fimmaker himself - his "Wifi at Rock Bottom" won the Audience Choice Award at Doc Sunback last year - and you should meet him if you have a chance.
By the time the podcast was finished, there was only time for one last block of movie shorts for the day. Always a sucker for horror, I chose "Friday Night Fright," which included wonderful films that were actually more surreal ("Hilde" from Austria), freaky ("Seaduction" from Italy) and funny ("Jenny Loves Satan" from the USA) than scary.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Honored on the east coast

Wonderful news out of Pennsylvania, where "Out Here In Kansas" took home first place in the Jim Thorpe Film Festival's Best LGBTQ Subject category.
It beat out four other finalists for the award. It was also nominated for Best Documentary, an award that went to The Pine Barrens from New Jersey.
A complete list of the winners and nominees can be found here. This festival was our east coast premiere, and was screened in the historic Mauch Chunk Opera House. (And yes, the town is named after that Jim Thorpe.)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Paying homage to the 'Big Bird'

I'm not particularly sad to see the Wichita Eagle building at 825 E. Douglas be torn down, although I'll admit it's a little strange. It's been there my whole life, after all, and heaven only knows how many hours I spent inside in my 11 years as a sportswriter there.
My friend Carrie Rengers beautifully summed up the feelings of most of us about the "Big Bird" in this column. This photo was taken by former Eagle photo chief Brian Corn, who also helped me track down a photo we wanted for the film.
Those who have already seen "Out Here In Kansas" know the Eagle has a strong connection to our film. It's because of the Eagle that I met Burt Humburg, our main character. We used Brian's photo, my article and a couple of exterior shots of the building in the film.
The Eagle now sits right in the heart of Old Town, at 330 N. Mead.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kansas to the core


For those of you in the Wichita area who would still like to see "Out Here In Kansas," there will be another local opportunity in June.
Our documentary is an official selection at this year's Doc Sunback Film Festival in Mulvane. The festival runs June 22-25. We'll be screening at 1:45 p.m. Saturday, June 24 in the museum theater.
Even if you don't see "Out Here In Kansas," you should at least spend a day or two at Doc Sunback. Here's the review I wrote on Facebook just this morning ...
The value one gets from a buying a pass is unmatched by any festival, and so is the emphasis on Kansas films. Doc Sunback is quickly developing a reputation as a favorite for audiences and filmmakers because of its passionate organizers, amazing volunteers, small-town hospitality and good old-fashion love for movies.
I meant every word of that. As much fun at the inaugural festival was, it was even more fun to see it grow by leaps and bounds in its second year last summer.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chicago, here we come

Great news continues to come in for "Out Here In Kansas," as we learned yesterday it will be screening at the Windy City Film Festival.
Our documentary will be part of the July 1 Doc Shorts block at the 105-year-old Mercury Theater in Chicago.
That's just down the street from 1060 W. Addison - which any good Blue Brothers fan will tell you is the home of Wrigley Field.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Another screening in Lawrence

It's no secret that we love Lawrence, Kansas - we did film part of our movie there, after all, and we screened at the University of Kansas earlier this month.
So it was a thrill to learn that "Out Here In Kansas" will be part of the Free State Film Festival this summer. Actually, it looks like we'll be the last movie shown at the festival, which is June 27-July 2 in Lawrence. We're scheduled to end the short films block, which runs 6-8 p.m. Sunday, July 2.
One of the best parts of festivals like these is meeting other filmmakers. At Free State, more so than any other festival in which we've screened, we're also going to be surrounded by people we're comfortable with. Friends of our project Blake Robbins and Patrick Clement have films showing there, as does our producer Savannah Rodgers.



Friday, May 12, 2017

East coast premiere

So far "Out Here In Kansas" has been accepted into film festivals in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and of course Kansas, but nothing east of the Mississippi River.
That changed earlier this week, when we learned our documentary will screen next month at the inaugural Jim Thorpe Film Festival.
The documentary will be shown 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 9 at the historical Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, Pa.
Jim Thorpe is a gorgeous Victorian town that consistently pops up on the national media's "best of" lists. It's 90 minutes north of Philadelphia and two hours west of New York City.
And yes, the town is named after that Jim Thorpe, who is buried there. As I took delight in telling my non-sports-inclined team, Jim Thorpe is considered by many to be the greatest athlete of the 20th Century.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Proud alum, indeed

Every time I speak to a class at Wichita State, I say the same thing: I did graduate from this place, and you can look it up. I think I do that because a) it was a long time ago, and b) after all these years, I still can't quite believe it myself.
This morning, I spoke to a journalism class at WSU's Elliott School of Communication (instructor Eric Wilson presented me with this gift). My time as a student reporter at WSU wasn't easy. I was thrown into the fire with some hard-news stories I wasn't expecting as a sports editor. The basketball coach tried to publicly discredit me. You might say the experience sucked the Shocker fan right out of me. But it also gave me a hard shell, and paved the way for me a develop a long-recognized reputation as a impartial journalist, which certainly served me well while making "Out Here In Kansas."
My message to an LGBT Studies class a few days prior was a lot different. After showing them the documentary, I confessed to the crowded classroom, "I was a country kid, and I've probably told more gay jokes than anyone in this room." But they forgave me. I'm an ally now. People do change.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

First place at Twister Alley

Now this is kind of of cool: In the first-ever film festival awards ceremony we ever attended, videographer Kenneth Linn and I took home the first-place trophy for Best Documentary Short Film last night at the Twister Alley Film Festival.
The film, of course, was "Out Here In Kansas," which screened right after Kenny and I arrived in Woodward, Okla. Saturday afternoon. We spent the rest of the day watching narrative shorts. (My personal favorite was "Doug and Walter" while Kenny's was "American Paradise," and neither of those trailers really do their movies justice.)
It's just as fun to meet the filmmakers themselves, of course, and we certainly did that - directors, producers and actors from Chicago to Austin to Milwaukee to Los Angeles. The festival, started three years ago by Josh Hope of the Windy City Film Festival, was just named one of the Top 50 Film Festival Worth The Entry Fee by MovieMaker Magazine.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thanks to JCCC

I failed to do this publicly last night, but I'd like to thank Johnson County Community College for screening "Out Here In Kansas" in Overland Park last night. JCCC's Emily Behrmann made it possible, and the college's contribution of the room, equipment and staff made for a terrific event.
The screening came at the urging of Judy Dutra (pictured in the teal top), who is the mother of the documentary's main subject. She introduced the film, which was surprisingly attended by a couple of people I went to high school with.
Producer Jon Pic (pictured, top left) and I also had a nice visit with the representative of the Kansas City chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Family, Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
Jon even tried to do a Facebook live feed from our Q&A, which you can (hopefully) check out here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

KU to screen documentary May 7

"Out Here In Kansas" will be shown at the University of Kansas next month.
KU Filmworks is hosting a screening of our documentary at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 7 at Oldfather Studios, 1621 W. Ninth St. in Lawrence. Our documentary will be teamed up with Savannah Rodgers' six-minute short "Sketches."
Savannah is a producer for "Out Here In Kansas" and, even though she's still an undergrad at KU, is already an accomplished filmmaker.
You can find more details of the screening on our Facebook event page here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Our biggest honor yet

This won't be the largest event in which we've been invited, but I speak for our entire team when I tell you what a tremendous privilege it for "Out Here In Kansas" to be a big part of the inaugural Gilbert Baker LGBTQ Film Festival next month.
Our documentary will screen 7:30 p.m. Sat., May 6 at Labette Community College in Parsons.
Baker was a gay rights activist, famous for having created the rainbow flag after meeting Harvey Milk. He grew up in Parsons, where he said he endured a lot of bullying and pain for being gay. Actually, we were just starting to learn about the festival, and Baker, when he unexpectedly died in his sleep a couple of weeks ago.
Major props to producer Jon Pic for putting this festival on our radar, and for producer Savannah Rodgers for taking care of the rest. This is a festival that doesn't even have a website yet, and suffered a major blow when Baker passed away, but I for one would like to do everything I can to support it. (Based on my correspondence with the organizers, they feel the same way about "Out Here In Kansas.")
You can read more about Baker, and the festival, here.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Emotional night at Wichita State

By my count, last night was the 12th public screening we've had for "Out Here In Kansas." It was by far the most emotional, for me at least. Our emcee, Greg "The Hitman" Williams (left) had my eyes swelling with tears before the movie even started with a heart-wrenching story about his gay daughter.
Several of those in attendance were representing WSU's Elliott School of Communication, of which I am a graduate. The entire night I was thinking of Les Anderson, a WSU professor who advised me in college and mentored me for the rest of his life.
To top it off, my friend and WSU schoolmate Jeff Guy asked a question in the Q&A session about whether or not making the movie had helped reaffirm my Christian faith. It was a completely legitimate question, since I've written about my hope to do just that.
Nonetheless, it was the first time anyone has asked that question, and I rambled on with an answer that I hoped I had made a film that Jesus would approve of. I don't even remember exactly what I said. But I do encourage you to read Jeff's account of last night on his own blog, which you can find here. I think it might be my favorite thing I'd read yet about "Out Here In Kansas."



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Smiling through the pain at K-State

Our latest screening was Thursday evening in Manhattan. It was a nice event, and I'd like to thank David Jones from ECM and K-State and Holly Nelson from the Kansas State LGBT Resource Center.
That's me in the middle of this picture at the ECM, with my daughter Stellar on the left and my nephew Josh (a proud member of the K-State marching band) on the right.
Side story about this trip ... I woke up with stomach pains on Thursday, and they only intensified that evening in Manhattan. Friday I went to my doctor and - long story short, my appendix was starting to burst and I was sent into surgery to remove it.
So now I'm on the mend, and I do expect to be at our screening Wednesday at Wichita State.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Kansas City FilmFest is in the books

Thoughts from the Kansas City FilmFest, which was held last weekend at Cinemark on the Plaza ...
* Our screening led off an 8:30 p.m. block, and proceeded a 90-minute documentary called "Woman On Fire" about the first (and so far, only) transgender firefighter in New York history. What a fascinating movie about a complicated issue. I wish the director, Julie Sokolow, would have been there, but I did reach out to her afterwards.
* There were plenty of other filmmakers there, of course, and it's always great to visit with them. Unfortunately, I had to leave before the screening of "The Grand Illusion," a documentary short about one of the most famous plays in college baseball history - which happened to come at the expense of my friend Phil Stephenson.
* That's me in all three of these photos, with producer Savannah Rodgers (top left), producer Jon Pic (top right) and executive producer John Stephens (bottom left).

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Rest in peace, Jinx No. 8

Southwestern College has had many black cats named "Jinx," but this one will always be my favorite, because he appears in our documentary. I just saw him last month on our visit to Southwestern, and took delight in explaining to my two guests where he lived (the basketball gym) and what his job was (to serve as an unofficial mascot and maybe catch a mouse or two).
But Jinx was sick, and he reportedly died over the weekend. Southwestern wasted no time in going to the Humane Society and replacing him with another Jinx yesterday. That's Jinx No. 9 ... they think.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Our busy month ahead

Here is a list of where "Out Here In Kansas" will be screening in April.
* 8:30 p.m. Thur., April 6: Kansas City FilmFest, Kansas City, Mo. Details
* 6:30 p.m. Thur., April 13: Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas Details
* 6:30 p.m. Wed., April 19: Wichita State University, Wichita, Kan. Details
* 7 p.m. Wed., April 26: Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kan. Details
* 2 p.m. Sat., April 29: Twister Alley Film Festival, Woodward, Okla. Details


Monday, March 27, 2017

Spring college tour continues in Overland Park

Our spring college tour will continue in Overland Park with a screening at Johnson County Community College.
The screening is 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 26 in the 221 lecture hall of the Carlsen Center on the JCCC campus.
This screening came at the request of Judy Dutra, an Overland Park resident who is the mother of our main subject, Burt Humburg. More details can be found on the Facebook event page, which can be found here.
JCCC will join Butler Community College, Southwestern College, Kansas State and Wichita State as colleges at which we've screened this year.
We'd love to screen at more colleges this fall. If you're interested in setting something up, drop us a line at OutHereInKansas@gmail.com.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Oklahoma premiere will be at Twister Alley

"Out Here In Kansas" has been selected to screen in the Twister Alley Film Festival, a three-day event that runs April 27-29 in Woodward, Okla.
Our documentary will be shown 2 p.m. Sat., April 29 at the Woodward Arts Theater, a gorgeous historical theater. (We're even among the four nominees for Best Doc Short Film.)
A full schedule of the festival can be found here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Hitman is on board

Our screening at Wichita State on April 19 will be emceed by a local legend in the radio world: Greg "The Hitman" Williams.
Williams, who can be heard from 6-10 a.m. weekdays on Power 93.5 FM, has been on Wichita's airwaves since he was a student at East High School. He also attended WSU, which is part of the reason we wanted him to emcee the event.
Most important, though, was the fact that he's seen "Out Here In Kansas" and wants to support it. You can learn more about the event on WSU's Facebook event page here.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

WSU to screen documentary April 19

In what I'm sure will be our largest audience to date, "Out Here in Kansas" will screen on the campus of Wichita State University next month.
The event will start at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 19 at the CAC Theater. Admission is $2, with proceeds going to WSU Spectrum, a social/discussion group for the LGBT community and its allies.
Spectrum is one of my favorite organizations. Even though it has no religious affiliation, I believe its mission falls right in line with what Jesus taught us.
WSU's Elliott School of Communication and Office of Diversity and Inclusion have stepped up to co-sponsor the event, as well as the Kansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Admission is free for WSU students. You can learn more about the event, and RSVP for it, on this Facebook event page.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Strong support from the Moundbuilders

Many thanks to Sigma Tau Delta and SC Residence Life for hosting a first-class screening of "Out Here In Kansas" at Southwestern College's Richardson Hall last night.
Southwestern is the alma mater of Burt Humburg, our documentary's main character, and a handful of his former teachers came out to see it. I'm told several members of the football, basketball and volleyball teams were on hand as well.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Kansas City, here we come

"Out Here In Kansas" has been selected for the Kansas City Filmfest, which takes place every year at the Country Club Plaza (that's on the Missouri side, in case you were wondering).
Here is the full schedule. Our documentary is screening 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6 at the Cinemark Palace At The Plaza.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Documentary to screen at K-State

Our college spring tour will continue with an event next month at Kansas State University.
"Out Here In Kansas" will screen at 6:30 p.m. Thur., April 13 at K-State's ECM Building, 904 Sunset Ave.
The event is free, and it is being sponsored by the K-State LGBT Resource Center. (ECM, in case you were wondering, stands for Ecumenical Campus Ministry.)
K-State has set up a Facebook event for the screening, which can be found here.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Venue at Southwestern has changed

In anticipation of a crowd that won't fit in the library, Southwestern College has switched the venue for next week's screening of "Out Here In Kansas" to the roomy Richardson Performing Arts Center.
It is inside the most recognizable building on campus, the Christy Administration Building, which sits on top of a hill at the main entrance.
If you need it, here's a link to Southwestern's campus map. If you enter campus via Warren Street, all you have to do is turn left onto King Drive and you'll find a parking lot right next to Christy.
The event is open to the public. The 30-minute documentary will be shown at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, and will be followed by a discussion and a reception. It is sponsored by Southwestern College Residence Life and Sigma Tau Delta.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A new audience in Andover

By my count, today was the eighth screening we've had for "Out Here In Kansas." Of course this one was pretty special, since we were showing it for the first time in Andover, which is where the story originates. 
An enthusiastic crowd showed up in the Butler Community College student lounge room known as the "Grizzly Den." Some people I knew; most of them I didn't meet until today. 
That's our producer Jon Pic at the top right, wrapping up our Q&A session. He's a self-described introvert but, bless his heart, he somehow transforms into a social dynamo when it comes to our documentary. 
Next up: An evening screening, March 15 at Southwestern College in Winfield.

Monday, February 27, 2017

My goal: One million viewers

A longtime friend surprised me today by telling me about her gay child, and the challenges she was having with it because of her Christian beliefs.
This has happened to me many, many times since word out that I was making a documentary about gays and the church. Each time someone trusts me enough to share their story - whether it's about a child, a parent or even themselves - I consider it an honor and a blessing.
Truth is, the timing was perfect for us to complete "Out Here In Kansas." I said this to the audience at our world premiere, and I'll make it public on this blog:: I want this documentary to be seen by at least a million people.
How do we do that? With fans who have already seen the documentary, and want others to see it, too. There will be an opportunity for everyone to not only see "Out Here In Kansas" but to share it. Hopefully that will happen later this year.

Anxious for Andover

Just a reminder that at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, we will be screening "Out Here In Kansas" on the Andover campus of Butler Community College.
The location is 715 E. 13th St. in Andover, in the "Grizzly Den" of the 5000 Building. That's where the main entrance is, as well as the bookstore, student lounge, etc.
Obviously, I'm excited. Andover has earned a special place in my heart over the last 10 years, and that's where the story of this documentary originated.
The screening is free. There will be a Q&A afterwards, and we should have things wrapped up by 12:30 p.m.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Back "home" at Butler

A student reporter asked me today about my relationship with Butler Community College.
Well, I replied, I grew up 10 minutes down the road from BCC. Went to the Grizzlies' football camps when I was a kid. Took college algebra there when I was 19. Covered countless football and basketball games there when I worked for the Wichita Eagle. Stayed up all night with them in Idaho after they won the national championship. Taught English for them as an adjunct. Worked with their athletic department, and marketing.
"Butler," I finally said, "is part of my family."
That's why I was so proud for "Out Here In Kansas" to screen on the BCC El Dorado campus in front of so many of the people who are the reason for that relationship. (I had never even met Butler President Kim Krull, but bless her heart, she was there too.)
Many thanks to BCC's Crystal Aluko (pictured above) for setting up the event. In case you don't know, there's another one on Tuesday in Andover.