The LA Times called the movie “Bridegroom,” which depicts the emotional journey of same-sex partners Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom, “a poignant, powerful tale of first love and untimely death as well as a practical, frankly undeniable, plea for marriage equality.” The Hollywood Reporter found it to be a “deeply moving documentary” with the ability to melt the heart of anyone who sees it.
The film premiered on OWN and Netflix on Sunday evening to outstanding reviews and currently holds an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a website devoted to reviews, information, and news of films.
The film’s already snagged the Audience Awards for Best Documentary at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, the 2013 Toronto Inside Out Festival, the 2013 Little Rock Film Festival and Outstanding Documentary Feature at the 2013 Outfest in LA.
To celebrate the film’s success, 429Magazine got a word in with Shane Bitney Crone, the producer, and subject, of the new documentary.
429 Magazine: How did the connection with Linda Bloodworth-Thomason form?
Shane Bitney Crone: My partner Tom and I attended a wedding years ago. Seated at our table was writer/director and creator of “Designing Women,” Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. She and her husband were very friendly, and the four of us spent the evening laughing and talking about the future, particularly Tom’s and my dreams of one day getting married.
After my YouTube video went viral, Linda called me and we met at her office. She convinced me that it was a story that needed to be told and she explained to me that film has the power to create change and reach people in unimaginable ways. I envisioned the film as a testament to Tom and the love that we shared.
I also felt like Linda was the perfect person to tell our story, as she herself has experienced the hate and discrimination that hundreds of thousands of gay men have experienced. Her mother was a victim of transfused AIDS and as a result she experienced the stigma first hand.
429Mag: What were some of the goals established in order to successfully capture your vision for this story?
Crone: The most important goal for “Bridegroom” is to open as many peoples’ hearts and minds as possible. I wanted it to be “the peoples’” movie, which is why we opted to use Kickstarter for funding. After Tom died and my YouTube video went viral, thousands of people were asking, “What can I do?” This was a way to include every single man and woman who were touched by Tom’s and my story and who wanted to pitch in. This isn’t just my fight, and we wanted the film to reflect that.
It was also important to us to keep the film simple, particularly from a production stand-point. The goal was not to create a blockbuster masterpiece (though “Bridegroom” is an incredibly well-made film, thanks to Linda), but to illustrate just how relatable Tom’s and my relationship was. In order to maintain that feel, we used tons of my personal footage (sometimes to my dismay), as well as interviews with the friends and family who knew Tom best. This film stays very focused, which I think better emphasizes our global message: equality for all.
429Mag: How do you deal with the losses that you’ve faced? How has it shaped both your current vision of the world and your outlook on the future?
Crone: After grieving for a year, almost silently, I decided to make a video to deal with my pain, to honor Tom, and to bring awareness about the discrimination I had encountered. I wanted people to see how innocent our love was, and how terrible it is to deny people that love, and the rights that should come along with it.
I hoped that even just one couple, gay or straight, would watch the video and make the necessary arrangements to avoid a similar fate. I was terrified of what people would think of the video—not only because it broadcasted to the world that I was gay and had been in love, but I used a lot of unflattering footage.
I was embarrassed, terrified, exposed. But it was all worth it. The actual results exceeded all of my expectations. I think it resonated with people, gay and straight, because for one of the first times in my life, I was being completely honest and vulnerable.
Tom had always encouraged me to speak my mind, and ironically, in his absence, I’ve learned to do so. I now see the world very differently, without fear and shame. I’m more positive, stronger, and more motivated to fight for my rights and the rights of others, in a world that does not always want to care about minorities.
I’m deeply saddened by the ongoing bigotry in Russia, and all over the world, and am determined to fight for the rights of those people who are silenced by their government, religion, or own fear. I hope that by telling my story and working with organizations like Love is Louder, the Human Rights Campaign, and GLAAD, I will be able to act as an instrument for change, or at least inspire others to stand up for themselves.
Additionally, the Supreme Court’s decisions this year, as well as New Jersey’s recent decision to grant marriage equality, keep me hopeful, inspired, and very, very happy.
429Mag: Can we expect more collaborations, in film, from you in the near future?
Crone: A remarkable aspect of “Bridegroom” is that Tom and I documented our relationship at nearly every turn, hoping to one day produce a documentary, possibly about visiting all of the World Wonders. Now, we have a documentary, about the both of us and the love we shared.
I wish Tom could be here to see the film’s success and how it is impacting people’s hearts and minds. I’m not positive that I will continue producing films, but I know that I will continue to share my story in every way possible if it will help to educate people.
By fighting for marriage equality, I hope others will eventually have the legal protection that Tom and I did not. I can be a face for the struggle, a voice for those screaming for equal rights. I owe it to all of the Shanes and Toms of the world to put myself out there and to stand up for equality.