Journalist Adam Knapp had the perfect cast of characters around which to base the documentary he wanted to make. The topic — gays and the church — was current and controversial, and Knapp had the right people on board to tell a great story.
The problem? “I wasn’t a filmmaker,” Knapp said.
That was then. Knapp’s first documentary, “Out Here in Kansas,” premiered to a sold-out crowd in October at Roxy’s Downtown in Wichita.
Knapp, a longtime Wichita-area print journalist, had virtually no experience with video, but he did have experience with storytelling. He estimates he has interviewed several thousand people over the course of his career.
One interviewee, Burt Humburg, stuck with him long after their first conversation. Humburg, who played football at Andover High School and Southwestern College in Winfield, first caught sports journalist Knapp’s attention because he persevered as a student-athlete despite personal challenges, like having his family home blown away by the 1991 Andover tornado.
Then Knapp realized he and Humburg shared a beloved family pastor, Joe Wright, who served as the pastor at Central Christian Church in Wichita for 20 years. Wright preaches against same-sex marriage and has even fought against its legalization in the state of Kansas.
It just so happens that Humburg, who went on to become a physician, is gay. Knapp decided to arrange a discussion between the two about being gay and Christian — and he wanted to do it on film. Knapp then dedicated the last several years of his life to making a documentary based on Humburg’s story of growing up as a Christian gay man in one of the most conservative states in the country.
“I’ve considered it like a full-time job,” Knapp said. “It’s never left my mind.”
To recap, Knapp had no videography skills. No camera equipment. No budget. And, really, no idea how to make a documentary. But he did have a reason to keep going. “God told me to,” Knapp said.
Knapp reached out to an acquaintance, Jon Pic, who began helping him. He then met Wichitan Kenneth Linn, who earned a film degree at the Art Institute of Colorado. Together, the men completed Knapp’s vision, with Linn shooting and editing the film.
“Subjects like this are so much more complicated than a black and white, or red and blue, issue,” Linn said. “Yeah, sure, it’s a controversial subject, but we approach it from a point of view that is very fly-on-the-wall.”
Linn noted that with a polarized United States political scene, films like “Out Here in Kansas” that promote discussion about controversial issues can spur personal growth. Proponents of both perspectives, Humburg’s and Wright’s, have enjoyed the film, which has had a handful of screenings across the state this fall.
Knapp has large dreams for the documentary. He wants to get it in front of as many people as possible. “I think it’s touched just about everybody who has seen it,” he said. “I think I have managed to open a few minds.”
If you’re wondering which direction he wants those minds to open, he’s not talking. However, a twist at the end of the film involving Knapp might give some clues.
“Let me know if you figure it out,” he said.
To learn about future screenings of “Out Here in Kansas,” like it on Facebook.