Private Life was inspired by a real hate crime. A gay couple, backpacking through the Appalachians, was shot at eight times sniper style while making love in a secluded mountain meadow. I first read about the shooting over a decade ago and it terrified me. I thought it was the worst thing that could happen to someone. I stopped hiking alone and when I did go, I only went with women.
I had put myself in the shoes of this unsuspecting couple. I had imagined being on that mountain and feeling like we were the only two people in the world. I’ve always fantasized about feeling safe enough to really let go of my inhibitions and simply love and trust someone. Because the mountains have always represented a haven to me it was easy for me to imagine this meadow as a safe place. So when I read this story I imagined finally being able to let go of my fears only to be met and shut down so aggressively by a random act of hate and violence. In some ways this story represents everything I fear about expressing my own vulnerability. It is both the deep personal implications of this story as well as the greater issue of the heinous nature of hate crimes that drives me to tell this story. I believe it is an important story for me to tell.
Even after coming out I spent a lot of time judging others—too gay, too effeminate, too shallow, too political or just too into escaping their troubles with drugs and alcohol and drama. Being gay is a large and complicated conversation and my place within it has never been much more than tenuous. It wasn’t until I started figuring out what this story means to me that I felt like I had anything to contribute to the conversation.
To really open myself up to another person makes me feel vulnerable to them shutting me down, walking away and not returning it. It makes me feel that what I’m sharing might be judged as offensive or immoral or wrong or selfish and met with hostility, anger, rage or violence. It makes me feel vulnerable to feelings of embarrassment and humiliation and that’s really scary to me. Fear of vulnerability I think is a universal part of the human experience—a necessary instinct for survival. But there’s so much more to life than just surviving it. Making this film is a way to confront my own fears about what it means to me to come out and be vulnerable.
Private Life is a story about a broken sort of person, who is scared and trying to hide from the world and how he ultimately learns that only by opening up and making himself vulnerable can he can truly begin to heal.
– Gregory Williamson