Bucking Tradition: Queens & Cowboys Director Matt Livadary
“Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo” will debut in LA at the Outfest Festival
BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor
Matt Livadary never expected that “Brokeback Mountain”would play a crucial role in the completion of his first feature. Without Jack and Ennis, however, “Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo” would be an unedited collection of interviews.
“On the last day of my Kickstarter campaign I was $2,000 shy of my total and if I couldn’t reach it, I’d get nothing,” said Livadary. “The ‘Brokeback Mountain’ enthusiasts – there are fan clubs all over the world – found out about it, and pushed the campaign over the edge.”
Four years ago, Livadary also would not have expected he’d be completing a documentary, either. With a love of storytelling and cinema, Livadary attended the cinema studies program at USC. After graduating, he honed his story telling skills through jobs at the Creative Artists Agency and Marc Forster’s production company, Apparatus. During a research trip to develop a television concept, Livadary attended rodeos across the country. A rodeo fan since childhood, Livadary wasn’t anticipating the ostracisation he experienced due to his clothing and car choice. By happenstance he sat next to a lesbian couple at a show, and discovered they preferred to attend gay rodeos. It was the first Livadary had heard of the thirty-year old International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA), and after attending his first IGRA event, he wanted to explore the subject matter further.
With the blessing of Apparatus, Livadary left his steady job and enthusiastically embarked on his directorial debut. He had a pre-conceived notion of capturing public outcry to the rodeos and anticipated a fairly quick shoot. As he began shooting the events, the real story worth exploring quickly exposed itself.
“A man approached me who was terrified of being caught on camera. He was a teacher who wasn’t out in the community, and he was fearful of losing his job,” said Livadary. “The gay rodeo was the only place I was told many of the members could be themselves, and feel like a member of a family.”
Unlike a traditional circuit that thrives on competition, IGRA participants withhold a code of honor consisting of respect, compassion and sharing. No one is turned away if they lack equipment or a horse: members will share these essentials with those in need. Plagued with insecurities about whether he could be accepted by the community being a straight man, he quickly realized the search for acceptance, along with the IGRA cowboy code, provided the groundwork for his story.
Based on his initial conception of the project, Livadary chose to work independently. He used a DSLR camera and logged all footage while traveling between locations. Within months his budget was stretched thin. He spent weekends as a wedding videographer and weeknights on editing assignments to fund his weekday documentary project. He learned to embrace the generosity of the gay rodeo code.
“I was living month to month. When I needed a piece of equipment, I would save up and buy it,” said Livadary. “People knew I couldn’t afford to stay at a hotel, so they would invite me to stay at their houses. I was helping to feed the animals on the ranch, living and breathing the life. It wasn’t premeditated, but it helped with the intimacy of the story.”
Eight months into the shoot, Livadary recognized he needed more than financial help in getting the feature completed. He reached out to Erin Krozek, a reality television producer he met at CAA. Once on board, Krozek helped Livadary maintain all aspects of the film, from acquiring rights and other legal matters to defining story lines.
“Producers don’t get enough credit for all they do,” said Livadary. “It took a while to realize I had a movie, and took me too long to ask for help. She helped me with everything, from defining stories to emotional support.”
After sifting through 800 hours of footage shot over a year and a half, Livadary was ready to move into post production. The Kicktarter campaign, successful thanks to the support of the gay community (and “Brokeback Mountain” fans) helped finance the film’s two years of post-production. Working with an editor and colorist, Livadary once again relied on the generosity of the post house he was working at that allowed him to use their equipment after hours to edit the film.
Livadary worked diligently to expose the heart of the story and present it in a way that would have a broad appeal. The fruits of his labor became immediately apparent after the film’s first screening at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in February, 2014. It won both the Audience Award and Best Documentary Award. Still early in its festival run, the film won additional awards at the Dallas International Film Festival and the Atlanta Film Festival. As the film begins to gain exposure, Livadary has turned his attention to two other documentary films; one focusing on a sporting event in Cuba, and another Livadary promises will present a “character that no one has ever seen before on film.”
“I feel like I have found my calling with documentary filmmaking,” said Livadary. “I love filmmaking, finding connections, and experiencing life in other people’s shoes.”
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