Tennessee State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) is up in arms over a short film about marriage equality starring a cast of 8 and 9-year-olds.
“The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill,” a 23-minute short directed by Middle Tennessee State University professor Bob Pondillo, is a fairy tale of sorts (no pun intended) about two women, Millie and Ed, who meet cute, fall in love and are married by God. (Actually a laid-back wizard character played by an adult.)
“The film looks at the gay marriage issue in a distinctive, funny, memorable way (using children portraying adults), so we did anticipate it may face some opposition,” Pondillo tells the Tennesseean. “Once you see it, you’ll be like, ‘What? This? No!’ It is a very sweet little film told in a kind, funny, respectful way.”
But at least one student who watched the film at a campus screening didn’t think it was so respectful. She contacted Sen. Ketron, who dashed off a letter to Pondillo’s boss, communications department chair Billy Pittard, expressing concerns that such a “controversial” film had been made with minors, and using college equipment and resources.
“My office received a communication from a MTSU student who was concerned and upset about this movie after viewing it at the university, especially as it pertains to what the student said were the exploitation of young children who were involved in the film,” Ketron said in a statement. “The communication also included a request to answer questions involving the nature of funding for the project and the involvement of the university in its making. The student was concerned about retribution in asking these questions for fear of being graded harshly.”
Ketron admits he hasn’t seen “Honey Bee Hill” yet, but since when has that ever stopped a Republican politician? “Depending upon what the film reveals after viewing it,” he wrote, “the following step would be to review the policies cited by the University in authorizing their role in the film.”
The university has backed the professor, confirming he spelled out the nature of his project when he requested funds to make the film. Pondillo says viewers can be assured no kids were harmed in the making of the film:
“We auditioned both the parents and the child actors for the film,” Pondillo said. “All parents or guardians read the script, all signed releases permitting their kids to fully participate in the movie, and all were on set monitoring the proceedings as the movie was filmed. Moreover the children were provided Production Assistants (called ‘Kid Wranglers’) that played games with them, did drawings, and otherwise kept them occupied between takes. We also fed the cast and crew a hot lunch every day, had a ‘crafts table’ always open with water, juice and snacks, bathroom facilities were readily available, the kids were always escorted and supervised.
Yeah, but did they get their own trailer and points on the back end? You gotta negotiate for these things, people!