Focus on Propostion 8
BY Lesley Goldberg
June 17 2010 12:55 PM ET
Reed Cowan has been through a lot in his life. The out journalist-turned-filmmaker’s first project, The Other Side of the Lens, documented how the death of his son, Wesley, affected him. Now former Mormon Cowan has turned the camera on the church to which he once belonged to shed light on the lengths to which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints went in the effort to pass Proposition 8, rescinding California's legalization of same-sex marriage. The Emmy award-winning journalist and filmmaker reveals to The Advocate how he came to film 8: The Mormon Proposition, which debuts in theaters and on video on demand June 18, and on DVD July 13.
The Advocate: You grew up Mormon.
Reed Cowan: I grew up Mormon in a small Utah town. Not only did I grow up Mormon, but I was schooled in the Mormon seminary and I was trained to be a door-to-door missionary, and then I served as a door-to-door missionary for two years of my young life — an actual man of the cloth, so to speak.
What was your coming-out process like?
I don’t want to make the coming-out process sound horrible for young people because I want them to know it’s a beautiful thing too. It was excruciating. I lost all of my Mormon missionary friends. I lost all of my Mormon extended family and I lost much of my Mormon family through one disagreement in the coming-out process. Aside from the personal liberation, it did have an excruciating element to it.
When did you decide to make a film that exposed how strongly the Mormon Church backed Prop. 8?
I knew that this film needed to be made when I started to hear exactly how specific [the church] was in what they were doing. As soon as I knew a wrong had been done, I knew it needed to be made right. The only way you make a wrong right is by telling and exposing the truth. The minute I knew of the wrong, I put the wheels in motion to try to expose truth and in my way try to make it right.
What sort of struggles did you encounter in making the film?
I think the thing that surprised me the most, as far as from a personal angle, was how my Mormon family reacted. My family was there for me when I lost my child, to support us. There couldn’t have been a better family reaction to a death or a tragedy. They were so supportive of the adoption of our children. Yet when it came to speaking out against their church, it was like hearing a locomotive come to a screeching, grinding halt. That was the most difficult thing for me. My family was supportive of my life up until the time that I decided to get vocal about their own church, and that’s when the walls went up. It has been like a nuclear bomb has been dropped on my family. They didn’t come to see any of the screenings at Sundance even though they live a short drive away from all of the six theaters where it played. There are really a great number of difficulties in my family because of this film. I think that my experience is a microcosm for other Mormon gay experiences. A lot of Mormon families will come as far as supporting their children in their quiet life, but when their children get vocal or it’s about their community or their children are taking a stand against their church, that’s when the line is drawn.