Category: ClexaCon London 2018 (page 2 of 2)

The Importance of ClexaCon According to Its Directors

The Importance of ClexaCon According to Its Directors

At the very first European edition of ClexaCon, the four directors sat down to talk about their amazing event for LGBTQ+ women. I wanted to know what it meant to them personally to be at the first edition abroad of an event that they have created from scratch. Also, what are some of the projects that have emerged as a result of ClexaCon?  Below, you can read what Ashley, Danielle, Holly, and Heidi believe is the importance of ClexaCon.

The interview was too long to write down fully. If you want to see the full interview where the directors talk about the importance of ClexaCon and how their event contributes to better queer representation, I recommend watching the video that is included below this image.

‘The Importance of ClexaCon According to Its Directors’ At ClexaCon London, the 4 directors sat down to talk about their amazing event for LGBTQ+ women. What are some of the projects that have emerged as a result of the previous two ClexaCon editions in Las Vegas? Here, you can read what Ashley, Danielle, Holly, and Heidi believe is the importance of ClexaCon: http://bit.ly/ClexaConDirectors

Me: What does it mean to you personally to be here at the first European edition of an event that you created?

Danielle: We are really excited to be here. We have been wanting to do an event in Europe for a long time, for two years, since we started doing ClexaCon. So, it is really exciting to be here and have it be happening and have so many people come from all over the world again to join us in London.

Why do you think Clexa and the legacy of Clexa continues to be such an important legacy, even two years on now?

Danielle: I mean, she is an incredible character. The role of Lexa and the relationship of Clexa were incredibly important to a lot of us. It is one of the best roles I have ever seen on TV for queer women. So, I think for a lot of us that resonated.

The impact of how she died on the show, how she was killed off, really sparked a lot of anger. It got people really mobilized in a way that we had not seen before. I think that is still carrying on. People are still mobilized because of that. I think that character is really going to live on through us all being mobilized to make sure we have better characters on TV and in film.

How did you all come together to create ClexaCon?

Ashley: It was originally Holly’s idea and then we individually jumped in. ‘This is something that we want to participate in and let’s make it bigger and better. Let’s throw in a film festival. Let’s make it three days and let’s whatever else we do in Vegas. We do way too much. It just kind of exploded and Heidi has been there with us ever since.

Me: Was ClexaCon London a lot harder to organize than ClexaCon Vegas?

Danielle: Yes. I guess it is always harder to work in a country you are not familiar with. Even though we technically all speak the same language, it does not always feel like it. And things are different over here.

Me: What were some of the obstacles you ran into?

Ashley: Sometimes, it is just the little things. We call mixed drinks, like vodka and soda, mixed drinks. Here, it is called something else and we had to explain what mixed drinks are four times today alone. So, I think it is the little things like that that add up.

Me: Also, the time zone?

Ashley: Oh, that was really hard because we are not early morning people. We have become early morning people. Our meetings would have to be at 6 am our time. That was tough.

Danielle: And I think, on a larger scale, the idea of a ComicCon or an event like this is very normal now in the US. Agents and talents are very used to going to these events. For the agents and talents in the UK, it is still a newer idea. Often, the guests who are coming are US guests who are used to it and not so much the UK-based people. That was a learning experience for us, to navigate that.

Holly: Also, stores closing early if we had to go get something. Businesses are just run differently.

Danielle: Your Amazon does not work as well as ours.

Back to the importance of ClexaCon. Looking at the schedule for the panels and the scale of it, even for two days, what is the idea behind that?

Ashley: The workshops and the panels are the guts of this event. We want people to go to them. And we want people to learn how to create content and get involved in content creation so that we can have more representation, better representation.

We attack all those panels, and it really is an attack, from all different angles. People submit their ideas, which we love. Give a good description of what you want and we will do our best to make it happen. We try to do a lot of diversity panels and ‘how to’ panels so that we can really carry on in a positive way. It is a big effort.

Danielle: It is very intentional that we have such a broad range of topics. We do tend to start out by having submissions. If people are not submitting certain topics that we think are really important, we will go out of our way to find people to talk about this topic.

What can TV do to promote queer representation through events like this?

Danielle: Separately from events like ours, they are getting better, especially in the US. I do not know so much across Europe. They are getting better in the US. There are more queer characters being added and they are given better roles. They are not the stereotypical sidekick roles and they are not getting killed off as often. So, I think we are seeing baby steps in that direction, so we need to have that happen more.

We need to have LGBTQ women involved in the process. After all, it is very hard to change the industry if you do not have different voices making decisions. That is why the ‘how to’ panels and the workshops are so important to us. We want to be supporting queer women who are making content or who want to make content and encouraging more people to get involved.

Me: Another thing about the importance of ClexaCon. You also want to create network opportunities from guests. Have you received feedback from guests who attend the previous two Vegas editions how it has helped their careers?

Ashley: We definitely have. On a smaller level, we see ideas that have formed at ClexaCon come all the way through. They are now a web series. That is awesome. They met their lead actor at our event. They met their writer or their make-up artist at our event. There are many ways we can get involved in content creation. I think ClexaCon is definitely a place where you can come and meet people to start something and to make something beautiful because it has happened.

Danielle: There are two web series that are coming out in the next three or four months or maybe premiering at the next ClexaCon that totally came from people meeting at ClexaCon. That is super exciting for us to see that it is really helping people.

On a larger scale, we have heard through the grapevine that actresses have met producers and writers at our event and have had conversations after the fact because of the meeting at ClexaCon. From the people starting content creation to the stars of the show, we know that it is helping them.

Final statements on the importance of ClexaCon

As you can tell from the video, the directors of ClexaCon believe in the importance of ClexaCon in their core. They may have other jobs but they devote the rest of their time to ClexaCon as they believe in the cause.

I agree with Holly that bad representation is worse than no representation at all. About sixteen years ago, when I had recently come out, I watched a lesbian web series from the Netherlands. It was so bad in terms of acting, chemistry, writing, and camera work that it actually had me questioning my sexuality.

I also agree with Holly that the age category of thirties-forties (and probably also older than this) is underrepresented. We are often in the background. If we are in the picture, it is usually about our marriages not going well. So, let’s hope some brilliant ideas are being developed at the next ClexaCon edition!

Do you already know everything about the importance of ClexaCon? Do you just want to go to the interviews I had with actors at ClexaCon London? Here is my interview with Jamie Clayton, the team behind I Can’t Think Straight, Nicole Pacent, and Mandahla Rose.

Mandahla Rose Visited the ClexaCon London Press Room

Mandahla Rose Visited the ClexaCon London Press Room

On the final day of ClexaCon London, Mandahla Rose and Nicole Pacent visited the press room together. They are in Passage together, which will come out in 2019. They talked about other projects they have been working on, about queer and non-queer actors playing queer characters, and about mental health. Because the interview was so long, I have divided into two parts. Below, you will find Mandahla’s part and here, you will find Nicole’s part.

You can also find a video of the full interview here.

‘Mandahla Rose Visited the ClexaCon London Press Room’ On the final day of ClexaCon London, Mandahla Rose and Nicole Pacent visted the press room together. They are in Passage together, which will come out in 2019. They talked about other projects they have been working on, about queer and non-queer actors playing queer characters, and about mental health. Because the interview was so long, I have divided into two parts. This is Mandahla’s part: http://bit.ly/MandahlaRoseCCUK

Me: Mandahla Rose, you just said that you still had so much more to say in your panel. What were some of the things you wanted to talk about?

Mandahla Rose: It was about mental health. The question was about how people reach out to you. So, I have been reached out to by a number of people but one person in particular. This is a trigger warning. She heard me speak about my own vulnerable story, how I tried to take my own life, and it ended up saving her life. To me, if this platform is something that I can be on that can just save one life, then I am doing the right job.

Unfortunately, Tessa did pass away. Not by her own hand but it was because she ended up having a heart defect. So, the wonderful thing that I can take from that is that she could have gone from darkness and sadness in her heart. But what I ended up doing by speaking my truth is actually allowing her to go ask for help, let her family and friends know that she needed help.

She actually got that help. She met someone in care and ended up marrying and moving to Paris. And she had this beautiful, just six months of a new life where she has light and love in her heart. Unfortunately, she did leave but she left with that and love in her heart. So, this platform that I find myself on is wonderful for that reason. If just one life, that is life enough.

On your panels, you two did not get the chance to talk much about your upcoming projects. What would you like to say about them now?

Mandahla Rose: Let’s first talk about Passage because we are both in Passage. Do you want to…?

Nicole Pacent: You are a bigger part of Passage so why don’t you talk about it?

Mandahla Rose: I play agent Diana Atwell, a Caelus agent. It is Sci-Fi and it is kind of, I do not want to give it away, I can’t… It is going to be… I am very excited about it. I did spend a day at the graveyard running around, which was a lot of fun, with guns and everything.

My other project is BIFL. I won’t tell you what that stands for. Does it stand for anything? We don’t know. Find out. I play Sarah, they/them/their, ace lesbian. It is a lot about representation. It is an ensemble cast so there are six of us. Each of us has our own stories to tell. So that one was really exciting as well.

Forever Not Maybe

Forever Not Maybe will be coming out next year. It was originally La Douleur Exquise, a web series that ended up… Shot the first episode in December 2015, which was a while ago but that is the actual reason for me moving to LA in the first place. We were actually able to get the funds to turn it into a feature film. So, now called Forever Not Maybe because good luck pronouncing La Douleur Exquise. So, that one will be coming out next year as well.

Crazy Bitches season 2, I play Pandora, a 20-something YouTuber. I am a little baby lesbian in it, who has a bit of a crush on Guinevere Turner’s character. Then, Guinevere and I are in a series called Alice & Iza, which will be coming out soon. It is based on a one-night stand, which is a little bit of fun, on Tello.

Nicole, you have said on a panel that you have feelings about how important it is for openly queer actors to be playing queer characters. Would you mind going into that a little bit more?

[Nicole Pacent discusses this question. Then, Mandahla Rose adds her comment.]

Mandahla Rose: I think there is a fine line because I can see the “straight” world be like “Well, if you think queer actors should be playing queer characters, then straight people should only be playing straight characters.

Nicole Pacent: Yes, it does work opposite.

Mandahla Rose: It does. But in saying that, we are more than our sexuality. I can play a straight person and a queer person. It is still a talent. It is the talent we should be looking at, not the sexuality. But, again, I really love when… I mean, it is really heart-warming when queer actors are playing queer characters because the straight guys get them all the time. The straight people get everything.

Me: I was at the table reading of Passage. To me, the question is: does the Sci-Fi aspect of it bring more difficulties to shooting it?

Nicole Pacent: Well, we are not on the production side of it. It did not make it more difficult for us as actors.

Mandahla Rose: No, I got a plasma gun and I was really happy with that.

Nicole Pacent: Is it going to take more effects and camera tricks for them? Yes. We definitely were party to that, we could see that happening but luckily, I got to get home and be like “Bye!”

Make sure you follow Nicole and Mandahla on social media! Their handles are @NicolePacent and @TwiistedRose on Twitter and Instagram.

PS here are my interviews with Kat BarrellNatasha, Elise & AnnieJamie Clayton, the team behind I Can’t Think Straight, the writer and producer of Different for Girls, and the directors of ClexaCon.

Nicole Pacent Visited the ClexaCon London Press Room

Nicole Pacent Visited the ClexaCon London Press Room

On the final day of ClexaCon London, Nicole Pacent and Mandahla Rose visited the press room together. They are in Passage together, which will come out in 2019. They talked about other projects they have been working on, about queer and non-queer actors playing queer characters, and about mental health. Because the interview was so long, I have divided into two parts. Below, you will find Nicole’s part and here, you will find Mandahla’s part.

You can also find a video of the full interview here.

‘Nicole Pacent Visited the ClexaCon London Press Room’ On the final day of ClexaCon London, Nicole Pacent and Mandahla Rose visited the press room together. They are in Passage together, which will come out in 2019. They talked about other projects they have been working on, about queer and non-queer actors playing queer characters, and about mental health. Because the interview was so long, I have divided into two parts. This is Nicole’s part: http://bit.ly/NicolePacentCCUK

Are movies and TV trying to do multiple birds with one stone as in “we now have a queer character who is black and in a wheelchair.” How do we counter this attempt to stack multiple forms of diversity within a single character?

Nicole Pacent: That is a great question. I would say that detokenizing all of it is the only way to do that. To say ‘We don’t want the token person of color. We don’t want the token queer person. And we don’t want an X amount of women.’ And I am talking about in front of the camera and behind the camera, right.

I think that is the only way to do it. To start looking at people as people versus what they can bring in terms of their “diversity card.” So, that we are not thinking about it in terms like ‘Ok, have we filled all of our boxes and how can we do this with fewer people?’

I think the root of the issue is the fact that people are tokenized so unless we are talking about it those terms regularly and calling that out, then it is not going to change.

On your panels, you two did not get the chance to talk much about your upcoming projects. What would you like to say about them now?

[Mandahla Rose first talked about their shared project Passage. Then, Nicole Pacent discussed her own projects.]

Nicole Pacent: I have been doing a lot over the past couple of months. So, I have on the podcasting front my Coming-Out Pod with Lauren and Nicole, which comes out weekly on Wednesdays. We interview queer people from all walks of life and tell the tales of how they came out to friends and family and the world at large. See how that rolls off the tongue? I have said it many times. It is the opening of our show. No, it is really wonderful. We have interview Stephanie Beatriz and a bunch of other pretty amazing people. That is on all podcast platforms.

Podcast

I am also on another podcast that is 180 degrees opposite. It is a narrative podcast that just came out from the tech giant SAP. It is Sci-Fi, fantasy, Renaissance nerdy kind of podcast called Searching for Salaì. The podcast is about if Leonardo da Vinci’s assistant Salaì traveled through time and met this one woman. It is about their relationship and trying to debunk his story. There is a whole bunch of nerdy Renaissance and nerdy tech and science stuff in it. And it is just like this beautifully written story and I get to act in it. So, I narrate the entire thing and I am also in all the scenes. That is on the total opposite of the podcasting spectrum but also on all streaming platforms.

Two short films

I shot two short films recently that are both about to do festival runs. One of them is called Other Loving. I play the central character who is a bisexual poly character and who is dealing with a break-up with a boyfriend and having to come home to her wife and talk about that. So, it is stuff people are not seeing, haven’t seen, and are going to feel all different kinds of ways about it, I am sure. It was a really emotional and beautiful project and it has some good people behind it.

I also just shot a short film with Melissa Ponzio. She plays my wife in it and that was also a really wonderful and emotional experience. I do not have dates for the release of either of these movies because again it is going to depend on festivals.

I just wrapped a musical presentation of a musical called Lesbian Love Octagon, which Mandahla saw.

Mandahla Rose: It was pretty fun.

Nicole Pacent: It was f*cking great. We may or may not be doing a full run of that in Los Angeles and/or touring it. If we do, I will let everybody know about that.

Nicole Pacent, you have said on a panel that you have feelings about how important it is for openly queer actors to be playing queer characters. Would you mind going into that a little bit more?

Nicole Pacent: Yes. It is funny; I have not come down on either side of the debate of whether people who are not representative of a certain faction should be playing those characters. We have had that conversation about ethnicity too and it makes a lot of sense that if you are not at least a part of the ethnicity you are playing, that seems wrong to me. I have come down pretty firmly on that side of that debate. I do not think it is that much of a debate anymore.

In terms of LGBTQ characters, it is hard. I have two minds about this. As a queer person, I love being able to play queer characters and I love seeing people who are actually queer portraying that experience. Because there is nothing like somebody who knows to be able to do that. And I love the fans’ reaction that I see to queer people playing queer characters. It is really exciting and fulfilling. I think that there is a real power in that that there is not necessarily when heterosexual people play queer characters. So, from an impact standpoint, I think more queer actors playing more queer characters is the way to go.

Artistic standpoint

From a purely artistic standpoint, I do like to believe that as actors, our job is to be able to transform and to be able to embody different people and different experiences and that is part of how we gain empathy ourselves and how we also loop maybe those who are more close-minded into things.

So, artistically speaking, I am much more open about it but for me, from a business impact standpoint, I do not know. So, those are my two feelings about it.

Me: I was at the table reading of Passage. To me, the question is: does the Sci-Fi aspect of it bring more difficulties to shooting it?

Nicole Pacent: Well, we are not on the production side of it. It did not make it more difficult for us as actors.

Mandahla Rose: No, I got a plasma gun and I was really happy with that.

Nicole Pacent: Is it going to take more effects and camera tricks for them? Yes. We definitely were party to that. We could see that happening but luckily, I got to get home and be like “Bye!”

Make sure you follow Nicole and Mandahla on social media! Their handles are @NicolePacent and @TwiistedRose on Twitter and Instagram.

PS here are my interviews with Kat BarellNatasha, Elise & AnnieJamie Clayton, the team behind I Can’t Think Straight, the writer and producer of Different for Girls, and the directors of ClexaCon.

Jamie Clayton (Sense8) talks trans representation at ClexaCon London

Jamie Clayton (Sense8) talks trans representation at ClexaCon London

Jamie Clayton visited ClexaCon London and I was happy she did. What a burst of energy she is! After watching her in Sense8 and Same Same, I loved finding out what she is like in real life. The interview led to some funny moments, I can tell you. Jamie discussed her career, the roles she would like to play, what trans roles she would like to see in the next ten years, how she feels about trans and non-trans actors playing trans roles, and how much she loves her Sense8 friends.

Most of the interview can be read below but honestly, it was too much to write everything down. So, if you want to know everything Jamie Clayton talked about, please watch the video below this image!

‘Jamie Clayton (Sense8) talked trans representation at ClexaCon London’ Jamie discussed her career, the roles she would like to play, what trans roles she would like to see in the next ten years, how she feels about trans and non-trans actors playing trans roles, and how much she loves her Sense8 friends: http://bit.ly/JamieClayton8

In terms of benchmarks for trans visibility, what are the main benchmarks we should look for in the next ten years?

Jamie Clayton: We are diving right in! What I would like to see is… I think that society still has a problem differentiating between gender identity and sexual identity. Who I identify as is totally different than who I sleep with.

I think with trans characters, especially transfeminine characters, there is this reluctance. Because I do not think society sees trans women as women and trans man as men. I want to see a trans woman in a relationship with a man.  For instance, I am straight and I want to see that on television but for some reason, there is this resistance to it.

I am speaking about America because that is where I live. And so, there is this resistance to if there is a transwoman is with a man. All of the sudden, you know, all this stuff about sexuality comes into question and all this rubbish is attached to gender and sexuality and people do not know the difference. Yes, we need more representation but I would like to see a broader spectrum of relationships within those characters.

Now that Sense8 is over, what sort of projects are you ready to move onto now? What will be the next thing?

Jamie Clayton: Whoever will have me! [laughs] No, I mean, I am picky. Because Sense8 was so great and because Nomi was… I mean, I am the first actor who happens to be trans to book a lead, which I did not know. I recently did a documentary called Disclosure, which will soon be coming out and it is great. They informed me that I was the first lead. There have been plenty of recurring characters and guest stars and all that “business talk.”

But yeah, I was the first lead and so the next thing that I go do has to have some substance to it. The character cannot just exist because of their transness. Of course, I would love to play a character that does not identify as trans but then there is this whole hierarchy in Hollywood and how that plays out.

I just want to work. I just want to work and do something good and substantial. And I want to be challenged as an actor. I want to be given the same opportunity as any other actress who is coming off of a lead of several seasons of a show would be given. That is what I want.

What currently existing character would be your dream role?

Jamie Clayton: Oh, I would not want to knock anyone out of a role that they have already got. There is so much television that I love. I watch so much television.  There is nothing I detest more than an actor who wants to be on television but who does not watch television. I watch everything. If there is a show that I can be on… No, I want to be on a new show that no one knows. And I want to be the lead on it. And I want to play someone complicated and fun and sexy and funny. Want to do something, eh, what show?

[what genre? Maybe that is easier?]

Jamie Clayton: Oh! Well, I would love to do a comedy. [Jokes:] One of my managers thinks I am really funny [laughs]. I want something drama/thriller. I would love to play a drug dealer or a drug addict or a psychopath or I mean, something, you know, really true to who I am. [laughs] No, I am kidding. Oh my God, why am I so nervous?

Me: Can I ask a follow-up question? I heard Kat Barrell saying today: “I did not want to wait for the phone call, so I started creating things myself.” Would that be something you are interested in?

Jamie Clayton: [Nods] There are plenty of actors who do that. I do not fancy myself a writer or if those opportunities come up. But right now, I just want to act. I think that there is good stuff out there. There is good material and I have faith that there are people writing things that are good, especially if a character identifies as trans. I feel like there are scripts that exist where it is good.

And now, with so many women, so many people of color, so many women of color, so many queer women being given opportunities to, who are producers and writers, like Lena Waithe and Ava DuVernay… With all of these women being given opportunities, I feel like I am this close.

But who knows, maybe one day I will write something, direct something, produce something, it is all there. But for now, I just want to act.

What are your thoughts on non-gay actors playing gay characters and non-transgender actors playing transgender characters?

Jamie Clayton: Listen. I have said this before and I will say it again and my opinion is never going to change on this. As an actor, I want to be given the same opportunity to play any kind of character so I would never tell an actor to not play a role.

The issue is that as someone who identifies as trans, I am not given the same opportunities as someone who is not trans. I am not even allowed to audition for certain things or then if I do audition, “a discussion” needs to be had with producers and directors about what the audience is going to think and there is all this stuff that is put on to the character and me that does not need to be there.

Same opportunities

I would never tell anyone to not play a role. I want to be given the same opportunities but the truth of the matter is that I am not. And most people who are actors who identify as trans are not. Do I audition for roles that are not trans? Yes. Do I hope to play one? Yes. But we are just not given the same opportunities.

And so, I think that is where the frustration lies with the community. We are just not given the same opportunities and if there happens to be one year where there are, I guess, eleven roles that are identified as trans in film and television and if a chunk of those go to actors that are not identified as trans and we are not even allowed to audition to play anything other than that, that is what is hard. But I want everybody to be able to play everything.

More of this Jamie Clayton Interview

As I said, there is much more but this is already so much to write down. So, please, check out the video and share it with everybody you know. If you would not mind, please subscribe to my YouTube channel? That really helps me in terms of visiting cons in 2019. That means bringing home those cons to queer people who cannot visit them themselves for whatever reason.

PS here are my interviews with Natasha, Elise & AnnieKat Barrell, the team behind I Can’t Think Straight, Nicole Pacent, Mandahla Rose,  the writer and producer of Different for Girls, and the directors of ClexaCon.

I Can’t Think Straight Visits ClexaCon London

I Can’t Think Straight Visits ClexaCon London

In November, Sheetal Sheth (actor), Shamim Sarif (director), and Hanan Kattan (producer) visited ClexaCon London to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their movie I Can’t Think Straight. Fortunately, they also came to the press room, so we could ask them some questions about their movies I Can’t Think Straight and The World Unseen, about queer roles, and about future projects. Not the entire fifteen-minute interview is written down below, so if you want to know more, please watch the video below this image.

‘I Can’t Think Straight Visits ClexaCon London’ In November, Sheetal Sheth, Shamim Sarif, and Hanan Kattan visited ClexaCon London to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their movie I Can’t Think Straight. Fortunately, they also came to the press room, so we could ask them some questions about their movies I Can’t Think Straight and The World Unseen, about queer roles, and about future projects. You can find the interview here: http://bit.ly/CantThinkStraight

If you had unlimited time and budget, what would you change about I Can’t Think Straight if anything?

Shamim: The changes would be subtle: the shot making, the editing, some of the direction. I think that is just part of evolving as an artist. I think you would feel that for a song you have written ten years ago or a novel. So, what I tried to do at the end of that screening [ClexaCon held an anniversary screening of the movie on Friday] was think: “Wow, look at the impact it is having. People get the core of it.” So, I should not be pernickety whether a steady cam would have been nice here or there. But I think it is just having more tools […], that would be fun to experiment with.

Hanan: And very expensive [laughs].

Shamim: And very expensive. And often I think time is a pressure for movies. With a bit more time, actors would be able to explore their characters more, there would be more ideas, and we would have been able to shoot scenes that were supposed to be in the film but never made it. That would be great. I think it is time that would be more of a luxury.

More time and money

Sheetal: I think it is the same. For more time, you need more money, so that is usually why you do not have a lot of time. For an actor, it is really about having the space to do your work and generally, in smaller movies, you do not have that much, you know. You have to deliver the moment you get there because of time. I am very proud of the film but of course, if we had more time, we could have maybe expounded something else or explored something else or maybe done a cool shot from a different angle. You know, you can spend a day on a scene, which a lot of movies are afforded to do and you can really find so much in that.

On the other hand, there is also something really organic and spontaneous that happens in an environment of small films. I have done so many independent films. If you have the right people involved and the right kind of hearts involved, and everybody knows what to expect when they go there and do not get caught up on the fact that you do not have that stuff, you can really create in a different space, which is also very exciting.

Pre-sale distribution

Hanan: For me, besides the money factor and time, is to have some pre-sale distribution in place, because it guarantees a wider release. For that to happen, people need to know they can invest the money and know that there is a bigger release. But if you are a first-time or second-time movie, that is not that easy.

As queer women, what are your feelings on the importance of having queer actors portraying queer characters?

Shamim: It is actually something that has come up more recently for me as we cast our next film Polarized. It gives queer women more opportunity. I think there are two things. Here has been such a taboo in Hollywood for women to come out because it feels it is killing their career as a heterosexual portrayal. So, I think it is nice to share the other side of that. That you can have queer women play queer characters.

At the same time, I do not think it should be a limitation. In the same way that I do not think queer women should not play heterosexual characters. On a practical level, sales and distribution, sometimes people want a name. If the only name you can think of is Kristen Stewart and she is busy that moment, there are probably not enough queer actors with enough profile to pre-finance a movie. That is another consideration that people do not want to talk about but it is a reality of making film.

Hanan: Whoever suits the role the most. I think it is limiting. It is really the person, do they fit, the chemistry there, can they do it and do it with justice? For me, it is irrelevant as long as they portray the character well.

Tricky

Sheetal [not queer]: I think it is a very tricky thing. First of all, I think the labeling of an actress in any way is the problem. You are not a queer actress: you are an actress who in your personal life is gay. To me, your sexuality should be irrelevant in the sense that you are in your workspace.

But I totally understand the idea that if that somehow has become something you are labeled with, and you are not able to get jobs as a heterosexual person in a movie… This whole conversation is like… But this is the world we live in, right? If it is a problem, then, of course, you should be able to have the roles that are written for someone who is gay.

But to me, as an actress, I am not interested in playing myself. It is about stretching. There is no point in being an actress if you are only going to do the same thing over and over again. But I do think, as a producer and a content creator, you should just be open to hiring people of all backgrounds, making sure there is a seat at the table for everybody, whatever that may mean. But I do not think that can be the only factor; I think it is a more holistic way of making movies.

What does it mean to you personally and to your career to be at an event like ClexaCon London?

Sheetal: It is so exciting. I still cannot believe I Can’t Think Straight has been ten years. Obviously, The World Unseen as well. I could never have imagined the impact that these movies have had on so many. You hope for that. You know, you hope that when you make art, that impacts somebody at some point other than yourself. I think to be invited and welcomed in this way is really sweet and lovely.

The things that I am hearing from meeting everybody and also being able to meet fans that have been messaging and tweeting me and then finally being able to put a face to a name has been really exciting. And then also hearing what it is. What is the story? Hearing in person what the story is and what it has done and why.

Happy ending I Can’t Think Straight

Sheetal: What I keep hearing about I Can’t Think Straight is the happy ending, which I did not realize, is so rare in stories having to do with two women. I am like: “Is that true?” And they are like: “Yeah, actually, either someone dies or there are drugs or there is something.” How is that supposed to give anybody hope? I just do not even understand. Honestly, it blew my mind when I kept hearing over and over ‘thank you for this.’ I did not even write the movie. I learn. I am learning a ton. The fact that that seems to be the reality for this type of content is troubling. It is shocking.

She asks Shamim if she knew this. Shamim: I did not actually, but I am terrible…

After I Can’t Think Straight

Hanan: No, it is after I Can’t Think Straight. It is based on us really [points to Shamim, her wife], some fiction. So, it is amazing how it has affected women. Many women have come out as a result of this film in particular.

Sheetal: The coming-out scene. Word for word, people will quote me. They say: “This is what I said too.” I am like: “Oh my Gosh, you did?”

Hanan: Yes. A lot of women have felt more comfortable in their skin. Maybe some have not come out still but they feel better about themselves. That it is okay to have such feelings or to go through this and to come out. So, coming to events like this is very important to continue with spreading the message and reaching more people.

Sheetal: And giving it the space and the pedigree that it deserves. You do not want to be in the corner. You absolutely have… Everybody has the right to have their own voice and space heard. And so, for ClexaCon to do that, that is really great for them.

More I Can’t Think Straight

As mentioned, this is not the full interview. You can hear more in my video. Do not forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel and share my videos. That really helps with future trips to LGBT+ cons and with me bringing the cons home to people who cannot go to them themselves, for various reasons. It only takes a few seconds to help our beautiful community!

Have not watched I Can’t Think Straight yet? You can find the movie on Amazon or in iTunes.

PS here are my interviews with Kat BarrellNatasha, Elise & AnnieJamie Clayton, Nicole Pacent, Mandahla Rose,  the writer and producer of Different for Girls, and the directors of ClexaCon.

Different for Girls: UK Lesbian Web Series

Different for Girls: UK Lesbian Web Series

This weekend, the creators of Different for Girls will visit ClexaCon London. It was quite weird to me that I had never heard of this UK lesbian web series before, especially since Rachel Shelley is in it, who is my favorite The L Word actor. They were kind enough to send me a screener of the show so that I could properly prepare for ClexaCon London. I liked it so much that I thought I would share it here with you. I cannot be the only one who missed this show, can I?

‘Different for Girls: UK Lesbian web series’ This weekend, some of the actors and creators of Different for Girls will visit ClexaCon London. It was quite weird to me that I had never heard of this UK lesbian web series before, especially since Rachel Shelley is in it, who is my favorite The L-Word actor. They were kind enough to send me a screener. In this blog post, I tell you why you should see this three-part web series! http://bit.ly/DifferentForGirlsUK

Different for Girls started with a book

Different for Girls first was a book written by Jacquie Lawrence. You can find it on Amazon. It is funny; if you read the reviews, the reviewers often say that they want to see the book adapted to the screen or turned into a web series. Well, Jacquie Lawrence did just that.

According to Lesbian Box Office, which is a channel dedicated to programming lesbian and bisexual women’s content set up by Jacquie and Fizz Milton, Jacquie realized that there had not been a lesbian-specific drama on British television since 2010 (Lip Service). Jacquie and Fizz understood that the only way to watch a drama with lesbian content was to make it themselves. And so, the 2015 book turned into this three-part web series in 2017.

Much information to process

If you search for Different for Girls online, you will find articles describing the show as ‘your new favorite lesbian soap opera,’ ‘the antidote to TV’s treatment of LGBT characters,’ and ‘addictive & mesmerizing.’ Now that makes me feel even more stupid for not knowing about Different for Girls, but let us not dwell on that.

The show starts in an incredibly confusing way. In the first fifteen minutes, you will see some fight, love, drug use, and vomiting scenes rapidly succeeding each other. In these scenes, you will meet every character on the show. To be clear, there are quite a few characters on the show. The Amazon reviewers are right when they said they needed some time to figure out who was who and who was dating whom.

Still, you immediately know that this something you want to get into. You want to know the answers to who is who and what is happening. There is much information to process but the rest of the show will slowly make it clear to you. Also, rewatching the first fifteen minutes after watching the entire series is helpful.

An underrepresented age category

I am so very, very happy that this show revolves around women my age. If you want to know, I am in my thirties. I usually have to watch teens or people in their twenties when I want to watch a lesbian-themed show. That is fun but at the same time, it seems like the moment I got married and had a kid, I gave up on an exciting life. Apparently, content creators do not think we can handle adventures after we had our thirtieth birthday or wedding day.

Different for Girls shows women who are about to get married or have kids or who have young kids already. This web series aims to “represent lesbians who live in the suburbs, who are more likely to meet their future partners at the school gates than at a club in Soho,” as Jacquie said. That does not mean you will not see any drinks, drugs or sex…

Adventures

That being said, I do feel sad that when you finally see two married women, the story centers around cheating and being cheated on. Where are our adventures? Still, I understand that the other storylines revolve mostly around relationships too, so it is not like they saved that for the married women.

Also, I sometimes felt moments of the storylines were a little far-fetched. I now understand why some would call Different for Girls a soap opera. So much is happening in such a short amount of time. I noticed that I did feel inclined to ask myself the questions of would I or would I not? How would I respond in these situations? That means I was still emotionally involved, so that proves the quality of this web series and the incredibly talented actors.

More to come?

The story leaves a few openings for another season of Different for Girls. I honestly would like to see the second season of this web series. Who knows, I might be able to find out more at ClexaCon London. You can watch Different for Girls on Lesbian Box Office, where you can rent or buy it. I hope can show you some ClexaCon Different for Girls footage on my YouTube channel in a few weeks, so make sure to subscribe!

Update February 19, 2019: Here, you can read my interview with the writer and producer of Different for Girls.

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