Where did you first meet Ron Holiday, and how did the film come about?
My younger brother, Adam, has worked and lived with exotic animals for quite some time. He was just starting his training at a place called Amazing Exotics in Florida, which is where a lot of the film takes place, and is also where Ron went to heal after the tragedies. I remember it was a hot summer day in L.A., and my mom called and said, you know that place where your brother is? Well, he's with this man who is grieving from some amazing tragedies. I've heard a little bit about his life, and I think it would make a great documentary. And that was the beginning of what became a seven-year journey to finish the film.
In many ways, Ron and Joy Holiday and their love affair with fellow Cat Dancer, Chuck Lizza seems to defy how we as a society define love.
Well, that was one of the things that was so unique about their story. So often people need to put people in a box and label them. But with Ron you couldn't do that. On the surface he's like an effeminate man, so he must be gay, right? But Ron didn't want to have anything to do with that. He was like, No, I'm not gay actually, I'm bisexual. That's who I am. I was intrigued and excited about the fact that here was a man who lived and marched to the beat of his own drum, who happened to have fallen in love with two different people. So it does challenge people about judging others, and about being different.
In the 7 years it took to document this story, when did you realize you had a movie?
That's interesting because there were a couple moments like where Ron is in the classroom, talking to his students. We shot that scene, and I thought to myself, oh my God, there's something dynamic going on here. The other discovery was when Ron gave me a box of old 8-millimeter movie reels. I spent months cleaning those spools and looking at them, and thinking these could be really dreamy and haunting. So there were definitely inspiring moments along the way where I felt like we had a film.
What do you hope audiences take away from the movie?
I think different people will take away different things. I hope people who believe we should not be exploiting animals in captivity think that, well, if anyone did it well, it was Ron and Joy and Chuck. They did it with enormous amounts of integrity and dignity. And I hope it makes people look beneath the surface and not judge others superficially. And also for people to think, wow, what an amazing, dynamic life this man led!