In 2013, 26-year-old musician Scott Jones was attacked outside a gay bar in a small town in Nova Scotia and as result was paralyzed from the waist down. Even though the perpetrator was caught and convicted, the Police refused to even consider it a hate crime that was motivated by a hatred of gay people.
Scott’s best friend filmmaker Laura Marie Wayne flew from Cuba to be beside his hospital bed, and with her camera always turned on, she stayed with Scott for three years after his attack. This emotional and intimate story is now an incredibly moving documentary which serves as a testament to the resolve of a remarkable young man. Wayne’s film shows how Scott embraced love over fear, and with his new life in Toronto to focus on choral music he has now channeled his grief and trauma into a successful anti-homophobia campaign. He even ultimately forgave his attacker publicly
After the movie’s World Premiere at BFI Flare in London, Scott and Laura sat down with Roger Walker-Dack for QUEERGURU to talk about the whole experience.
QG: Usually I start an interview with filmmaker by congratulating them, but this time I want to add a very deeply felt thanks too. Your story is so heartbreaking on many levels, and I wanted you to know that I am grateful to you for having the courage to make it.
Making The Film
Why did you want to make the film Scott?
SJ: It wasn’t like a conscious decision to make a film. Laura came to visit me from Cuba where she was studying film a week after I was attacked and she just felt the need to bring her camera, and I also felt the need for the camera to be there. In fact, the first thing I asked her was ‘Did you bring your camera?’
For me, it came out of this need to document a time that I knew was going to be very blurry and chaotic due to the pain and the trauma
LMW: We also were very clear from the beginning that we needed the film to shine a light on the invisibility of queer experience in the Justice system, and that a very important part of Scott’s story was not being told in the media and was not being told in the Courts, so the film became a platform that we could give voice to this part of the story.
QG: The film has helped all of us come to grips with so many issues that we do not want to talk about, but has it helped you more now that you have made the film?
S: We don’t want to talk about the trauma that we carry as a community. I think first and foremost this has been a very cathartic therapeutic experience and talking through everything with Laura and documenting it has really helped me articulate the pain and make sense of it all. I think in terms of queer experience, it really as it helped me come to terms with how traumatic it is growing up in the closet …..
QG: Were you in the closet at the time?
SJ: No, but I am only 31 years old and so the majority of my life has been in the closet, and so that was a big part of the process realizing that too is a form of trauma and then on top of it the attack and becoming disabled was very traumatic.
Strength And Fear
QG: Your movie is very much about strength and fear. What do you feel now about your situation?
SJ: Still fear, and looking at my fear and analyzing where it comes from. I don’t think it is ever over. I think the journey is always unfolding
QG: Would you have found the whole process of making the film much tougher if it had been made by someone other than your best friend,
SJ: I have known Laura for 12 years prior to the attack. I’ve seen her art and her films and I knew that it would be told in such a sensitive way and she really gets me ….we are of the same ilk. So we were able to get deeper into issues and that was very important.
QG: Did knowing Scott so well help you in making the film?
LMJ: I would never make a film about someone that I don’t love very deeply. That’s a huge part of what motivates me. A film requires so much time and dedication and you can only see through the process with the dignity it deserves if you’re deeply invested in the person and the story you are telling.
It helped tremendously to know Scott and love him, but of course, there were times too where I had to question choices. When we in the editing process I had to ask myself, was I just putting something in because it meant something to me and to Scott or was it actually serving to tell his story in a powerful way and that did get to me at times for sure.
Gay And Disabled
QG: Can we talk about your experiences as a gay disabled man, and what your thoughts are on what we should do as a community to make you feel more inclusive.?
SJ: I think we need to develop better listening skills . Often there are experiences in our community that we don’t acknowledge, and being disabled is definitely one of them. Laura and I have realised going through this process how many barriers there are not just in the queer community but everywhere.
Specifically in our community dating is an eye opening experience because I might be the only person in a wheelchair who is on Grindr (well, I have never seen anyone else). There is one on Tinder. I live in Toronto and that’s a huge pool of people, but I think we don’t feel safe to be in those spaces yet because we are just not acknowledged. So I think listening is a huge part of rectifying that .
QG: Do you think you could be tempted to agitate for the rights of the queer disabled community?
SJ: Well, we do advocate for that. Laura and I have encountered serious areas of concern to the point of thinking about filing a Human Rights complaint.
QG: Is it worse being disabled and gay?
SJ: You mean like a double minority? I don’t know if I can answer that ….it’s just been 4.5 years, so I’m still very new at it. I’ve yet to fully experience the intersections of queer and disabled, as I kind of separated them throughout this process.
LMW: I think it is just a really simple thing but queer bars and venues could just start by making themselves more accessible.
QG: Have you exhausted all the legal avenues regarding your case?
LMW: The film is basically our cry for legal reform because the sentencing in Scott’s case was already handed down. I think it is clear to both of us that we are not policy makers or lawyers, but what we could do is share this experience with the people who are. This is like our cry for attention to this huge attrition between the number of hate crimes that get reported to the number that come to Trial. So now it’s almost like we are passing the torch to the people who can carry on.
What’s Next for The Film
QG: Are you planning to take your movie to audiences outside of the LGBT community?
LMW: Absolutely. We are at the very beginning of that journey as this was our very first Film Festival but the next one we screen at is Hot Docs in NY. It’s very important for us to hit mainstream festivals like this where they have no concept of experiences like Scott’s and so they can see the film and have this window to relate to it.
We are also working with the National Film Board of Canada and they make the big decisions on how the film with be distributed, and I think they have plans to show it to Universities and also hopefully incorporate it into the curriculum but that’s all still to be negotiated.
The Journey Of Forgiveness
QG: Can I ask you a very personal question Scott? Why the letter to your attacker?
SJ: That’s part of my journey with forgiveness. I would say that it is not like a one-step process where you forgive and it is all done
QG: But many of us couldn’t have done that.
SJ: True, but I guess I saw forgiving not just as a selfless act but also a selfish act, as I knew by forgiving Shane it would also help me work through this process. After I did it a huge weight was lifted and I let go of a lot of that anger. There is still anger for sure but that made me shift my anger towards society, and how did this happen. I’m not saying that Shane is absolved of guilt, but how did this situation come to be societally.
And so the letter was part of the process, and the process continues
QG: What do you do with your anger now?
SJ: It informs my activism. In this process of the film we really looked at and we didn’t focus on my anger towards Shane. It was looking at society, and in doing that it helped me forgive Shane and write that letter.
LMW: And seeing the way that Shane was failed too. Obviously, Scott has been failed on many levels, but this person was failed too along the way to get to be 19 years old and leaving his house that night with a kitchen knife, so obviously social nets have fallen to let him get to that place.
QG: What happens to you now that you finished the film? What’s the next part of life for you?
SJ: Right now I’m studying at the University of Toronto for my Masters in Music Education and I’m exploring how choral music and choral ensemble can create positive change. That choir experience in the film is where I am going in life I think. You never know.
QG: Where you always this positive before the incident?
LMW: I see him as compassionate. He’s incredibly kind and loving, and that continues with him all the time. Postive? Scott? I don’t know!
SJ: laughs loudly
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