I’ve always considered myself a fantastic storyteller. It’s not always true; sometimes I get too excited about whatever happens next and end up mumbling through the most important part of the event, covering my audience in spit or whacking them with my flailing arms. But being “too excited” isn’t necessarily a flaw, in my opinion. In fact, I’m proud of it. Storytelling is a way of connecting to people, of expressing myself to them, and of accepting each other. Even if the story that I’m telling sucks, if I allow my passion to leak out and I accidentally whack someone in the middle of a plot point, in a way I’ve opened myself up to them. I’ve showed them that yes, I am a person, and yes, I do care about this thing that I am telling you about, and yes, I hope you are listening, because I care about you too. Which sentiment is, unfortunately, becoming a lost language in the ever-expanding world of social media profiles. Ultimately (I hope), the victim of my aggressive storytelling and I each walk away feeling closer to each other. It’s a good thing.
I want to translate this into my filmmaking. I was recently admitted into the Media Arts (Film) BFA program at BYU. I’m very young in the world-wide web of filmmakers – who, by the way, are basically just professional movie buffs – and I don’t yet have the “chops” for making gorgeous, feature-length, line-running-out-the-theater-on-opening-night movies, though that is the plan. I don’t want to make commercials for Dawn, or have a YouTube channel about the movies I like. I want to make heavy-hitter documentaries about people and their stories: their daily lives, insane obstacles, overcoming unbelievable odds – real people doing real things that are really amazing. And I’m going to start by telling my story.
For the first time, though, I’m terrified of telling my story, partly because, for the first time, it really is a good story. Plot-wise, there are a lot of crazy twists and lovable characters. And theme-wise, it has several powerful messages that need to be shared. I’m also scared because I just prefaced my story by saying that I want to make films about cool people and cool stuff, and there is that part of me that thinks, “What if I’m actually not cool and I can’t do cool stuff?” which would be really embarrassing if my story turned out to be super lame and I looked like a fool. But the scariest thing of all is that I will be telling a story that is hard to tell. It has been told a thousand times (especially lately), but has never been shared.
My story, in crippling summary, is that I was born Madeline Jane Purves in Salt Lake City, raised a Californian LDS prodigy, and am gay while attending the Lord’s University.
(I tried to catch your attention. I really did.)
I always knew I was gay. My first “crush” was on one of my classmates in 1st grade, with really shiny brown hair and a “really pretty face,” who made me nervous and excited. That’s all I remember about that. Through the rest of elementary school and junior high, I never thought about it more…the occasional, drifting, fleeting soundbite of an idea that, “hey, maybe I actually like-like these girls,” but that was it. I pushed any further introspection way, wayyyy the heck down. Which makes sense, as my parents spearheaded the “Yes On Prop 8” campaign for basically all of Yolo County (yes, Yolo County) in our living room. I was, as mentioned earlier, an LDS prodigy. The perfect Young Woman, the perfect oldest sibling, the perfect student, etc. etc. Being gay would smudge that title, knock me off that pedestal, which was the last thing a positive-attention-whore like myself ever wanted. I was an emblem, a statue, a “standard of truth and righteousness,” and made sure everyone respected that, sadly enough.
So, that is the story that needs to be told: of my stepping off of my pedestal. Of my getting kicked, stabbed, trodden over, yanked, silenced, humbled, helped, loved, and, hopefully soon, accepted. I plan on coming out to my family immediately after this semester ends, and am in the process of making a film about what it’s like being a queer student at BYU. This is the story that I will share…
…so keep your eyes peeled!