It’s great to be in conversation with you about this incredible AT&T project. The representation of LGBT characters is a subject that is close to my heart, and this film presents a rare opportunity to show a trans woman at a pivotal point in her journey—the moment she decides to come out to the world online. Not as others see her, but as she truly wants to be seen: simply, wholly, and fearlessly herself.
NEW COMMUNITIES = NEW OPPORTUNITIES
The beauty of this film is that on its surface, it’s a moving coming out story. An anthem to the joy and freedom of being able to express your true identity, in whatever form that takes. But it’s also an incredibly honest portrayal of the trans experience in the digital age, where sup- port communities and safe spaces are found mostly online. Millennials increasingly define themselves in these digital spaces, which means that the coming out journey of a 20 year-old trans woman will be remarkably different than that of a woman who came out years ago— largely because people who didn’t have a voice in decades past now have a platform to ex- press themselves and create their own virtual support system. Makeup advice? Hormone therapy questions? Emotional support, or just a “you got this” right when you need it most? Thankfully, these days it’s a comment thread, hashtag search or DM-group away.
This is a complex subject, but will be treated with sensitivity and nuance in our film. By showing how social media facilitates self expression, this story celebrates not only the transformation of one woman, but of an entire culture that is using technology to foster community and connection.
FINDING OUR LEAD
First thing’s first: we have to find the perfect young woman to build our story around. Authenticity is key, so we have to find someone who is still going through their transition. Ideally she’s at the beginning of her journey, just like the character in our script. Once we have a face to put to this story, we can start to delve a little deeper into who she is. Where is she in her transition? Has she started hormone therapy, or is she only just beginning to explore her new identity? Do her friends and loved ones know about her transition, or will this film be a com- ing out for her, too? By getting to know her beforehand, we can tailor the narrative around her story and make it feel that much more honest.
Of course, a potential challenge is that many people don’t want to be photographed too ear- ly into their transition. It’s an especially vulnerable time when the way you look on the outside doesn’t yet reflect who you are on the inside, especially in a world where “passing” is often a matter of life or death. That’s what makes this film so brave, though. It doesn’t flinch from portraying this little seen phase of the journey, and our thorough casting process is sure to un- cover some courageous souls whose commitment to trans representation eclipses any fear they have. And whoever we find, we’ll use every tool at our disposal to make sure she looks and feels like the strong, beautiful woman she is.
There are some delicate issues at the heart of this script, so we must all maintain an open dialogue throughout the process. Trans women have been far more visible in pop culture in re- cent years. One might say they’re even “trending.” And while it’s great that people are joining the conversation, it also means that women in the community are especially wary of being exploited. I’ve worked extensively with the LGBT community, so I’m sensitive to these issues and will do everything I can to facilitate real, honest communication every step of the way.
Unlocking the emotion at the heart of this story is all about accurately representing our character, honoring her real-life journey, and filling her world with rich details that are true to her experience. We’ll definitely make sure we go into the shoot with a solid story foundation, but we also want to give ourselves some room to subtly tweak the story based on the real experiences of our lead. Maybe she has a signature look that makes her feel instantly beautiful and confident, or maybe there’s an element to her social media coming out story that we could incorporate. Whatever we discover through our conversations, we’ll be sure to give her room to make the role her own.
Having Chris Edwards on the team is a privilege and a huge boon to the project. We want to tell an authentic story, so having the insight of someone who’s had firsthand experience with transitioning is crucial. With this in mind, I’m thinking that in order to best represent our character, we should also bring a young trans woman consultant on final script round, and possibly have her present on set as an ally for our lead. If we truly want to serve this underrepresented community, then we want to be sure every detail accurately reflects trans culture and experiences.
The location will depend on who we cast, but ideally we want to set this somewhere that feels a bit off the grid—or at least far from the cultural meccas of LA and NY. We want to highlight the importance of digital connection, showing that even if you’re geographically isolated, having an online community means that you’re never truly alone. Seeing the story unfold somewhere more remote will really help us drive this point home.
A suburban Middle American home would be perfect. It’s the kind of place we could imagine our post-adolescent trans woman having grown up in—a nondescript, even pedestrian space without many stylish details or queer culture signifiers. We might even see some evidence of who she was before her transition. High school trophies, family photos, or a closet still dis- playing the remnants of a cis male wardrobe. Our character hasn’t fully defined herself yet, so it makes sense that the space would reflect the identity she’s leaving behind.
[THE TREATMENT CONTINUES, THOUGH THE SAMPLE ENDS HERE]