Skip to content

Director delivers scene-stealing debut in documentary

Sav Rodgers teams with Kevin Smith, KU connections to explore LGBTQ experience.

by MeLinda Schnyder
Sav Rodgers (right) with inspirational mentor Kevin Smith, director of “Chasing Amy” and a featured element of Rodgers’ documentary, “Chasing Chasing Amy.”

Coming-of-age movies can be a lot of fun to watch, admits Sav Rodgers, but less so “when you’re the one coming of age and everyone is watching you.”

The filmmaker and screenwriter learned this lesson when he unexpectedly became the main character in his feature directorial debut, “Chasing Chasing Amy,” which premiered at New York’s Tribeca Festival in June 2023, followed by screenings around the world.

Rodgers, c’17, launched the documentary during a TED fellowship, which concluded in 2018 with his own TED Talk, an eight-minute commentary titled “The Rom-Com That Saved My Life.” He explained the comfort he found as a 12-year-old when, for the first time, he saw queer characters living authentically in the romantic comedy “Chasing Amy.” The 1997 movie about the relationship between a straight man (played by actor Ben Affleck) and a self-identifying lesbian (Joey Lauren Adams), written and directed by Kevin Smith, helped Rodgers cope with homophobic bullying that began as he entered junior high in suburban Kansas City’s Johnson County.

“When marginalized people talk about the need for representation in media, they are not being hyperbolic,” Rodgers said in his TED Talk. “Seeing yourself on screen endows you with the feeling of existing in the world, and seeing myself on screen gave me the strength to navigate that world.”

Rodgers concluded by announcing he would soon direct a film exploring the divisive legacy surrounding LGBTQ representation in “Chasing Amy.” When a video of his talk was posted online in 2019, he received praise from the film’s stars—and an offer to help from Smith.

Smith’s vulnerability during on-camera interviews with Rodgers was a turning point in the KU grad’s decision to—in the middle of filming the documentary—come out as a transgender man. “The initial premise that I set out to make a movie about does get answered,” says Rodgers, who now chairs the KU film & media studies professional advisory board. “And then it becomes about something totally bigger, which ends up being my life.”

Though reluctant to focus the film on himself, Rodgers is proud of the result and audience reactions.

“I’ve been truly blown away by the amount of kindness from everybody across the board,” he says. “LGBTQ people, parents of trans kids, older trans people, people who share no life experience with me but they relate to feeling alone or depressed or discounted. … It’s been really nice to see the film reach across different life experiences and have people get something out of it.”

He’s also proud to say the film is a “Jayhawk production through and through.” The KU connections include on-screen appearances by Kevin Willmott, professor of film & media studies, and Sarah Jen, assistant professor of social welfare. Matt Jacobson, professor of film & media studies, filmed one of several scenes in Summerfield Hall. Tyler Emerson, l’13, served as executive director, and Bradley Garrison, ’21, directed photography. Several students were involved as production assistants.

Rodgers, now based in Las Vegas with his wife, Riley, who co-stars in the documentary, recently landed on the 2024 Forbes “30 Under 30” Media List for his work as a filmmaker and founder of the Transgender Film Center to help fund transgender creators.

Rodgers is still working on a U.S. distribution deal for “Chasing Chasing Amy.” In the meantime, the film began appearing in U.K. theatres May 17 through Kindred Pictures. Information on future screenings can be found at

“I hope that I get to keep making fun, optimistic, daffy films that showcase the hope that I personally have for our future,” Rodgers says. “I want to keep telling stories that involve queer people in moments that aren’t just about the worst things that have ever happened to us. I hope I get to make a lot of comedies and heartfelt films that take you on similarly emotional and fun journeys as ‘Chasing Chasing Amy.’”

MeLinda Schnyder is a Wichita freelance writer.

Photo by Bill Winters
Issue 2, 2024


Alumni profiles, Film
You may also like: