Filmmaking | Interviews

What’s In A Word?

1 Jun , 2008  

Written by Lorre Fritchy | Posted by:

Filmmaker Francine Rzeznik talks about her collaboration with nonprofit Love Makes a Family on Marriage Makes a Word of Difference, screening this month at the CT Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

Marriage Makes a Word of Difference presents
testimony from six gay Connecticut couples in their struggle to convince
lawmakers and neighbors alike that providing gay couples with anything less than
the word "marriage" is precisely that: less than.  Compelled to use her video
camera as a tool for social justice, director Francine Rzeznik (that’s "zhezhnik,"
folks) donated the majority of her time and resources to fast track the project
in less than 10 months to influence legislators ruling on "civil unions" vs.
"marriage" in CT. 
Emmy-winning director of the documentary, One Nation
Under God
, Rzeznik approached the Love Makes A Family organization in 2007
to “do some film or video project regarding marriage equality, on a national
level.”  The staff agreed on the urgent need for a video on marriage equality,
but wanted her to narrow the focus to Connecticut to support their specific
political mission.  At first, Rzeznik balked at the limitation, but as
Connecticut’s legislature heated up and same-sex couples were filing lawsuits
for marriage rights that affected her own life, she had a change of heart. 
Rzeznik then agreed to interview six couples selected by Love Makes A Family to
create this project for the nonprofit organization.  Now, they await the
Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling on whether a ban on same-sex marriage is
Rzeznik is confident in the power of the visual medium to
"humanize people and situations.  It brings education and life and experience to
people who might not normally have it," she says.  Between accompanying
to gay film festivals and screenings in the Constitution State,
Rzeznik chatted with’s Lorre Fritchy, whose 2005 documentary
The Gay Marriage Thing walked a similar path. 
Lorre Fritchy: Great title, by the way. 
Francine Rzeznik:  Thanks, but I can’t take credit
for it.  That came from Anne Stanback, the executive director of Love Makes A
Family and also the narrator of the video. 
LF: This shoot was like a whirlwind compared to the
three years to make your first film, One Nation Under God
Rzeznik:  Yes!  Marriage was shot in two and
a half days.  It was pretty ambitious and pretty streamlined. I think also we
were on a sort of deadline because we wanted to get this out.  No one knew when
the Supreme Court decision would come; they still haven’t come to a decision [as
of May 19, 2008].  So it was always looming, "Oh my God, hopefully we can get
this done before the decision so legislators can take a look," or for people in
the movable middle on the fence about marriage equality, and have it be an
educational tool for marriage equality.  So it was just get it done, get it
done.  It’s a very modest piece. But the political message is very strong and
very concise and has worked well for [Love Makes A Family’s] campaign.  
LF: I recognized many images from the Massachusetts
marriage protests in 2004, because we had similar shots in The Gay Marriage
.  What was behind your creative choice to not identify those images as
being out-of-state, since your doc is so Connecticut-focused otherwise? 

The Merz-Starkowski family of Simsbury, CT along
with Rzeznik. 

[Click to enlarge]

Rzeznik:  We got permission to reprint those images
from the book, Courting Equality, which is about the legislation of same-sex
marriage in Massachusetts.  The reason we used them and why I wanted to is
because they are dramatic photos that spoke to what the couples were saying. 
Also this is an issue that affects Connecticut, Massachusetts, California —
it’s the same thing.  Did similar protests happen in Connecticut?  Probably. 
But did we have time to find them or dive into archives or anything?  No, we
LF: There are many docs on same-sex marriage now. We
at The Gay Marriage Thing crafted the idea of — and are studying the
logistical possibilities for — a traveling festival, a marathon of same-sex
marriage documentaries that tell different angles of the same struggle.  We
half-jokingly called it The Gay Marriage Club Tour.  I keep saying this
story needs to be told over and over and over again until it sinks in.  Can you
comment on the ability of the visual medium to reach more people and enlighten
Rzeznik:  Networking and bringing these films
together is an excellent, excellent idea!  You’re right, it’s a story that needs
to be told over and over until people finally get it.  Particularly now with the
current political climate.  I think politicians have been so divisive with wedge
issues, it’s so silly, are you gonna vote for a candidate just because they’re
pro-abortion or against gay rights?  It’s so ludicrous.  I think people
gravitate towards stories like this because their scope and exposure is so
narrow, so I like doing projects like this.  It is what drives me.  Because it
is a way of promoting change, educating people and changing minds and changing
For screening times and more information on Marriage
Makes A Word Of Difference, visit Love Makes A

Writer’s Note: Just before this article went to press, the
California Supreme Court pulled a Massachusetts and ruled 4-3 that same-sex
couples have a constitutional right to marry. This will take effect June 16,
2008 unless the court stays its decision, opening it up for a possible popular
vote in November. Still no word on what effect California’s ruling will have on