No Ordinary Man Roundtable with Aisling Chin-Yee, Chase Joynt, Amos Mac, and Marquise Vilsón
>> Okay everyone. It is 4:00 p.m. I see many of you gathering. Welcome all of you. I am incredibly excited for this conversation. Welcome to the roundtable discussion of no ordinary man. I am Dana Seitler the director at the University
of Toronto. The center is located on the territory of the first Nations credit River and the nations of the Confederacy. The territory was the subject of the district and an agreement between the Allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. That means we are all treaty peoples and we are grateful for the opportunity to live and work on this territory and share this space with all of you today. This began several months ago. I think it was the summer when I hatched a plan which chase to bring an ordinary man to the center.
I am so thrilled it has come to fruition. I hope you have enjoyed watching the film as much as I did. Now we have the honor of talking to some of the folks who made it happen. I will briefly introduce everyone on the roundtable. Joining us today are Allison Burgess.
Chase Joynt, the codirector of no ordinary man is a writer, director and assistant director whose films have one awards internationally. His last short film framing Agnes premiered at the Tribeca film Festival and will be developed into a feature film. We will bring that here too. Most recently he directed a new episode for the CW which arrives on Netflix in February. Amos >> is a writer currently writing on gossip girls. As a producer he has worked across documentary and unscripted forms.
He is a founding editor of original plumbing, a trans milk culture from 2009-2019. Amos >> is in the film and cowrote no ordinary man. Next we have 214 who is an actor and activist.
He made his New York stage debut. His feature film debut as Leon as a young trans mentor he was featured in the documentary the aggressive from 2005. A long-standing member of the underground ballroom scene in New York City. Upcoming projects include the kitchen and NBC's the blacklist and Netflix tales of the city. My cohost today is Allison Burgess who is the director of the sexual and gender office at the University of Toronto and HBO is cosponsoring this event with us so we thank them for that. The format for today is as cohost Allison I will ask questions to the roundtable participants.
We welcome questions them all of you. We do ask that you write your questions in the Q&A. When the time comes, we will read the questions from there. The chat is open and available. You can have informal conversations over their book please posted the Q&A so we do not have trouble seeing them.
Live captions are available to you too. To the panelists, welcome. It is a thrill to have you here, virtually. I just want to get us started by hearing a little bit from each of you. Too that end I wonder if you could share with us, a little bit about what it was like to write, direct, produce and act in this film. I would love to hear about the overall process, all of the feelings involved.
Everything during the filming. What it meant to you, to be part of the project? Anybody can volunteer to go first. >> Aisling, do you want to start us off? >> Bells were a lot of questions.
>> I know, answer them all. >> My involvement in the project was I cowrote and codirected this film. It was really made with this team. With this collaboration of the three of us, we feed off of each other's energies and skill set.
It really came to fruition with the three of us. My involvement and my interest was really discovering Billy for the first time through the research of making this film as a non- trans person he was not someone I encountered before making this film. So, peeling back some of the layers and doing the research, and meeting people in his life, and Amos and I went down to Stanford and read his sheet music and all of these things. It was the piecing together of this person who lived this amazing and vibrant life. He was complex and all of the ways all of us are individually complex.
Also, it was someone who lived a very successful life as a talented guy in the decades that he came up in. That was the entry point and of course when you research them, online, what you find out about him is so distorted from who he represented himself to be. It was looking at a way we could reframe that, in a more correct light or in the way we saw him.
That was the motivation behind making the film. At least from my part in for a big part of us that came to that conclusion. Making the film was a dream. It was a treat. We had people involved in the film who were so fantastic and you can see so many of them in this process.
It was great. All of the ups and downs that go in between that. >> I remember when, I heard from Aisling for the first time when she was looking for a masculine writer to join and dig into the weeds of Billy story through research and discuss deeply how to tell his story, in a way that was not out there at that time. I was very quick to say yes. I had seen Billy Tipton,
I saw his story online entrance culture for many years, or since the early 2000's. I found them on websites while researching trans mentor There was never a lot of information always focused on his -- what happened after he died, so in terms of his story coming out of the way it was presented. So, the process of going through the archives and holding his drivers license and reading letters he had written to his loves, and finding his wedding album and things like that, I feel like I could do that all day. Digging into the research element was a blast.
Figuring out how to tell his story was, incredible. I don't know if I am answering all of the questions but that was my foray into the project. >> Great. I do have follow-up for everyone. But this is the beginning. Thank you.
Chase or Maruquise. >> As a trans person interested in trans history I always pay attention to who controls the narrative. For so long the details of Billy's life had been controlled by the media. Our project and the invitation to join our project was an opportunity to think what could happen with this story and these interlocking histories if they were approached from a trans perspective.
The inter- textual geeky mess of the project really gets me going from being able to join a team with Amos, who will start with hot gossip. I transitioned with that and it was so long ago. Amos creation of significant plumbing was early understanding of what would be possible of the intersection of our new politics.
And joining Aisling and so many good storytellers. Barely phases of watching casting tapes and encountering Maruquise statement literally jumping out of my seat with joy at the recognition of this person whom I recognized from the documentary of trans masculine history from his bio in the early 2000's when we were not in a moment of hyper visibility peak -- and thinking and thinking what it would be like to join people like this. >> I just work here. They all answered as perfectly as you possibly can.
For me coming in as a creative consultant, I was really excited because it was about Billy Tipton. So, being able to be part of an opportunity that examines his story and tells it in a way that you can fully see himself, I think for me was so cool to be part of. Historically we had never seen that happen. I was really excited to be part of the process. I was shocked because obviously I am black, and Billy Tipton is not. Why would you want me too read for a part of Billy Tipton but I am glad that I did.
To think about what it meant to be with him in those moments, it was mind blowing to be honest with you. To this team thank you. Thank you for having us. >> If I could just add a quick follow-up. Amos was saying, you did not know about Billy Tipton until the project, is that the case collects how much did you encounter him for the first time.
For example, were you aware of any of his history, I am wondering? >> For me personally, yes. I discovered him in 2003-2004. This was a year before the aggressiveness came out. For me, it was a time when I was going to start my medical transition it was important for me too learn about my ancestors and a full life and what it could look like. Only Tipton was not someone publicly held.
However, I still feel like, it is important to know who he is and what he has contributed to our society. >> Was that a question to me collects >> Yes. >> I thought he mentioned my name earlier.
>> I did not remember if you said you did or did not know about this. >> I did in the early 2000's. The same as Maruquise. Wanting to find trans men in the world and coming across a website that listed a few names and Billy was one of them. >> I want to turn this over to my cohost, Allison.
I know some of you have written your questions in the Q&A and I encourage everyone to continue to do so. We will bounce back and forth, go ahead and add those to the Q&A. >> It is so great to meet all of you in this space, even in strange moments. I want you to talk about the decision making process or production process in terms of join on that footage. I think about the Jerry Springer show and our identities and for people coming of age in the 80s and 90s this was the first way people learned about trans people. It is such difficult content. The first time I watch
the film I was like I had not seen that footage in so long. So much Jerry Springer type material. Having watching it again, I felt differently. I am curious to know, thinking about how you made decisions knowing how difficult the continent and recognizing it. >> So much is embedded in that question. Things we were thinking about in the edit and that is to say it is always doing a double duty, a curiosity and also an avenue through which, queer and trans people were finding each other through any means necessary even if not perfect, served as portals or opportunities to imagine what a life could be otherwise or elsewhere.
I think where it picks up different momentum was thinking of his family. What does it mean for someone like Billy to be in the same environment as trans subjects. What are they doing. What scripts are they reading and their presentation of their father and husband at a time when there were not many examples of the solitary.
One of the things so fascinating to us with so many of our subjects is significant weight in many of our own personal examples. I know you are someone that we talk about some of the first representations of people who were like us, were on the shows and in these formats. >> Absolutely. Looking back at it, in terms of the films, anytime we extract anytime we do a talk about no ordinary man I rewatch the film.
Having an opportunity to look at it again, that relationship between Tipton's wife and his son, and the audience, for me, it is so magical in so many ways. It is the first time I had saw a family, people close to the trans person who were on the show who were on the fence. Not in a way that I need to defend them but really protective of him and the relationship that they had. I think you are right Allison, when you look at this footage there is a different thing that has happened in that moment based on what we have historically seen. In fact, it's interesting that you mentioned it in a way that historically we have always seen our stories played out.
I know for me and myself, thinking about the first time I saw a black trans guy it was on Jerry Springer. While I am not at all a fan of Jerry Springer I think it was a way for trans people to see images of themselves to see they were not alone and as problematic as that was there was a piece of meat that was very grateful for those images. Those images gives us voice to what we have seen today.
If it were not for those images and getting it wrong we wouldn't be here today. >> I think that is a good point. I think I may be the oldest person here. I shouldn't have led without. I remember watching this tabloid television when there was an Internet. We didn't have smart phones I did watch a lot of Jenny Jones who was similar and regulate who was similar but more queer.
. So, yeah we watched it but it was also a place of representation in lieu of anything else that was out there. Or it was only out there via underground means and circuits this is the question from Australia. It says hello to the filmmakers and congratulations on such a moving film, would you be able to speak about the recruitment strategies for the actors? Who did that collects was it Aisling collects >> In the recruitment strategies.
We do recruit. We had a casting director that worked very closely with the spirit they recommended someone through GL ADD and someone who had did diverse casting before. We had a great conversation and he was on board. I don't know if he had done a documentary before. When
we put out the casting call we made it clear this was the life of Billy Tipton and to participate and we invited people to participate in the film as themselves. It was to interpret Billy from their experience. We did a casting call and then we did live sessions in Los Angeles and New York. We received casting tapes and we were going through them and we saw such an array of talent at different ages and that is when we encountered Maruquise's tape for the first time.
And I wish I had the camera rolling on that moment when we first saw it. And immediately we contacted Russell and we said can we talk to Maruquise, we are in New York right now. We track them down. We found our way into his hearts and ask could you please be part of this movie. So, Amos and Chase talk about it too.
It was an interesting process what we did in Los Angeles where we had these two cameras, one in the waiting room, when in the audition room and Amos and I were there doing the different scenes with the actors. Outside, we had a lot of discussion as casting rooms can be and to encourage everyone to feel comfortable and to talk about their experiences and their questions about Billy. It was classic but a different way of having people participate in the movie.
>> I think one of the things too, building a casting call that required people to join the room as themselves and understood there was no narrative feature to be produced. It invited a noncompetitive conversation about the stakes of being a trans actor in the contemporary moment. Time and time again in the rooms we would hear I have never been in room like this before. I have never been surrounded by other trans masculine people, to talk about the highs and lows of this process and this industry in these ways.
I think we are so inundated in a conversation about casting and people performing trans roles and the complexities of these choices, but the question for us change. It wasn't about casting for performance by the way to think of embodiment and the trans historical habitation. >> There is no moving video or film footage of Billy Tipton. There's a lot of photographs, we have his audio. We have tapes that he would make to send to his mother-in-law during the holidays like in cassette tape form.
But there is nothing to show our actors as to how Billy Tipton moved. That was so freeing and such a cool way to embody the character we were trying to honor. >> I found it to be extremely cool. It was the first time I had gone in for an audition where you have so much research to do on a person.
There was research that I did get, unfortunately reading books and I did read one book but I do think Amos is right, in terms of the visual there was nothing aesthetically to go off of. It was what I was interpreting about Billy Tipton in that moment. Where he lived. The genre of movie he was in.
The CD nightclubs was a way for me too figure out how I would navigate that space. >> This is great. There's lots of questions around casting but across all of your answers we have addressed the question. There's another question.
This is a comment on what Maruquise said. Thank you so much for a fantastic film and following up on Maruquise's statement about defending Billy I'm curious to hear about how you or anyone who wants to respond to Diane Middlebrook that she would have divorced Billy if she had known he was transgender. Want to come in on that? >> I will try. I think it was a pretty honest answer. What I got from Katie's response is I don't know if it was necessarily but is trans or information about his life that she did not know. No matter who we are, dealing with another human being and being in a relationship and feeling like there's something you are shut off from with regard to their personal life or history, for Billy in this conversation was about his transmittance and for someone else it could be they married someone else or they lied about their credit score or were they went to college.
It could be any number of those things. I don't necessarily say they are one over the same. If there was this innate disdain for trans or phobia would it affect the relationship and the person she loved and cared about was no longer here in the world suggesting that he would be ashamed of this human being.
That was not something she was willing to show us or express because that was not the place she was in. I acknowledge that conversation to be really honest. Here is a person that may have felt deceived. So, this option is big, I think may be for Diane, -- I think for Kitty that may have been the thing. She felt like I did not have access to this information but if I had known that may not of been the approach I have taken. She could've been friends with Billy, who knows.
I don't know. I don't know if that really answers the question. I did not interpret it as she was transposed big.
Or she did get to make a decision for herself. Potential we keep going. To add to what Maruquise is saying, the structure of the documentary shows a private split.
We get to encountered Kitty on a stage performing a song we hear a recorded conversation for a different audience for different purpose. I think both needs to exist to inform our understanding only of her but the complexity of a relationship that we will never have access to. We always need to understand it as mediated not only through technologies of our findings in the archives but our additional layers by giving it to you in that way and giving multiple versions of the story. >> To go off of that, there are two things that can be true and contradictory and I think that is what we are seeing there too. Also, it is interesting because, there are so many tapes that did not make it into the film of Kitty and Diane talking to each other over the years they got to know each other. I think there were times Diane was loading the questions for Kitty.
And she did leave Billy. We don't know if that was the ultimate decision, but they did split up and they say close. There's so much that is interesting and private about the relationship that we could go on and on. >> I have another question, if you want to say something or we can move on. I will continue but it was one of the questions that I had for you as well. I will ask it as an audience question but as a question.
Is not a question but I'd like that casting Billy as multiple actors rescued him from a certain kind of trance will be at scrutiny. I can always tell discourse. For me, the question version of this is the act, can you talk about that decision, about the many abilities and the decision to have the camera in the waiting room.
There is a sense that -- I'm wondering what you thought. But since I got as a viewer, was in telling Billy's story by these multiple actors, the idea is that the door is open for the telling of so many stories of trans masculinity that are conducive to Billy story that don't often get told. I'm wondering about the thoughts that you had and having that be such a big part of the film. >> Thank you for that question.
So much is in that question that is true about the representation I think, in approaching a story about someone who lost control it is a moment where we lose control of our film and the approach to casting and the engagement in the rooms becomes a new politics of recognition. People looking back and seeing something in Tipton but also moments of contemporary culture making where Alex Davis looks across the camera at Amos and says, I cannot believe you are this person for me. Or Maruquise being able to say I feel the anxiety of my body. The recognition may be about trance but it is about a lot of other things. I think through multiples we acknowledged time and time again the project up creating a coherent story is a failed project from the beginning. What else opens up when you think you can do it in one particular way.
>> Maruquise what did it feel like to be one of the many abilities. We talked about this a little bit. Riley was in the film and his book, discusses this about the black trans histories.
Wood did it feel like to be one of the many Billy's? >> It was a cool experience. I was shocked. Obviously, I am not white. This is very interesting. I do appreciate this creative team wanted to bring a black person into this.
To see how this will feel for them in that space and how it felt for me in my body the way I was sitting with that. I also think it does add to black trans masculine history. Up I believe that is important to be part of that conversation and part of the dialogue, letting people know that in order for black trans folks to have access, in order for them to have space it was done through this film. For me it was amazing. Especially in lieu of it being about Billy Tipton. It was an honor. Quite an honor.
>> One of the other ways I think we can approach this question and thinking out loud with Riley's work is the research and development and ongoing exchanges we had about concurrent forms of trans life. What does it mean to have conversations like this. Or the fictionalized novel and story about glands that attract black trans Trump player but it gave way to points about is. Michelle said something incredibly compelling to me and that was, and I apologize for the quoting bud, there are many things I make in pursuit of making a picture. I really feel such residences about what are the conversations in ways we can world build around the film far beyond what ends up on the screen. >> I just wanted to give space in case someone else wanted to answer.
>> This is a question and it really speaks to me. It is part of the film that stays with me over and over is the moments we Billy Junior. I will read this question because it comes as close to what I was thinking as a ten. Can you talk about the moment with Billy Tipton Junior, the healing that occurred when he realized his father along to a community. He said he had been asked the questions millions of times but not in this way. What is the different way he asked? Was there a trans type that gave way to this? >> I think Chase knew there was so much care and thought and warmth going into these questions about his father.
There were no questions about, the theme of mass grading or pretending to be someone else. I think that was something that clearly change his specific action -- perspective. Chase I don't know if you notice when you're time to Billy Junior there was a turning point, once he seemed to warm up or if he was always -- or if it was just at the moment that I was present for when you disclose to him Chase. Now I am asking the questions.
>> Our third ko holes. >> Our third cohost. >> You were therefore most of it.
We were there with Billy Junior for three days. Relationship building. We were a small team and we were coming into his home. His wife made us cookies and coffee and all of the things that happens when you go to a small town. You get the hospitality. We got all of that.
When we walked in, Billy Junior was polite but he was like I have answered these questions before. He was giving us a lot of answers he had before and it was like spending the time and unpacking, spending all of this time with his father's things. He has kept all of his dad's stuff down to the hair Paul made which is 100-years-old. I will do that. I think my parents watching right now.
I won't keep your hair gel, dad. It will happen. But, he really is the keeper of his father's archives. Would it really came out that the team was interested in who is that was, then we got into more interesting conversations. And of course, because Chase was doing the interview, it was a real relationship building between these two that we got to capture.
>> Now that you have given a shout out to your parents I will give a shout out to my parents and the webinar. Thank you for tuning in. It is interesting to think about the question as a pivot point. It also felt like a roadblock which is to say, at some point we came far enough in the exchange where I felt, ethically, the only way forward for me too hold that space we Billy Junior was to be explicit and very clear about who I was and what was motivating my approach and the vulnerability that came alongside with my questions. In that moment, I remember looking at Amos and we had this look like we are going in kind of moment, before the landscape of the house change. I think it was because Billy Junior recognized a new pathway, a new possibility and a softening to a multiple reading of his father's history.
>> Yeah, I have a question that is not related. There are a couple of moments that were emotional touchstones of the film. That was one of them. In the end when you said, some people think of your father as a hero.
That was one of the emotional touchstones of the film. The other when it comes from a question of the audience which I will bring up and we can talk about that too. The intimacy that the film was able to produce because of moments like this. This is a moment -- question from Clara, the scene between Buck and Billy in the moment of recognition and seeing and being seen, how did the idea come about? Obviously we can know they interacted and met in the studio but do we know they had that intimate one-on-one moment in real life, how did you come up with the idea for that scene. I love the movie so much. Thank you all.
This was a really emotional. in the movie for me. Maruquise you are in the scene. It's also interesting to think how was it to act the scene, where you doing a historical revision or imagining history or did that come up in the archives. This is a very rich question here.
>> I love the book and Billy relationship. There is a scene in the film that was written for the actors to audition with which is between Billy Tipton and Buck Tomlinson and according to Diane's book which was well researched, Buck was a radio DJ, trans masculine, big booming voice, dirty mouth, just loud, had a fake southern accent. Really put on this Oklahoma accent. There was never really proved that they were friends or frenemy spirit they were in the story and Diane's book and there were passages " where Buck gave Billy his first opportunity to perform and promote himself. There's really not much more than that. That scene is, wishful thinking of friends or frenemy's or a bromance between them.
Something I like to think about all of the time. Not all of the time but you know. >> Can you say more why it was important to create that moment now that we know what it was about. We call it intimate history. What does it mean to project your own desires or relationship to a particular history onto something like that. >> I felt like the scene was important to write because, in Middlebrook's book, her book feels like it is made up of these moments of her trying to prove Billy's experience in the world was a performance that his gender and masculinity was to get work.
The way he dressed in everything about him. Then she mentions this person buck Tomlinson and describes them exactly like Billy. So it was like Billy was one in a million but then he comes across buck Tomlinson. It is so interesting how little she put that together and she chose to ignore that relationship or the fact that Billy could have seen himself or they could have seen themselves and each other and they could have had these conversations or glimpses of being seen in each other. I wanted to create that in the scenes.
I wanted to dive deeper because it was something that was right there in Middlebrook's book of but she decided not to see it or acknowledge how much could have been there. >> Exactly. Maruquise, what was it like to be an actor in the scene? >> I don't remember that scene too much. >> You are in the trailer too. >> I am trying to remember.
I don't remember having that specific dialogue with buck play out in the film. But I did think the same thing, how is it possible she wanted to intentionally be disconnected. As if somehow, Billy Tipton and his performance, as a trans masculine person he is a model.
It is just him doing his thing. But here is buck, who is probably far more hyper masculinity was loud he was boisterous everything about his energy. I could feel his energy.
For me, I thought it was an interesting choice and a choice that made the most sense. It really gives context to his existence. It is not simply a performance not just about jazz. This is someone who is living his life and somehow meet someone who is a mirror to himself and yet there is no need to reveal that is who he is.
They are just themselves. They are engaging in that dialogue as themselves. I think that was interesting. Somehow he had this moment of, wait, what collects we are kindred spirits. It was weird when he realized to Buck was and he said you are like me. We are the same. I thought that was cool.
>> One of the things that came up that was so exciting, when we wrote the different scenes and Buck was someone who gravitated towards the person and they gave him his first shot, when we sent out the slides we forgot we are the ones who know the most about Billy's story. When the actors are coming in, doing bear reads for the first time, maybe the second or third actor who came in, and Los Angeles, where we did the auditions 1st and ask why is he so surprised by Buck. Why is he so surprised? And we thought we did explain that.
It was these beautiful moments of recognition in the room with these actors live. Of course, with Alex and Amos having this beautiful moment of recognition. Alex remembering in real time that Amos was the person for him. You can't write or anticipate those types of beautiful documentary connections. That is a very special moment in the film.
Being in the room when all of that was happening was a privilege. >> I have another question. Someone gave me a question in advance. So, it is a pivot, wondering about decisions around how you shot the film overall and what that process look like. For example, at the end you show Billy Junior both clips of actors so that obviously happened before.
Curious about, we experience the narrative you created but wondering about the process for deciding how to shoot the film. >> Do you want to talk New York and L.A. and I'll talk Spokane, Aisling? >> I love it when you talk Spokane. Sure. We can go back and forth. Let's go direct this answer.
>> How about we do that. So, this film was shot in a total of nine days, that's not a lot of days. Obviously we did lots of research and prep before hand and went into it knowing, roughly what we wanted to achieve on each day. We went to L.A. for a number of days. We did the casting right off of the back.
We learned what was like to have the actors in the room and things like the Buck moment. Things that could happen and to be extra aware. Then we did the interviews in both cities as well. We shot them in various jazz clubs and nightclubs in L.A. and New York.
Also in Spokane. We really wanted for Billy to have the space so it was like let's not do interviews in the studio, but if we were going to sit down with Billy where would he be. When it be at the mahogany bar in a smoky room, somewhere where you are waiting for live music to happen. We did the same process in Los Angeles and New York.
There was six weeks between that time. Then we went to Spokane. >> Where arguably we could get the closest to Billy through his son. We were really lucky and benefited from the fact that he lived in close proximity where we could introduce them and produce the proxy dad scene where there was a moment of reckoning where Billy Junior can understand the impact of his dad's legacy. And this was really a look of geography for which we are grateful. >> I have a question of my own.
I will revert back to my question because I am dying to hear what you think about this. I am putting my queer studies hat on. At the risk of doing that thing where you ask the magician to reveal their tricks. I want to ask about the construction of the film and in a lot of ways I see the film as kind of conjuring a theory and it is certainly an intervention in the way trans stories are told. I want you to talk about that. So it's a premise that it will be a traditional biopic or documentary of Billy Tipton's life. When I watch it the first time, I had the sense that, I was watching and making up the movie moment that would have the expectation we bring to it.
It would eventually turn into, the actual biopic. We would see that the script was real, and we would see who got the role and then we would go into the film about Billy and that never happens. It becomes apparent that you are doing something entirely different. You are setting us up for this intervention. We are actually watching an argument or an intervention about how it gets producer don't get produce. I'm just wondering if you can talk about this.
This is for me, why I will always teach this film and why I think it is an important piece of art that you made. >> Thank you for that question. I am watching everyone smile at me. I love that
question. Early on in my grad school training, I really attached to a time and place where he articulated transgender and film from the rewind where your subject is outed part way through that forces a re- visioning, re- experimenting too, something like ghosting where you gain access to the subject only through a haunting audio where you understand the transpersonal is no longer with us or doubling the presence, if I were going to take your question seriously I would say we are crunching and doing things at once and really thinking critically about how time operates as a key pivot. How can we look to the past and the future simultaneously. How could that impact we see a pass. And all of the related steps in between. >> What about Amos and Aisling, do you want to answer that as well collects >> That was great.
>> I agree with Jason's answer. >> In terms of this, what did you do. Was there a bigger script? Wasn't the only audition moment scripted. You sat down and you had a conversation, you said this is how I would do it. I want to know more about the magic. >> Do you have your recipe cardboard collects I can go get it.
>> Okay, I will go get it. >> The scenes were part of, while writing the treatment, Aisling and I were figuring out, what moment do we want to focus on in Billy's life. It was never a full feature, narrative scripture it was very specific and thought out of out will be used. We put them in very specific parts.
It's in the written treatment so no one sees it. It's just part of our process of making it. >> One thing we can do to tether the summary of the scenes to the structure of the film that Aisling will revealed with the recipe cards, if we think about the scenes as anchors, I'll do you build your interview subjects and questions about the potential for alliance, disagreement, cohesion. We build cards essentially, and then moved them around and thought, how do we get from a conversation about the wars of the '90s to a conversation about the history of jazz, to a history and conversation about romance and embodiment through rearranging the glory that is our many stories we were able to build the edit from that place.
Or from those places, rather. >> In full battle white form. So, these were the different topics and issues we wanted to touch upon.
This is from identity privacy and that story. Accountability and visibility. Peppered in between, we have casting with markers and different places that will bring us back to the present in an interesting way.
Also with Billy Junior, he was an emotional thread going through these parts that were not just experts and academics and actors and people from Hollywood, interpreting or understanding of story. To go back to the scenes, in terms of what Amos was saying about writing the treatment and the different points, we thought what are the moments that if we were a fly on the wall, what would be the places and things we would want to see. So, those different parts of his life really sprung to the surface.
We had a few other ones that dealt with encounters too but, I think it was a good process for us to try to get into his skin and say what would I feel being able to meet my idol for the first time. That was a fun process for sure. >> Okay, thank you.
That is very interesting to hear about that. >> We have two questions that sound the same but very different answers. One is from Hennessey and it says has Billy Junior responded to the film and the other is has Middlebrook seeing the movie and responded. >> Middlebrook, is no longer on this planet.
She has passed away. I don't know if Middlebrook's daughter, whom I believe was someone we were in touch with earlier, I don't know if she has seen it. >> We don't know if her daughter has seen it. Years ago we had been in touch with her. Billy Junior, Chase you have been in touch with Billy.
>> I was just on the phone with Billy Junior. He has not seen it because he is waiting for the DVD that we burned him to arrive in the mail. He has decided to say no to the links and he is waiting for his DVD experience.
I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the call whenever the DVD arrives. >> Okay I will go back to the question board. I have two questions. What was the genesis of the idea to include a casting call for the character of Billy Tipton. It was such a cool framework for the story.
Where you originally -- this is multipart. Where you originally thinking of dramatizing parts of his story and auditioning someone to play him? Or was the framework conceived as a way to include multiplicity of voices and perspectives. Number two, one nightclubs did you shoot the nightclubs income of the locations are gorgeous.
>> We always thought of it as how you sought. It would be in process. A film that would involve a multitude of people for those experiences. For us to acknowledge that, there's no moving image Billy Tipton.
If we were to show the images, we had to be very thoughtful about this process. in that, know we have the effort to think out loud with a lot of different people about how you interpret someone that we don't have a record of. The nightclubs we shot, in Los Angeles and New York and for the most part, we shot at no-name bar in Los Angeles I think on Franklin Avenue.
Then we shot in the slipper room in New York. We shot at the box in New York. >> For production geeks, those are very valuable sites for transit sites.
If you're in the know you know. If not you get to be in the glory of a dirty and grimy jazz venue. >> And we shot at the house of school in Spokane. -- the house of soul, and smoking. >> I think what's so interesting about the film, different generations come up against Billy's story and forgive me for forgetting the younger actors name who talks about his culture.
So, when I first read Billy's story it works through that in their own identity. I think it goes with what Susan said who offers such a different response. I think what's interesting is all of the responses in between and the galaxy of it. It almost captures so much of the last 40 years.
I wonder if you had any thoughts or reactions? >> I love your summary as the approach being a galaxy. I think of it as a constellation of things and a kaleidoscopic approach. We are so lucky to have people like Susan, and others in the film who think out loud about these themes for decades and whom we all cite as real leaders and quite literal trendsetters. I choose the words carefully. They offer a reflection and you look back and these are the ways that informed choices that were made at this time. Let's ground these opinions and address and analyze and think about how they change.
What was at stake. The invitation to think with other people who are all working In-and-Out of the economy and the arts, who are taking in some ways a generation of transit scholarship and contesting and adding to reforming and breaking away from and to concurrently play in both of those spaces and to have an 8-year-old trans masculine actor who has just come out to his mom in the weeks prior to the film, and he says this is the most incredible thing of the world and never encountered any bad feelings for I'm looking at them and there was this amazing exchange in the waiting room where we were listening to this incredible person filled with joy and so unencumbered by the announcement. To reflect on how those things are happening simultaneously in our communities. >> Yes, I found that to be an interesting part. You get to see living legends sharing space with people who are coming into themselves within the last year or two. That is wild to really think about, especially with our own history.
Many of us were living history. Trans people don't have a lot of history, and the fact that this was existing, at one space and one time, it is so phenomenal. It is so beautiful to watch. In the beginning of the film, there is a person, it is a voiceover at the top of the film and they talk about how they listen to Billy Tipton on the way to their audition. They were like I cannot believe I never heard this before.
I didn't even know who Billy Tipton was. It is interesting, I am 39-years-old and it's not so far removed not knowing who Billy Tipton is for people my age. Therefrom people -- their people my age who do not know who he is. But I think that is because how trans history exists, there is not a lot of honors up that lives just for us. I thought it was cool to see this happening and playing out.
It happened in the same film with someone 18-years-old and they get to be part of the film. This is bananas if you will. And history all at the same time. >> Yes, that is beautiful. >> Areas a question. >> There is a moment in the film where one of the speakers, mentions their hope that the trans can address the paranoid and violence and I wonder if the film can address when people can breathe and be recognized by others.
I'm thinking in which they asked the reader, who do you think you are. This feels like a radical vulnerability gifted to us by viewers. You want to respond to t that? >> I love the comment.
The person you are bringing into the conversation. One of the things he says in the narration is, I am invested in shining the spotlight and having it less about you and how it forms your expectations I love the imagination that these categorizations and history and the fact that we don't know how Billy Tipton identified, nor does it matter, what are these moments allowing for us in the contemporary moment and allowing for us to imagine a different kind of narration one that can be untethered which has produced the transit subject in particular ways, in particular readerships. >> You're getting all of the theory questions. >> I appreciate his words. >> One of the critical things that I love about the question, you like making images. You contribute to the way we can go off theoretically in these ways or think about structure.
Your work is so critical to the ability to even have these conversations. >> Think you. >> Talk to us about the music. Obviously you get lucky and you have reached music to draw from.
Talk to us about the decisions you made around the background music. I'm not familiar with Billy's catalog to know if there is a meaning, I wonder if you could tell us more about the choices there. >> Sure. So, there are two musicians. Three musicians I should say, that contributed to the film and obviously Billy Tipton was one of them.
He had two albums he recorded. And we had access to some rehearsal recordings that he did that were never made for public consumption and life recordings that would have been on the radio that someone literally tape with a tape recorder while he was at a club not too far from his house. His music is there. It is part of how he inhabits the movie in this way. Then Rich who is a musician, he was essentially our emotional core of the sound of the film. A lot of the
reasons that Rich was such a great person was to work before he was a contemporary musician and a live performer. We finished the movie and the pandemic here one of the things was there was an opportunity for the five performers who are now sitting at home and not being able to have that space on the stage, that is how Billy lived his life. Rich is also a trained pianist.
He is a music producer, he is also fierce in the way he makes movies abstract music. We collaborated with him whilst cutting the film so we could find those moments and that tone to add the emotional layer to it. We also did fun things with the mix like wanting to hear music that sounded like Billy's music. We makes it so it sounded like it was plain in a room nearby.
There was the comfort of hearing someone play piano. You could always feel that kind of space. Yeah, the way we wanted to work on this was to integrate that while we were still finding the words in the movie and the structure of the film, and there was a lot of fun. The credit music, that is this beautiful collaboration between Patrick Watson and Weber who is a trans masculine musician based in Toronto. That was a really beautiful number that we were able to have and contribute it to the movie.
It was an important aspect to get the soundscape and the we got into the film. >> Have another question from the audience. I'm thinking about music because it almost became a character in the film also. That was a beautiful explanation. Here's a question from the audience.
A question for everyone. When was the first time you saw a trans person represented in the media which was accurate to your own experiences. >> I have to say, someone else said as a trans man I have never felt myself represented on screen so thank you. >> I know, that's true. >> I am racking my brain to figure out the first moment, I can't.
The go to is boys don't cry but I don't know if that felt authentic to me at the time more like terrifying there was something there that I saw in that character despite not having a trans person play the role the way the person was told. Beyond that, the talkshow circuit was like so many others was the first time seen it. That is what pops out. I am still racking my brain for the first super authentic characterization that has been fictionalized if someone has a better answer than that.
More concrete. >> Of course, my automatic go to would be because I had an opportunity to see a black trans person and he was someone I knew from the ballroom community, as first fictional story telling, I feel you Amos, I am still waiting. I think I am still waiting. I think in the way of storytelling. The way we see images of ourselves it is about us having a seat at the table being able to create the story.
And I feel like it is getting closer than it was 20 years ago. I am hopeful. >> My answer is I was an undergraduate student studying theater at UCLA. I wasn't a syllabus stalking student did not know there was a guest speaker that was going to be attending my queer performance class and totally unbeknownst to me she walked into the class and began a performance.
As part of it she dropped the register of her voice and said, did that do anything to help you figure me out? I was sitting at way back in the room and I thought, yes. What she was doing was drawing attention to the trans phobic expectations we have of trans people to help us make sense but in that moment, I thought this is the power that public performance can have. >> The work that you are doing, you are contributing outside of this project. I am a law and order junkie and I saw you on an episode and I thought you did a great job. You don't have to talk about here but, you are welcome too, the life that you had is awesome.
>> Thank you for saying that. Yes, I got to play an authentic trans character but I would say there were things I believe to be flawed. No slight at all to law and order. Thinking about of trans masculine character because he has a trans path and more specifically, let me be cognizant, because he was an assigned female at birth he couldn't beat the person who assaulted -- sexually assaulted the survivor. For me, there's quite a few layers in the way of authenticity and the way we think about trans bodies in general that could stand evolving. We are getting there.
Even if somebody is great, I can look back at something and think, this could have been added on. This could have been taken out. It is our job to be critical of our work and constantly change the narrative. Not just we have an authentic trans person to play the role it must be perfect. That is not always true. >> I appreciate your response.
The lead character on SBU, I am glad she exists. I just want to follow-up on this question. Maruquise you said you are still looking.
So the question is of representation, Stefan brought this up and chase you mentioned, one of the things that Pennington talked about, and very delicate week, when the story broke up Billy, a broken tabloid spirit -- it broken the tabloids. One of the things that he says is recalling the history during the time, there was this sense that a lesbian couple had been discovered. Part of wanting Kitty to admit to it was to get her to admit to her own lesbianism. There were people, I will say guilty as charged. I was in college at the time when the story broke in the tabloids.
It was very much like, we have found a Butch Dyke. It was like this beautiful and wonderful thing that we could then project our own desires onto and imagine. It's very interesting, the film draws our attention to, the way, even that queer desire colluded trans history at that moment.
I'm wondering about that. You include it in the film I'm wondering if you had conversations about that and the focus on that in the film. >> One of the ways to answer that is to tell you that there is an entire section of interview that has a sustained engagement with the Dyke identified journalists for breaking the Village voice and the 1990s. Got an apology 20 years later and saying this is what I did not know when I wrote this. And one thing they do is claim them as a lesbian playing out masculinity.
One of the things she does so beautifully, I did not know. I found myself identifying with, I authored as a journalist from that place of I did not know the things I knew then and I came out of the community trying to find queer alliance queer possibility. For us, we were not sure how much space the representation would take up in our film. Made choices to move otherwise but this becomes a stand-in for Middlebrook and our conversations.
What would we know if we could think about authorship with authors. One thing I think is funny and ashen -- Victoria Liao I joke about. I was obsessed with asking about memoirs, not too many were interested in talking about it. You have to follow the flow.
I had these fantasies this would be the recipe card. It wasn't it. We will move the conversation we will change this to a book coming out alongside of the film. >> So you are using the footage.
>> That will be interesting. >> We are coming to the end of our time. Aisling, where all of your questions answered. I just thought maybe, as a moment of closure or parting it each of you could speak once again very briefly. Anything that you want us to know about this film. What are you hoping.
We are audience members. We watched it. And with great pleasure. I am just wondering, as a
closing comment, what were you hoping to do with this film. What are you opening the audience feels about it or the taken me -- take away may be wax >> I really hope that people are able to see this as a conversation in progress about how to tell a story of a trans person. The right versus the wrong way. It is an ongoing conversation.
It should not be the end-all be-all. There is no answer of who was Billy Tipton. How does he want to be remembered. How do we tell his story. It is ongoing despite the film being complete.
>> The same. Hopefully this movie is an opening of the door to further the curiosities of learning more about Billy or any of the people in the film if you have not encountered them before. I hope the audience and everyone can spark a discussion. I hope everyone can have conversations and it opens up more discussions. If that happens, that is the goal.
>> Maruquise or Chase? Maruquise? >> I hope that audiences look at this film and feel motivated and inspired to explore trans masculine history beyond Billy Tipton. I think for me personally as a trans masculine artists it is frustrating to hear people say or have the assumptions that trans men are not interesting or entertaining, I have heard that going on. I hope when people see this film they are not necessarily entertain more than they are inspired to know more and take the time to empathize with Billy story as with all of our stories. >> I am very happy for Maruquise to have the final word. >> Good, thank you.
Let me thank Allison Burgess for joining me as a cohost and for cosponsoring the event. Let me thank all four of you for being here with us today, sticking with us and answering these questions. I think most of all for making this film. For acting in this film.
For writing this film. I look forward to the next projects. I look forward to other endeavors in your lives. Thank you very much. >> Thank you for having us. >> Thank you for watching.
>> Thank you for coming and we will see you again soon. Next line. [EVENT CONCLUDED]