For Pride month Cinema Femme is excited to elevate Mary Tilden’s short film “Rough River Lake”. Read more about the film below, and please donate to support! Details below are shared from the filmmaker, Mary Tilden (“Cool for Five Seconds”). For more info, and to donate, visit

Rough River Lake

A film by Mary Tilden

The Story

A group of queer best friends arrive at the lake for the perfect getaway. Their “Gaycation” is interrupted when they discover the lake house has been double booked by a bachelor party.

The film is a queer ensemble comedy about the awkwardness that arises when queer folks live fully as ourselves in predominantly heternormative spaces. At Rough River, it is without fail in the moment when the queers let their guard down that they are confronted with homophobia. 

The queers reclaim Gaycation by reveling in their shared community and shared sense of home. Rough River Lake is a love letter to queer chosen family and a reminder to all the bros out there that we’re not going anywhere. 

Director’s Statement

When I went with my girlfriend Leah to her family’s lake house in Kentucky for the first time, I wanted to fall in love with her childhood happy place as much as she was excited to share it with me. When we rode the boat onto the lake, I felt hopeful and in love, away from the city and all our troubles. And then, BAM. A boat adorned with a giant confederate flag zoomed by, disrupting that feeling of freedom with a terrifying reminder of exactly where and who I was; that even in nature, some of us are unwelcome.

After the flag incident, our trip to Rough River Lake was a total bust. Leah and I were the “liberal lesbian couple”, navigating microaggressions and potential conversation landmines from the overwhelmingly hetero-normative crew also at the lake (turns out Leah’s brother was hosting a group of friends, plus a cousin and his wife, and a lot of dogs.) A family friend got drunk one night and said something hurtful that stung me to my core. As a native Southerner, I told myself that I should have seen all of this coming. But every time I return to the South, there is a part of me, deep down, that hopes this time will be different. 

On the drive home, Leah and I processed our feelings from the weekend. We thought: this should be a movie. A movie that envisions what would have happened at the lake if we had had a group of queer friends and queer community to back us up. A movie that explores the intersection of Southern, feminist and queer. A movie that empowers queer and BIPOC folks in nature, which is usually reserved for the rich white folks who can afford to own land there. A movie that makes our families laugh while inviting them to witness what it feels like as a queer person to return home, how alienating it can feel, how lonely, how much we wish it were different. So, we made Rough River Lake. 


In March 2020, Rough River Lake was a semifinalist for the Camera Ambassador Community Builders grant. 

In August 2020, we received Fiscal Sponsorship from Full Spectrum Features and began a fundraising campaign for two months. We shot the movie on a queer and femme-led set over the course of 3.5 days in October 2020 at Rough River Lake in Falls of the Rough, Kentucky. 

As a first-time director, I have worked diligently throughout the winter with our editor Lindsay Rynne to get the edit where I want it. Our next steps are to work on the sound mix and color, and then submit to film festivals. Rough River Lake is a concept short for a feature film. The script for the comedy feature is currently in development. 

For more info, and to donate, visit

More photos below: 

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