Sav Rodgers is chasing sexuality itself in a Hollywood fantasy
Take a moment to think about a piece of art that makes your life better. Is it the song that played in the background if your first kiss? The painting you saw on a 6th-grade field trip that made colors look a way they never had before? The book that inspired you to get out of the house and embark on adventures of your own? No matter the reason, we all have those works of art that push a smile on our face when someone dares ask: “What’s your favorite?”
That question doesn’t often inspire the long term adventure inflamed in our guest today. Asking filmmaker Sav Rodgers what his favorite piece of art is, there is no hesitation: the 1997 Miramax film Chasing Amy. The passion Rodgers has for Chasing Amy shapes his path as a filmmaker and inspired his documentary feature Chasing Chasing Amy.
We promise it makes sense in a moment. Stay with us.
“Chasing Chasing Amy is about the cultural impact Chasing Amy had on the LGBTQ community and its controversy. But also its powerful resonance in my own life. What we’ve been able to do so far is have these difficult conversations with people about the power of positive identification and the power of movies.” Rodgers says. “The idea is that we talk about the power that movies have in terms of reflecting yourself.”
Chasing Amy is your typical Hollywood love story. Man falls in love with woman, Woman is a self-identified lesbian, Man obsesses over turning Woman straight, Man eventually gets Woman to proclaim her love for him, Man then ruins everything by having a meltdown when he discovers Woman has been with other men before him. That classic fairy tale trope.
Chasing Amy is inherently taboo and garnered controversy by many. The script is riddled with straight male characters saying a slew of ignorant, homophobic comments. The film’s writer and director, Kevin Smith is a heterosexual man himself, adding to the criticism that Chasing Amy may cause more harm than good.
“A lot of people maybe feel that Chasing Amy was used to weaponize harm against LGBTQ people by straight people after it came out. I think all those points of view are valid, but I also think that Chasing Amy is a cultural Rorschach test for how we approach sexuality,” Rodgers says.
Rodgers doesn’t shy away from the controversy around Chasing Amy. In his documentary, Rodgers interviews cast, crew, and critics who stand on both sides of the fence.
“Just because I like Chasing Amy doesn’t mean that everybody else has to,” Rodgers says. “It’s the whole reason we made this movie, to seek out discourse and then it continued to evolve into other things. We talked to plenty of people who straight-up hate Chasing Amy, and I think there’s power in that. Power of seeing people disagree about things but also recognizing multiple things can be true at once.”
Rodgers was 12 years old when he watched Chasing Amy for the first time. With a youthful obsession with Ben Affleck, he found Chasing Amy in the midst of his Ben-bender. With the film in his VCR, Rodgers was introduced to a world of queer visibility he hadn’t seen before in other mainstream entertainment.
“I really think that Chasing Amy shows such nuance for LGTBQ characters, especially when you consider it in the context of being made in 1997. I don’t think a lot of LGBTQ movies today capture that, especially ones made by straight filmmakers. These characters have very rich inner lives, and I really respond to that,” Rodgers says.
When watching Chasing Amy for the first time, Rodgers saw a lot of himself in those rich characters. And at 18, when he came out to his mom for the first time, he used Alyssa Jones, the film’s heroine, as an example. “I feel how Alyssa feels,” he recalls telling his mom in his 2018 New York City TED Talk.
“Chasing Amy helped me come out as queer. Making Chasing Chasing Amy helped me come out as trans. I think our documentary has helped me realize even though Chasing Amy itself hasn’t changed in the last 20-something years, it has continued to profoundly change me,” Rodgers says.
While capturing the conversations and discourse people have over the film, Rodgers also gets the chance to experience a fan’s ultimate fantasy by being so connected to the film’s production. Notably, director Kevin Smith is providing a helping hand for any of Rodgers’s needs.
“I’ve always been such an avid Chasing Amy fan, but I was never like a die-hard Kevin Smith fan as much as I really enjoyed his movies,” Rodgers says. “I told him that ‘You became my hero when I met you, not before that,’ because of the kind person he is and the generosity of his spirit. That was much more effective to me than any possible movie he could make.”
Chasing Chasing Amy is wrapping up shooting currently, with a release goal of 2021. Rodgers is eager to have people watch his film and to ignite the difficult conversations that are bound to come from it.
This March, Rodgers travels to Austin for the SXSW Film Festival where he will speak on the 90 Minute Film School panel. While Rodgers doesn’t attempt to give filmmakers a “paint by numbers” layout of how to get their films made, he wants to emphasize the possibilities out there and the importance of telling a story that only you can tell.
“For me making Chasing Chasing Amy, I feel like I’m the only person that can make this movie given what my life experiences have been,” Rodgers says. “So I really want to convey that information to the people that are going to be listening to that panel at SXSW: When you really lean into your own voice that unlocks a lot of your power as a filmmaker.”
Update: The city of Austin canceled SXSW earlier this month. Rodgers is no longer attending the panel.
Rodgers will be at Planet Comicon in Kansas City on Sunday, March 22 from 3:30 – 5 p.m. speaking on a panel called Making Movies: Destination KC. The panel consists of KC-based film and television industry professionals with similar advice on how to unlock your power as a filmmaker. (That is, if Comicon isn’t canceled, too.)