The writer/star and director of “Heartland” on their Southern lesbian love story

Lesbian love in Oklahoma. City girl meets country girl. Family drama galore. Intrigued? Who could blame you?

We’ve told you about Heartland before. This time, the film’s star and co-writer, Velinda Godfrey, and director Maura Anderson, are going to fill you in on the flick. We recently spoke with the duo about the importance of setting the film in Oklahoma, losing your partner, familial and societal prejudice, and more.


Warning: Spoilers ahead Velinda, you co-wrote the script for this film. How did the idea for it come about, and why did you want to tell this story?

Velinda Godfrey: I wanted to tell a story that featured a lesbian lead character that wasn’t necessarily about being gay. And that was kind of all I knew at the time that I wanted to do. So in talking to Todd [Waring] and discussing where I’m from–I’m from Oklahoma–and discussing some of the people there and some of our own personal loss and how potentially it might be handled when there is prejudice without it being about being gay.


AE: Setting the film in Oklahoma, how important was that to you? We certainly don’t have an overabundance of queer stories set in the South.

VG: Sure. I know a lot of the character traits that are in Oklahoma are somewhat universal in the Midwest and in the South. But for me, it was specific to Oklahoma. We’re familiar with the people there being so kind and warm-hearted but sometimes limited in how accepting they are of any difference, or what they choose to kind of glaze over or deny. But still, it’s not malintention. And I’m sure that’s true anywhere, but I’m familiar with that, along with just how kind the people are and how beautiful the state is. There’s kind of this dual thing happening with where we are right now. Even in middle America so many of the people are so accepting, and some people are very limited still in how they perceive difference. And so I think we’re in an interesting time to explore that.


AE: Maura, how did you get involved as a producer and the film’s director?

Maura Anderson: I was hitting a time in my career where I was starting to go out and look for my own projects to produce because I had just been doing more like work for hire jobs. Velinda mentioned she had this script, and they had just gotten a draft to a point that they were sharing it. I read it and I just really connected with how specific the characters were and it just was this interesting world. And it was also a lot of really complex female characters, which you didn’t see, especially at that point. I feel like people are starting to make a push to do that, but it’s still kind of far and few between and it’s certainly not always done well. So I was just really excited by that and came on as a producer. And then it was sort of an evolution. We ultimately decided to shoot a teaser to try to go out and get financing. When that came around, I threw my name in the hat to direct that. We did that, and they didn’t hate me after, so we just moved forward.

AE: I want to talk about the death of Lauren’s girlfriend. Was that inspired by the history of queer people not having family support by the hospital beside, oftentimes neither for the patient nor their partner?

VG: It definitely was. It’s kind of a tool we use to show the world around her wasn’t telling her directly, “You’re not accepted here,” but in this subtle prejudice, she wouldn’t have the equal support that somebody who was perceived the same as a straight couple had through the hard times. And it had a profound effect on her character, even though she didn’t realize exactly the struggle she was facing by not being fully accepted and viewed as an equal relationship.

MA: That actually changed significantly in the script because in the very early versions we had versions where Lauren couldn’t actually go into the hospital room. While we were writing, all of the laws changed. And so when we actually filmed in Oklahoma we didn’t film the hospital scene. That was a later addition.