Brother Series Interview with Director: Emmett Jack Lundberg and Producer: Sheyam Ghieth
A series about a bunch of guys living and loving life, that also just happen to be trans….
Ariel: I watched the first season last year and the first episode of the second series. Now that you are on season two, what has been the feedback from the trans male community on season one?
Emmett: I think a lot of the feedback has been trans guys really… being able to see themselves for the first time in the narrative form, and being able to appreciate that. We just got back from the Philly Trans Health conference, and we had guys coming up saying they watched the show when they were starting to transition. It was helpful to see that, or guys that had already transitioned and just showing these parts of life that you know maybe cis people don’t think about all the time… or it’s just stuff that we have experienced and that really being able to see that in a narrative form really brings us together.
Yes, the visibility is very important.
Emmett: Yes, yes absolutely.
Sheyam: And a lot of guys also… A lot of people commented on how there really is nothing else like Brothers out there either, which is why we did it and why we took it upon ourselves to do it. When Emmett himself was personally transitioning, and was looking for something to watch to represent him, there was nothing. We realized that was the one thing we could do and not just wait around for something to show up.
So… has that been one of the most important aspects, trying to find something where you could present these untold stories?
Emmett: Yeah, I think that for me it’s really important. It all comes back to the feeling of community and that you’re not alone. I think it’s really important, especially now that we all know that, and we can see we are a community and we are together.
[Editor’s note: This interview was originally done only days after Orlando.]
Sheyam: Yeah, and if we seem a little low energy also, we have been really struggling with the past couple of days and what is happening.
I know the feeling. There are times when it’s just been hard to turn on the TV or use social media.
Sheyam: We just thought it was important to spread this message of community and message of love. It’s all we have and it’s all we want to share.
Absolutely. Wherever you go you get to see that people are all the same, we are all together.
Sheyam: That is another thing that has come out of Brothers. Obviously, the core audience has been trans guys, but really we get outreach from everybody. Allies and people that have never really thought about the topics we bring up in the show reach out as well. These things maybe don’t affect everyone personally, but it makes them think and starts a conversation and it seems to be more universal than just a highly specific demographic. That is very important to us too.
This is so true. In my own journey as a male to female transwoman, there are definitely things in Brothers that seem to carry over into what I experienced as well.
Emmett: For me as a filmmaker, I think we have hit the right time with our subject matter, but at the end of the day it is a show about a group of guys that are friends who go through these things that are human experiences… [things] like love, jealousy, heartbreak and all of those things that everyone can relate to.
I watched the first episode of season 2 and I was definitely suspecting that maybe this was going to be a tale of heartbreak, or Max was going to lose the girl, but I saw you kinda turned the tables on us. In a way the girl was almost more accepting, and the story turned inward on Max to self acceptance. Can you tell me a bit about what writing that scene was like?
Emmett: Yeah I really wanted to show that even when you have someone (whether it’s romantic or whatever) supportive in your life who says, “I’m gonna be there and I want to be there and I want to be a part of your life”, it doesn’t automatically make all of your dysphoria go away. There’s still struggles and there’s still feelings particularly about the physical being, and about your body, that are going to continue until gender confirmation surgery. They may continue even after that. It’s a struggle that all trans people obviously deal with.
Sheyam: And also, no matter how you present either. In season one, we have that one scene where Max speaks to… Is coming out to another professor and she’s like, “Oh so you want to be a woman?”. Max is read as male and yet that dysphoria is still there.
Self acceptance is definitely one of the hardest parts of transition and I think it is great to bring attention to that.
Sheyam: I think we work with a limited budget, and despite our episodes being really short, we have covered (according to the feedback we received) a lot of topics that people can relate to.
Emmett: Specifically with that shower scene. When cisgender people watch that scene they might ask, “You were just in bed together why are you all of the sudden feeling like this?” I hope this is something that opens their eyes and they see that it is not that easy, and different situations are going to have different comfort levels.
You mentioned before that there is not a lot out there about trans men, why do you think that trans men are underrepresented in our culture right now?
Emmett: I don’t know, and I think that is something a lot of people are thinking about and asking right now. I there is sometimes some invisibility. From my own point of view, even before transition, I was always someone who was masculine even when I was read as female. I was more comfortable wearing “men’s clothes” or dressing in a more masculine way, and that was always something that was more acceptable I think than someone who is read as male but is dressed in a very feminine manner.
So what you’re saying is it is the passing privilege part where women have a little bit more freedom to genderbend into the male side of things. So sometimes it is invisible, but men do not have the same leighway in the women’s side of things.?
Emmett: Yeah, I do think there is a degree of invisibility. It’s hard too, because now I do have a lot of privilege as someone who is read as a white male and when I am out I am read as this hetero, white, male right? Which is also something I struggle with because it is not entirely who I am.
Sheyam: And it doesn’t negate however many years you had before of before you transitioned.
Emmett: Yeah, and I was also going to say, it’s hard you know because there are a lot of people in our community who have struggled, and struggle more than I do, or I did, and it’s about figuring out how we can all kind of share our stories and share our experiences and let people know the diversity of the community.
So going off that note and realizing there are not as many out there, let me ask… Who are your heroes or who do you look up to in the community?
Emmett: I think there are a lot of trans guys doing a lot of really great work. We have trans people in general, like Laverne Cox or Janet Mock, and they are really doing great things for the community with their platform. They are using it to do great good. I don’t know if I can really name a comparable trans man at that level, doing those things. But we do have Aydian Dowling who’s a really great guy, and putting himself out there to be a voice and a face for us. Jason Robert Ballard from FTM magazine for creating this whole culture which is really great. Malcolm Ribot from FTM traveller is doing some good stuff too. Tiq Milan is also doing a lot of advocacy work. I feel like there are a lot of guys doing great work, and a lot more than just those few, and a lot of them who are not necessarily known and not household names.
Sheyam: Anybody, and especially in these times, if anybody who has the ability to, and feels safe being visible in living their own life is heroic I think. It’s tough out there and it’s important work and we are grateful to anyone that can do it.
In my own experiences I noticed that coming out and writing and sharing my stories here and on other sites inspires others to come out and share their stories. That is definitely an important part of this work and your work.
Emmett: Absolutely! I hope that maybe what we’re doing also gives people their own reason to say “I have a voice as well and I’m going to share and I am going to be a part of the discussion too!”.
Sheyam: And whatever that may be too. It doesn’t mean you have to go out and make a webseries. If you have a website or a blog, and are a writer or a singer or artist. However you can amplify your own voice, all of the voices need to be heard.
Okay so after the heavy questions how about a fun question.
I’m going to give you a few choices here: Cowboy, Viking, Pirate, Astronaut or Ninja.
Sheyam: Ha ha! Definitely not Viking right?
Emmett: I would say Astronaut.
There we go! Why that choice?
Emmett: It seems like space is something that is still so unknown and unexplored, and there is still so much possibility out there.
I think that definitely makes sense. You have shown you are ready to explore new boundaries, and are reaching out for new horizons.
So from what you have said it seems one of the best parts is the feedback you have received?
Emmett: Yeah, we just recently moved our content from YouTube to Amazon, and now on Amazon Prime and even through Amazon people have found us on Facebook, or on our website… [They] reached out to us just to say we need to keep doing this, this is really important, and please just keep making content.
What would you say then has been the hardest part of doing this?
Sheyam: Certainly the finances and the budget has been the hardest. We’re trying to crowdfund for our second season, and our core audience is themselves saving and pinching pennies to afford surgeries to help them feel like themselves and [they are] not covered by health care… You know it’s hard to be asking for money for the project. I think finances are probably the hardest. That and casting. That was not easy, especially in the beginning! When we first started, we had no idea how far the show would go. We were not in the midst of this media blitz of transgender issues. We had a very limited pool of people that wanted to audition for the show, and were comfortable in front of the camera. We do feel like things are hopefully changing as we speak, but those are definitely the most difficult things already.
How far do you think this can go? Do you see a Season 3 after this Season 2? Or?
Sheyam: Right now we are just really focused on Season 2. We have the whole script for season 2 ready, and that is all mapped out. Ideally we would really like to see this picked up and get a full production on a half hour show. This is something which we have also been developing, and are ready for whenever that happens.
Emmett: I think that the really important thing here is to remain visible, and really continue to tell the stories that need to be told.
Sheyam: Certainly not to be silent in any way.
The events in Orlando have just been so hard, but we have also seen the community can rally together and come forward.
Sheyam: We’re going to the Vigil at Stonewall later tonight, and we do need community and we do need to be able to hold each other close and be together.
I think the work you are doing is definitely working in that direction and there is no question that it is helping people.
Brothers Series Credits:
Brothers Series Crew:
Writer/Director –––––––– Emmett Jack Lundberg
Producer ––––––––––––– Sheyam Ghieth
Director of Photography –– Chris Rodriguez
Line Producer ––––––––– Jack Elliott
Editor –––––––––––––– Julienne Jones
Assistant Director –––––– George Kotsopoulos
Sound Mixer –––––––––– Jesse Kennedy
Script Supervisor ––––––– Cal Woodruff
Original Music ––––––––– Mark Schwartz
Brothers Series Cast:
Max ––––– Will Krisanda
Elsa ––––– Julienne Jones
Jack ––––– Emmett Jack Lundberg
Saeed –––– Aden Hakimi
Aiden –––– Hudson Krakowski
Find the Brothers Series Online at: