Looking back on the past 8 months of tirelessly weaving this film together I am inundated by so many incredible memories—and while this has been a difficult process, I would never take back the moment that I asked Isabel, over Thai food one night, if she wanted to make a film.
I remember getting a text from her in September of last year as I landed in L.A. for another film I was shooting. She texted me - super ecstatic - wondering if I knew of any good editors. She just said, “I have this incredible project, it’s so amazing, can’t wait to tell you about it.” I gave her the name and contact info of one of my friends and, for the moment, that was that. But by the time we had the time to catch up in November I was dying to hear more about this project that had caught so much of her attention. As we ate our Thai and Isabel told me the stories of Francis, Abigail, and Brenda something inside me shifted. I kept asking Isabel questions; I wanted to hear more details: why are they being raped, why do they flee their countries, what is political asylum? Hearing my friend talk about these transgender women and the stories they had entrusted her with hit me hard, and it continues to hit me. We left dinner and I told Isabel I would put her in touch with some filmmakers that could help her turn this subject matter into something…but that night I couldn’t get the stories of these women out of my head, I kept thinking that I wanted to get involved, I wanted to help these women in any way that I could. I had been pursuing documentary filmmaking and had never thought of taking on such a controversial topic but these stories were too important to leave standing.
So I called up Isabel and asked her if we could make a doc. I just remember her saying yes yes yes yes yes.
The next couple of months were strenuous. We knew that we had to be in L.A. by February 13th to cover Francis’s court date but what started as a small $5,000 documentary that Isabel and I were going to cover quickly grew into a $40,000 one. We decided to bring on a second camera operator and needed digital assistants while we were shooting. A little project had, seemingly overnight, turned into a huge one.
Donato, Oliver, and I
Even though filming was chaotic, Francis, Abigail, Brenda, and their friends made our time in L.A. so joyful. They cooked for us, danced for us, and continually put smiles on our faces. I remember puppies and babies at almost every location. They acted as if the cameras weren’t there and above all shared with us their minds and their hearts. They trusted us to shed light on the lives they’ve lived in hopes of stopping the injustice and violence that is occurring today.
I was continually amazed by the strength of our subjects - after hearing what they had been through and seeing their will to continue, to make something of themselves, to not simply survive but to activate change - it truly inspired me and brought me to tears on countless occasions. I have such profound love and respect for our subjects and my hope is that we are able to share that with our viewers.
Above all, I have learned so much. Making a film of this magnitude is difficult and time-consuming and I know our topic is controversial. Opinions about it are going to range, they already range—but all I know is that using abuse to control someone that you think is different or weird is wrong, and this doc has shown me that I can stand up against that - and I will continue to stand up for that.
keep checking in on our progress! love kls