Blog

Filmmaker Spotlight: Elliot Montague

Posted on November 9, 2020

Elliot Mongtague

Director of “Light on a Path, Follow”
PROGRAM 1

What inspired you to make “Light on a Path, Follow”? What were some challenges?

I’ve been interested in representations of queer and trans pregnancy for the last 15 years. I made an experimental short film (Well Dressed) in graduate school, but could find very little on the subject back then when conducting research. It’s exciting to start seeing more nuanced stories of trans pregnancy in the news and media. I’ve often aligned the desire to go on testosterone with the desire to be pregnant. There’s a very powerful thing that happens when you put something into your body and it then has the potential to change so rapidly – it’s magical. And for a trans person to have been on T and then come off of it and then get pregnant, that’s so powerful.

I wanted to tell a story of an older trans person who decides on their own to be pregnant in the mid 1990s. They have to tap into so much inner strength in order to make that decision, but they (as any pregnant person) only have so much control. That’s why I wanted to make this a ghost story – where the main character is haunted yet guided by this mysterious spirit. The spirit represents our (tr)ancestors, those who guide us from the past or perhaps the future. It makes me think about how we think about community. How even if somebody is “alone”, they are still in community with themselves and the beings they are bringing into the world, as well as in community with spirits around them.

The making of this film was challenging in that all narrative films with small budgets are hard to make. But this limited budget also opened doors and the people who worked on this were extremely dedicated, regardless of how they identified. (Though most of the crew identified as trans or queer, which was a priority of ours.) We were very intentional with who we brought on, we wanted a set that would be nourishing and healing for people to be a part of. We knew this film would not easily be legible to a lot of people, but we didn’t make a film with the priority of it being “legible”. We wanted to make a film that we had not yet seen.

What do you think of the current state of trans/gnc filmmaking? Could you talk about it in relation to mainstream media and LGBTQ+ media?

I think we are in an exciting moment with trans/gnc filmmaking both in representation and who is behind the camera and/or writing the stories. It is crucial that trans people are telling their own stories. We are aware of the many problematic representations of trans and non-binary characters in the history of film – often as villains or liars or who endured extreme violence (Silence of the Lambs, The Crying Game, Boys Don’t Cry.) Now with mainstream media/film, there is an effort for a more “positive” representations of trans characters, but often through assimilation into traditional modes of storytelling where the narrative is about the person’s transition and often played by cis actors (Transparent, The Danish Girl.) I’m specifically interested in and in conversation with other trans filmmakers and artists who are pushing beyond this surface trans visibility on screen, who often through fantasy, depict the spectral and/or trancestors as a way to visually engage with this idea of trans-temporality, such as Ester Martin Bergsmark, Tourmaline, and Wu Tsang.

Do you have any words for to young trans/gnc/queer folks/or anyone else interested in making films?

Filmmaking is so much more accessible than it was even a decade ago – both in production and in how these works get shown. I’m seeing more and more trans specific film festivals, which is exciting – our work doesn’t just have to exist as a sidebar program. I came into filmmaking in the late 1990s, a time when there was little representation of or work being made by trans/gnc people. If these stories were at all “positive”, they were usually only about the person’s gender and their transition, not the fact that they are a person trying to live and thrive in the world. I would encourage any young trans/gnc/queer folks to be making work right now becuase there is increcibldy fertile ground and people need to see it, especially in the current political crisis we are living through. This younger generation has a far more nuanced perspective on gender, and they are much more aware of the critical intersections of identity politics – race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and disability. The work that I see my students create continues to amaze me – I tell my students to think of themselves as filmmakers who have really important things to say in the world. They can be in conversation with other filmmakers and artists of different generations. They have so much to offer us, and we as older generations are so lucky to learn from them!

Light on a Path, Follow

Directed by Elliot Montague

USA; 15 minutes

Joaquín, a trans masculine person living in rural 1990s New England, is 8-months pregnant. After encountering a mysterious spirit in the forest, Joaquín goes into labor early. Is this spirit haunting or guiding Joaquín as they await their midwife?


Filmmaker Spotlight: Princess Bouton

Posted on November 3, 2020

Princess Bouton

Director of “Float Bitch”
PROGRAM 4

What inspired you to make “Float Bitch”? What were some challenges?

Float Bitch was written on a whim. Some friends of mine who own an art gallery in Portland, Ori Gallery, invited me to be an exhibitionist for a month. I thought it was a joke at first to be honest but I asked myself “What do I have to share right now?” and this film was it at the time. One challenging aspect of this film was using my bedroom for most of it. I had to live on my own film set for a month. There were jeans everywhere. It was very overwhelming. Another challenge was being a full time college student and mourning the loss of a friend’s life due to police violence all while working on this film. I often feared I’d miss my deadline or as well as need to take a step back from school.

What do you think of the current state of trans/gnc filmmaking? Could you talk about it in relation to mainstream media and LGBTQ+ media?

I’m a queer independent/freelance filmaker. I graduated during the COVID-19 Pandemic and I am excited for the opportunities to come, however as of now I have only dipped my toes into the world of trans and gnc filmmaking. I’m still exploring what it means to be an artist and a part of a network during the age of social distance.

Do you have any words for to young trans/gnc/queer folks/or anyone else interested in making films?

My advice to young aspiring filmmakers would be to work with people who make you feel seen. Work with people who have faith in your vision.

Float Bitch 

Directed by Princess Bouton and
Evan James Benally Atwood

USA; 9 minutes

A short film that explores a black transfeminine filmmaker/performer’s relationship to her own self-worth and ego. The film pushes the idea that by centering yourself in your artwork, specifically for those who are typically “othered” in most narratives, one is committing a gorgeous and radical act.


Filmmaker Spotlight: Vision

Posted on November 1, 2020

VISION

Director of “femme de force, pt. 1”
PROGRAM 2

What inspired you to make “femme de force, pt. 1”? 

What inspired the making of this film was partly the need for women like myself to have a platform to share a more I intimate portrait of our daily struggles and desires Janet Mock continues to encourage young trans women to “find away to write ourselves into history “this quote was primarily the impetus behind the need to make the film secondly to get resources to these women as soon as possible..I encourage all viewers to send to their Venmos.

What were some challenges?

Some of the challenges were one my lack of experience, fear of failing, finding out the deadline was really close, I wasn’t not aware this festival existed before it popped up in my feed 2 weeks prior to the deadline, and lastly the covid restrictions and finding the women who would he willing to share without much of a solid story board to share with them lol..I’m grateful for everyone involved trusting me enough with their stories their equipment time and image.

What do you think of the current state of trans/gnc filmmaking? Could you talk about it in relation to mainstream media and LGBTQ+ media?

What do I think of the current state of trans filmmaking? Im new to this world but from what I can see now from when I was little it appears the entertainment industry finds our storytelling brand worthy and profitable to some degree of course the troupes will continue but from what i know about us..when given the opportunity we are tenacious but we also understand patience is a given when it comes to things worth having.

Do you have any words for to young trans/gnc/queer folks/or anyone else interested in making films?

Firstly, mention it to a bunch a people. Then watch. Observe THE People who are enthusiastic about WHAT YOU ARE INSPIRED TO DO and LET THOSE PEOPLE FEED YOU NOT THE NAYSAYERS. IN FACT, I would STRONGLY encourage you to distance yourself from those people as much as possible — you have enough on your plate.

femme de force, pt. 1

Directed by Vision

USA; 15 minutes

Where gender is the performance, patriarchy is the contract. This is an excerpt to illuminate the everyday struggles of Black TransWomen in our communities.


Filmmaker Spotlight: Sepand Mashiahof

Posted on October 29, 2020

Sepand Mashiahof

Director of “Love You Forever”
PROGRAM 7

What inspired you to make “Love You Forever”? What were some challenges?

The immensity of love that I have for my sister was the biggest inspiration to making Love You Forever. To be specific, I had a horrifically vivid nightmare that my sister was missing and I couldn’t find her, only to learn she was dead in the end. I woke up bawling my eyes out, so then I called her to tell her about it, and she coincidentally was with Hana (our cinematographer and best friend), and out of some kind of hysterical panic I was like “let’s make this into a film, this feeling is too strong.” Both my sister and I are trans, and though we love each other deeply, the differences in our personalities hold an inherent conflict that also made for an intriguing on-screen relationship. Sepehr is extremely bold, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She knows she’s the queen, and she’s got a razor sharp attitude about it. I, on the other hand, am extremely anxious, self-minimizing, and not very upfront about my femininity in public. There’s envy in this dynamic, but also mutual astonishment and admiration of each other. But back to the film—it’s about the horror of loving someone so much that you constantly fear their death. My friend Nimmy called it “pre-grieving”, and all those red light scenes depict the internal realms of anxiety and how they project out onto real life-situations, where you can’t fully enjoy the company of loved ones with such fatalistic thoughts in your head all the time. This is especially harsh when you’re part of a demographic where our mortality is always in a state of reckoning.

The challenges were all very technical. None of us had ever really created a narrative film of this scale, and the technology was formidable. We had borrowed a camera from Stone Dove Productions that we barely knew how to use, but we attached a cheap rode mic to it and just went for it. The soundtrack was created all on analog synths and drum machines which was a whole other mountain of work (next time we gotta use software). Really though, I think that for a three person crew (where two of us were also the actors), we did an amazing job creating a movie with such a complicated narrative. I assume that challenges in filmmaking will continue to be access to resources, but then again, being honored as part of this SF Trans Film Festival, it shows you that if you create from an authentic place, many of the technicalities can be bypassed with good storytelling at the forefront.

What do you think of the current state of trans/gnc filmmaking? Could you talk about it in relation to mainstream media and LGBTQ+ media?

I think we’re on the verge of seeing incredible things in this lifetime. The films and the talent already exist (as we’ll all witness November 12-15), but they’re just not broadly visible or palatable yet, which echoes a personal narrative that I think most trans people can relate to. I think the current state of trans/gnc filmmaking is full of hope though. The process of unearthing our stories is already in motion, and we need to affirm ourselves beyond the judgement of mainstream media that our voices are important, that we need to do this. Really, the most important aspect of filmmaking isn’t monetary success or the accolades, it’s about the community you create through collaboration. Trans people have survived societal estrangement and abuse via our connections to one other, and the amazing part of filmmaking is that it provides a tangible opportunity for us to interface and create potent works of art. But above all, it’s pretty explicitly known that trans people are both underrepresented and/or negatively depicted in media. The trans apparatus from film to reality via the cis imagination has caused a lot of problems for us this way, because the public understanding of us mostly comes from film and media. As filmmakers, we can facilitate the accountability for this by offering authentic stories in place of the sensationalized garbage we’ve seen all our lives. I feel so lucky to know that there are others who are currently working to make this happen, and forging a path for me and other emerging filmmakers to come through. Anyway, I think that the current state of trans/gnc filmmaking is that we’re all each other’s biggest fans, and the more we commit ourselves to it, the more it inspires others to pursue their own dreams. With that, I also wanna shoutout to Pooya Mohseni, the first trans Iranian actress I’ve seen in film (Terrifier, 2016). That meant a lot to me, and motivated me, thank you joonam.

Do you have any words for to young trans/gnc/queer folks/or anyone else interested in making films?

You absolutely deserve to feel like you’re a part of this narrative, even if you just wrote a monologue and recorded yourself on a phone performing it. You created a seed, an idea, a launching pad for more. I know that it may seem discouraging to pursue artistic ventures, but if filmmaking brings you joy, or if it’s something that helps you feel whole, then please do it. Honestly, I’m giving this advice to myself as well, because I’m always second guessing myself and the validity of my work. I never knew that making a movie was possible, and even though it’s a little short film, it feels like everything to me. Don’t let self-doubt or high expectations stop you from creating the “everything” for you. And on a personal note: learn screenwriting, because that’s where it all begins! It’s hella fun, and it’s my main focus. I’ve written four features so far—each seems to get better. If anyone needs pointers on getting started with screenwriting, email me at sepmashiah@gmail.com with questions <3

Love You Forever

Directed by
Sepand Mashiahof, Sepehr Mashiahof, & Hana Harada

USA; 21 minutes

Stuck within the time loop of ritualistic trauma, this film is an experimental horror film that takes place within the spectral plain of “Trans Girl Ether”, amplifying the palpitations of loss, grief, abandonment, and trauma. This story follows two sisters navigating defeatism and nihilism, conquering their fears of one another to learn the unending power of their bond.

Content Warning:
Non-sexual nudity and brief violent imagery



Submissions are OPEN + Check out these movies you can watch today!

Posted on May 21, 2020

5 films by and about trans and gender non-binary people you can watch online for free!

We are excited to highlight some past SFTFF films that are currently available to watch online for free.

 

Bad Theology Dir. by Samira Shifteh
(screened at San Francisco Transgender Film Festival in 2018)

A lyrical video about faith and surviving domestic violence as a Black transgender person. Featuring original poetry by J Mase III and choreography by Randy Ford. This project was a collaboration between the performance artists and the director. Shot on location at the Black & Tan Hall in Seattle with a LGBTQ crew.

Watch Bad Theology (captioned): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oH7OMFCONwk

Follow Randy Ford
Instagram: randybaby11

Follow J Mase III
Twitter: @JMaseIII 
Instagram: jmaseiii
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jmaseiii/

 

Stop, Drop, Roll – Macy Gray ft Nik West Dir. Collier Landry & Guido Fabris
(screened at San Francisco Transgender Film Festival in 2017)

This music video for Macy Gray’s song “Stop, Drop, Roll” features popular gender-fluid dancer and choreographer, Jenzi Russell.

Watch Stop, Drop, Roll:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDNipFmyhgU

Follow star, Jenzi Russell
Twitter: @OfficialJenzi
Instagram: officialjenzi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialJenziRussell/

 

HOMOSAFE Dir. Lorin Murphy
(screened at San Francisco Transgender Film Festival in 2018)

A music video for the song Homosafe by the band The Homobiles.

Watch HOMOSAFE: https://vimeo.com/300619409

Follow Lorin Murphy
Instagram: lorindmurphy

Follow The Homobiles
Instagram: thehomobiles
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Homobiles-1381340508850417/

 

 

Tranimal Dir. Shawna Virago
(screened at San Francisco Transgender Film Festival in 2018)

Music video for Tranimal by Shawna Virago. This folk-punk single is for those of us living outside the binary. 

Watch Tranimal:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2223ae0jZWQ

Follow Shawna Virago
Twitter: @ShawnaVirago
Instagram: shawnavirago
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shawna-Virago-148321001860564/

 

Bustin’ Out: From Solitary To Re-Entry  Dir.  Janetta Johnson
(screened at San Francisco Transgender Film Festival in 2015)

Transgender activist and TGI Justice Project ED,  Janetta Johnson’s short film about solitary confinement and re-entry for transgender women in the prison system. This film was made for Black Girl Dangerous’ MagniFLY! project for trans women of color visibility.

Watch Bustin’ Out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9Qo6koD5dw

Follow Janetta Johnson
Twitter: @janetta114
Instagram: janetta3053

Follow TGI Justice Project
Twitter: @tgijp
Instagram: tgijustice
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TGIJP/

Follow Black Girl Dangerous
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8c2oL3yUcNuXKzEOpLjUPg/videos

 


 

 

Trans Movies You Can Rent

Don’t stop there! Support trans filmmakers by renting their films! Here are films BY trans and nonbinary filmmakers that you can rent today!

 

Happy Birthday Marsha Dir. Tourmaline, Sasha Wortzel
(screened at San Francisco Transgender Film Festival in 2018)

Happy Birthday, Marsha! commemorates Black trans activist and performer Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson and her role in instigating the 1969 anti-policing riots at the Stonewall Inn, a watershed event for the gay liberation movement. The film interweaves imagined scenes with found archival footage to counter the endemic erasure of trans women of color from narratives of political resistance.

Rent Happy Birthday Marsha:
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/happybirthdaymarsha
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SBJ64MK

Follow Tourmaline
Twitter: @tourmaliiine
Instagram: tourmaliiine
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tourmaliiine/

Sasha Wortzel
Twitter: @sashawortzel
Instagram: sashawortzel

 

PASSING Dir. Lucah Rosenberg – Lee & J. Mitchel Reed
(screened at San Francisco Transgender Film Festival in 2015)

This short documentary profiles the lives of three men of color who have undergone gender transition from female to male. The film explores what life is like living as a black man, when no one knows you are transgender and how each of them perceives their own journey with gender after many years of being interacted with by the world as a biological man.

Rent Passing: https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B01GEVOEGO/ref=atv_dp_share_cu_r

Follow filmmakers: 

Lucah Rosenberg-Lee
Twitter: @mntntpview
Instagram: mntntp
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lucah-Rosenberg-Lee-240298959730056/

Mitchel Reed
Twitter:  @thepathyouwalk

 

 

Transfinite Dir. Neelu Bhuman
(screened at San Francisco Transgender Film Festival in 2019)

A sci-fi omnibus feature film composed of seven standalone magical short stories where supernatural trans and queer people from various cultures use their powers to protect, love, teach, fight and thrive.

Rent Transfinite: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/transfinite

Follow Transfinite:
Twitter: @transfinitefilm
Instagram: transfinite.film
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TransfiniteFilm/

 


Filmmaker Spotlight: Linnéa Haviland

Posted on November 7, 2019

Linnéa Haviland

What inspired you to make Turning?

I wanted to make a film that dealt with the pain of marginalization without being defined by those experiences, or defining that aspect of you as something negative. I decided to make it poetic and focus on the emotional, because I think emotional experiences are how we connect with each other, and I that way becomes something that can be very personal and at the same time universal. I was commissioned to make a film about the impacts of homo- bi- and transphobia on young people, so I wanted to make a film that could in some way touch on all those diverse experiences, without being too specific or prescriptive about what those experiences might be. I used my own experiences as inspiration, and also held two workshops with young people at Gendered Intelligence, a youth club for trans and non-binary people. In the workshops we brainstormed and did free associations around what sounds, images and colors came up when we thought about the themes of the film. 

 

What is your ideal future for trans and non-binary representation in media?

Ideal future would be moving away from stereotypes – both stereotypical representation and the need to always relate to them is some way (as in having a pressure to ‘disprove’ stereotypes for example). I would like to see trans and non-binary people representative realistically in a myriad of different ways, and not always defined by their gender identity, which I think in a sense contributes the idea that your gender identity “means” something, says something about who you are. But ultimately I think representation is a means to en end, rather than an end in itself. I think for things to change there also needs to be better representation behind the screen, and an examination of the process of making films and media, and what structural obstacles and assumptions have been built into that process. 

 

What’s next for you as a filmmaker or as an artist?

I’ve just finished with the treatment for my next short film, a semi-documentary queer film noir based on a puppetry play I wrote and directed a few years back! Currently working on the script, and looking for a producer and some funding for it. I’m also putting on an experimental film screening for kids and young people at Deptford Cinema in London, and trying to see if I can start an experimental film collective/mentoring program off the back of it if it’s successful… it’s the first screening I’m putting on so will see how it goes! I’ve also got two films doing the festival circuit, so hoping to find some good way of distributing them after the festival runs is over.

Turning

Directed by
Linnéa Haviland

PROGRAM 5
Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 4pm
Roxie Theater

A short-animated film about the emotional impact of homo- bi- and transphobia on young people, and how support and community can help us grow.

*To purchase tickets for this program, be sure to click on “Sun Nov 10 2019 4:00PM” from the drop down menu.


Filmmaker Spotlight: Jimmy Zhang

Posted on November 7, 2019

Jimmy Zhang

What inspired you to make Trans 128?

I was inspired to make Trans 128 to showcase my sis Frida. We would go out often and I thought it would be fun to work on something together with Frida as the writer. We both agreed that clubs/nightlife spaces for T/Q/NB folks were sanctuary spaces for us. 

 

What is your ideal future for trans and non-binary representation in media?

That trans/non binary folks have full control of their stories and are not some “prop” or for voyeuristic means. The ideal future would be to see more trans/non-binary directors, actors, producers and stories that connect back to the communitys’ resistance, survival and 3-dimmensions. 

 

What’s next for you as a filmmaker or as an artist?

I’ve never had formal film training. I learned via a few night school courses at City College (shout out to CCSF). Now I’m currently in a fellowship program where I am receiving training at the La Femis film school in Paris, France and the Filmakademie in Germany. Here I hope to sharpen my tools as a producer and will bring to life a commissioned project for Arte–a public Franco-German broadcaster. 

Trans 128

Directed by
Jimmy Zhang

PROGRAM 3
Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 7pm
Roxie Theater

Frida Ibarra uses her electronic music as a platform to discuss the importance of sanctuaries for queer and trans people of color outside of mainstream gay communities in San Francisco.

*To purchase tickets for this program, be sure to click on “Sat Nov 9 2019 7:00PM” from the drop down menu.


Filmmaker Spotlight: Seyi Adebanjo

Posted on November 7, 2019

Seyi Adebanjo

Director of “Honor Black Trans Womxn!”
PROGRAM 6 Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 6pm

Honor Black Trans Womxn!

Directed by
Seyi Adebanjo

PROGRAM 6
Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 6pm
Roxie Theater

This short film is a call to center Black Trans Womxn, protect and celebrate Black Trans Womxn. The Hands Off Trans Bodies Rally was held on May 24th, 2019, because 3 Black Transgender Womxn were murdered within 8 days of each other. What would it look like if Black Trans Womxn were allowed to thrive?

*To purchase tickets for this program, be sure to click on “Sun Nov 10 2019 6:00PM” from the drop down menu.


Filmmaker Spotlight: Fox Fisher

Posted on November 7, 2019

Fox Fisher

Director of “Get Off My Turf!”
PROGRAM 4 Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 9pm

What inspired you to make Get Off My Turf?

After making 100+ trans related non-fiction (documentary and campaign) films, I wanted to collaborate on a fiction to be able to explore trans issues in a less restrictive and more creative format.  It felt important to make something domestic, about ’the girl next door’, in an attempt to normalise being trans. It was also an opportunity to give a direct response to the same old anti-trans rhetoric which we are seeing from a vocal minority in the UK at the moment. 

 

What was the greatest joy or happy surprise while making this film?

This film was made entirely by trans people. It was such an unexpected treat working with Persia West, a trans woman, who used to be filmed for whiskey ads in Japan as ’the sophisticated man about town’ who now runs a podcast called The Masks of Gender. Persia brought so much to the table and we reworked scenes with her to make things flow better and she really got into her anti-trans character. 

 

What was the greatest challenge or fear while making this film?

We had all the camera kit and editing capabilities, we just didn’t have a budget. So the lack of funds dictated how we made the film, utilising what was around us. 

 

What is your ideal future for trans and non-binary representation in media?

I would like to see more support for trans artists and film-makers in the form of mentoring and funding. There are so many stories which deserve acknowledgement. 

 

What’s next for you as a filmmaker or as an artist?

More fiction! We are setting up a writer’s room to create a fictional series based on a true story about a bunch of trans people taking a road trip in 1975. I also want to make a whole new documentary on being non-binary as there still seems to be so much confusion. Our first feature length doc I Am They was released on youtube for International Non-Binary Awareness Day.

Get Off My Turf!

Directed by
Fox Fisher

PROGRAM 4
Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 9pm
Roxie Theater

A short film about a trans woman who finds out that her neighbor is transphobic. It delves into some of the modern depictions of transphobia and explores friendship, solidarity and conflict between two very different women.

*To purchase tickets for this program, be sure to click on “Sat Nov 9 2019 9:00PM” from the drop down menu.