Hate crimes are still a major problem in LGBTQ communities — this new film wants to help change that
Scott Jones and his best friend documented his journey after a brutal attack paralyzed him from the waist down
Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens.
Last week, I previewed the exceptional LGBTQ lineup at the ongoing Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, and although in a perfect world all of them deserve a deeper dive, my heart directed me to one: Love, Scott.
In October 2013, gay musician Scott Jones was viciously attacked in a small Nova Scotia town, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. While this is devastating enough, on top of that — and despite clear evidence to the contrary — it was not recognized as a hate crime by institutions of power.
Shortly after the incident, Scott's dear friend Laura Marie Wayne began filming his journey into a new reality of limited mobility. It was supposed to only be a month-long project. But four years passed, and the filming continued — ultimately resulting in Love, Scott.
"Having that time also allowed the film to evolve because the journey went so much deeper," Wayne tells me with Jones at her side. "If we would have made the film in that first month, there was so much that was still to come that we didn't know was going to come. So in that sense we kind of needed the time."
Wayne and Jones met when they were both piano students at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. They both describe the origin of their relationship as like "meeting an old friend."
"It was such an instant connection, like finding someone that spoke my language," Wayne recalls. "There's just a few people on the planet who speak my language, and Scott is one of them."
So many years and one intense experience making this film later, that clearly hasn't changed.
"In terms of our friendship, we were so close anyway but [the film] brought us even closer together," Jones says. "It was such a horrific act, and unpacking everything that was associated with this and having someone hear you and mirror that back to you really strengthened our relationship. Not that it needed strengthening!"
Jones describes the process of making the film as "such a cathartic experience" — "just to have a close friend to talk to about the more difficult aspects of a traumatic experience like this," he says.
What the process also did was give audiences the gift of their film, which could go a long way in illuminating — among other things — the very problematic gap between the lived experience of LGBTQ people and the formal public record.
"It's interesting because there actually are laws in place to protect the queer community, but they're not being used," Wayne says. "So it's not even necessarily that we need to re-write policy, I don't think. Conversation is the first part, really. We need to give weight to lived experience, and that means we need to find better ways of listening, especially, I think, in the police force. How can we listen better? What tools? Maybe there's different questions that need to be asked...I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done on that level."
Jones adds that "understanding queer experience" is something he really wants audiences to take from the film. "And looking at the ways in which we need to improve hate crime legislation and the investigative process — how these systems are not supporting queer communities, marginalized communities. I hope the audience will reflect on their own experiences in relation to my journey with forgiveness and compassion."
Of course, after four years, Jones and Wayne now get to be audiences members themselves, which Jones admits was initially challenging.
"I remember going into the theatre and without realizing it — maybe as a coping mechanism — I detached myself a little bit from that experience because I was not sure how the audience was going to react. But then being in the theatre and hearing people laughing and crying...was really powerful and vindicating."
"It's incredibly rewarding to see it touch other people because honestly — it sounds crazy — at some point it's almost like I lost touch with the fact that others were going to see this," Wayne adds. "You're just in this for so long it no longer feels like a reality that it's ever going to be finished. So you sort of forget that other people are going to see this."