“In only 72 hours after our trailer’s release on the web, we estimate 50-75 thousand people logged on to see the trailer,” said Reed Cowan, the director, writer and producer of 8: The Mormon Proposition. “At one point we were the number one video for the activism channel on YouTube. That’s huge. I’ve had acquisition departments from big, big media companies call wanting to see the film. So interest didn’t build … it exploded.”
In February, interest in the film exploded for the first time in headlines across the world after Utah’s ABC affiliate showed footage of Cowan’s interview with anti-gay Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. In this footage, Buttars — known for his controversial remarks about gays and lesbians — compared gay people to terrorists, claimed that they engaged in “pig sex,” and called them “the biggest threat to America going down that I know of.”
Cowan said the time he spent with Buttars haunts him today.
“I thought he knew about my life. Everyone does,” he said. “As I listened to him I had to put aside my feelings and keep a cool head and genuinely try to see it from his perspective. And I did that. It wasn’t until after the interview, when I was two stories underground in a gay youth hiding place in the dead of winter that his words hit me. Here were children of god … living in a hole … coughing and freezing and hungry before my eyes and Buttars’ words about how despicable gay people are! Can you imagine that juxtaposition? I became sick and frankly I’m still haunted by him. I’ve learned a lot. When you speak with goodness you leave feeling edified … light. I did not leave feeling that after speaking with Buttars.”
The now-famous footage opens the two and a half minute trailer, which goes on to show clips from interviews with LDS leaders, gay and lesbian couples, politicians, leaders of political action committees and Latter-day Saints about how their lives were impacted by the church’s support of the Yes on 8 campaign and Prop. 8’s passage last November, which effectively launched a new era in America’s gay rights movement.
Eight months after Cowan first contacted QSaltLake to let the local community know that he would be in town seeking interviews, the film is now complete and being sent to such major film festivals as Sundance, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Nashville Film Festival, and several more throughout the United States and Canada.
“Our early press has gotten us several invitations sight unseen for other festivals in and out of the U.S.,” said Cowan.
Reactions to the project have been varied, and many of them can currently be seen on the film’s Web site, mormonproposition.com. At the moment, most of the comments have been signed by Utahns or Californians, and most are supportive of the film. However, as press coverage 8: The Mormon Proposition continues to snowball, and if the film is screened at any film festivals or in any theatres, these reactions will likely change. For his part, Cowan has promised to post all comments — “good, bad, ugly or beautiful” — on the film’s Web site as he receives it.
“It’s been wonderful to see the enormity of people’s interest,” said Cowan. “This film hits a nerve with people. Not only people concerned for gay causes but also people who are interested in church state separation themes.”
Cowan said that he expects the film to be released “anytime after January 2010.” At present, he has no plans “just high hopes” to screen it in Utah.
8: The Mormon Proposition is narrated by Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk, the Sean Penn movie about the life of assassinated San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. Utah philanthropist Bruce Bastian serves as executive producer.
For more information visit mormonproposition.com.