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Frameline Interview: Eric Schaeffer On His Trans Rom Com 'Boy Meets Girl'

By Gary M. Kramer | /Bent June 25, 2014 at 1:25PM

Boy Meets Girl is a sweet, sensitive drama about sexual fluidity has Ricky (Michelle Hendley), a transgender teen, grappling with her feelings for Francesca (Alexandra Turshen), who is engaged to David (Michael Galante). Ricky gets some support from her best friend Robby (Michael Welch), who also feels slightly jealous towards Ricky and her new friend. Writer/Director Eric Schaeffer distinctly addresses issues of shame and hate, judgment and gender as the characters define and redefine themselves. When one character says that they “should be real and not what everyone told us” it speaks volumes. Schaeffer spoke via Skype with /bent about Boy Meets Girl.
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Boy Meets Girl
Boy Meets Girl

Boy Meets Girl is a sweet, sensitive drama about sexual fluidity has Ricky (Michelle Hendley), a transgender teen, grappling with her feelings for Francesca (Alexandra Turshen), who is engaged to David (Michael Galante). Ricky gets some support from her best friend Robby (Michael Welch), who also feels slightly jealous towards Ricky and her new friend. Writer/Director Eric Schaeffer distinctly addresses issues of shame and hate, judgment and gender as the characters define and redefine themselves. When one character says that they “should be real and not what everyone told us” it speaks volumes. Schaeffer spoke via Skype with /bent about Boy Meets Girl.


Gary M. Kramer: Boy Meets Girl opens with a young girl holding up a card that says “I HAVE SECRETS.” The film reveals these secrets and others over the course of the story. Why choose this approach to the narrative?

Eric Schaeffer: I decided to use that part of the storytelling narrative—and it’s a small amount of screen time allotted—with this idea of a girl showing flashcards to tell a story. I got that idea through the Internet when I trying to find Michelle, the actress who plays Ricky. I stumbled on this video of this young Goth teenage girl doing one of those [flashcard] videos about being bullied. Something about her pierced/tattooed exterior and her innocent smile broke my heart.

I wanted my film to be positive—a romantic comedy, and light-hearted in spirit and not filled with hate crime scenes that often make their way into LGBT films. I didn’t want Ricky to be a monster, but I did want there to be an authenticity, and resonance to the other side of the story. That had to be there so it wasn’t all just upbeat and rainbows. It was more about her internal story than how the community treats her. That’s why I used that device. If I didn’t lay that in throughout the movie, it would have come out of nowhere. It lends a grounding to the film in a different way than if it weren’t there. I think it’s done mysteriously enough throughout the movie that you don’t know what the [secret] was throughout the film.

GMK: Your film links and explores various themes of identity, tolerance, and judgment. Why did you create this story to address these points?
ES:
That’s a feature of all my work: How do we all as humans—regardless of sexual orientation, gender, class, and sexual interest—behave. These labels alienate us, and are forced upon us in how we declare ourselves; they separate and confuse us. What story could explore it more deeply? Certainly, one about the life of a transgender girl touching the lives of a genetic straight boy and a genetic straight girl. It may be more of a neon light of a story that other people can identify with and use as a metaphor for shame, judgment, hate, and gender. Hopefully this crosses over and not just resonates with members of the LGBT community. 

GMK: What about labels--there’s a discussion of gay/bi/human/straight in the film? What can you say about issues of sexual fluidity in the film?

ES: It was essential to get the point across. I wanted them to feel authentic and organic to real human experience. I wanted to heighten it so people could feel it. In love stories that I write, I want there to be sensuality and sexuality, so it was important to get at what does it mean to be straight, and other than straight, and what does it mean to be a real man or real woman? I wanted to turn everything on its ass. That’s why I set it in the South, rather than New York or San Francisco. A lot of the transgender people I met grew up in the South and didn’t feel hatred in their community. That was surprising, and many people should know that.   

GMK: Did you feel pressure to feature nudity in the film given all the sexual permutations?

ES: I didn’t feel pressure, but I did feel a desire and an obligation to make the story as impactful as I wanted to make it to have certain scenes that included a certain amount of nudity in order to tell the story in the way I wanted to tell the story.

GMK: I see bits of your personality on display in each character, but not in any one. How was that for you to write, given that you star in so many of your films?
ES:
I have made a bunch of films and TV shows were my persona was the character to explore those themes, so I wanted to mix it up, like with Never Again, where they were two 60 year-olds, who are not me, address those same issues. Here it’s three sexy 22 year-olds. Boy Meets Girl actually goes in the body of my work very nicely. The only difference being is that my personality/character is not physically present. This story and these characters are so close to my heart. It was very easy to write and very close to my human experience. I’m more moved by this film than my others. It resonates more for me than when I’m reenacting events that are true to my life. Boy Meets Girl is not about me wanting to change my gender, but it’s the metaphor of wanting to feel accepted and loved for who I am. 

GMK: What has been the reaction from the trans community?

ES: I vetted the script with a few different transgender women, obviously Michelle. I found a very severe fracture within the female transgender community about pre-op and post-op and talking about their own physicality during the transition. There was a lot of judgment against or about each other, which I found saddening. So I talked about it with Michelle and some of the other women who had extreme points of view, and I tried to write a script that was not pandering or offensive to transgender community.

"Boy Meets Girl" screens this Saturday, June 28th. Tickets here.