In a week filled with anticipation leading up to the New York State Senate passing their same-sex marriage bill, downtown Los Angeles was hosting the L.A. Film Fest where country singer Chely Wright premiered her documentary, “Wish Me Away.” Directed and produced by Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf, the film follows Wright over the course of three years (starting in 2007), leading up to her announcing publicly in May 2010 that she was gay.
The world of country music being dominated by conservative approach makes Wright the first in her genre to make such a statement about herself. But being a community that prides itself on being so close-knit, it would have been surprising to find anyone who wouldn’t stand by Chely’s side.
“She was part of the community, the artistic community. She had friends who were other artists,” says Kopf. “I thought we would at least find someone…you know in this day and age…”
Unfortunately, the surprise came true. As a former talent booker, Kopf pulled out her contacts and got to work thinking other artists would step up. But the women were met with silence. Only a few former producers, managers and disc jockeys had the maturity to speak about Chely’s coming out.
“It was only people who had a relationship with her and loved her,” Kopf adds. ”But in terms of artists, it was no one. What it took to be the first was even harder than we imagined.”
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey (posted on Oprah.com) in May 2010, Chely said about her fellow country stars, ”They all have my email, and it’s been a little disappointing that I haven’t heard from more.” Adding, “That said, I have had hundreds of emails and phone calls and text messages from the country music community at large. … The response has been overwhelming. People are coming out on my Facebook page. It’s been incredible.”
In spite of country music stars hiding in fear of their reputations, the latter of Chely’s comments to Oprah is what’s driving her to push on. Knowing that living in hiding herself was doing more damage than living out, proud and honestly, she released her autobiography, “Like Me,” and now gives fans a much more personal view of her life during this time with “Wish Me Away.” Littered with personal video diaries counting down to her announcement and an emotional ride to the biggest day of her life, the doc could not arrive at a better time with equal rights at the forefront.
The filmmakers hope those who see the movie, in and outside the country music industry, will find Wright’s courage and commitment to the freedom of being who you are inspiring.
“Wish Me Away” is slowly making its way through the film festival circuit and is scheduled for release in December 2011. For those who can’t wait to know more, The Seven Sees caught up with the filmmakers at L.A. Film Fest for this sneak peek at the film.