This past September, the Dallas-based film studio The Contested Edge won an award for Best LGBTQ+ Short at Los Angeles’ Indie Short Fest. Led by director Brock Cravy, The Contested Edge produced Innocent Boy, a short film depicting the opiate crisis in Texas. With a predominantly LGBTQ+ cast and crew, as well as a black transgender lead, the short film has broken barriers by better diversifying its cast than most major Hollywood productions.
“If you want to bust into the festival circuit, you've got to be bold,” says Cravy. “I had been wanting to do something fresh and new, and queer horror is historically underrepresented. The familiar stories are always the ‘coming out’ story or the ‘trying to hit on a straight guy’ story, so we wanted to go in a completely new direction.”
Cravy first formed The Contested Edge after working as a freelance media marketer in Abilene. While working primarily for nonprofits, he was able to form relationships with a broad range of differing mindsets.
“I found myself working for the religious right, the liberal left and the recovery community, all at the same time,” Cravy recalls. “I felt like I was descending into the mouth of madness. There was one client telling me how God is supposed to be from the right’s perspective, and then I was working with a liberal group with a completely different take on God. And then I was working with the recovery community, who asks you to define your own God. So at this point, I’m going a little bit insane. That’s what this film represents: How it felt being gay in Abilene, Texas, working among all of these communities.”
Innocent Boy touches on rather dark themes, including addiction and recovery. Although the film is rather terrifying, Cravy is proud to showcase the talents of diverse actors and bring real, raw stories to the screen.
“Ticket sales in theaters have been dropping for years,” Cravy says. “Then, when Jordan Peele started producing his films, and then Crazy Rich Asians came out, ticket sales started to go up. That's because there were more people being represented in movies, therefore more audience members were coming out.”
Upon its screening at Indie Short Fest in Los Angeles, Innocent Boy quickly became a crowd favorite. The film's boldness and originality are among the factors that led them to its win at the festival.
“At first, we couldn’t believe it,” Cravy says of the recognition, “because the film is pretty bold, but it’s dark and disturbing, but it’s so beautiful. And I’m so happy people recognize this and we weren’t dismissed as some crazy genre piece.”
Other filmmakers from Texas were also excited for the Dallas studio's win.
“We were walking through the W Hotel in Los Angeles, and a guy high-fived me,” Cravy says. “I was like ‘What was that for?’ He couldn’t believe that a queer film that won came from Texas.”
Innocent Boy marks Cravy’s first narrative feature, as most of his film work has been in nonprofits and for marketing purposes. Following his big win, Cravy hopes to continue to push the envelope by bringing more diverse stories to the screen. He advises all other aspiring filmmakers to do the same.
“What I’ve learned in my entire career is that people love authenticity,” Cravy says. “Find people you trust, don’t be afraid to be bold and experiment, and just make good work together.”