What happens when you finally meet “the one” only to have him tragically taken away? In the bittersweet and powerful documentary, Bridegroom, Shane Bitney Crone shares a story of love, loss and, most importantly of all, resilience. Interview by Marc Andre
In 2012, Shane Bitney Crone, posted a video, It Could Happen To You, on YouTube to mark the first anniversary of the passing of his partner of six years, Tom Bridegroom, who died in a tragic accidental fall from a rooftop. Two years later, funds raised on Kickstarter turned his video into the documentary Bridegroom, which was introduced by Bill Clinton at the Tribeca Film Festival and had its television debut on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Bridegroom is a compelling and important piece of work that not only talks about marriage equality, it deals with marriage inequality. Tom’s family denied Shane the opportunity to bury or say goodbye to the love of his life. Mercifully, Shane has risen above, turning Tom’s untimely death into a vehicle for change around the world. DNA: This movie goes on quite a journey through your life. Were you happy to expose so much of yourself ? Shane Bitney Crone: It wasn’t easy allowing people to see me during the darkest periods of my life, but I felt it was important to hand over all my photo and video material to the director so she could effectively tell the story in the most authentic way. Most of my life I’ve bottled my emotions, so this was an opportunity to face my fears without being ashamed of my story. The movie begins with the tragedy of Tom’s death so the audience already aware of what happened. Why was it structured in this way? It was important for the director to not overdramatise my partner Tom’s death. Most people are already aware of his passing before viewing the film, so she didn’t feel the need to create any unnecessary build up to his accidental fall. How did you and [ Bridegroom director] Linda meet? In 2008, Tom and I met Linda and her husband at a mutual friend’s wedding in Palm Springs. We sat at the same table and ironically had a conversation about how Tom and I dreamed of getting married. Five years later I posted a YouTube video on the anniversary of Tom’s passing as a way to honour him and to spread awareness about what could happen when you are not legally married. The video went viral and when Linda saw it she reached out to me about turning it into a documentary. A few short weeks later we launched the Kickstarter campaign and thousands of people all over the globe pledged to ultimately help us reach our goal. How different is the finished movie to how it was first envisioned? I’ve never made a film before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Since it’s about my life, it was difficult to detach and watch it objectively. I’m truly proud of the final product, and I think Linda did a remarkable job telling our story and accurately depicting who Tom was. Bridegroom tackles so many big issues in modern life: homophobia, suicide, acceptance, rejection, marriage rights and, most importantly, love. Talk us through what these have all meant to you personally. Most of my life I was ashamed of being gay. I allowed my peers, anti-gay conservative Christians and homophobic messages in the media convince me that I wasn’t worthy of love. Bridegroom isn’t just a film about marriage equality, it’s a film about acceptance and loving one another unconditionally. The director wanted to show that, regardless of sexual orientation, love is love and loss is loss because at the end of the day we all deserve to experience the greatest gift in life – love. This movie is all about your past, but what’s your life like now? After posting the YouTube video my life significantly changed. All of a sudden I found myself doing interviews with major media outlets and becoming an accidental activist. The experience of making the video and documentary has brought so much meaning and purpose into my life. I’ll forever be grateful to the thousands of people who have shown me so much love and support. I’m not entirely sure what happens next, but I’m trusting everything will work out as it’s supposed to and I’m trying to share the story as much as I can and as long as it continues to help others. What is Tom’s legacy? Tom has shown me, and now thousands of people, what’s important – living and loving as much as we can. Most of us have lost someone we love, so we should try and
remember to not sweat the small stuff because tomorrow is not a guarantee. How have you put Tom’s death behind you? I do believe time heals. It feels good knowing that his death was not in vain. I’ll forever be grateful to him for loving and inspiring me the way he did. The documentary helps keep Tom’s memory alive, and inspires me to continue to stand up for what is right and just. What’s the situation with his family now? Why did they react like they did after his death? I had hoped Tom’s family would participate in the documentary, not for my sake, but as a way to honour him. I am not entirely sure why they reacted the way they did following his death. It probably had a lot to do with their religious beliefs as well as living in a small town where you can become over-concerned with what your neighbors think. I do like to point out that there are family members of Tom’s who support me, support this film, and who wanted to participate but felt as though they couldn’t, which I respect. Is the movie a cautionary tale about lack of rights for gay partners? Until the LGBT community has access to the same protections as everyone else, it’s important to legally prepare as much as you can for the unexpected. Obviously, being in our twenties, death was not something we anticipated. Do you see yourself making more documentaries or was this just a one-off ? I like the idea of making a documentary that shares the stories of LGBT couples talking about how inequality affects all types of people regardless of age or race. I believe our personal stories will ultimately help continue the fight for equality What’s your big passion in life? As cliché as it sounds, my passion in life has become opening hearts and minds. My story isn’t the first or the last of people experiencing a similar situation, but Bridegroom represents all people who have been condemned and ostracized just for being who they are and loving who they love. What advice would you give to someone on how to move past a tragedy? I encourage people to allow themselves to experience their feelings without self-judgment. Take the time you need, but remember that our loved ones would want us to live a fulfilling life and to move on. What do you think Tom would have made of the film and how you have celebrated his life and your love as a couple? He spent so much of our relationship trying to convince me that I was worthy of being loved, and that we shouldn’t have to be ashamed of our relationship. I know he would be so proud of me for sharing our story. Do you know if the film will be shown in Australia or available to watch? We are currently working on getting the film to Australia. It’s available on Amazon and iTunes. This is important and I will work hard to make sure it happens because inequality and homophobia are global issues. What’s your message to the readers of DNA? Be proud of who you are, share your own stories, and stand up for what you believe. I never thought people would listen to anything I have to say; I’m just an average guy who shared a story. I encourage you to share yours because even if it touches just one person, it’s worth it. Thank you for your support and kind words. I’ve received so much love from Australia and I’ll forever be grateful for that. more: bridegroommovie.com or find the film on Facebook and Twitter.