Trans Media Arts Special — Director Deborah Richards

| Oct 19, 2015
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Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and long-time Las Vegas resident, Deborah Richards, is preparing to direct her latest film whose goal is to make an organic, poignant tale about success and ambition. Send Hollywood My Love, set for a 2016 release, is a comedy that will poke fun at the Hollywood film industry. While set in Palm Springs, the production is scheduled to shoot in Las Vegas in November 2015.

Richards, a transgender writer-director, recently came out at the Emmys where she won four student production Awards for her short, Boy Meets Girl. Deborah took some time to answer some questions for us here on the TG Forum Media Arts column.

TGF: Hi Deborah! How is the world treating you today?

Great but I’m a little groggy as I just had breast augmentation two days ago.

TGF: An Emmy winner eh? You know Cait Jenner keeps her gold medal in the bottom drawer of her makeup vanity. Where do you keep all of that hardware?

Deborah Richards: I was nominated for four and really wanted to win all four so that I could have two sets of bookends for the books and shelves in my kitchen. But after getting them I decided to keep them on my desk next to where I write.

Ms. Richards at the Emmy Awards.

Ms. Richards at the Emmy Awards.

TGF: So you actually came out as transgender at the Emmys. Why such a huge and nerve-wracking stage to come out and what led to the decision to come out?

DR: After being in film school for a couple of years I was struggling with the decision of either following a career path in film (which I am extremely passionate about) or to live as my authentic self. I really thought I had to choose between the two.

Ultimately it was a road trip to L.A. with my writing partner who convinced me that in this day and age you can have both and that the least judgmental industry in the world is Hollywood. This was all happening around the same time that Caitlyn Jenner came out. I  just felt like the world was a different place the very next day which honestly gave me a lot of courage.

So once I got my head around the idea that I can have a career while being myself there was nothing left to hold me back and with four nominations in my pocket, I felt like there was no better time to be a positive role model and show the world that anyone can shine than at the Emmys.

But yes, it was very VERY nerve-wracking… When you’re self conscious about how you walk getting up on stage in front of a couple thousand people is scary.

TGF: How long have you known you were transgender and how exactly do you identify, being that transgender is a broad, umbrella term?

DR: I think many people share my sentiment that labels are strange especially as we fluctuate and grow as people. When I was five I knew I wanted to be a woman when I grew up. However, through all kinds of social nonsense, I repressed everything and rebelled as hard as I could. This lead to a lifetime of womanizing, reckless behavior, alcohol, drugs, a lack of emotional intimacy and a deep underlying anger within my soul that I could never understand.

About 4/5 years ago (after being married twice), I started to give myself mental permission to explore my feminine side. It had been repressed within me for so long that it all just came flooding out. I have now been on HRT for 8 months and living as a full time woman for five months. I consider (and label) myself as female.

TGF: Do you feel that being creative and filmmaking has been an escape for you? I assume you have been doing creative things for a long time, unless this is a new development.

DR: I have always been extremely creative. Gimme dirt, and I’ll make art. It’s not so much that filmmaking is an escape, but more of the perfect job for me. As a director you need to know a lot about a lot. Filmmaking for me is a culmination of all of my life skills. Art, communication, technology, psychology, storytelling, leadership, empathy, imagination; these are all skills you need as a filmmaker. But most of all to be a truly great filmmaker you must have loved, lived and lost.

richardsTGF: I thought I caught a New Yorkish accent in one of your videos, where did you grow up?

DR: LOL, far from New York. I’m half English, half Spanish, I grew on a small island in the middle East called Bahrain. I then spent my teenage years in England with a brief stint in Paris, then Florida and now Vegas for the last 13 years. My accent is all over the place.

TGF: Tell me about Zarks.

DR: Haha! Zarks – Zombie Sharks is a fictional movie within a movie. My latest project is called Send Hollywood My Love and it’s about Jack Van Gough, a failed artist whose first ever screenplay (ZARKS) catches the world by surprise and becomes the most successful movie of all time. Now two years on and Tinsel Town wants to know if Jack can deliver the good a second time. It’s a satire that pokes fun at the trappings and pressures of success in Hollywood.

TGF: With Halloween this month, are you a fan? Do you get into the spirit?

DR: I started to officially transition (HRT) 8 months ago-ish. So I feel like a teenage girl going through everything for the first time. Everything feels new. My first road trip, my first hair dryer, my first pair of Uggs, the list goes on. I’ve always loved Halloween and this year I am beyond excited as I feel like it’s my first!! I still don’t know what I’m going to wear but I know I’m going to dress like a slut!

LOL. I’m going to spend the Friday night in New Orleans and then fly back to Vegas for the fetish and fantasy ball on the Saturday night so yes, this year I’m going big. PLUS, I just had breast augmentation last week so I cant wait to show the girls off for Halloween 🙂

TGF: What are you favorite genres of film and what draws you to them?

DR: I truly love all genres. A good movie is a good movie. As a filmmaker I can watch a movie in two modes. I can either watch it from a technical stance where I’m completely just observing the process of how they put it together or I can let the movie just wash over me and I get lost in the experience as a consumer. But in order for me to to just enjoy a movie that way, it has to be so good that I just get sucked in.

TGF: What are your favorite films?

DR: Star Wars, There Will Be Blood, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Jungle Book (Disney), Hard Eight, Blood Simple.

TGF: Your new project, Send Hollywood My Love they are calling a “passion project.” What makes it so passionate?

DR: What makes this a passion project is the fact that I wrote all of the parts specifically for the actors playing them. After winning 4 Emmys everybody has been up my butt asking when am I going to work with them. I thought if I gather an ensemble cast of all my favorite actors, write parts specifically for them and put them all in one project then I can knock it all out in one go and everyone will stop bugging me. (Smile.)

TGF: So that success that made this movie possible?

DH: Winning four Emmys has totally greased the wheels. It seems like my phone hasn’t stopped ringing and all kinds of people have magically come out of the wood work wanting to work with me. I now have teams of people in my corner which is a stark contrast to a year ago.

TGF: I see that the movie is being crowdfunded. Can you really shoot a movie for $30,000 these days?

DR: All that matters at the end of the day in filmmaking is what’s in the frame. How you get the result is irrelevant to an audience. And there are two ways of getting results.

1. The money hose. Got a problem, fix it with money.
2. Be creative.

I am an expert at being creative. I don’t see financial limitations as an obstacle but as an opportunity to be ingenious.

TGF: I have done a little crowdfunding with very limited result. What happens if you don’t reach $30,000 in 30 days? Is the movie in jeopardy? I am worried.

DR: If we do not raise the money the film will be shelved. So please please, please donate if you are able, even $10 goes a long way.

TGF: I read that each cast member has been given a redacted script with only some of the story. What is the purpose of that?

DR: After making a special effects driven sci-fi, I wanted to make a very organic and human movie. All of my movies have a theme of duality (it’s a common thread throughout my work for obvious reasons) and Send Hollywood My Love is no different. The duality explored within this movie is how we as people all have hidden agendas. I wanted every character in this film to have a deep rooted hidden agenda that is counter to their ‘on-the-surface’ behavior. I thought the best way to explore this is if none of the actors truly knew the other characters real motivation. So by giving each of the actors a redacted screenplay and encouraging an improvisational style of shooting with multiple cameras running I figured they would each know their story and not the whole story. This should lead to a more genuine on-screen reaction to the events that unfold.

TGF: I know you are a long time Las Vegas resident. Why shoot the movie there? Do you feel at home there or was it a cost issue?

DR: The movie is actually set in Palm Springs, which looks very similar to Las Vegas, so there really was no need to travel for this project.

TGF: As a transgender filmmaker, what do you hope to bring to audiences? Do you feel you have a unique perspective?

DR: I feel I have a unique voice because of my life experiences. Being transgender is just another ingredient in the dish that makes me, Me.

TGF: Have you thought about making films about the plight of transgender people? We sorely need a Philadelphia type movie and documentaries to really change minds for our community.

DR: Kind of… I like to implant important messages in my stories in a more subversive and less obvious way. In the same way Orwell used Animal Farm to address political issues.

TGF: As someone who is a part of Hollywood, what do you think of Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out and her reality show?

DR: I haven’t seen her show. I watch up to three movies a day so I hardly watch TV. Caitlyn Jenner coming out changed the world. I felt like the very next day the world was a different place. I sincerely hope one day I will have the opportunity to thank her personally for giving me the courage to come out.

TGF: What are you hopes and dreams for your life?

DR: I hope I can continue to make movies that entertain people and that one day Christian Louboutin will make a size 12.

TGF: Who are your heroes?

DR: Lana Wachowski, Caitlin Jenner & GiGi Gorgeous.

TGF: How have family and friends reacted to your coming out? Was anyone shocked?

DR: My friends, film family and school have all been nothing but supportive. I honestly was expecting more adverse reactions but much to my surprise everyone has been super cool. I think I’ve had such a crazy life that by this point everyone is used to me being left field.

TGF: Okay, now it’s time to be silly. I like to ask my interviewees some stupid questions. I hope you are game.

DR: Always!

TGF: Would Zarks kill Sharknado?

DR: Without a doubt.

TGF: What is the most stupid thing you have done?

DR: I could probably write a book on the subject. I have done many stupid things. It is a miracle I am alive.

TGF: What did you have for breakfast?

DR: I eat the same thing every morning, a banana, strawberry smoothie with flax seeds.

TGF: Who is more powerful, Lucas or Speilberg?

DR: Never heard of them. (Winks.)

TGF: What’s cooler, Film Noir or Spaghetti Westerns?

DR: I love, love, love film noir. But I’m also developing a psychedelic western so thats a tough one.

TGF: Fav skirt length: Church Lady, Schoolgirl or lady of the night?

DR: Lady of the night, my legs are my best feature.

TGF: What would you not want to be caught dead in?

DR: The morgue.

TGF: Bradley Cooper or Chris Hemsworth?

DR: I’ll take Thor’s hammer please.

TGF: Finally, who is more bombastic, Michael Bay (Transformers, Pearl Harbor, Armageddon) or Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012)?

bom•bas•tic – adjective – high-sounding but with little meaning; inflated.

DR: Hmmmm…. I’m thinking it’s a tie.

TGF: Thank you Deborah for taking time to talk to us here at TGForum. We hope Send Hollywood My Love is a success and hope to see more of you in the future. Where can people send donations to fund the film?

DR:To learn more about the movie please go to our Send Hollywood My Love website. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat 🙂

God speed,
Deborah Richards

There you have it folks! Straight from the director! That’s all that can fit this week. Speaking of films, remember to keep an eye out for that new film The Danish Girl about the first trans woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery. So let’s all count our blessings for being alive as we dream of Thor’s hammer. Long Live Asgard!


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Category: Transgender Fun & Entertainment

amandaf111

About the Author ()

I am a transwoman originally from Pittsburgh, PA. I have been living full time for 5 years. I work in retail but am an artist/Graphic Designer and aspiring writer. I tend to address the controversial in my writing. I would love to change the world one article at a time. I moved to The San Francisco Bay Area to start over, again. But recently moved back to the East Coast. The adventure continues...

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