Q&A with Tony Osso on how The Devotion Project showcases gay couples in love

Tony Osso created The Devotion Project, a series of six short documentary films focused on same-sex couples, as a way of shining a spotlight on the love and commitment that gay couples share and why marriage matters to them. The films debuted online to great acclaim, and the first in the series won a number of film festival awards in 2012. 

The six films have featured a wide range of couples of various ages and backgrounds, including John and Bill, New Yorkers who have been together for 54 years and are now coping with Parkinson's; Brian and Paul, who married on their 25th anniversary on the first weekend of the freedom to marry in New York in 2011; and Audrey and Gail, an Olympic Medalist for women's basketball and a former model and fashion entrepeneur. 

We talked to Tony to better understand his vision for The Devotion Project and what's next. You can watch all of the films on YouTube.

1. What motivated you to start The Devotion Project?

Reading the news and seeing that so many LGBTQ teens were committing suicide, even in this day and age – I thought that maybe these films could give young people examples of what’s possible if they make it through those difficult years of adolescence. That was the main reason.  

But there were others: I wanted to see and show tenderness among LGBTQ people – which is in such short supply in the media.  I also have two nieces, and I wanted to educate them (and my father, for that matter), so that they could integrate ideas of LGBTQ relationships into their worldview. I made them for the people who need and want to see a broader representation of LGBTQ people, and I happen to be one of those people.

And finally, having been in a few relationships myself, there was the personal interest in finding out the secrets, the tricks to making love last.

2. What has been the advantage to producing these features in short-form documentary, rather than one large film that interweaves the stories together?

I wanted the films to be shareable online and available for free. No money, no trip to the movie theatre: All you need is an Internet connection.  So many ideas get watered down or compromised in some way when there’s too much money involved, so I made them on the cheap, calling in favors and raising funds from fans online. It was a campaign of sorts, a team effort, and that felt right for this subject matter.

3. How are each of the videos similar? And what do those similarities communicate about the LGBT community and same-sex couples?

The videos are similar in they all feature LGBTQ couples who are happy and thriving right now. They tell stories of perseverance, openness, obstacles overcome, and lives well lived.  I hope that they communicate that so many of us want so many of the same things, stable relationships, families, homes... and that the idea of ‘otherness’ that separates us is false.

4. In what ways are viewers impacted by The Devotion Project and the couples featured in the films? What do you most hope audiences take away from the project?

I think the films illuminate a lot of the issues facing the LGBTQ community in a very specific way, while drawing parallels to the universal understanding of marriage, commitment, and love. I address different topics in each film, from parenting to running a business together to meeting later in life, but mostly I wanted to show actual devotion as practiced by people who aren’t often seen through that prism. I hope people are entertained and enlightened, of course, and enjoy them, and maybe see things they haven’t seen before.

5. How does it feel to have debuted the final piece in the 6-part Devotion Project? And is there a next step for the venture?

I’m so thrilled and grateful for the reception the series has gotten so far.  It’s a sort of unusual idea, for sure, to debut six short films online in this way, but it’s proven very successful. The next step is to continue outreach, to get the films in front of as many people as possible, through building awareness online, continuing to screen at film festivals, and making the films available to schools and organizations that want to educate people about the issues surrounding our community.  We’ve got some fun stuff coming up.

Watch the most recent addition to The Devotion Project Foremost in my Mind:

All Photography by Nephi Niven