Interview: ‘The Case Against 8′ filmmakers on trying not to get emotional

Filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White spent five years making the Proposition 8 doc "The Case Against 8." Credit: Getty Images
Filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White spent five years making the Proposition 8 doc “The Case Against 8.”
Credit: Getty Images

Documentary filmmakers Ryan White and Ben Cotner are finally seeing five years’ worth of work come to fruition with “The Case Against 8,” chronicling the legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage in the state in 2008. The film premieres on HBO Monday June 23 at 9 p.m.

On keeping it together when chronicling such an emotional subject:

Ryan White: It was an extremely emotional film to make. I mean, I had made two films before this and I’d worked on many other films before, but I don’t think we’d ever worked on something that we were so emotionally invested in — in the sense of the people that we were following, but also for ourselves, because the result of our film directly effected what our rights were. I would say it became increasingly emotional the more we went into it. By year five we were about to boil over, just blubbering messes. The weddings were the best day of filming for us. It was just incredibly emotional to have followed them for five years and to see all of it finally paid off.

Ben Cotner: I don’t think either of us were prepared for how emotional the response to the film would be when we started screening it. That was a real surprise, even though the process was emotional for us. I don’t think we realized how deeply people would relate to it. I mean, we cried a lot, but… [Laughs]

On how quickly opinions on gay marriage have changed:

RW: I think it was shocking. I wasn’t expecting that. Ben’s from Indiana and I’m from Georgia, so we’re not from parts of the country that are particularly LGBT-friendly. And we’re not from parts of the country that are on the road to marriage equality that closely right now. When Prop 8 passed I remember not being that surprised. Like, “Of course we don’t get that because we never get that. That never happens, and our rights are always voted down.”

BC: It felt like there was this landslide of people coming out in favor of it leading up to the Supreme Court decision. We in our entire lives had never really had elected officials speaking out for our rights, and all of a sudden here in such a short window of time there was such a massive change. It was really surreal to see how quickly things were changing.

"The Case Against 8" details the mission to knock down Proposition 8. Credit: HBO
“The Case Against 8″ details the mission to knock down Proposition 8.
Credit: HBO

On trying to keep the “states that allow gay marriage” text at the end of the film up-to-date:

RW: We knew we were making a bad decision, but we like the numbers because it’s a really visceral way of showing where we are in the country, so we’re updating it up until the broadcast. But it’s a bittersweet ending to a film that has such a happy ending at least in the footage itself. I hope that the messaging at the end is more bittersweet and remains a call to action, and that people are left thinking: we just watched these four people go through this incredible journey and have their fairy tale ending, but how many people out there in Mississippi are not even close to that — unless our Supreme Court steps in? So hopefully the film can serve at least as a conversation-starter for people in places like that.

On the end of Prop 8 not being the end of the struggle:

BC: We can’t take these rights for granted, and I think that is now even more important because there’s this conversation that it’s inevitable — and remember, that’s how we felt in 2008 when Proposition 8 was being passed. We think about that a lot and how now, with everyone hoping and assuming that the Supreme Court will take this case and make a final decision in favor of same-sex marriage some day, I don’t think we can assume that that’s inevitable. And even if that does happen, there are so many other things that need to happen, whether it’s Employment Non-Discrimination Act or anti-violence acts here and abroad. There’s a lot of work still to do, so I think we should all look back to that day in 2008 and remember not to be complacent.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick


Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.


Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.


Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…


U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…


Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.


Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…


Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.


Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.


Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.


Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.


Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…


Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…


Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…


Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…