Interview: Shane Bitney Crone talks Bridegroom
It wasn’t necessarily something that Shane Bitley Crone initially wanted to do, or something that had crossed his mind, but he knew then and knows now it was always something that should be done. Two years after Crone’s life took a tragic turn his private life became very public and especially inspiring.
Crone’s changed in 2011 when the man he loved and planned to marry, Thomas Bridegroom, died suddenly and accidentally at the age of 29. Not only was Crone forced to deal with the loss of a loved one, but he confronted legal obstacles as well as bigotry and hatred in the form of Bridegroom’s family, who would not let him attend the funeral for fear of physical retaliation.
A year following Bridegroom’s death, Crone made a YouTube tribute to his life and their time together, and the video went viral, netting over 3.2 million hits. It was soon after that Crone was approached to make a documentary about their story.
“I felt it could be an opportunity to open even more people’s hearts and minds, it just felt like it was the right thing to do,” said Crone in a phone interview ahead of the film’s release. He recalled his reaction when director Linda Bloodworth-Thomasan approached him explaining she wanted to helm the film.
“She convinced me that this is a story that needed t be told,” he said. “I was honoured that she wanted to do it.”
Bloodworth-Thomasan directed the film, and while she wasn’t the subject of it, the message was something by which she was particularly compelled. Her mother was a victim of transfused AIDS in the 1980s, and subsequently witnessed a lot of hate and discrimination bred from misunderstanding and ignorance. Like Crone, she wanted that prejudice to disappear.
The documentary is propelled by intimate and expansive archival footage, as Crone and Bridegroom, together and alone, filmed many escapades and adventures. When Bridegroom died, Crone turned to digital media to help grieve.
“Our generation, we film everything, and filming those video diaries became an outlet for me,” explained Crone, 28. “It was the only thing made me feel I was connected to Tom. I’m so grateful we shot as much footage as we did, because I have that forever now.”
“I never imagined people would see that footage, but when we decided to make the film, I felt it was important for [Bloodworth-Thomason] to have that.”
In addition to the footage, interviews were conducted with friends and family, and everyone in Crone’s life was on board. “They all wanted to be a part of it, even my 90-year-old great grandma. I’m so grateful to have their support. It’s really powerful to shoot an entire family so supportive of me and the story.”
There is of course one noticeable omission from the film, and unfortunately it comes as no surprise to the viewer, especially as the story develops.
“I just wish that Tom’s parents would have responded, I wish they would have participated,” said Crone. “I haven’t heard from them, even after the YouTube video went viral. They haven’t responded from anyone and will probably continue to remain silent. I just hope the people when they see this film see the bigger film, it isn’t an attempt to get back of them; it’s a love story. I hope at some point they are willing to watch it.”
Nevertheless, the response to the initial viral video and the subsequent film has been overwhelming. While Crone himself admits it was all a bit of a cathartic process, it is as much for others to experience as it is for him. Humbled and inspired, Crone’s story is one meant to transform sadness into hope, and herald the power of love.
“I think tom would be proud of it.”
Bridegroom is currently available to stream on Netflix.