'Becoming Chaz': A Timeline From Conception to Three Emmy Nominations

From left, Randy Barbato, Chaz Bono, and Fenton Bailey.
From left, Randy Barbato, Chaz Bono, and Fenton Bailey.
 Courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival

Chaz Bono and producers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey recount the travails of the passion project.

When Chaz Bono decided to document his transition from female to male, he embarked on a journey that would include several bumps in the road.

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Initially conceived as a feature film with a small theatrical release and then a second life on television, several factors would steer it to premiere on a young cable channel called OWN. Yet, the full story of that journey included several other networks at several points in its making and ultimately led its producers, World of Wonder’s Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato (The Eyes of Tammy Faye, HBO’s Wishful Drinking), to finance the film’s making out of their own pockets.

The more than two years of jumping hurdles to bring Becoming Chaz to viewers was well worth it for Bono. Not only did it receive three Emmy nominations, but Bono knows the film has changed lives.

“You know it’s exactly what I hoped it would do,” Bono tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s done and it’s really opened people’s minds and changed people’s perceptions and it’s also really helped people within the transgender community.” 

Bono, Bailey and Barbato spoke to THR about the voyage they set out on in making Becoming Chaz.

June 23, 2009 – First Meeting with World of Wonder

Bono hired publicist Howard Bragman, who has managed several celebrities’ coming out, including actress Meredith Baxter and country singer Chely Wright. He approached World of Wonder regarding the project. After the first meeting, Bono “felt they really understood this subject matter and had sensitivity to it.” For Bailey and Barbato, it would be the first time they met Chaz – “The bizarre thing is we knew Chaz as Chastity,” Barbato says. Bono had taken part in a documentary the producers did years before on Ellen DeGeneres, The Real Ellen Story.

The producers were “intrigued” by the totally different energy Bono had now compared to who they knew and Barbato says, “We decided in the room we wanted to do this documentary.” Less than two weeks later, they all agreed to move forward.

July 30, 2009 – World of Wonder pitch the idea to a couple key outlets....one expresses interest and verbally commits to the project.

“It seemed early on that we were going to have financing,” Barbato recounts. “And it was going to be by a broadcast outlet, and that maybe we’d be able to do a deal with a theatrical window.”


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