In this musical filmemoir, docu-drama, auto-biopic, I tell my version of 60 years of what became gay liberation: from sissy boy on a farm in Vermont, to tender teen discovering sexuality, to the chaos and trauma of the closet in a rigid binary culture, to bursting Out and Proud on the wings of Stonewall and disco fever, to the crushing tragedy of AIDS; to finding power and hope in activism, love, parenting, the arts, and claiming our precious freedom to marry…or not.
With grace, wit, and attitude, the song cycle and stories bring home the vulnerability, integrity, and authenticity of this wild ride to more freedom.
Sometimes horrific, sometimes beatific--ultimately it’s a family (birth and chosen) love story. Plus it’s funny and totally fabulous through tumults, tears, joys, and celebration. My story has some of everyone’s story: family, struggle, marginalization, love, hate, and fighting for what’s right. Binary gender role constriction and homophobia burn shame with experience-near drama in one man’s life--powerful story telling interwoven with place, time, and social change for the better.
About the Film
Filmed on site at the family farm, the drama of a specific life unfolds over the cycle of seasons. My story roots, grounds, gestates, swells, blooms, fruits, and rises up out of this land. The enduring power of place and its restorative roots are the through line of the lyrical visuals of this film.
Queering up its own batch of magical realism in rich internal and external landscapes, sky-scapes, escapes, the barn and landscape of Steve’s childhood are mnemonic prompts and containers for pivotal moments expressed in original song, poetry, and voiceover to evoke a memory scape of personal and collective narratives. ‘Tender tiny tongues unfurl.” His dad’s home movies, his husband’s nature footage, and his own eerily prescient hand-held films shot at age 20 are spliced into Tommy Hyde’s gliding footage of Steve’s performance and Tommy’s gorgeous shots of the farm through all seasons.
Inspirations? Make a Wish, (70’s TV show) meets Vermont Life meets Laurie Anderson’s Heart of Dog meets Walt Whitman meets Cavafy meets Robert Frost meets The Moth? NO! NO! Misster Butterfly! All of them meet Dr.stVah Divah in the prettiest barn and farmland in Vermont.
Audience and Community Engagement
The film is an activist tool for generating public opportunities to learn more about my gay generation’s experience with social change. This film stands to affirm my peers and inspire other generations to act. The staged version of my story has been seen coast to coast at universities, gay pride events, elders’ conferences, professional trainings, and theaters. The film will be distributed to all these places and beyond. A companion workshop can be tailored to specific audiences: such as governmental elder services programs, college queer studies programs, social change history series, human services professionals, and religious institutions. Included on the website will be interactive activities and print materials designed to encourage further engagement and activism. For example, for LGBT elder groups sponsored by SAGE, the film’s “chapters” can be used as prompts for workshops and group sessions in which LGBT elders write, share, and perform their own stories.
Producer |Director | Writer | Performer
Steve is a psychotherapist, educator, activist, son, daughter, father, mother, sister ,
brother, wife, husband, (let’s just call them family!) artist, poet, gardener,
performer who writes music and sings…yes The Singing Psychotherapist!
He has a private practice in Boston—find out more here.
Björn Anders Peterson
Associate Producer |Director of Lights, Set, & Sound |Cameo: "Death"
Björn is a vampire-in-disguise, design ninja, and queer stage-cowboy.
When Björn is stressed, he cooks; when he's sad, he plays music.
Advance Praise for Wild & Precious
“Cadwell’s film doesn’t just examine the struggle to name and claim value in the life of a contemporary gay man; it is a cri de coeur that speaks to our universal hunger for self-fulfillment, value, and connection.”
— Gregory Maguire, Author of Broadway-adapted best-seller "Wicked"
"Steve Cadwell's documentary 'Wild and Precious' is an intimate exploration of addressing the question. 'What does it Mean to Be a Man'? This question is more confounding when you are homosexual and growing up in rural Vermont. during the fifties and sixties. Wild and Precious takes you on a riveting journey from his birth to present. It intersperses his home videos, photography, poetry and music to tell the intimate and profoundly moving story of how one man overcame repression, trauma and disassociation during a time of overt sexism and institutionalized discrimination. At its conclusion, you feel like you have time traveled and had a front row seat to one man's particularly heart-breaking but gloriously rich and inspiring life."
— Helena Long
"It's a rare privilege to bear witness to the stripping down of a person to his essence, but that is just what takes place in 'Wild and Precious.' Dr. Steve Cadwell bravely shares his deeply moving, personal story; a story of pain and pleasure, of shame and shamelessness, of desolation and ultimate triumph in becoming his true self. In doing so, he speaks to us all and for us all."
— Abraham Feingold, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist and Independent Consultant
"Steve Cadwell's story is heartfelt, brave, and beautifully told, the filming gorgeous, the music and the message captivating. In the midst of these terrible times, the progress for LGBTQ peoples over the course of our lifetimes provides a ray of hope."
— Dana Walrath, artist, author, medical anthropologist
“Fascinating story elegantly made with great sense of measure. Bravo! I really enjoyed it!“
— Rajko Grlic, Eminent Scholar in Film at Ohio University and screenwriter of award-winning film, “The Constitution.”
"Steve Cadwell's ‘Wild and Precious’ is a magnificent achievement! Blending the poignant honesty of Edmund White, the New England gravity of Robert Frost, and the musical brilliance of Steven Sondheim."
— Nick Bromell, Professor of English and American Studies at University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“I encourage you to see Steve’s film. The film has wonderful footage of the family farm and us boys (from Dad’s movies). It has a sharp, clear arc: from boy to man, from farm to world. It’s both challenging and accessible. It gives you pause and faith. It’s much bigger than Steve—though he still has his fun. It’s about our family—as one of many. I’d love for you to see it—so we can talk about it.”
— Ashley Cadwell, Steve’s older brother, co-founder of Cadwell Collaborative
“Wild and Precious is one story from a generation who queered psychotherapy. This story breaks out of the closet—condemns the violence of pathologizing and incarceration, demands access to treatment for HIV, insists on the legal right to love and parent children, and reconstitutes loving embrace in family. This is a beautiful, transformative, wild and precious life in film.”
— Carol Batker, Professor of Literature and Film, University of San Francisco
“Wild and Precious is much more than a sentimental journey down a memory lane of pain and sadness. Among the film's triumphant images is a great blue heron taking flight, rising slowly, majestically, off the water. The message: Inner peace comes of accepting our own differences, and a life of integrity comes from integrating all our parts”.
— John-Manuel Andriote, Author of Stonewall Strong: Gay Men's Heroic Fight for Resilience, Good Health, and a Strong Community, and Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America.