While studying at the Image Arts program at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), I helped pay off my tuition costs by working as an usher at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
I was that person ripping tickets, sweeping popcorn in aisles, directing movie-goers to their respective cinemas for each film.
Now, my story has come full circle: in September, my film, Something You Said Last Night, debuted in the same theatre I used to clean. This film tells a story that’s similar to mine. It features a main character named Ren, played by Carmen Madonia, who travels with her Italian-Catholic family to a conservative beach town for a summer holiday. It’s a film about family, being there for each other and support. I felt the same way growing up: when I came out as trans, my family was there for me, and they didn’t judge me. There aren’t many trans films about that kind of support; too often films focus on the decision to transition, and the drama that comes from that decision.
The role of family has featured prominently in my films. For example, my short film, Nonna Anna, which debuted in 2018, is about how a trans woman navigates her relationship with her ailing grandmother. I’ve always thought it’s important to show trans characters engaging with their families in positive, supportive ways. Ren is a sister, daughter and granddaughter first and foremost.
Viewers of the film will notice that I’ve included many long pauses, because I think some moments shouldn’t rely solely on dialogue. It also speaks to my experience as someone who isn’t a big talker, but more of a people watcher who likes to step back and really study interactions between people. So much can be said with little nuances in a glance, or how someone fiddles with their collar.
While in the production phase of Something You Said Last Night in September 2021, I launched a mentorship program to give five trans youth training and work experience on set. This was a key facet of the process for me. The whole idea of the mentorship was to set up a space to have the mentees feel safe and be surrounded by trans people. They were selected to work in production management, the art department, costume design, makeup and cinematography.
This film isn’t trying to tell all trans stories, but by including the mentees and giving them this opportunity to ensure they gain experience in the film industry, perhaps they can one day tell their own stories, too.