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Responses by Angie Bird, director, Westside Studio; and Joseph Bonnici, chief creative officer, Tadiem.

Background: “We’ve worked with nonprofit organization White Ribbon for five years,” says Joseph Bonnici. “Its focus has always been the elimination of gender-based violence, but this issue intersects with so many other problematic attitudes and behaviors when it comes to gender—specifically, when it comes to transgender individuals. White Ribbon targets men of all ages, but this campaign reaches to an even-broader audience: anyone in society who fails to understand the gravity of violence against transgender people.

“With this film, we tried to show the joy that is possible within the transgender community,” Bonnici continues. “The joy that can come from acceptance. The joy that can come from allyship. But often, this acceptance is cruelly taken away, and their basic human rights are denied. The transgender community needs as much empathy and support as possible right now, and that’s what we hope to create with this film.”

Design thinking: “I believe people want to understand the transgender community,” says Bonnici. “So, we needed to give them a glimpse of their journey: The bravery of it. The obstacles they overcome. The nuances of their lives. But mostly, we wanted to show the joy that’s possible and how it is so often taken away from them. That takes time to show and build empathy.

“Our work with White Ribbon has always lived on after it’s launched,” he continues. “It’s been used in workshops, schools, the military and corporations, where a moderator often brings up issues around gender-based violence brought up in the film and discusses them in detail. This film will have a very meaningful life far after the actual campaign run.”

Challenges: “The most challenging aspect of this film was casting,” says Bonnici.

“We held callbacks in Toronto, Vancouver and New York, searching for our three hero performers,” says Angie Bird. “We wanted to find amazing people that have real life experience they could draw on and infuse into their performances. It was also important to us that our heroes were diverse in backgrounds and gender diversity so that we could show a wider range of the trans and nonbinary community. We also created opportunities for our three heroes to bond together before the shoot so they could develop a natural chemistry and that their friendship would be authentic and intimate in the final film.”

Favorite details: “We are proudest of the authenticity we achieved through working with our wonderful cast,” says Bonnici. “The three leads gave us meaningful insights into the transgender community and input into their own journeys and lives. I am also proud of the fact that we captured the joy that can happen with acceptance. Many of the moments in the film between the friends weren’t necessarily scripted; they just happened naturally within the scenarios they were put in.”

Visual influences: “I think the TV show Euphoria was an interesting reference because it has an energy and momentum to it,” Bonnici says. “The creative team isn’t afraid to take huge risks on that show, and we felt if we were going to do this story justice, we needed to take the same approach.”

Specific project demands: “There wasn’t a specific demand but more a common goal to ensure as many people as possible on the project were part of the queer and transgender community,” Bonnici explains. “So, the list is very extensive: obviously the cast, but also the chief creative officer, the executive creative director, the producer, director Angie Bird, the editor, the colorist and many of the crew. We wanted to surround this story with as many allies as possible to create a wonderfully supportive atmosphere on set.”


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