“‘When the Supreme Court announced same-sex couples had the constitutional right to marry, I was over the moon. And then I realized something that made me stop in my tracks,” recalls Nashville-based independent filmmaker Jen Sheridan. “Evangelicals,” she said. “They weren’t going to like this at all.”
Sheridan’s small film company, Do Something Film Group, recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for the in-production documentary, Love, Hate, Church & State, which brings to light the direct relationship between conservative Christianity and Tennessee state government’s laser focus on the LGBT community this year. Filming began in January.
Since the SCOTUS marriage equality decision, a wave of backlash in the name of religious freedom has swept the country. While Georgia and North Carolina took the national media stage, Tennessee lawmakers quietly introduced 13 pieces of potential legislation that could negatively impact the lives of LGBT Tennesseans, in an attempt to preserve the state’s “conservative values” status quo.
By taking a frank look at Tennessee politics and its entanglements with religion, Sheridan hopes to ignite a transformative conversation. “As cool as Nashville is and is perceived to be, Tennessee has been flying under the radar in regards to anti-LGBT sentiment for a long, long time. A public conversation is absolutely vital to creating change, and our film takes a well-aimed shot at that."
“You don't hear much about Tennessee,” Sheridan points out, “and there is some skillful maneuvering behind that, a strategic genius on the part of local church-fueled lobbying groups. Our film draws a line directly from what’s said in church on Sunday to restrictions on – and basic rights denied to – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Tennessee,” she added. “Politics are ‘preached from the pulpit’ and that translates into a very politically-engaged congregation. We'll show a small cross section of different kinds of churches with different beliefs and how those beliefs are – or are not – changing, and what that might mean for LGBT here in the future.”
Sheridan understands the political and religious landscape is complex and doesn’t intend to paint caricatures. “We'll show there are good people across the state,” she said. “Evangelicals, straight allies, politicians, advocates, preachers, LGBT and their families. Not everybody is going to be in agreement with everything, but there will be common ground. And we plan to ask the people we meet, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’"
Love, Hate, Church & State’s crowdfunding campaign is part of #UntoldStory, an innovative documentary crowdfunding “rally” hosted by Seed & Spark in partnership with Project Greenlight Digital Studios. Sheridan's 30-day campaign is working to raise a minimum of $10,000 in initial funding by June 5 (films must also garner 500 followers by their deadline in order for their campaigns to move on to the finals of the judged competition). The winning documentary will receive matching funds up to $20,000, as well as an online video distribution deal.
For more information about Love, Hate, Church & State and to see the brief campaign trailer, please visit www.seedandspark.com/studio/love-hate-church-state. For more on Sheridan's production company, visit www.dosomethingfilmgroup.com.
UPDATE: As of the deadline, Sheridan's film had raised $13,385, and accumulated 620 followers, meaning that she exceeded the threshhold required to move on to the finals in the #UntoldStory crowdfunding rally. Once all the other films competing have completed their campaigns, applications for the finals will be reviewed and the films chosen for consideration will be announced.
DISCLOSURE: James Grady, print editor of O&AN, is an adviser on the documentary's campaign.