In It Got Better, fashion guru Tim Gunn didn’t talk about what colors are hot or what styles are chic. Instead, he detailed a difficult adolescence, including a suicide attempt and spending more than two years in a psychiatric hospital. The purpose? To help other LGBTQ adolescents in turmoil, letting them know that they are not alone in their struggles.
Produced by Dan Bucatinsky ’87 and Lisa Kudrow ’85 through their production company Is or Isn’t Entertainment, It Got Better includes six web-based videos, each featuring an LGBTQ celebrity’s personal narrative. The series delves into the seemingly insurmountable obstacles faced by actors George Takei, Jane Lynch, and Laverne Cox; NBA player Jason Collins; and singers Tegan and Sara.
“We’re very excited about the results. The interviews are really candid, moving, and inspiring,” Bucatinsky says.
Ranging in length from six minutes to eight and a half minutes, each video offers details from the subject’s life—from remembrances of when they realized they were gay (or transgendered, like Cox) to the acknowledgment of those who helped them through difficult times in their lives. The videos offer a side of the celebrities’ lives that isn’t often shared—a look into some of their darkest memories.
“That’s the thing—the whole notion of getting to know someone at that intimate level, of exposing that much vulnerability,” Bucatinsky says, noting that each video offers a positive message because each guest was able to take ownership of their authentic self. “The most important piece of this is the overcoming of the obstacle.”
It Got Better was born from conversations between Bucatinsky, Kudrow, and author, editor, and director Dan Savage, who co-founded the It Gets Better Project, which focuses on preventing suicide among LGBTQ adolescents. Savage’s website features tens of thousands of videos created by teenagers and others with messages of overcoming hopelessness.
The idea was to use famous people in similar videos, allowing them to talk about the obstacles they faced and how they overcame them, Bucatinsky says. In addition, he says, they also wanted to use a historical context, noting important LGBTQ milestones that occurred during each celebrity’s life—from the Stonewall riots in 1969 to Martina Navratilova’s public coming out in 1981.
After getting the green light on the project from L Studio (which hosted Kudrow and Bucatinsky’s Web Therapy series), there was only a few months to complete it. Several lists of celebrities were created and edited down, Bucatinsky says, and in many cases, scheduling conflicts wouldn’t allow many willing celebrities to take part.
“We had a very limited timeframe for when we had to deliver this,” he says. “We were really, really struggling with making this work in the time that we had.”
Eventually, the six were chosen and filming got started right away, Bucatinsky says. Considering the time crunch—three weeks for filming—they were lucky to have a remarkable cross-section of ages, geographical regions, and ethnicities represented.
“We really did manage to cover a lot of ground with six people,” Bucatinsky says. “If we do more, we’ll try to do the same.”
The hope is that the duo will continue to produce similar personal stories from individuals from all walks of life, he says.
“It’s something Lisa and I have always been interested in,” Bucatinsky says. “I’d love to do a story about the insurmountable obstacles of immigration, being African-American, being a woman. Each person, depending on what decade they were born, will have different personal stories that will have been impacted by the time and history they were born in.”