Tom Bridegroom died after accidentally falling four stories from a roof.He left behind a family in Indiana, an acting career, a social media and public relations company and a dog, JB. He also left behind a partner of six years, Shane Bitney Crone.
And Crone has a lot to say.
Shut out from Bridegroom’s family, stripped of financial support and banned from the funeral, Crone spoke out in a 10-minute YouTube video, “It Could Happen to You,” about his lack of legal protection and the absence of same-sex marriage equality.
“I never could have predicted what happened with the YouTube video,” Crone said. “I had hoped that at least a few thousand people would see it. I had friends who told me there’s no way that a lot of people will see this video, because it’s over 10 minutes long, which as we know in our generation is an eternity on the Internet.”
The YouTube video has reached more than 4.5 million views since the May 2012 upload.
“It is unbelievable that it did go viral,” Crone said.
Now, Crone’s story spans more than 10 minutes in the film “Bridegroom,” which he will introduce at 2 p.m. Monday in L60 Butch’s Den in the Compton Union Building at Washington State University as part of a free showing.
Director and producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason met Crone and Bridegroom at a wedding ceremony in Palm Springs, Calif., and discovered the men were fans of “Designing Women,” the TV series she created in the late 1980s. She could tell they were madly in love and were brimming with big plans for a life together.
“Sadly, that possibility ended when Tom was killed in an accident … ” Bloodworth-Thomason wrote in a statement. “When I heard the news, I was haunted by the sheer weight of Shane’s loss. Even though I barely knew them, their good-hearted demeanors and earnest love had made an indelible impression on me.”
A year after his death, she was touched by Crone’s YouTube video … and angered. She called Crone and told him she wanted to make a film, documenting his and Tom’s love story from beginning to end.
“It was important for the director to just tell our story, which she calls a love story,” Crone said. “It’s not a film that focuses on the politics. I think that for the most part everyone has heard a lot of those arguments already. The most effective way to change people’s hearts and minds is through our personal stories, and so the film just tells our story as far as growing up, and how we met and then the aftermath of his passing.”
Brad and George Takei, as well as actor Neil Patrick Harris, helped fund productions in 2012, joining 6,500 others to crowd fund the documentary through Kickstarter.com. Released last fall, the film has received Audience Awards from the Tribeca Film Festival, Toronto Inside Out Festival, Little Rock Film Festival and overall Outstanding Documentary Film at the LGBT Film Festival.
The film is now nominated for a GLAAD Media Award and can be live-streamed for free on Netflix.
Heidi Stanton Schnebly, the director of Washington State University’s Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center said the film is more than relevant to the times.
There are 70 cases in state courts across the country either trying to get same-sex marriage legalized – or banned as unconstitutional – in that state, Stanton Schnebly said.
Battles for and against same-sex marriage in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia are in the forefront.
“That’s one thing that makes it hard to believe, that maybe this was part of some bigger plan,” Crone said. “There couldn’t be a more appropriate time for a documentary like this.”
Even the last name, Bridegroom, seems ironic.
“This has turned into my full-time job,” he said. “I never ever had aspirations to be an activist, it just kind of happened. I’m trying to make the most of it and do what I can to help with the movement.”
While Crone said he’s not sure what’s next, he’s just trying to trust everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.
“The thing that really keeps me going is my love for Tom, as cheesy as that sounds, but also I’ve received so much support daily from people all over the world … Their stories inspire me to keep standing up for what I believe in, because there’s a lot of people who are really scared.”
Stanton Schnebly said the film goes beyond gay-straight barriers, though.
“It’s not just about gay marriage, or same-sex relationships, it’s about having the legal protections available to see you through difficult times,” Stanton Schnebly said. “Everybody should have the opportunity to be with the person they love, if they’re dying, or want to be at their funeral or have some decision. People invest their lives into each other, into the person that they love, and when you don’t have laws that protect you, you aren’t able to be there.”
Crone will answer questions after the “Bridegroom” showing at WSU, and said he is excited to hear from a younger audience.
“I hope that it leaves people inspired and that they can see that it doesn’t matter who you are, that you can make a difference,” Crone said. “I’m just an average guy. I’m no expert on any of this, and I just hope that it inspires other people to share their own stories.”
Treffry can be contacted at (208) 883-4640 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTreffry.
->if you go:
WHAT: “Bridegroom” screening, introduction and Q&A by co-producer Shane Crone
WHEN: 2 p.m. Monday
WHERE: CUB L60 Butch’s Den, Washington State University campus, Pullman
Watch “It Could Happen to You,” and see the “Bridegroom” trailer below.