The Film 'Heartland' Tells the Story of Coming of Age and Coming Out in Oklahoma

The film Heartland is not your typical coming out film. It's important that movies start transcending to places where central characters just happen to be gay, it isn't the central theme of the story, it's just a fact.
11/20/2014 07:46 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

The film Heartland is not your typical coming out film. "We will always have stories about 'coming out,'" says the movie's director and producer Maura Anderson, "but I think it's important that movies start transcending this to places where central characters just happen to be gay, it isn't the central theme of the story, it's just a fact. This is the world we live in and for those people that don't live in that reality, film is a great way to see that it can and does exist."

The film tells the story of Lauren, a heartbroken Oklahoma artist. After her girlfriend dies, she lands back in her mother's stifling household. Yet she ends up finding escape in a reckless affair with her brother's fiancé. This story explores the shifting nature of sexuality, the limitations of love, and the definition of family, all driven by denial, and unexplored grief at the loss of a loved one. "We wanted to tell a story about a central character that wasn't straight, set in Oklahoma," explains Velinda Godfrey, who co-wrote and produced the film. "That piece was based on my background."

This coming of age movie has been championed by many actors including Jeffrey Tambor, Sarah Paulson, Julia Stiles, Michael Rosenbaum, Steve Agee and Laura Spencer. And both Godfrey and Anderson are grateful for the support. "We are at a pivotal moment in history. Non-traditional i.e. female centric and gay films are on the edge of the mainstream precipice," says Anderson. "It's our job and privilege to make quality content to help push it there. We all want to see these stories, they are the ones we're living, we just have to overpower these old school power players who are convinced the only thing that can make money is male driven shoot 'em up action movies."

Anderson and Godfrey shared more about their film.

Why is it important for people to see Heartland

Velinda Godfrey: It'd be incredible if people embraced this film because there's currently a divide that bothers us. There are so few lead characters in mainstream films that are anything but straight. Count: 1. The Kids Are Alright...and... ? (I'm sure there are more, but not many).

Television does a much better job. But movies are often pushed into the niche 'gay film' category. This film isn't about being gay it's about common struggles and mistakes. It's for everyone. I'd like to see such characters in more AMC Theaters.

Maura Anderson : Heartland emulates the world we live in. It's important that art begins to imitate that. Movies are a way for people to share a common experience and feel united. But, they're also a way for people to be exposed to circumstances that they aren't exposed to in their day-to-day life. When mainstream media stops enforcing the current divide I think we'll see a quicker passage into true, unquestioned equality, and this movie is one small step towards that.

How autobiographical is the film?

Velinda Godfrey: Since it's my hometown, the local characters and their world is colored with first-hand details. The plot isn't autobiographical, but many experiences that appear are. For instance, I've never hooked up with my brother's girlfriend... you're welcome, Braxton, but I have crammed into tubs during tornadoes multiple times.

Heartland began its process when you workshopped it in Jeffrey Tambor's class. Most people probably don't know he has a filmmaking class.

Velinda Godfrey: Unfortunately, the class doesn't exist anymore, though I believe Jeffrey gives an occasional seminar. It was a place to workshop scenes as writers, directors or actors, without the pressure of doing it "right." A lot of people found a voice in his workshop. That's how Heartland started. After Jeffrey (and his gifted sidekick Elizabeth Payne) encouraged me to make my own opportunities and share that voice, I asked (co-writer) Todd Waring if he would work with me because I had seen his strength as a writer. That was the beginning of this great team.

Celebrities have supported the film. How did they get involved with Heartland?

Maura Anderson and Velinda Godfrey: We've worked with most of them on other projects and several of them had read the script and been supportive through that part of the process.

What's the best part about making the film? 

Velinda Godfrey: It's also been so incredible watching a film that I would have thought to be too 'taboo' for Oklahoma being so openly embraced. So many of our supporters are Okies and even local new stations have approached us. There's a beautiful shift happening, which we tried to capture in the Oklahoman characters, but witnessing it in the world is definitely better.

Maura Anderson: The collaboration. It has taken so many people to get this project to where it is and is going to take many more to get it to screen. That has always been my favorite thing about filmmaking, it really does take an army to make a movie and every person is as important as the next in the process.

How can people support Heartland

Maura Anderson & Velinda Godfrey: You can support here: http://igg.me/at/heartlandmovie. 2 Donations are tax deductible, thanks to our fiscal sponsorship and there are a lot of fun perks for becoming a part of the project.

For more information about Heartland visit, http://www.heartlandthefilm.com/home.html.