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How I made a short queer trans film produced without any edits

How I made a short queer trans film produced without any edits

Like many trans folk, my life has been complicated.  With intersecting identities and experiences are not always pretty.

However being a dyke, queer, working class, transgender a former rough sleeper and sex-working single parent – can give you some powerful narratives on which to draw from.

But what takes some time is, understanding what in our complex lives is worthy of telling.

Sometimes I wish that I had owned a camera in 1984 when I was sleeping rough with a bunch of skinheads in Canning Town.

But who am I kidding? It would have been the first thing down the pawnshop and I probably wouldn’t have recognized the beauty and importance of what was under my nose.

However, now we live in a time where film making has become somewhat democratized by smartphones being more easily available to so many people now.

To a degree and we can tell our own version of events without someone else doing it for us.

Of course there are challenges to this still, but in general, I think its more possible.

What I love about writing narrative is weaving all of my experiences into a story to say what I really need to say about the world.

It’s also a cathartic way of taking some of those difficult experiences and using them to add authenticity to the story.

Brother film festival poster | Photo: Kai Fiáin
Brother film festival poster | Photo: Kai Fiáin

How I made my eight-minute short film, on just one camera with no edits

The straight 8 competition is the global challenge to filmmakers to make one eight-minute short film, with no edits, post-production and all on one cartridge.

Let me assure you just in case you haven’t ever made a video – its tough.

When I entered the straight 8 competition I’d never made a so-called ‘Super 8’ film before. But I instantly knew just the story from my life to use.

It was funny, short, and a bit odd. So I just sat and wrote the funny incident that happened in Bethnal Green, in East London, sometime in 1985.

I messaged my mates and asked them if they wanted to be in a short film. Thinking it would be a
laugh, they foolishly agreed.

I posted on Facebook asking if anyone had a Super 8 camera they would lend me. And before I knew it I had everything I needed.

The narrative has to run exactly to time, you can’t re-takes or fuck ups. So I storyboarded it
frame by frame and prayed for better weather.

Super 8 Camera | Photo: Tribeca Film Festival
Super 8 Camera | Photo: Tribeca Film Festival

The day of the shoot

Fortunately whatever deity is in charge listened.

My mates rocked up before sunrise on a Sunday morning, freezing cold but looking the part.

It was somewhat hit and miss, trying to direct the cast while using a camera I had no experience of;
I wasn’t sure it even worked or contained the right speed film.

There was no time or money to test it. It could have all been for nothing.

But we shot the film and sent it off.

Brother, shot on that freezing morning in Bethnal Green, is the first film I have made using one
of my own stories.

On the day of the shoot for Brother, in Bethnal Green East London | Photo: Kai Fiáin
On the day of the shoot for Brother, in Bethnal Green East London | Photo: Kai Fiáin

What I learned making ‘Brother’

The film is full of me yet I never realised this, or the importance of that until after it was made. It’s forced me to really think about the power of telling stories from our own lives.

I could kill it with analysis, deconstruct it to death, say it’s all about my Catholic guilt and the
shame of casual sex that leads me to come face to face with immortality and the need for absolution
through prayer.

Alternatively, the whole thing could have been one big piss-take, a wind-up and Frances could have been saying a prayer over an old wardrobe.

What’s important is that the story came from personal experience.

I would argue that narratives created by marginalized people that center our lives are as political as any documentary and will all ways be because by default this is where we live our lives.\

The London Short Film Festival runs 11-20 January. Brother is being shown at ‘Experiments: Celluloid Traces’ event on 13 Jan, tickets are £13 full, £11 concessions.

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I came out as trans at my grandmother’s funeral

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