As a child Matt Livadary was lassoed in by cowboy culture, watching all of the classic western films and constantly wearing a fedora that he imagined was a cowboy hat. When his dad brought him to the rodeo, he saw the rugged champs in person--looking tough and riding rough.
But a few years ago, he discovered that there was more to cowboys after meeting some of the bravest riders at a colorful round up--the gay rodeo.
The film Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on The Gay Rodeo, documents almost a year of Livadary's look into the world of the gay rodeo.
"It's a family atmosphere and totally inclusive. I thought as a straight person that I'd be more of an outsider, but it was the opposite," Livadary told Enstars over the phone last week.
The first-time director felt more like an outlaw when he was researching material for a scripted show set at the traditional rodeo, he learned quickly that wearing khakis there was a whoa offense.
During a traditional rodeo in Colorado, Livadary met a lesbian couple that told him about the gay rodeo. He was immediately drawn to finding out about the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA). To his surprise, the organization has been in existence since 1985.
"I didn't know how to make documentaries, I just knew that the story had to be told," said Livadary who quit his job to travel and follow the path of the gay rodeo.
It wasn't as competitive as the traditional rodeo and, for Livadary, it was a nonstop hospitable experience. He was welcomed to ride people's animals so he could join in on the games, which is unheard of in an ordinary rodeo setting.
There are also light-hearted competitions at the gay rodeo that anyone can participate in, like the race to see who can put underwear on a goat the fastest.
"Once I shared a couch with a two-legged goat," laughed Livadary who lived alongside the rodeo every day of his journey and even mastered how to shower using a bucket.
He "earned his keep" by working on the ranches and regularly interacted with the rodeo folks, gaining a better understanding of what it was like to walk in their boots.
The memory that hit Livadary the hardest was not filming the bucking bulls or tripod-hating horses--it was the moment that kicked his perspective after a camera-shy man in Texas approached him at a rodeo.
The man shared that he was a teacher and that this was only place that he could be himself, so he asked Livadary to please not film him.
"That underscored how hard it is to be gay and how the times still haven't updated," said Livadary. "It's hard to be a cowboy. It's even harder to be a gay one."
Livadary described the friends he made on the trek as fearless; some of them became the livelihood of the film. Wade, the main character, was originally supposed to wrangle people for Livadary to follow. But it didn't take long for the newcomer to feature the old timer's genuine spirit in the project.
It took two years of editing through 800 hours of footage before the film turned into a 90-minute documentary. When it came together, the documentary won the audience award and best documentary at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival of 2014.
The Los Angeles premiere at Outfest was a couple of weeks ago in his hometown, where family and friends finally got to see the thrilling story that had corralled him in for the past three years.
"When someone displays pure genuine heart...that's what makes storytelling fun," said Livadary who is currently looking for the right home for the film.
Updates will be coming soon on where to saddle up for a ride through this gay rodeo adventure!