“This movie that saved my life also holds a complicated and controversial history in the queer film canon. I’m not seeking to change anyone’s mind with this film, but to recognize the importance of engaging in dialogue around different perspectives and understanding where and why they come about–be it personal, cultural, or historical.”Sav Rodgers, Director of “Chasing Chasing Amy”, excerpt from Director’s Statement
I conducted an interview with filmmaker Sav Rodgers about his feature directorial debut “Chasing Chasing Amy,” a documentary that started out as a love letter to a film that saved his life as a queer kid. I also spoke with two of the producers of the film, Lela Meadow-Conner and Carrie Radigan. The documentary had its world premiere at Tribeca on June 8th of this year and has one more in-person screening on June 15th at 6pm at the Angelika Theater. You can also watch the film online through the Tribeca platform June 19 – July 2. See info here.
Sav Rodgers, a twelve-year-old comic book fan, was obsessed with actor Ben Affleck, mostly because of “Daredevil.” So when Sav heard about Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy,” an indie film that was released in 1997, co-starring Affleck, he had to see it. What he saw in this film was something he didn’t see in his Kansas hometown: queer people living their true selves who were figuring out their lives on their own terms. Watching “Chasing Amy” got Sav through his difficult times at school, as he was constantly being bullied. Since “Chasing Amy” was the only queer film he knew about at the time, watching the film countless times saved his life, as he shared in his 2019 TED Talk.
Sav wanted to show the impactful experience that “Chasing Amy” had on his life by making a documentary about it. Lela Meadow-Conner, Creative Producer and head of mama.film, also based out of Kansas, saw value in Sav’s story and his connection with “Chasing Amy.” During production, she encouraged Sav to put more of himself and his story into the documentary. For me, this is what makes the film more nuanced, layered, and authentic. Lela shared, “One thing I truly love about this film is that it gives us permission to really think about the stories that informed us along the way. And how a story might have been transformative to one person, and could have had a totally different effect on someone else. And the beauty of it is that all of that is OK.”
We see Sav dive deep into “Chasing Amy” by visiting the locations of the film and interviewing the major players that made the film happen, like the director Kevin Smith, actors Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee. Sav also spoke with other people who were part of the shaping or the inspiration of the film, like Guinevere Turner (“Go Fish”, “American Psycho”), along with LGBTQ+ people about their thoughts and feelings regarding the film. Along with his exploration into “Chasing Amy,” he grows to embrace his queer identity as a trans man with the support of his partner Riley.
Something that I learned watching this film was that there are many different ways “Chasing Amy” can impact you. The script is so good, and as Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel discussed, this film really sounds like how people talk, so in layman’s terms, it’s not just flowery bullshit, it’s based on real conversations with real people. The monologues in this film with Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams really go deep into the complexity and passion of their relationship as Holden and Alyssa. We learn that Kevin Smith and Joey Lauren Adams were in a relationship together at the time of making the film, which started during the production of “Mallrats.” Kevin’s relationship with Joey reflected the story of Alyssa and Holden. Like Holden, Kevin grew up in a Catholic family, and his ways of looking at relationships were very traditional, and very hetero. Joey had more experience, and was more open-minded about things. This was a difficult thing for him to get over as a result of his insecurities due to a lack of sexual experience compared to Joey, which is reflected in Holden and Alyssa’s dynamic.
We learn more about the life of the film after its premiere at Sundance in 1997. It was at that festival that Harvey Weinstein met Kevin, and told him he was moved by his film. Miramax stepped in as the film’s distributor under Weinstein’s direction. It was also during Sundance of that year when Harvey Weinstein raped Rose McGowan. The circumstances of these events effected Joey, and in a one-on-one interview, she spoke about Weinstein’s detrimental impact on her career.
Joey Lauren Adams’ performance was acclaimed by critics and she was nominated for a Golden Globe. It seemed that “Chasing Amy” was going to be the vehicle that took her career to the next level. But Weinstein had it out for her, and made it impossible for her to get the parts that she deserved. The no-bullshit interview between Sav and Joey shows us the dark underbelly of this film reflecting the problematic industry for women at that time.
After that interview, Sav was stuck. For Sav, Joey revealing her truth knocked “Chasing Amy” off the pedestal a little bit, and he was conflicted about moving forward. Along with Lela, a producer Carrie Radigan, producer at Professional Amateur Productions, was very supportive during this process. I learned that the “Chasing Chasing Amy” team behind the camera were very instrumental to the success of what we see onscreen. Carrie shared with me, “One of the many reasons I’ve loved making ‘Chasing Chasing Amy’ with our collaborators was the sense of community we had. For anyone still searching for their chosen family, I hope they feel inspired to find their people – filmmaking is a team sport and we couldn’t have done it without each other!”
To conclude the interview, I asked Sav, what do you hope people see in his film? Sav replied, “I hope people see the love and care it took to put this story together. And I also hope folks see that in my own life, there was a path forward, even if I couldn’t imagine it until ‘Chasing Amy’ came along. I want folks to know they have a path forward too.”
Sav is a unique voice as a filmmaker with a lot of heart, and I’m so excited to follow him and his career. “Chasing Chasing Amy” is one of my favorite films of the year as I too deeply connected with “Chasing Amy” when I saw it in the early 2000s. I revisited the film while writing this piece, and for me, the film affirms that I don’t need to apologize for my past. Everything that has happened to me has led me to where I’m at, and for that I’m grateful.
About Sav, Lela, and Carrie . . . .
“Chasing Chasing Amy” press notes
SAV RODGERS, DIRECTED & PRODUCED BY Originally from Kansas, Sav Rodgers is a filmmaker and screenwriter whose feature directorial debut CHASING CHASING AMY is about the complicated legacy of Chasing Amy (1997) and its profound impression on his life. The TED Talk he gave in 2018 kickstarted this filmmaking journey, and spurred the writing of scripts that center on highly specific, surprising stories about queer people. His screenplays have been recognized by GLAAD, Outfest, ScreenCraft, among others. An alumnus of the Producers Guild of America’s inaugural PGA Create program, Sav is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Transgender Film Center, a nonprofit aiming to help trans creators bring finished films to audiences around the world. Sav is a proud University of Kansas graduate and still sports KU baseball caps wherever he goes.
LELA MEADOW-CONNER, PRODUCED BY Lela Meadow-Conner is a recognized Creative Producer and Founder of mamafilm, an organization where storytellers, changemakers and nurturers come together to champion humanity through a maternal gaze. With 20 years of experience in independent cinema exhibition, Lela most recently served as the Executive Director of Film Festival Alliance. She is producing several projects including Sav Rodgers’ directorial debut CHASING CHASING AMY and Nitzan Mager’s RUN AMOK, a scorching satire on the state of gun violence in American schools. Lela serves on the board of Los Angeles’ iconic Vidiots Foundation as well as the inaugural board for the Art House Convergence. She currently lives in Wichita with her family, including two daughters.
CARRIE RADIGAN, PRODUCED BY Carrie Radigan is head of production at Professional Amateur Productions. With roots in post production, Carrie has supervised and post produced for various films, and her background comes from her previous post work for VICE, Sim, Senior Post, and Light Iron, a Panavision Company. She is currently in post production on the documentary CHASING CHASING AMY by Sav Rodgers, which will premiere in 2023. She’s a board member of Blue Collar Post Collective and is a co-founder of Martini Shot, an art salon based in New York for creatives of various mediums and backgrounds to gather and showcase their work.