Robin Cloud On Reimagining ‘Calamity Jane’ As A Black Queer Rom-Com
The Outfest filmmaker has big plans to take the aging classic in a bold new direction for the WB 100th Short Film Initiative, one that combines queer love with the often overlooked history of Black equestrians.
By Hansen Bursic
May 15, 2023
Robin Cloud, a Black person with short black hair and clear round glasses. She stares into the camera. Courtsey of Cloud.
The 1953 musical romantic comedy Calamity Jane was certainly a product of its time. Cashing in on the once popular Western genre and the all-too-common, overt racism of the era, the classic film tells of a sharpshooting frontierswoman who saves her love interest from an Indigenous Tribe, only to follow this man to Chicago and engage in a love triangle with his love interest.
It might seem like a tall ask to recreate this film for a modern area, but when filmmaker and Outfest alum Robin Cloud was tasked with doing just that for Warner Brothers 100th Anniversary, she was nothing but excited. Cloud, who was nominated by Outfest for the WB 100th Short Film Initiative, has big plans to take the aging classic in a bold new direction, one that combines queer love with the often overlooked history of Black equestrians.
Outfest got to chat with Cloud shortly after it was announced she would be taking on the project to talk about her Outfest journey, recreating a classic from a Black queer lens and paying homage to Black, Brown and Indigenous horse culture.
This interview was edited for length and clarity. This interview was conducted before the WGA strike went into effect.
OUTFEST: Can you tell me a little bit more about your background with Outfest?
ROBIN CLOUD: Outfest was my first big introduction to the festival world and what it means. I was actually supposed to go to one of my best friends’ weddings in Italy, and I told her I couldn’t come because I got into Outfest. I was like, I have to go to Outfest!
All the people that I met, both filmmakers and staff of Outfest were just incredible. I made so many wonderful connections and it’s a festival that I subsequently became a member of. I go every year and whenever I have a new project, I submit.
I feel like Outfest was so pivotal in helping me launch my career. It’s not just a film festival, it’s a community and I think that that is what makes it so wonderful.
Several people lean against a table on a film shoot. Behind the scenes photo from one of Robin Cloud’s film shoots. Courtesy of Cloud.
OUTFEST: So take us back to the moment you were nominated by Outfest for this program. Can you talk about how this came to be and how you approached this project?
CLOUD: I was getting on a plane to go to the East Coast to do some research on another project and I got this email and they were like “This is time sensitive!” The flight was going to South Carolina so I had enough time to work on the application and by the time I got off the plane it was done.
[At first,] I didn’t know which films they were going to offer us to reimagine but I knew the concept and so I thought, “Wow, this is really exciting and super different.” The film that I ended up being assigned to was Calamity Jane, and it was made in the fifties.
I was really excited about Calamity Jane a lot because I love horses. I’m a horse person, so I think in my pitch I was giving off horse vibes and they really were enthusiastic about my enthusiasm.
OUTFEST: So besides being a horse person, what drew you to this film in particular?
CLOUD: The two themes that I really sunk my teeth into were pursuing your dreams, which is a consistent theme of my life as a creative person, and the other one was falling in love with the person that’s right in front of you and being open to that when it happens.
And so I took those two kernels and created an amazing lesbian queer western.
Robin Cloud, a Black person wearing a baseball cap, Black glasses and a yellow mask, directs several people on a film shoot. Courtesy of Cloud.
OUTFEST: Amazing! That sounds so exciting. I know you can’t share more in terms of the plot, but I am curious what hopes you have for the film in terms of impact on audiences?
CLOUD: My leads are gonna be women of color, so I think that as an equestrian person in the horse industry there are very few representations of us in this world, even though Black, Latino and Indigenous people have been involved with horses for hundreds and hundreds of years.
In fact, the word cowboy comes from a derogatory term that white cattle ranchers called the Black men that were wrangling their horses and their cows for them.
So I’m excited to represent and show people of color, Black and Brown, and Indigenous people involved with horses. And obviously any opportunity I can to make lesbian love, queer love on screen, sign me up, I’m doing it!
The program will produce six 20-minute shorts, which will be available to stream on Max later this year. You can learn more about the program and the filmmakers here.
Hansen Bursic (he/him) is Outfest’s Marketing Manager. He is also a filmmaker and journalist with bylines in cinéSPEAK, INTO MORE and Documentary magazine.
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