When the fabulous Bryce Sage began his Masters of Documentary Media at Ryerson University, he already had an idea for a production. With the support of faculty and peers, he began the project that would eventually become his first television documentary. Coming from the perspective of Bryce’s own personal journey, Survival of the Fabulous explores the evolutionary conundrum of the existence of gay men and genetic factors that play a part in determining our sexuality.
Bryce finished school with a project that felt half done. He shot many interesting discussions in Canada, but couldn’t afford to do filming in other locations crucial to his exploration, such as Italy and Samoa. And that’s when he met Producer Connie Edwards of Souleado Entertainment. Connie and Bryce were both attending a conference and waiting forever in line to pitch. Connie spotted Bryce – “his eyes matched the colour of his shirt” – and they started chatting. Bryce began pitching Survival of the Fabulous to her and after watching his sizzle reel, she was in.
Bryce Sage (very cold) on a Vespa in Italy, with DP Allan Leader & Italy Fixer Stefano Dalla Lana
The film, while smart and grounded in scientific research, has a great sense of humour. Connie and Bryce felt it was important to cover serious subject matter with a lighter tone, both to keep it accessible and to reflect Bryce’s own sense of humour. “It’s really important to take a measure of humour when dealing with this – a spoonful of sugar!”
With the partnership of the CBC’s The Nature of Things and support for production from the Canada Media Fund (CMF), Survival of the Fabulous aired on CBC in November 2013 and went on to sell in 8 other countries, including Sweden, Finland, Brazil, Hong Kong, the UK and Australia. Not only that, but it has received over ten awards and nominations. Best Documentary Science and Technology, Best Director and Best Research nominations at the 2014 Yorkton Film Festival Golden Sheaf Awards were only the beginning. Featured on a panel at INPUT 2014 the International Public Television Conference (Helsinki, 2014), Bryce and Connie discussed how they used humour to tell a serious story. Audiences both public and professional love the film and their approach.
Bryce and Twins
Other awards include winning Best Documentary, Cinematographer and Editor (Non-fiction over 30 mins) at the Alberta Film & Television Awards 2014 and the Platinum Remi Awards for Television & Cable Productions and Cinematography at Houston Worldfest 2014. The film also received a Certificate for Creative Excellence, Documentary Programs: Science, Research, Technology at the US International Film & Video Festival and was a Finalist Best Documentary Science and Technology at the Banff Rockie Awards 2014.
The filmmaking journey took the team all over the world, talking with the few scientific experts conducting research in this area and exploring different cultures with varying points of view on gender and sexuality. And it wasn’t always easy – a classic risk taker, Bryce road a horse for the first time. And simply getting a crew to Samoa, and then getting the people there to understand and trust them, was a major challenge. Luckily, Connie is an experienced globetrotter and knew a bit about the area. Bryce as a first time filmmaker, recounts how she really guided and supported him, that he’d have been unable to make the film without her.
The team also benefited from the expertise of Field Director Liam O’Rinn. Both he and Bryce have passionate short fuses. So whether Bryce was freezing on the back of a Vespa in Italy or on a ranch in Montana, they tried to always maintain their sense of humour. On and off screen, this helped diffuse stressful situations and inspire confidence in the team.
All kidding aside, the importance of their work is never out of sight. Bryce is proud that he has helped people come out to their families. For him, that was the goal of the film. He has also given lectures at schools – Humber and Centennial College – to further the discussion.
Bryce and Dr. Anne Perkins
With Bryce originally from the Port Hope, ON area and Connie hailing from Edmonton, AB, they knew this was an important conversation Canadians were having and continue to have across the country. Connie is currently the Chair of the Documentary Organization of Canada and remains passionate about helping “those who are marginalized to have a meaningful voice.” Now working on a new independent non-fiction series on mental health issues called 1001 Ways to Wonder, Bryce continues to tackle tough issues from a compassionate, humourous and personal perspective.