The INTO Interview

Chasing Chasing Chasing Amy

· Updated on October 4, 2023

For filmmaker Sav Rodgers, the 1997 motion picture Chasing Amy was everything. Some queer folks might question someone’s reasoning for loving Kevin Smith’s romantic dramedy, often accused of being “problematic” for one reason or another, but others will undoubtedly share a certain level of affection for the feature. As a queer critic, I rank among the latter; I’m still incredibly fond of the film decades after its release, and especially interested in the way it approaches navigating relationships with queer people (and those who find themselves conflicted by queerness) through Joey Lauren Adams’ exquisite performance and characterization. 

Rodgers’ love of Chasing Amy manifested something of a unique gem in his documentary Chasing Chasing Amy, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year and continues touring at festivals like Frameline and Outfest, where it was featured at the Closing Night Gala.

Without watching, it’d be easy to think of Chasing Chasing Amy as just a reflection on the creation of Chasing Amy by the people who were involved with it, many of whom are unabashedly open about their experiences (both positive and negative). While it is that to some extent, it’s also something more than that: it’s a navigation of Sav Rodgers’ identity as a filmmaker, as a trans man, and as a romantic partner, all filtered through his personal relationship with Chasing Amy and the creator at its core. 

Following its premiere, INTO was able to speak with director Sav Rodgers and producer Alex Schmider via email about the making of the film and how their perspectives have grown and changed since its creation. 

JUAN BARQUIN: Sav, your history with Chasing Amy is the crux of Chasing Chasing Amy, but I’m curious: what was the inciting incident for you to want to dive into this text, and yourself, as a filmmaker?

SAV ROGERS: It was a concept I kept noodling with over the years, and I couldn’t let go of it. Slowly, I started to tell my friends about the idea, and I was shocked when they told me they also thought it might be an interesting idea. When I graduated from college, I looked back on my body of short films and thought that there was a distinct POV missing, which was odd because movies with a strong perspective are the ones I love most. So, I started thinking about a story only I could tell. Chasing Chasing Amy was kickstarted after that point. 

Alex, at what point did you come on board, and what drew you to Sav’s story in particular? 

ALEX SCHMIDER: Sav and I met during a general meeting through GLAAD and immediately took to each other’s sense of humor and general worldview. So we really just developed a friendship based on our love of movies and shared hopefulness. I had initially offered myself up as a producer to him but wasn’t necessarily expecting to be called on. At a certain point, though, as Sav was figuring out how to integrate his personal story into Chasing Chasing Amy, especially his gender transition, Sav took me up on it. What drew me to Sav’s story most, however, had very little to do with transition (a certain kind) and instead the way that transition occurs in relationships (all kinds) when deep truths are shared.

The film bounces between your own experiences, not just with the film but with your partner, and a sort-of behind-the-scenes engagement with the film. Was it particularly hard to figure out exactly what balance to strike between the personal and the professional, or was it always sort of unequivocally intertwined? 

RODGERS: That’s a great question. It was by far the most challenging aspect of making the film: how do I balance my work as the director of this movie with being a real person who didn’t want to be in it? Some folks might think I’m being hyperbolic there, but you can ask anybody I worked with–I didn’t want to be on camera. But over time, it became clear that the most compelling version of the film included me more front-and-center in it because that was the emotional hook: Chasing Amy’s relationship to me. It was vulnerable for a number of reasons, including preserving my pre-transition self and watching myself grow up. Thanks to consistent feedback and committing to tell the best story possible, I conceded I needed to be in it and not only in it, but in it more. So, yes, it was always intertwined, but finding the right balance for myself as a person and a director was a perpetual, though ultimately gratifying, filmmaking challenge.

Sav Rodgers and Alex Schmider, taken by Riley Rodgers

What impact did talking to the creatives behind the movie have on your perception of the film? And, Sav, more specifically, do you think you would have been able to eventually let go of the movie like you did without talking to the creatives behind it? 

SCHMIDER: What Sav did so remarkably with the narrative construction of Chasing Chasing Amy is allow the audience to see his own reforming relationship to Chasing Amy in real-time. First ascending with all the success it achieved and then beginning to expose the cracks with the LGBTQ community’s reception, then with Guinevere Turner’s contrasting trajectory with Go Fish, and finally with Joey Lauren Adams’ raw revelations about her relationship with Kevin Smith and her personal experience making the movie. These intentionally placed cracks in the dam are meant to allow the audience to experience these hard truths as Sav did about the film that saved his life. We, as producers, don’t and didn’t share the same relationship with Chasing Amy to Sav from the jump. In fact, Lela (Meadow-Conner) intentionally hadn’t even watched it until flying to Tribeca for our world premiere. So had Sav not talked to the people behind the movie, it would have remained a lens unadjusted to viewing things from the inside. Basically, truth is subjectively shaped by our own personal experience which is why we need to seek out many truths which is what Sav did. 

RODGERS: I’m not sure what would have happened if the folks from Chasing Amy didn’t take the time to talk to me. I guess we’ll never know, thankfully. I think everything worked out the way it was supposed to, for better or worse.

Was it particularly easy or tough to navigate accessing the creative team behind the film (as well as those who were adjacent to it)? I was taken aback at how open and revealing everyone, especially someone like Guinevere Turner, was when discussing their roles in the film’s creation. And was there anyone that couldn’t (or didn’t) make it into the final cut that you’d wish had? 

RODGERS: Everybody from Chasing Amy was so kind and generous, whether or not they ended up in the movie. Nobody had to talk to me, or let me into their home to film, or anything like that. The whole experience was truly a gift. Obviously, we asked Ben Affleck to participate, and we’re so open to an end credits tag if that ever worked out. And Mustafa Obafemi, who played Hooper, politely declined to participate, but we’ve developed a nice friendship outside of the documentary. He’s just an incredible guy. 

Mustafa Obafemi and Schmider at Tribeca Film Festival

SCHMIDER: Whether or not someone made it into the film, their connection to us and it shaped the story. While Mustafa is not in our film, he has been one of the most special and sweet supporters of Sav and the project. Just goes to show how much of a team sport filmmaking—and really life–is. We adore him. He came to our Tribeca premiere and it meant the world to us.

What was it like, both on a personal and professional level, to meet Kevin Smith, someone who was something of a hero to you, and build a relationship with him that broke that wall between spectator and filmmaker? How did your own identification with him as a filmmaker (or even as a person) change after this meeting? 

RODGERS: You can see it in the movie: I was totally blown away by his kindness. And his work is incredibly meaningful to me. There was never going to be a version of the film where I was going to be “objective” about how I felt about Chasing Amy, or his work. It was a personal exploration from the outset. But I was so happy to get to know Kevin as a person, and not just as a movie character or filmmaker. To see the real human being whose perspective informs the work I cherish was invaluable. 

Rodgers and Schmider at Outfest

And, on the flip side, what was it like to have that image of Smith, and the film itself, sort of skewed when hearing the perspective of someone like Joey Lauren Adams and both the negative and positive experiences that she had attached to a work that meant so much to you?

RODGERS: It was an important perspective to hear, especially in that moment where all of my dreams have sort of already come true from the joint interview the day before. Though nothing was going to change what Chasing Amy meant to me at age 12, that interview changed how I prioritized Chasing Amy as an adult. And the reality is that I didn’t need to cling to my fandom the way I had anymore. The interview was not only a challenge to consider that notion, but to allow myself to let go a bit. And I’m thankful for it. And even with that opportunity to do some self-reflection, that moment in the documentary isn’t about me: it’s about Joey sharing her truth. Listening to what she has to say is the only thing that really matters there. 

We see the narrative of this documentary change by the time it hits the interview with Joey Lauren Adams, whose vulnerability I was really taken aback by, and I’m curious: did you both have an idea of what the broader “original ending” was going to look like beforehand?

SCHMIDER: Credit to Sav as a filmmaker for allowing the story to unfold and being open to sharing his relationship to Chasing Amy with all the interviewees. It’s important to state, as Sav has done for nearly all our interviews, that he did not first intend to be prominently featured in the film. Thankfully, though, he is a generous and attentive director who deeply values collaboration and feedback…and when Carrie [Radigan], Lela [Meadow-Conner], Matthew [C. Mills], myself, and our editor Sharika [Ajaikumar] continued to harp on the fact that he and Riley were at the heart of all this, he listened. The ending which was originally conceived as something grand and exceptional (like a wedding or movie premiere tends to be), rather leaned back into intimacy and privacy. Sav and Riley leave the studio, just as Sav leaves Chasing Amy, for themselves and each other. The film is pretty mind-messingly meta in the best way. 

RODGERS: Honestly, it depends on when you would have asked me this question. It was so hard to imagine what the “original” ending was supposed to be, because I was trying to guess where my life would end up by the end of the movie. I’m a romantic, so I think the idea I ran with for a while was one where Riley and I finally had our proper wedding and the audience would be able to see how rich and full my life was now that I’d gone through this journey. It would have still been personal. Ultimately, as a result of the journey I actually went on, we walked out of the studio without looking back. We closed the door on this chapter of our lives. Whatever’s next for Riley and I as a couple will, thankfully, not be on camera.♦

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