Set in 1990, the film takes us into the world of Bobby, a young boy living in the middle of the WWF craze. Bobby’s brother is a wrestler, his best friend is into wrestling, all they watch on TV is wrestling… and so Bobby feels immense pressure to be huge like the wrestlers. Only, when Bobby looks at himself in the mirror, he doesn’t see a big strong guy. He sees a little guy who will likely never live up to those big, beefy standards. Bobby remembers he had found a flyer on the street with a different kind of man on it. The flyer said “Ladies Night with Dancing Thunder!” – whatever that means – and had a picture of a shirtless man on it who wasn’t big like the wrestlers, but looked like he was happy. Bobby looks in the mirror and starts to imitate the man on the flyer. Hand on hip, jazz hand in the air, he shifts his body into different poses. As he moves, he feels free and fluid… he is Dancing Thunder! The audience is transported into Bobby’s fantasy: floating across the stage effortlessly, he dances to his own beat. In this new world, he can be free of the wrestling ring’s ropes, free from society’s expectations of who he should be. Here, he is allowed to feel accepted, worthy, and fabulous. As his mother interrupts his dance session, he hops back into reality and back into bed, out of breath but smiling.
Using anamorphic lenses and a retro color scheme of dark yellows and browns, we transport the audience back in time to that all-familiar period as children when we start to see ourselves as fitting into a larger world, where our status, and how we fit in, becomes paramount.
Instead of traditional framing and angles, I placed extreme focus on Bobby by showing only his face – other bodies are shown below the neck, with the brief exception of his best friend (standing in for his peers) and his sister (standing in for a bully). This intensifies the pressure Bobby feels from others, and serves as a magnifying glass for his body. It reinforces the notion that bodies, bodies, bodies are all he can see right now. It also reminds us that though others are around us constantly, the decision to live our lives the way we want is uniquely within us. Directing the audience’s gaze solely on Bobby increases that pressure on him. That feeling of “everybody’s looking at me” is infantile and yet it follows many of us for our entire lives. I want Bobby to feel the audience’s gaze as he becomes more comfortable being himself. In the fantasy sequence, Bobby dances in a wrestling ring, which turns into his stage. During his dance, he escapes from the ring and continues to dance unrestrained until his mother interrupts him. Symbolically, Bobby is breaking free from peer pressure to look and be a certain way, and is now free to be who he wants to be. By choosing a dance sequence, we again leave traditional storytelling approaches and enter the ethereal world of dance, where anything can happen.
This project gets to the root question: are we creating a world for children in which they can flourish by being themselves? Through this film, I can create space for audiences to fall into Bobby’s private world. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, they can be alone with him, see the doubt and fear in his face, and perhaps feel empathy for that fearfulness we all felt as children. The audience can then transform into Bobby’s champions, and after viewing, go out into the world ready to stand up for any child. It is on us to nurture an environment for children that allows them to be whomever they want to be. They should not feel encumbered by society to look or feel or be a certain way. This film gives Bobby the chance many children never get – to be free and happy just the way they are. It’s said that people are afraid of what they don’t know, and that that is the root of bigotry. We are still hearing parents say, “My kid could never be gay,” or “I raised my son to be a man.” This film strips all of that away. After viewing the film, they will see a piece of themselves as a child, only this one doesn’t let society push him into a world of repression, anger, and fear. Bobby is the child we all wanted to be – the one who says I’m going to be me. He will compel audiences to create a free world for all children.
We are proud of our diverse team: Our star and cast are African American, and our writer, director, and producers include women and members of the LGBTQ community.