My Montrose: Jarrod Gullett of Proud Pony International
My Montrose: Jarrod Gullett of Proud Pony Productions
By Michael Hardy
Jarrod Gullett is the co-founder of Proud Pony International, a video production company based in Montrose. His short documentary The Trouble with Ray, which tells the story of legendary Houston LGBT activist Ray Hall, has screened at film festivals around the world. Gullett is currently raising money to expand the film into a feature-length documentary.
How did you meet Ray Hill?
Three years ago, my creative partner Travis [Johns] and I began talking with him at a party. About two and a half hours later we got up from the table and were like, ‘Wow, we’ve got to find a way to record some of these stories before they’re lost!’ He has a completely unique perspective on the history of LGBT Houston in particular, but also prison reform, and civil rights in general. It’s not just LGBT issues.
How did the documentary come together?
About a month and a half after we met Ray, a friend approached us and said, “Comcast wants to give you a little bit of seed money to shoot a three-minute piece to tell Ray’s story.” So we sat with him for a day of interviews. And that little film went around the world—Amsterdam, London, LA, Chicago. Everywhere we go, people are charmed by Ray. And everywhere, people wanted to see more of the story. So we’re currently in production on a feature-length version of the film. We’re going to be working on the film all fall to have it ready by the spring.
Who else will you be interviewing for the film?
Obviously Mayor Parker is going to be a part of it. She was an early protégé of Ray’s. At least that’s what he likes to say—I don’t know if she would put it exactly that way. I have heard her say on several occasions that she wouldn’t be where she is if not for Ray’s activism.
What do you want people to take away from the film?
The story we’re hoping to tell is certainly the story of an activist’s life. It’s also about the evolution of the gay community in Houston, and Houston’s connection to the national movement, which most people are completely unaware of, both locally and nationally. One of the things we encounter when we screen the film in various places is that nobody believes these things actually happened in Houston. That’s why we feel the obligation to tell the story—there has to be a witness. People need to know.
How have audiences reacted to the film?
A lot of people are astounded at how much further freedoms were advanced in Houston in the 1950s and 1960s than they were even in places like New York, LA, or San Francisco.
What’s the secret to Ray’s success as an activist?
One of the things Ray told me is, “Sometimes you just have to kick down the motherf***ing door. Because usually there’s nothing behind it but bulls***.” He really doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.
Talk about your production company, Proud Pony.
Travis and I had worked in commercial video production in various cities for many years. And a few years ago we decided we wanted to do it for ourselves rather than for others. So we do some commercial work, mostly for arts organizations—the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Rothko Chapel, FotoFest. And then we do original work. Although we’ve never done a documentary before, so this is exciting.
Why did you decide to open your production office in Montrose?
Well, it’s so centrally located. Most of our social and commercial lives are based in this area, and most of our clients are in Montrose or the Museum District. And it’s just comfortable, right?
To contribute money to the Ray Hill documentary project, visit the Austin Film Society’s website.