By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
ANDOVER - Journalist Adam Knapp, who has written award-winning articles for publications that include the Wichita Eagle and the Butler County Times-Gazette, is currently working on Out Here in Kansas, a documentary short film about Burt Humburg, an Iowa physician originally from Andover.
Humburg was an All-American football player at Southwestern College in Winfield, who struggled with his sexuality. Knapp is no stranger to Humburg’s story; he initially wrote an article about Humburg almost 15 years ago, and then again in 2011.
His story stuck with Knapp, and the documentary, which is expected to be released this year, explores Humburg’s story in depth as it relates to the struggle between Christianity and the LGBTQ community.
Liberty Press (LP): You wrote an article on Burt Humburg in 2011 for the Butler County Times-Gazette. You are now filming a documentary on his story, called Out Here in Kansas. What has drawn you to Burt and his story?
Adam Knapp (AK): Let me put it this way: Our working title for the documentary was Brain Of Burt. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who is so curious about the world, so thoughtful and so analytical with the new knowledge he is constantly seeking.
I’d actually written about Burt before, when he was a college athlete and I was a sportswriter. The whole angle of that story was how he’d lost his home in a tornado, and how he’d lost his father, and how he had turned himself from a self-described chubby bookworm into an All-American football player. Then a couple of months later, I’d heard he came out of the closet and – well, let’s just say nobody saw that one coming.
So that was in 1997, and I never forgot about Burt. He’s just not someone you forget. And 14 years later I found an excuse to write about him again – this time, telling his story about what it was like for a fundamental Christian in the middle of the Bible Belt, coming to the realization that he is gay.
LP: How did the documentary originate? What is your focus for the film, and how is it progressing?
AK: An important part of the 2011 article was tracking down Burt’s former pastor, Joe Wright, who was living in Florida at the time. This was a man who not only preached against homosexual practice, but was an integral part of Kansas banning same-sex marriages. On the other hand, this was the same man who officiated the funeral of Burt’s father, and a man who Burt highly respects.
Pastor Joe gracefully gave me all his thoughts on the matter. He’s a smart guy - media savvy and a terrific quote because he’s not politically correct. He and Terry Fox have their own radio show, and he’s done this a thousand times before. But when the interview was over, he expressed his desire to talk to Burt directly. So I passed that message along, and Burt’s reply was, “Oh man, I would love that.”
That’s when I started getting the idea to make a documentary. I knew getting these two together in a television studio, after theyhadn’t seen each other in 20 years, was going to make for a fascinating discussion.
And it took off from there. My focus is telling Burt’s story the best way I possibly can, using a big visual platform that only a movie can provide. I want millions of people to see this. We’ve shot most of our footage and have begun the editing process, but there are some things I want to do that are a little unconventional that require more work from our illustrator and editor. Luckily for me, they’re highly skilled guys who can translate my ideas onto the screen.
LP: One of your goals for the documentary is to interview Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Why is this integral to the film, and what would you ask him?
AK: Well, if you’re going to be gay in Kansas, you’d better be tough. And a lot of that has to do with our politics. At this point we’ve got what we need for a fantastic movie, with or without Sam Brownback. I’ve personally told him I’d like to visit with him about what we’re doing, and his people know we’d like to get him on camera at some point.
I’m sure the first thing I’d ask him about is reversing the measure that barred employment discrimination against LGBTQ state workers earlier this year. At the very least, the timing of that order seems bizarre. Some say it’s downright mean. Is there something we’re not considering? Why do this now?
And I’m sure that would lead into a discussion about the governor’s stance and feelings on LGBTQ rights. I’m not trying to catch him in a “gotcha” moment. I’ve spent more than 20 years building a reputation as a fair, accurate journalist, and by now there are hundreds of people who can tell him that. Does he want to touch this subject matter? I guess we’ll find out soon.