BECOMING_____ played to rave reviews at the June 2020 LGBT Film Festival.
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
Sophie Francey: I am a graduate student at Texas State University, and in my first semester we were asked to make a documentary for our final project in my digital storytelling class. I had always wanted to go to grad school for about seven years, but it was never the right time. When I got accepted in 2019, it was a dream come true. In my first semester, a professor of mine, Dr. Haigh, made us choose a “beat” (meaning a topic) to write a series of stories on. Since this was a dream of mine that I had waited a really long time to achieve, I wanted to make sure everything I did in grad school had meaning to it. I am a part of the LGBTQIA+ community (I identify as pansexual) and I realized that I could not only learn a lot but also shed some light on the community. While researching topics I could cover, I attended a, what I thought was a LGBTQIA+ community organization, meeting to get more awareness on the issues in the San Antonio community. When the meeting had finally started, I realized that it was actually a private transgender support group and that I had misread the website. I was sitting in the front and didn’t want to cause a disruption by leaving so I stayed and listened to the stories of the community members. I was so incredibly moved by the stories by the members in the group. I realized that I, too, did not know enough or show enough support to my transgender brothers and sisters. That is when I knew that I needed to cover my beat stories and do my documentary on the transgender community. Through this group and many others, I had met a lot more people who identified as transgendered. I interviewed them for my beat topic stories and then asked if I could interview them for my documentary. A lot of them said no because it was a tough topic to go on video to talk about. My cousin’s fiancé, Jax, is a transgender influencer and I asked if he would be willing to tell his story after getting so many nos, I was surprised that he agreed. After doing a ton of research and doing this interview, transgender awareness is something that I will support and be active about for the rest of my life. There is actually so much adversity that transgender people face in so many different facets. Between healthcare, career, tv & pop culture, salaries, and much more. I would ask those who are interested in learning more to go to the GLAAD website and search transgendered facts. If you are transgendered and reading this, please know that you are loved and supported. And for cisgender people who are interested in learning more, talk to your transgender brothers and sisters because one of the biggest things I have learned is that the transgender community want to have conversations to bring awareness. They are some of the most loving and kind people I have ever met in my life.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
I had approximately six weeks to execute this documentary on top of a full-time job and full-time grad school. I would have loved to make it longer but due to time constraints, we had to cap it at nine minutes. I think this film could be a full-length feature film.
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
I don’t want to call it an obstacle but being very sensitive on how to tell this story that did the transgender community proud was the most important thing for me. If it did not support the transgender community in the right way, then that would be heartbreaking. There were a few moments that we needed to take a break for Jax because some of the topics were very hard to talk about. My heart broke seeing this because I had no idea some of the things he had endured. And it was my job to make sure he felt comfortable and loved. So during those moments, I would just riff with Jax and those are a lot of the moments you see in the documentary. Something that Allie told me that means so much to me to this day was that when she saw how I worked with Jax through those tough moments she said that I was meant to be a producer because I knew how to empathize with him.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Tears. Honestly. I sent the video to Jax & Allie about halfway through watching the reviews and forewarned them that there may be tears. I was overwhelmed with the love and support for Jax.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
When I learned that Transgendered Day of Remembrance via the support group was November 20th and the due date for my documentary was November 21st, I really wanted to honor the community by making my documentary for that day. I had also learned that a lot of the transgender people remembered on this day are transgender women of color. This lit a fire in my soul like no other. Our black transgender brother and sisters need our support and need our voice for them now more than ever. Black Trans Lives Matter.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
As silly as this may sound, I really love teenage/young 20s trying to figure it out type alternative films like Juno and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. But I also love watching documentaries. Since being quarantined I have actually been rewatching ALL of RuPaul’s Drag Race. So that has kept me pretty busy in the last few months as there are about 30 seasons.
8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
This was my first time submitting a film to anything, so I felt the site was easy to use and provided me an opportunity to submit this film to many festivals.
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
This is a hard question to answer as I really do love all types of music. Anything from alternative to country to rap to 80’s dance to house mix mashups. The most recent song I have been blaring is So Emotional by Whitney Houston.
10. What is next for you? A new film?
Now that I have found a passion of creating documentaries, that is what I have shifted my studies to in grad school and will continue to make more. You can find some of the other mini-documentaries I have made since Becoming ______ on my website http://www.sophiemariah.com.