- Mythgarden:Collaborative Authorship and Counter-Storytelling in Queer Independent Film
in an early scene from the 2007 film Save Me, a young man named Scott (Robert Gant) speaks to an offscreen therapist, discussing some of the struggles he has faced as a gay man. He says,
Being like this never felt okay for me, or if it did, it was a feeling that was over so fast I can't remember it. Maybe if my mom had been around. I think when she died, my dad sort of stopped … stopped living too, except through me. Then when my dad found out I was gay, he acted like I'd … died too, or like the person he knew was dead. So I went looking for people like me. I mean, I found gay people, but the bars and the parties—that didn't feel like that was who I was supposed to be.
He goes on to say more about the changes he is making in his life and his hope that these will help repair his relationship with his father.
Within the context of the film's diegesis, this is one person's story, relayed directly and privately to another person who is sitting just a couple of feet away. But it goes well beyond that, given that Scott's parental rejection and difficulty finding new support systems mirrors the experiences of countless gay men and lesbians in our society. It is therefore the story of many people, verbalized by an individual.
And within the larger context of filmmaking, the story is told not by one person, but by a team of people; an actor, a director, a writer, a cinematographer, a costume designer, and many others work together to craft the details of the story and its presentation not just to the diegetic therapist, but to viewers watching the film in a theater, on their television, or through some other means.
Considered in this way, the scene highlights the process of taking a story or stories from the lived experiences of real people, channeling them into the existence of a fictional character, and then sharing that experience with a mass audience via a mediated text. Drawing story ideas from real life is a common process for filmmaking in general, but putting real stories onscreen is especially important when it comes to the experiences of LGBTQ people, given the harmful, misleading myths that have been told about them in the past. This article considers the work of one company that aimed to combat those myths by changing the face of LGBTQ storytelling.1 Save Me was produced by a small, independent film production company called Mythgarden, a rare example of a company founded with a plan to produce solely LGBTQ-oriented media. In this article I use Mythgarden and Save Me to explore the sociopolitical significance of queer authorship and storytelling within the realm of independent cinema. The work of Mythgarden offers an example of authorship as stewardship—taking stories that originate in the lived experiences of the LGBTQ population, shepherding them through the production [End Page 44] process, and eventually delivering them to audiences that want and need to hear the stories. My investigation draws on in-depth interviews conducted with the three founders of Mythgarden and a fourth partner who joined the company after the release of Save Me. These interviews, which provide background about the genesis of Mythgarden and the stated goals and motivations of the company's founders, inform my textual analysis of the original and revised screenplays for Save Me as well as the completed film. Through an examination of Mythgarden and its goals, coupled with an investigation of the evolution of Save Me, I demonstrate that the value of authorship in storytelling goes well beyond the creative generation of original ideas. The stewardship model of authorship, though not unique to queer film, has a significant political value for LGBTQ people or any other marginalized group. Producers find stories that matter—stories that need to be told—and then mold them into the form that will have the greatest impact in terms of advancing a social movement. Mythgarden's work on...