'Becoming Chaz': A Timeline From Conception to Three Emmy Nominations
Chaz Bono and producers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey recount the travails of the passion project.
Sept. 15, 2009 -- Network pulls out of the project
“We were told that, for a number of reasons, that they got cold feet,” Barbato says of the network, in which they decline to name. This is one week before a very pivotal event in the documentary, Bono’s chest surgery, was to happen. At that point, the producers decided to personally finance the project on their own. “Fenton and I just decided to run with it, and decided to actually not talk to any other networks after that point, or anybody,” Barbato explains.
Sept. 23, 2009 – Bono has chest surgery in San Francisco
"I didn’t feel comfortable with them actually shooting me getting surgery and I was very clear that I don’t want you to see my chest before the surgery,” Bono says. “But I was fine with people seeing my chest afterwards because I have a male chest and it’s perfectly acceptable in our society for men to be shirtless.”
Jan. 21, 2010 -- They attend first Transforming Family meeting, as volunteers.
The crew shoots with Transforming Family, a progressive (and controversial) group that supports families with children who are “gender diverse.” Barbato and Bono attend a few meetings together as volunteers before pitching the organization on taking part in the documentary. “We really understood that here we’re dealing with minors and with parents and with having to do it in a way because we didn’t want to put anyone in danger, any of these families in danger,” Bono says. “So, it was definitely a process of them getting comfortable with me as a person who volunteered and worked with their kids, then with me and Randy and Fenton as filmmakers.”
May 6, 2010 – Bono goes to court to have his name legally changed
“I changed my name and gender legally,” Bono points out. He also takes this opportunity to honor his father, who passed tragically in a skiing accident on Jan. 5, 1998, by including his father’s real name, Salvatore, in the change. “I wanted to keep my same initials and so I changed my middle name to his name,” he explains.
June 22, 2010 – Cher sits down for an interview for the film
While there was never any doubt that Bono’s famous mother would take part in the documentary, scheduling her was the real problem. On this day, Cher was already shooting an interview for another documentary in Las Vegas and would already be in hair and makeup. The problem was that Barbato and Bailey were in New York on another shoot and Bono had to convince them that this may be their only chance to get his mother for the project.
After tossing a coin around midday, Bailey hailed a cab to the airport. Once on a plane and already on the runway, a thunderstorm hits and closes the airport. “I’m just like, ‘Oh no.’ We’ve got to go all the way to Vegas, miss the window of opportunity, and then to fly all the way back,” Bailey tells us. He took the delay as an opportunity to write out his questions for Cher, because this would be their only chance to get everything they needed. “So you know, long story short, the plane landed around eleven at night, which was when the interview was supposed to start. And I called, and they said, ‘Oh, don’t worry. She’s running behind.’ And so, I think we actually did the interview around 12:30 or 1 a.m.”