According to IMDB, Eric Schaeffer has 12 director credits to his name including If Lucy Fell, Mind the Gap, and his latest movie Boy Meets Girl which, after more than a year of racking up an impressive number of awards on the indie film circuit, will finally open in New York City next Friday February 6, 2015, before expanding to additional markets including Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington DC later in March. On April 6th, the movie will go to Cable VOD.
Featuring transgender actress Michelle Hendley, Boy Meets Girl is a tender, poignant, sexy, romantic coming of age romantic comedy about three twenty-something’s living in Kentucky: Robby, (Michael Welch, Twilight) and his best friend since childhood, Ricky, a gorgeous transgender girl, have never dated. Lamenting the lack of eligible bachelors, Ricky finds herself attracted to a girl she meets in the coffee shop where she works. Francesca is a beautiful young debutante waiting for her Marine fiancé to return from the war. Ricky and Francesca strike up a friendship, and maybe a little more, which forces Robby to face his true feelings for Ricky. This is a sex/human positive modern fable and identification with its story and themes cross all gender and sexual orientation lines.
“I’m passionate about breaking the mold of sexual and emotional convention in the pursuit of creating more unity in our increasingly fractured world…” Director Eric Schaeffer has stated, “I feel a duty to portray characters in my films who, like myself, admit to and accept without condition the parts of themselves and others that can be best described and must start being labeled as one thing and one thing only: human.”
I recently had the opportunity to talk with the Director Eric Shaeffer about the movie, its actress and the overall process of bringing the film from funding to final production.
A portion of the movie was funded through Indiegogo, how difficult was it to receive additional funding for a movie whose lead character was an unknown transgender girl?
I have wonderful friends and fans who support my films. Michelle is so engaging and down to earth and people really responded to her in the video we made for the Indiegogo campaign, so her being an unknown transgender girl had no ill effect at all and I think was only a positive.
How were you able to sign Michael Welch on to the cast and was any of the dialogue awkward for him? [‘m thinking specifically about the car scene where they are talking about the definition of gay sex and the heated moment near the end.]
Michael was by far the best actor I auditioned and he was clearly so well prepared and unconditionally enthusiastic to do this role. He was the obvious choice. Nothing was awkward for him. He embraced the film and his character completely.
Traditionally, transgender roles have been going to cisgender actors, what made you decide to cast an unknown transgender girl in such a pivotal role?
Since I was making a low budget film and had complete creative control, I had the luxury of casting whoever I wanted. Had it been a bigger budget film and I had less control, I might have been forced to cast a famous cisgender actor but luckily that wasn’t the case. I thought it was very important to cast a transgender actress because A: While actors can “act,” a transgender woman would obviously bring an authenticity and intimacy of personal experience to the material a cisgender actor would not and B: I felt it very important to give that part to a transgender actress since it’s so hard and there are so few roles, but she would have to be excellent and totally perfect for the part or it wouldn’t make sense. I wouldn’t have cast a transgender woman simply because it’s a transgender character, she’s the lead of the film, the film would win or lose because of her so she had to be extremely talented. Luckily I found Michelle.
As a trans woman I can say that the experiences in the movie were very true-to-life, how were you able to write a pretty accurate trans-point-of-view from a cisgender point-of-view?
Thank you. I feel very deeply, and it’s what the film is about, that we are all the same at the core. We all want to give and receive love, be happy, help each other, have good relationships with our friends and family, do work we love and are proud of… that’s a human point of view and on that topic, I am qualified. That’s why it rings true regardless. Obviously there are specifics within each person’s experience that are different and to make sure I was on the mark, Michelle and some other transgender friends of mine gave their opinions and confirmed I was good to go and had written an authentic film and in the few places I had misconceptions, I made changes based on their feed back.
How much input to the film [or Michelle’s character] did Michelle have?
I vetted the script for authenticity with her and some other transgender friends so I could get as wide a group of opinions within the transgender community as I could. 95% of the script didn’t have to be changed from when I first wrote it. Michelle’s input helped me change parts of a couple scenes. Obviously as an actress embodying her character, she had tremendous input.
Why did you want to create a traditional love story through the lens of a transgender girl?
I thought that it would offer people a new lens into important and timeless issues that we all care about profoundly and by doing so, allow them a fresh perspective.
All of the characters seem to be addressing or struggling with identity, sexuality, perception and self-worth. Was the story created to address these points or did the story naturally flow to this level based on the main character being trans?
Both. The story was about all of those things and I felt by making the story about a trans woman, it would be an obvious mirror for feelings/struggles everyone identifies with and has.
Do you feel that the characters actually redefined themselves or just came to an individual understanding of who they really were all along?
I think all the characters learned much more about who they really were inside and who they wanted to be in the world going forward. All of us are perfect, we just have to buff the rough edges to get to that inner perfection. It’s not something that’s added, it’s something that’s revealed and inherent. My two cents. 🙂
At the end of the day, this is a classic ‘Boy Meets Girl’ love story [almost a Pretty in Pink for this generation]; How do you push this films message across gender lines so that it resonates outside ot the LGBTQ community?
Thanks, that’s high praise. And I came very close to playing Ducky, so ha! I hope all audiences get to see the film. That has to do with the complex luck and conspiracy of the universe in terms of the marketplace. It certainly is a film that all audiences will identify with or not, but if they don’t, it won’t have anything to do with the film being about a transgender girl.
“Boy Meets Girl” swept the 2014 FilmOut Awards including Best Narrative, Direction and Screenplay, did this suprise you or did you know you had something special to offer.
I believed the film was good and that many people would like it. But I was certainly overwhelmed with excitement and humility by the outpouring of love from the FilmOut festival as I have been with the other 15 awards we have won so far.
The word “tranny” was used by David. It really didn’t affect me because as a trans person, I would expect that kind of language from that specific character; were you hesitant to use that term knowing how offended the trans community gets by that words useage?
No. That character’s use of that word and the other way he expresses his feelings is integral to the story. While it is brutal, sadly it reflects some people’s attitudes but I think how his character is treated in the film, ultimately goes a long way in uniting rather than separating us all, which is my ultimate goal. And I think many, hopefully most transgender people who see the film, will agree and feel his character was very important for that very reason.
I spoke to Michelle about the heated scene near the end where Robby is very hurtful towards Ricky stating you “aren’t anything, you’re not a boy, you’re not a girl..”. She stated that after multiple takes, she finally broke down and the tears were real. That was a very familiar experience for many in the trans community, how did that scene come about and what was the feeling on the set after the final take?
I thought it was vital to the story I wanted to tell. My father, who was listening to us film downstairs on the couch, was in tears. I think everyone was very moved, I know I was. It cuts to the core fear we all have: Not being loved because we are inherently flawed.
What kind of audience reaction, if any, are/were you looking for regarding the lake scene?
Hopefully the audience will be filled with a new hope for how our world can love more deeply and be more united.
Most of the press I have been reading is through mainstream gay media with very little in the transpress, how has the trans community recieved this movie?
So far, the feedback from the trans community as been fantastic.
Theater or Theatre?
Theater. But I’m dyslexic so who knows. 🙂
Name five bands on your iPod:
Bowie, The Beatles, Patty Griffin, Lights, Missy Higgins
Again, as a trans-woman I really wanted to say how impressed I was with your movie. Well Done and thank you for casting a trans-actress?
Thank YOU. I’m so glad you guys liked it. Peace, E