New film documents the Broadway and YouTube star's Strait Outta Oz project
Todrick Hall is a multi-hyphenate if there ever was one: singer-rapper-YouTube sensation-Broadway star-dancer-choreographer-playwright and judge on RuPaul's Drag Race. Now he can add subject of a documentary to his long list of credits.
Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall, directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright, captures the creation of the performer's most ambitious project to date -- the visual album, album and stage show Strait Outta Oz. The documentary screened Thursday at Outfest at the Ace Hotel in downtown L.A., after holding its world premiere at SXSW in March.
He has so many fascinating things to say. He just exudes creativity every step of the way.
Hall boasts more than 280,000 followers on Twitter. But the extent of his fan following is more apparent on YouTube, where 2.5 million people subscribe to his channel. His videos posted there reportedly have attracted more than 400 million views. At SXSW, Wright addressed some of the reasons for Hall's broad appeal.
"I think it's multi-faceted," Wright told Nonfictionfilm.com. "Certainly just his creativity and the lyricism and the sort of spunk of his music I think is really a big reason behind it but also I think his honesty, his direct connection he has with his fans I think they find really appealing, like they have a friend in him, an ally."
Many fans draw inspiration from Hall's story -- a gay kid growing up in small town Texas where he was teased and not necessarily encouraged to pursue his dreams.
"I've heard the stories of signing myself up for dance class when I was eight and I vaguely remember those things, but I never looked at it as hard," he told Nonfictionfilm.com in Austin. "If I wanted to do it and no one gave me the opportunity then I had to make an opportunity myself, whereas some people's solution is to not do anything. I don't think there's anything wrong with that but for me that was never an option."
Hall acknowledged his single-mindedness has occasionally posed challenges.
"Accepting 'no' was never an answer and still isn't. And in some cases that makes me not maybe a great son or a great partner or a great student," he said. "But in some cases it's the reason why I'm here where I am today. And I still have a long way to go and so many things that I want to work on, but I am grateful that I have those qualities and that my mom helped instill those things in me and made me and encouraged me to be different. And my grandmother as well encouraged me to be different and to go out and fight for things that I wanted."
In his stage show "Strait Outta Oz" Hall plays variations on characters familiar from the Wizard of Oz. The tale has fascinated him for years, he told us.
"It's been my favorite story since I was a child. I never knew why, but I think it was secretly I knew that there was something bigger out there and grander and more colorful and more open-minded than what I was living in Texas," he revealed. "It's crazy that I felt that because I didn't have internet to see things that I didn't know existed. I didn't know how to find the things I wanted to see or experience, I just knew that they didn't exist in this town that I was in.
"I've always identified with [the story] and I've always wanted to run away and meet these cool people and find this person that could help me -- like the wizard -- that could just make all my dreams come true," Hall continued. "But the cool thing about the story of the Wizard of Oz is that Dorothy never needed those people. But had she not gone on that journey she would have never realized that. So I feel like I live that very same story every day and 10 years from now I will probably have realized things that I didn't know to be able to tell you now. But that's what life is all about."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.