For the curious and queer: from a recent email to someone who had asked for input on casting trans people
Cool. What's the timeline from here?
Twelve is actually pretty small. We got about a hundred trans people auditioning for The Switch. I think there are a lot more people to reach. With the general call for The Switch, we found that about 50% of people couldn't really act, and only about 15% were sufficiently directable. But of the six people we cast, only one had a demo reel. So I'd suggest increasing the volume of actors.
You could get a *lot* more applicants if you could write a post as [TITLE OF MOVIE] that can be shared. It could go out over social media very fast that way as people will re-share it. The deadline is January 5th, so I'd recommend writing it today. Make sure *not* to include a demo-reel requirement (of everyone who applied to The Switch, only one had a demo reel). Be clear and simple in wording - apparantly most people don't know a "CV" is.
I'm not sure where you're sitting on this, but I wanted to be clear on the following. I would like to see this project succeed. The reason I am checking in so much is that I really do hope you find a rockin' trans person for the role. A pro-trans rom-com would be a great addition to the media roster - good for you, good for everybody.
Dan said that you might go with a cis actor but I would very strongly recommend casting a trans person, not just for political reasons, but for practical business ones.
But to touch on politics before moving on to business: my concern is what the dialogue will be if you cannot find a trans actor that you like and decide to cast a cis person. If this happens, people will ask "why not cast a trans person?" I've seen other directors field this question by saying "we looked but couldn't find anyone" - when they didn't actually conduct much of a search (or in one case, shortlisted a local trans actor, then cut her for a US cis actor). The message that the public takes away is "there are no good trans actors out there." This is not only incorrect (we found 5 capable trans actors in Vancouver alone), but it makes it even harder for trans actors to find work.
Onto business reasons: when we looked for community support for The Switch, one of the first questions we got from almost everyone tied to Queer things was a very cautious "so... are you casting trans people?" When we said "Absolutely yes!" the person asking the question immediately relaxed, and usually offered to help us promote the film. Since then, people have given us free accounting services, free space, free access to RED cams, discounted labour in every department, and a lot of social media exposure. We have had to politely decline many offers from eager volunteers.
By contrast, Queer Film Festivals have, in the past, got pushback from communities when they showed films about trans people that don't have trans people in them - as well as when they showed films about trans people that only have trans people as walk-ons. And since there are more queer movies to pick from, and the transgender media dialogue is picking up, this resistance is only getting more intense. Three years ago, I saw successful efforts to keep film festivals free of Queer movies that Trans people found objectionable. And now, arts film festivals are starting to feel the pressure, as are cable networks.
Things are changing fast. "Transamerica" (trans lead and principle played by cis people, one trans walk-on) was something of a darling when it came out eight years ago - I remember watching it in a room full of trans people, who adored it in 2005 and about one in five trans people had purchased a copy. But now it's viewed as 'problematic' and would not get programmed or receive much VOD traffic. Even two-year old movies are suddenly left out in the cold. No-one I know has bought a DVD of Romeos, and most of what I heard upon leaving the theatre was "It was a good film I guess, but why did they slap fake boobs on a cis guy?"
Conversely, I've seen some work get a lot of promotion within Queer festivals, just for having trans people in them. This got shorts over the cut, and moved B-features into A slots. When The Switch was *just a webseries*, GLAAD called me up to check in and the Huffpost did a story on us.
If you can give me that post, you can probably find a solid trans actor and get lots of positive media exposure. I can even draft it for you, but it does need to be a post coming from [TITLE OF MOVIE] .
Can you do this?