One more ‘til next week’s grand finale, and we couldn’t be more excited about this one. On the fifth episode of our mini-series with GLAAD, HBO Legendary executive producer and ballroom historian Sydney Baloue and Emmy nominated actor, "Euphoria" consultant, and founder of Speaking of Transgender, Scott Turner Schoefield, chat about trans masculine visibility in entertainment and the expertise actually needed for authentic storytelling.
Scroll down for the full transcript of the episode!
After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania…
in 2011 with a B.A. in Political Science, Sydney pursued public policy research as a German Academic Exchange (DAAD) Scholar and Transatlantic Fellow in Berlin, Germany from 2011-2014 before completing a dual-degree masters in Urban Policy at the Paris Institute for Political Studies and the London School of Economics from 2015-2016. Sydney’s background in social, racial and eco-justice policy-based work laid a foundational bedrock for his creative interests. A voracious traveler who is fluent in French and German, writing is the through-line of all his work.
As a Black and South Asian transgender man with roots in Trinidad and Tobago and Chicago, IL, Sydney is grateful for his global experiences as they have allowed him to connect stories across continents and have many of his own assumptions about the world blown apart. After trying to bridge his work in an academic setting and as a cultural producer, Sydney left his PhD in Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 as he realized that storytelling through film and television was the best medium to share stories and connect people across continents, cultures and time. As someone rooted in diaspora and interested in traversing its intersecting lines, Sydney is excited to find and foster compelling narratives, which give space for the beauty and complexity of different life perspectives.
Sydney is a proud member of the House of Xtravaganza. He made history in 2019 as the first transgender man to win a voguing category (Old Way Performance) at The Latex Ball. Sydney is a writer and producer on HBOMax’s competition reality series, Legendary. His writing has been featured in The New York Times, Vice, and them. Sydney’s accolades include being listed on Condé Nast’s Now List 2020 on them. He also was a 2020 Artist in Residency at The Laundromat Project and a 2020 Sokoloff Arts Fellow.
He is currently working on a book on the history and evolution of New York City's Ballroom Scene.
SYDNEY spreads his time between New York and Los Angeles.
Scott Turner Schoefield
Scott Turner Schofield is an award-winning actor, writer, and producer—a “trans influencer of Hollywood.”
Making television history as the first openly transgender actor in Daytime television with a recurring role on CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful, Schofield then became the first transgender man nominated for any acting Emmy, for the recurring role of “Max” on STUDIO CITY (Amazon Prime).
As a film actor, Scott received international critical acclaim for his lead role in the 2018 feature film THE CONDUCTOR (Splendid Films). His one man show special, Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps, premiered at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.
Scott’s 3 solo performance pieces have toured major venues in the US and Europe, with the support of the National Performance Network and the Princess Grace Foundation-USA. He performed (in French) in the Festival d’Avignon mainstage production of Christophe Honoré’s “La Faculte,” directed by Eric Vigner, touring the Théâtres Nationales of France for the 2012-13 season. He has starred in live theater in Los Angels at the Renberg and Kirk Douglas theaters.
Among other behind-the-scenes credits in film, TV and streaming, Schofield consults for HBO’s EUPHORIA; the role he helped create has been called “TV’s most interesting trans character” and “the future of TV”. Partnering with IATSE and GLAAD, he has educated hundreds of crew members in on-set sensitivity, and vetted trans-affirmative policy for the Union. With 360-degree experience, he brings the expertise necessary to authentic, artistically excellent transgender storytelling, from script to screen.
This transcription has been edited for clarity.
Scott Turner: Okay, well, Hi, everybody. Thank you for joining the FREE THE WORK podcast mini series supported by GLAAD. Thank you GLAAD. If you're just getting familiar FREE THE WORK is a nonprofit global initiative and searchable talent discovery platform for underrepresented creators. And just as a disclaimer, we have to say the views and opinions of the guests do not necessarily state or reflect those of FREE THE WORK. So my name is Scott Turner Schofield. I am an actor, a producer and a transgender consultant. I started the company Speaking of Transgender and I also work freelance with GLAAD to help people tell better trans stories in Hollywood. And I'm here with my colleague and friend Sydney Baloue. Sydney, why don't you go ahead and tell people about yourself?
Sydney Baloue: Who am I? Where to begin? I'm a very giggly writer, journalist, TV producer, and archivist, and my specialty is doing oral histories of the ballroom community. And I currently work as a co-executive producer on HBO Max's Legendary, which is a competition reality show about the ballroom scene. So I'm very happy to be here with you, Scott.
ST: Happy to be here with you and we met- so we met a couple of years ago. We're both trans men. And we- sorry, there's people acting the fool outside of my apartment. Hold on.
SB: I noticed that too. Is this the- this is the George Floyd? Is this what that is?
ST: Oh, are they-? Is that what's happening?
SB: I would not be surprised.
ST: Oh, I hope so.
SB: I think the verdict came because I saw it was kind of trending.
ST: Oh. That's awesome.
SB: Yeah, it's, it's, it's kind of funny because we live in the same building.
ST: We're hearing the same people.
SB: Same people react well, okay, at least in the world, I guess.
ST: That's amazing. I love that we're capturing this right now. Like,
SB: I know, I know, it reminded me of the election. That's why I was like, Oh, I think something's going on in the world. It's not just rowdy neighbors.
ST: When the election happened, everybody in our building came out on the- on their balconies and was clapping. So okay, we live together, we live in the same building anyway. And, you know, one of the things that I wanted to talk about is how like, we are literally in community together, but we're trying to create more community around ourselves around sort of interdisciplinary and intersectional aspects of identity here in Hollywood. So let's talk about that. Let's get into it.
We first met speaking of, of, you know, sort of community, we met when the trans masculine cohort was meeting and I happened to be in New York City. And I called you and Marquise Vilson was there as well. And we just met at the hotel and interfaced through the internet with gosh, probably 50 other trans guys in entertainment, who are part of this group, which is a whole community that we're really intentionally building to bring together folks like us who are totally underrepresented in media to do this work. And then around Christmas of that year, you called me because you had written this piece for the New York Times about ballroom, it was one of your history pieces, and it had gotten a lot of play. And the folks from Legendary HBO Max's, Legendary, called you up, do you want to tell that story?
SB: Yeah, sure. Well, you know, basically, I've been doing work research on the ballroom scene. For some time, I was doing a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, and doing oral histories of senior members in the community, because I noticed like, no one has really written down ballroom history. And I felt like it's about time. And, you know, I think it's very important for folks in the community to be centered in telling our own stories, because oftentimes, there's a lot of outsiders who love to talk about ballroom, but ironically, not actually consult people in the community about their own experience. And so for the longest time, I was working on that. And I remember I had written this piece, it was around the time that the Supreme Court was doing their- they had started hearings to talk about whether or not trans folks should be included in federal protections of the workplace. And so I thought, "Oh, this is really interesting, because it's about, you know, trans visibility, essentially, in the workplace. And this is kind of something we already kind of discussed and sort of play with in the ballroom scene." This category called realness, which, you know, with folks who don't know, or, you know, you watch purses burning or pose realness is kind of the idea of trans people kind of like portraying an archetype. in society.
So for example, you know, you could have like a business executive realness category where, you know, it'd be like a trans person who has to pass is like a strict straight cis person in the workplace like a wall street banker or something. And they also have that for gay folks, as well as gay and lesbian realness passing is like, again, passing as a straight person in society. And so there's a debate in the community at the moment of like, do we still need this? You know, there's a lot of LGBTQ people in the media and, you know, other spaces. And so there's a little bit of a debate in the community about that. I wrote this piece for the New York Times. And it was really interesting, because I was surprised to see it. Like really how far it's gone.
But yeah, the showrunners of HBO Max, or the showrunners of legendary hit me up, and they were like, "Hey, you know, we're working on this competition reality show about the bar scene for HBO Max. And, you know, for us, it's a lot easier to hire somebody from the community, who's a writer to write for unscripted TV, rather than the other way round. Because ballroom is just so complex. And, you know, it's hard to kind of really break it down for somebody, it'd be so much better if there's somebody who has knowledge." And for me, I've been in the ballroom scene for 10 years, I've walked balls, I've thrown balls, I've won trophies. So you know, it just seemed perfect.
And so yeah, I hit you up, and Nick Adams at GLAAD. And I was just like, "Hey, I got this opportunity, what should I do?" And, for me, I was trying, I mean, I was trying to get into scripted TV. And I actually, like, hit up all of my friends who, you know, are WTA or, you know, working on other aspects of the industry. And everybody was like, hey, so this seems like a great opportunity, you know, you should go for it. I think there's a lot to learn, even though it's not exactly what you want. It's also you know, it's still like a very, I think it'll be very intriguing, and it will still teach you a lot.
And I remember with you, and Nick, you know, you gave me great recs for you know, lawyers and also were just kind of coaching me on certain things. And that was really just sort of helpful, again, to have that, like, community supportive–like okay, here's some folks who I can go to and, you know, the minds and details. I think you and Nick have navigated over the years, it was just kind of very much like ballroom where you're looking for a mother or father to kind of guide you. And that's actually like, when I look back on and I'm like, yeah, it's, you know, like, I have, you know, my, my house mother, Gizelle, I'm in the House Extravaganza, and I, I know, I call Gizelle for certain things. And it was also kind of nice to know that I have like Scott and Nick, who I could count on as my, like Hollywood fathers.
ST: I've never been a daddy.
SB: I just made you one, darling.
ST: Oh, my goodness, thank you. Well, and you know, for me, it was one of those amazing moments where I was so happy. Because, you know, how often do you hear Hollywood people saying, it's actually better for us to get the person who understands the authenticity of the community that we're representing, and train them in Hollywood, rather than to rely on someone we know, in Hollywood and help them approximate,you know, the crayon drawing of the masterpiece, right? So it was this, it was such a pleasure in that moment, because it was like, "Yes", like and you know, very much like a rising tide raises all ships, right? Like you making sure that you could, you know, have the best credit and be the best leader and really have the ability to use your power, which is the power of your authenticity, right in that show. And make, you know, that has the knock on effect in so many ways, because there's the audience right, who feels honored and seen and the culture gets properly or more properly put out into the world, right. So no more like inauthentic representations of ballroom like, you know, more like white straight cis people's idea of ballroom. Right?
SB: Right. Yeah, and, you know, they're also because it's interesting. Ballroom is such a large and complex world, literally, we've been going for decades, you know? So to try and boil it down to this format of game show, which is what Legendary ultimately is, right? Like, we sit in the same space as the voice or, you know, RuPaul's Drag Race or any sort of like game related thing, even something like Jeopardy, you know, we're in that
ST: Runway even-
SB: -exactly like we're in that same space. So you're trying to take this like decades long, hyper complex tradition, and figure out where to edit essentially, and I think like edit or shape. Like, I feel like that's kind of like my role in a lot of ways on the show is like, Okay, how do we either pare this down, or also make it digestible for, you know, an unknowing public, like people who are coming to ballroom for the first time. So it's just kind of, you know, I don't know, I was saying this the other day, I was speaking to a class at Occidental College, they were teaching a course on ballroom which is so interesting. 2021 like this is where we're at, like, kick you're learning about, you know, the things. And, you know, just one of the things I was explaining was, it's so interesting when you're actually in the room when decisions are being made. And I'm because I think when we see things like this, when like, you know, whether it's like a cultural forum, especially if it's like something that's more underground, like, it's adapted for the mainstream, you're like, Okay, how and why did these things happen? You know, and it's just kind of interesting to sort of be there and, you know, really have to weigh your options about what is possible, because, obviously, TV is a very specific, specific format. So decisions have to be made, you know, you can't have everything,
ST: Right. But it's a more ethical process, at least, right? Like, sure, we're distilling it down, or you're distilling it down, you know, into a different kind of format. Right? That is very Hollywood, which, okay, that is what it is. But at least the reasoning behind it comes from, again, a place of authenticity, and it's about how can we make the awesome just authenticity shine through this? You know, through this format? Right?
ST: Like appropriate, the idea? Right. And, and use it as our fantasy of what this community is, right? Yeah.
SB: No, yeah, no, 100%, I think, you know, we've talked about this so many times about the importance of like, who's in the room, right, and like, authenticity and like, the authenticity of the world, I think that's like, the big thing that I've, you know, the authenticity of ballroom, because you have to know, no, you can't just like slap any old thing on it's like, no, there's part of the magic is the specificity. So it's like, if you just kind of like, overlook that, you know, it's not going to taste the same.
ST: Right. Right. And, and, you know, two, so there's the audience experience of that, right, which is great, because it's well, for all the reasons that we've said, but then on the other side of it, too, like, now, you are a co-executive producer. And when you get those credits, you know what, obviously, this audience probably knows a lot more about that. But it's like, you're not going to go backwards from that. Right, you know, installed, you know, you come in at a co executive producer level or higher, what does it look like there's much higher to go. So, it's amazing to install someone. And I think it's amazing for people listening to realize that the value of the work that you've done as a historian, right, and as someone who has is a part of that culture, deeply embedded within that culture, as, you know, history making part of that culture yourself, as well as like the first, you're the first trans man to win a
SB: -grand prize at the biggest ball in New York City, the Latex Ball, yes, evoking category.
ST: Right. So right, like, like, you know, to show that that authenticity is what got you into Hollywood, right, that you can actually bring that, and you didn't have this experience before. Right?
ST: I mean, from my own perspective, it's like, my big TV break was on the Bold and the Beautiful, right?, Which is a show that 30 million people watch. It's a daytime drama, but 30 million people around the globe watch it every single day. I was the first out trans actor in daytime television, and I did have an award winning acting career before I got into TV. But what brought me into that role…Maya's mentor was what they called me and I was supposed to be this like, you know, leader of a support group that Maya met when she was first transitioning, and we became friends and then…my character came back into her life to to help her negotiate her relationship, you know, and disclosing that she was trans and this relationship that she was in. And what clinched that role for me was that the the people kind of realized that I am that kind of mentor figure that that is like Scott Turner Schofield comes with that authenticity, and also I happen to actually be a transgender actor and that they could actually bring that forward into the role and and there's so much about that story, like so much in Hollywood is about the story behind it.
So you came with your story, I came with my story and together we were able to break into something that I don't think either, in a way and at a level that I think either one of us saw coming.
SB: Yeah, I know. There's no way. I mean, yeah, it's interesting because I feel like you're pointing to something that is really crucial, which is right now Hollywood is really looking for authentic voices. Right. And like, we should let the people who actually have these experiences tell their story. Which is-
SB: I know, it's like we finally got here. Yay. Right.
ST: It's 2021 like right?
SB: I know, it seems so intuitive, but Huh, you know? Yeah, I mean, just so powerful. It's funny, you mentioned that because I was like, thinking, you know, my app, I remember my aunt Bobby to, like, watch the Bold and the Beautiful all the time. And I'm like, and I know, like, the coolest trans guy on that show is like, so amazing. Like-
ST: You wouldn't believe it, you know, the, the stories that I heard back from people, and especially given trans masculine in visibility, which is a real thing, right? Like, you know, the numbers are still like, three trans women stories to everyone trans guys, stories that are being put out there, you know, minimum and you know, non-binary folks are also, you know, in the same boat, like non-binary visibility is even less, right. So, you know, and it's something people kind of, kind of, like, I don't know, I get pushback, sometimes it's like, "you're on TV, like, how are you invisible?" And it's like, okay, but besides me, named, like two other trans guys, which, until recently, was really hard for people to do.
SB: It's still kind of like, niche, you know, of like, of who, who would even know, you know, and it's funny, you see this cuz I'm actually rewatching Disclosure right now. Because I'm going to be doing this Twitter thread thing for Netflix. And, yeah, when they're talking about that, that point of invisibility. Again, it just points to why it's so important to share stories to speak up, but also like to let us in the door. And just, like, take up that space. And, yeah, no, it definitely starts with people like you, Scott. I think it's like, it's very, very big.
ST: Well, both of us in the community that we're all a part of, too, you know, and I mean, that's what's so cool about this moment, you know, and I think at some point, we're gonna look back and be like, wow, that was actually a really special time that we were a part of, you know,
SB: It's funny you say that too, because I literally was thinking about this today. Because I mean, with my trans story, I mean, I first identified, I came out, maybe, gosh, like trying to think now, over 10 years ago, well, over 10, 15 years ago, I'm as gay and I identified as a lesbian. And so for my transits, I kind of like that came a little later. And I was thinking, you know, when I first came out, as a lesbian, it was just kind of, like, I feel like so much political work had already been done, you know, as a lesbian, that I was, like, kind of inheriting there was like, a kind of legacy of sorts, you know, I was feel like, there was a little tube, almost like a little toolkit, you know, they're all the lesbian jokes, there were the U haul jokes, or, you know, little dyke bars, you know, even the idea of being like little baby dyke, right? Or, you know, and owning the word dyke as well, like, the political power of that, and, you know, in all of the history and all of that, and I think a lot about this moment of being trans and just kind of feeling like, "Oh, I didn't get like a little cute gift basket when I came out as trans. Like, I wish there was more of like, a little, you know, 'schuzz' to that, you know", whereas, and I realized, like, "Oh, we are the ones, people like me, all of our trans friends-, we are creating that legacy for future people.
And I think this has become also more obvious to me, Scott–we've talked about this–the more I've like, either taken generals or like, met other industry people and like, everybody has a trans friend. Like, like, really cute, I mean I love it, you know-
ST: We have like a family tree of writers and producers who have trans friends-
SB: I'm gonna start documenting all of that I mean and also, obviously, those are the people I'm hitting up with, like, Yes.
ST: Who are those allies? Are those really important bridge people? Right? Like there are people who really fundamentally understand how important this is.
SB: Oh, yeah. No, 100% and that's what I'm saying is like, because when I look back, I mean, I came out with like, 2007 eight, and, like, when I look back then I'm like, you know, it was, it was all about Ellen for one, right? She was like, the biggest thing and it was so exciting to that she was like, so famous and well loved and hilarious, because it was like, wow, there's possibility of the world to like me and whatever, there was third possibilities, you know, to me, that's like, what it's all about is like possibility models. So to me, when I look at, like, you and other trans masculine friends, I'm like, Oh, we are building that same legacy for all these, like trans sons who are out there. Because it's, you know, it's the work that needs to be done, even though it feels kind of lonely, because you're like, Oh, I wish there was a gift basket, but-
ST: I know, when you said that I was I was thinking about, like, the movie 1914. Like, you know, you're walking into, like, the dog out, you know, like, it just fire going on all around you. I mean, it's just like, like, get in there, get in your foxhole and take it in. Like, that's, that's sort of where we are, it feels, thankfully, a little better in Hollywood, but not right now in the world. Right. I mean, I think one of the biggest things that I experience is, like a keep me awake at night heart pounding sense of responsibility to do this really, right and well, I mean, like, I work on Euphoria. And, you know, that show is bringing trans realness to the world in a huge way. And, you know, I have these stories about, you know, like, little things like little words, where it's like, like, please, let's not say that, you know, like, let's make sure like, let's do this, and not, you know, really struggling with, it's not that I want to get in the way of your art, but I want you to understand that there's a huge privilege with having this megaphone. Right? And, you know, like, I think Jen Richards says it really well in Disclosure on Netflix, she says, you know, we just need more, because then if we have more stories, the odd clumsy, you know, representation would just sort of fall away. But right now, it's like when it's the only one, right, right.
SB: Yeah, there's so much pressure on it to be amazing.
ST: Yes. I know that minority stress too, of being the only one being the trans consultant on the show. And like, everybody's bringing everything from, "do we need to put up all gender signs on the porta potties,"
ST: You know, to like to like, "okay, in scene three, where this happens, you know, let's bring in the intimacy coordinator, and we've got this happening, we've got this", you know, what I mean? Like, it just really kind of, you know, and it's wonderful, but at the same time, it's very much it's very pressured. Right, like, you know, but it's coming from a place of responsibility of like, yeah, we really need to set this up in the direction that, you know, in, in a direction of inclusivity. And and of, of remembering who you're talking about, and including them.
SB: Yeah, no, I and I mean, it goes back to kind of what we're saying to have, like, including trans people in the process making because also, I mean, I think the biggest detriment, when people mess up, they just like, are not listening. And also not acknowledging when they're out of their element. Like, that's kind of like been my thing, you know, when people don't acknowledge, like, you know, what, actually, I don't know a lot about trans folks, or, yeah, I do have a trans kid. But actually, I don't know what it means to work with somebody in the workplace who is trans or to creatively, like, have somebody working with me, you know, what I mean?
Like, I always feel like where people mess up is when, you know, they just make either a lot of assumptions about their own knowledge base, and are not able to just like defer to people, like, I think in this larger conversation culturally, that we're having around eradicating toxic masculinity and creating, you know, non-toxic workspaces. It's like, yes, acknowledging, when you don't know something, you know, humbly, humbly, you know, submitting to the I still have more to learn. Yes, I'm a big executive. Yes, I've won Emmys. But actually, there's a lot that I don't know. And thank you for telling me like, I think we should work more towards a culture that does that. And rewards people for, you know, just knowing when they're out of their element knowing to like, lean on others for help, you know?
ST: Yeah, and I think Hollywood to like, particularly film and television making is such a collaborative endeavor, right? That like you wouldn't, like I don't know how to do set design. I wouldn't, you know-
SB: I mean you have a nice little- I was going to say that cute little this, this, this montage.
ST: Oh, thank you
SB: The larger set design-
ST: Right? I mean, I am an artist, but I don't know how to do set design, so I'm not gonna sit there and sort of tell people what to do based on what my idea of what set design is, no, there's somebody for that job and we bring them in.
And it seems like, you know, there, there's sort of two things happening. One, the role of the trans consultant is actually becoming a thing. You know, and so, in the same way, that intimacy coordination wasn't a thing until sort of 2019 ish, right? in the way that it really has become established. Now, trans consulting is becoming a role and there's, you know, a pay scale for it, and you know, a line item on the budget, where you can bring somebody in to do your, you know, your pre-production safety meeting, and be there during intimacy scenes, or help you on your script, right, like those things all, you know, are becoming codified into how Hollywood works. But it takes the people who are actually doing that work.
And it's one of the things that I loved about Disclosure, for instance, you know, when they were creating that documentary, they wanted only trans people to work on it, right? They have this, you know, this, this really strict policy, and it held up their production process, because it took a long time to find, you know, to find people, and if they couldn't find people to take specific roles, like to be a gaffer, or you know, a cinematographer, anything of all the different roles, right, where, and they hired someone who assists and then they found people who wanted to learn that job, who could shadow them, right. It was a professional development opportunity, as well. And I just like living your politics, like, that was so amazing. And now we have a whole crop of people who have this amazing award winning documentary that has really changed things for the world, you know, as a resume credit,
SB: Yeah. No, it's totally huge. You know, and I think, you know, what you're saying is totally right of, like, you know, when you're not able to find people, like train people, because this goes back to this question of equity, which I think people need to really think in terms of abundance, like, yes, it can seem like, there's only so many roles or whatever, or places for folks to be, but actually, you know, turns out, there's, you know, however many shows are there on TV, you know, how many, you know, that work streamers, and I feel like, they're even more streamers that kind of keep popping up. Like, I just feel like having an abundance mentality to working with trans people and like, truly employing us, you know, because I would say even going a step further, at least on the writing end of like, not just consulting, you know, but like, just hire us, you know, like there are and because the other thing is, like, we see this happen a lot.
And I mean, in my case, I came from journalism to working on a TV show, right. And it was just because I had a specific type of expertise in a topic that needed to be worked on for a show. And there's a lot of trans folks out there, I just think sometimes people don't do the work of like, actually trying to see who's out there, you know, and you would be surprised, because there's many of us who, you know, are playwrights who are, you know, journalists or, you know, write short essays, etc. authors, it just, I don't know, you'd have to be like, actually, I feel like, especially when I see people who want to do shows or stories about trans folks, I'm like, Well, you know, there's, there should be like a due diligence, almost like, there should be like a nice little checklist like, first watch, Disclosure and think about the stakes of your show. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
ST: It's so interesting, you say that because it's not like you were just a random trans person that they brought. And this is something I say all the time as a consultant to I think one of the things that people you know, people with power, say, "Oh, my, like, accountants, brother is trans, or I met this trans person at a cocktail party, you know, they work in HR, but it doesn't matter. You know, like, I'm going to have them consult during my show." That's not what we're talking about. It's like, like, yes, every trans story is one person's trans story, like, each experience is going to be different. But at the work that, for instance, the work that you're doing, you're a writer, you're like a professional writer, right? You know a story, which is why they brought you on as a writer, and as someone who understands how story functions that makes that's what a producer does. So then you became a producer, right? It's like, actually, there is a, you know, it wasn't random. There was luck, but
SB: Yeah, no, and I will say also, beyond that, I mean, my role as a producer, there's so many other elements because it is about the overall creative production. And again, that that goes down to like, costumes, you know, also categories like, you know, all the other elements music, even because you You just have to be for me, I'm an expert in this world, you know, so it was kind of like, "oh, who's an expert? Oh, and you're trans. Oh, and you're actually like also right?" There were just a lot of things that kind of lined up. And I wanted to say something though, Scott, you know, when you're saying, there's like that lazy like, "Oh, my kids trans or Oh, like, I have a friend", you know, I was, it makes me think because I'm, you know, if you were going to write a story about a Black person, you would hire a Black person to who like?
ST: Yeah, I would hope, right.
SB: But I do think like, we've gotten to the point of shaming people who are like, oh, but I have a Black friend, I think we need to, like, get there with the trans stuff too like, none of this, like, "Oh, I have a trans friend. So I know something like, I'm like her, you know, almost like, how can we get to that point. So it's not like, oh, people are periphery, and you know, whatever. And I'm not gonna go that extra mile of actually hiring somebody who's like an expert on this experience." You know what I mean? Like,
ST: No, I, you know, and I'm, I want to pause to let everybody who's feeling defensive, chill out a little bit, right? Like, what's great is you're listening to this, and you're listening to trans people. Like, that's what we're asking you to do. You're already- you've already got your foot in the door, like you're already doing the right thing. Right. And the next step really is and this is something that, you know, I think we both we both talked about this when we're hanging outside on our balcony, right? Like, like the frustration where it's like, so the writer doesn't want to be replaced, right? They, you know, they're like, well, it's my story. So I want to write it. And I can't tell you as a consultant I've worked on, I've worked on unscripted scripted television series, I've worked on documentaries, I've worked on feature films, like I, at this point, have quite a resume. And I'm telling you, is the trans experience, like the inner experience of being a trans person is deep and rich, and it's hard even for some trans people–like not every trans person is, is able to tell the story, they there are a few of us that are amazing at doing it, right. But that's like in itself, the level of artistry that's needed. And when you don't have that experience like it is you just can't approximate it.
I've spent upwards of 50 hours working with a sis writer on a trans screenplay and it just never could come out. Right. And I'm like, it's because you're not trans. You need to bring like, you could keep paying me I'll take your money. You know, you me and like-. And that's when the relationships and that's when people stop calling you back when you're calling them to the mat to the floor to say look like you need to hire someone and credit them. Or it comes back to the old you know, that old song of Oh, but there's nobody with the credits. There's nobody who's famous enough. Yeah. Why do you think that is?
SB: And even that made another no nonsense cause I mean, again, how many-. I know, it's annoying, because it's like How many times have people cis people, especially like cis white straight guys, like who did not work in this fields right come from journalism come from a different background who kind of like got into it, right? Like how many people have been given a chance. Like, we haven't even talked about-
ST: It's based in nepotism.
SB: Really, and it is also an industry concern? Sorry, what were you gonna say?
ST: Sorry, just like, you know, who you know, someone or someone who just got into the industry cause their dad was in the industry-
SB: Yeah. Oh, yeah. No, there's there's levels, there's, but also, just like, you know, this is also an industry where you learn by doing, which means that when you have an opportunity to do it is, like, incredibly valuable. And goes like so very, very, very far. Right. Like, um, but yeah, I mean, I also have to say, you know, I think, again, if everybody's looking for authentic voices, my question to those people who want to tell trans stories, ironically, without trans people, you know, like, what is your impetus? You know, like, is this your story to tell? Maybe it's not, or maybe this again, it's, you know, a story to share with a trans person, maybe there's like, some opportunity for collaboration. But I do really, you know, because we were talking about this, Scott about how, like, you know, we need to get people who try and do this work around, you know, especially when scripts pass, there's so many different hands, you know, if something actually goes to production, then it's the production company that gets to know it's been it's the network that gives their notes.
And then there's, you know, the sausage that is produced, which is the show and then the trans character, just sounds like a bunch of bullet points from like, a GLAAD PowerPoint about what it means to be trans and you're like, "Wait, is that a character like, what is that?" And then, you know, it's like, you lose it again, the authenticity, because you don't actually have an authentic perspective. So it even like defeated its purpose in the first place. Right. And I think what's also interesting with that, in generals, it raises the question like, it already shows that there's a demand, you know, to me the fact that, you know, everybody's got to transcend who is like, wants to see great TV says that they're, you know, people want to hear our stories.
So like, again, we want to tell authentic stories and like, share those about the voices, and also have a larger eye to the question of equity that's behind all this, right. Like, I think you were starting to get like some of the stats about, you know, trans folks, and just sort of like, what is really at stake? Yeah, it's important to actually invest in trans writers and, like, actually, support us pay us, you know, share our stories, and also support our careers.
ST: Which you know, by the way, like trans artists can do not trans stories. If you're a storyteller, and you have this particular expertise that you can bring authenticity to, right. But also you can tell any others, you know, you can be a part of, we grow up in this culture. So we exist, like, we're, you know, we just have extra value to offer. And that's the piece of it. I think, in all of these discussions that we're having about, you know, diversity and inclusion in Hollywood, it's like, this is extra this enriches. This isn't like extra work, it's extra value, right? We're in like, it's, it's making it better. I always talk about how, you know, I've done almost every on camera, position you can do from like, I've started a movie, and also I've been a clapper in the audience. When you watch Judge Judy, you'll see me in the background from time to time… Right like that. I've, you know, I talked about learning by doing. But like, I got lost in Judge Judy, I forgot what I was gonna say.
I was an extra once, I was an extra for a while, and they brought in a Navy Seal. Like they brought in, they paid someone a lot of money to come in and teach us how to hold a gun correctly. You're, that's how much you're paying to have the background artists. Don't you want your main story to be authentic?
I'll go back to singing the praises of Euphoria, because I think they're doing it so incredibly right. And well there because Hunter Schafer herself, right is someone with, she's an artist, she is a storyteller herself, right. So like, she understands how to tell a story. And, you know, they listen to her, and I sit there and, you know, make sure I do everything from, you know, making sure they're all gender bathrooms, right, to sitting there and going like, yeah, let's like, go further with that because that is the authenticity of a trans girl just living her life. Right, and having a drug addict, best friend, slash, sweetheart, you know, and dealing with college and with high school, you know, in a very complicated world, that's what she's doing. And that's what people love about it, because she isn't an after school special means to be trans. She's a deep person. And finally, trans girls can look on screen and see someone who is a deep person dealing with deep issues. Right, right. You know?
SB: Yeah, you know, and I think about just how, how rich that character is because I think one thing that I've noticed with storytelling, the more specific you get, ironically, the more universal the story is, you know, because there's so many aspects of that character that there's I know, so many cis people like really latch on to as well, right. Like, there's so many aspects of who she is, of having a friend who's an addict of, you know, being the person who has your stuff together or like, being an outsider and an outcast in high school. I mean, there's just like, so many, so many levels to that, and it's, it is so beautiful, and obviously, that shows like gorgeous, but just how, you know, we're able to finally I don't know, have some depth in our transition is also not like, the only thing that defines us. I mean, that's like a whole other issue we didn't even get to have, you know, when you finally do get the story, it's like, oh, no, how do we, again, have depth and nuance and, you know, that is definitely a great example.
ST: But yeah, I mean, I guess we're, this is where we are right now. And I'm just so grateful to FREE THE WORK for you know, first of all, the place where people can go and find people to participate and to you know, to be you know, creatives to come in and who are diverse and on sort of all of the different levels that are important, you know, like FREE THE WORK is providing the resource that, you know creatives in power need to find the people who can populate their collaboration, right? And bring all of their extra amazing expertise to the work to enrich it. Right. And I think where we are right now is in this place where we have to really focus on it and talk about it and explain why. But what it comes down to, I mean, we were just saying this the other day, like, like, what it really comes down to is just sitting across the table, or across that zoom from that creative who has the power and saying, you really just need to hire us.
SB: I know, and, you know, and we're out there. I mean, there's already like trans writers who are out there doing it or, you know, other creatives, actors, actresses. I mean, again, you'd have to not assume and actually do the work of looking which, you know, is a lot easier than you think.
ST: It's so much easier. And, and so many, you know, like FREE THE WORK, GLAAD, right? Like, there are people who are already doing it, this is really happening. And it's great. Again, it's like one of these moments where I look back at where I think about looking back and going, "This is going to be so cool to talk about in 20 years."
ST: I mean, our rich and nuanced, amazing series and movies and whenever, right?
SB: Hey, you know, Scott, I needed that. I appreciate you saying that, honestly. Oh, that makes me very helpful. I appreciate it. I mean, I am optimistic. I do feel like that. Yeah, no, but I and I think thinking back to what you said the 1914, which is a very graphic image. Can I just say?
ST: That's what it feels like. There are 100 bills right now. 100 anti trans bills in the United States right now.
SB: Yeah, there's there's levels there's levels.
ST: We have children.
SB: Yeah, we will. It's a you know, you have to admit, it is interesting that we've become the new- What do they call it? culture war topic? Yeah. No, what, you know what, okay, if I'm gonna like flip that. It says that we are in. I mean, we're clearly important enough to be thought about right now. You know, if I look at the arc of history, it's like, okay, like, we are going to get through this because we have to also, historically, we've always done that. So, um, but yeah, I know, it says volumes, because I do think it's usually in those moments where a society decides who they want to be right. And like, I feel like we're having that conversation right now, in so many ways. And you're right, even think about it in context, but it's true, like, we are in the Battlezone. And we are kind of doing that cultural work. And if anything, now that you framed it that way, I'm like, this is more impetus for people to, you know, put us in this positions of power, because I mean, media, television, film has always been the place of kind of like responding to that, and also leading.
I mean, I always go back to this, but as silly as it sounds, I do remember that time, I think it was back in like, 2007 2008, where, um, I remember Joe Biden, when on the press, and this is whenever I was debating gay marriage. And at the time, the conversation was all about statistics, all about data, data, data. Here's all the data about why, you know, gay people should get married. And like, there was a student, unfortunately, who committed suicide, I remember who was bullied at Rutgers. And I remember this because I was an undergrad at Penn. And, you know, it's just like, so close by, and the conversation shifted. And then it was about look, trans-, or homophobia is killing our kids. Right? And I remember, Joe Biden went on Meet the Press and he said, You know, people don't realize how much Will & Grace has changed the way people think about gay people on TV. And, you know, people kind of like, laughed at Joe Biden, because, you know, Joe Biden, but also, like, Yeah, Will & Grace is an amazing show. First of all, so hilarious. And it gave people an opportunity to just see gay people in their homes right every day.
That intimate connection, which is something that TV gives, I mean, we are not quite at that level, I would say, when it comes to trans representation, we're getting close. You know, I do think Euphoria gives us a lot. I do think something like Legendary, Pose. It does a lot but there's still a lot more work to be done. And, like in so many ways, like I mean, Will & Grace, right before then there is, you know, Ellen's show as well. And I just think about, you know, how that opened the door for a lot of people and there was still a lot of political work to be done. So it just says like, we have a huge opportunity to lead the way as far as, like trans representation is concerned by actually allowing trans folks to tell our own stories and like, shift this conversation so you don't have to get these awful updates about what's happening in the world with anti-trans bills.
ST: Exactly. Well, you know, and Disclosure brings up that, you know, trans visibility creates vulnerability. Right. And it, you know, absolutely being a part of Hollywood's transgender tipping point of 2015. Right. You know, what's happening right now is in direct response, it is the pendulum swinging. Right. But, you know, especially just right now, like I'm thinking, you know, they just convicted Derek Chauvin of George Floyd's murder just now, like, as we were starting this conversation, right, and the point that you made about like, there are these moments where you have an opportunity to, like, decide who you want to be in history. Yeah, I, you know, it's a separate issue. But everything is interrelated. We're all interconnected. Right.
And I think, you know, when we're looking at this travesty of these 100 bills aimed at trans children, like literally trying to make it a felony for you to help a suicidal trans kid, you know what I mean? Like, okay, literally making it so that trans children can't participate in team sports while they're in school…And yeah, that the empathy machine, right. Roger Ebert said, film is an empathy machine, like that the empathy machine of film and television can fix that. I believe it. I've watched it happen in my own life. Yeah, I've been in our community life. And I'm just, I'm really happy to be doing it with you. And, you know, I look forward to continuing to talk about this with you. So thank you so much. They're they're telling us we got to jump off. It's really fun.
SB: It was so great Scott, thank you. Thank you.
ST: So let me let me read this last little. Where is it? 'Badoo.' Tara, I've somehow managed to lose this hold on outro. There we go. Okay. So thank you to FREE THE WORK for having us and be sure to search freethework.com for more filmmakers to work with and follow the FREE THE WORK podcast on all podcast platforms for the next episode of this mini series. And thanks so much for being with us today. Really appreciate it. I'm Scott Turner Schofield.
SB: I'm Sydney Baloue.
ST: And thanks for including us in your listening.
SB: Thank you.