'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.
July 7, 2010 – Bono visits his step mother, Mary Bono (along with his half-sister and half-brother)
“In the beginning my other side of the family was having a really hard time with it and they weren’t really in my life,” Chaz says of the support his father’s side of the family gave him. “So, at that point it’s like you go where the loving and support is and it was in Palm Springs and it was with that side of the family. I was really grateful and continue to be really grateful for the support that they’ve always shown me through this.”
Aug. 20, 2010 – Bailey and Barbato share a 15-minute teaser tape with networks.
This would be the first time the producers would reach out again for partners. “We’re not very ruthless businessmen,” Barbato says. “But we did do this in one of those ways where it was like we’re doing this for one week. You had to come and look at it, and we wouldn’t leave the tape for anyone. It was a very focused shopping period.”
Sept. 8, 2010 – Five offers come in, including one from OWN.
“Because I’m an Italian Catholic from New Jersey,” Barbato says. “It was awful, because we knew we would have to say no to four people. I’d rather say yes to everyone. But it was great. It was an unusual thing for us. It was exciting. It was really cool, and people genuinely seemed to like it. We had such tunnel vision about the project. That was only the first time we had shared with anybody.”
Dec. 30, 2010 – OWN deal is signed
“It was a chance to be part of a brand new network,” Bono explains the decision to go with OWN. “They told us they were going to be doing this documentary club and [Oprah Winfrey] wanted to do for documentaries what she had done for books and that she wanted our film to launch it. So, you know that seemed just incredibly prestigious and cool to all of us.”
Jan. 23, 2011 – Film premieres at Sundance Film Festival
The film was well-received at the festival with sold out screenings and a standing ovation from audiences. “It was unbelievable,” Bono says. “To go up there and get a standing ovation and essentially for presenting your life, showing your life, for doing something that I was so afraid that people would reject me if they knew the secret about me, to have it the exact opposite was just like, I can’t help but getting choked up thinking about it.”
May 10, 2011 –Becoming Chaz premieres on OWN
After all the travails, the documentary attracts an average of 705,000 viewers to its OWN Documentary Club premiere, ranks fifth in its time period for ad-supported cable channels, and gives the network an 162% increase in key demos versus the year before when it was known as Discovery Health.
July 14, 2011 -- Becoming Chaz is nominated for three Emmys
The morning when the Emmys nominations were announced, Bono was traveling to Phoenix and totally unaware that it was to happen then. “I think I was in the shower and [my girlfriend] Jenny said somebody tweeted me congratulations on the Emmy.”
Barbato and Bailey were also traveling. “We had a layover in Denver, Colorado,” Barbato remembers. “As we were landing, I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just turn my cell phone on just to check.’ That’s when it was like ding, ding, ding, ding. Fenton and I weren’t -- oh, my god, we were flying coach somewhere, and I was horrified. He was sitting like 10 rows behind me -- we also got two nominations for our Carrie Fisher project, [Wishful Drinking]. There were five, and I just yelled, I was like, ‘Turn on your phone!’ By the time we were getting off the plane, he was completely up to speed, as well. It was great.”
Becoming Chaz is nominated for Outstanding Nonfiction Special, Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming, and Outstanding Picture Editing For Nonfiction Programming. And the team is now working on a follow-up special for OWN that will premiere in the fall.
“It was an amazing,” Bono tells us. “I don’t know, like victory. We do something for really good reasons and you know for the experience and you’re kind of rewarded beyond your dreams with that kind of recognition from your peers.”
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro