Current Issue #488

Building trans representation on screen with Sam Matthews

Building trans representation on screen with Sam Matthews

Speaking at the Screen Makers Conference this month, Adelaide filmmaker Sam Matthews is playing her part to improve on-screen representation of the transgender and gender diverse community.

Despite increasing discussion surrounding the transgender community, a lack of positive representation in film and media persists. Filmmaker Sam Matthews aims to challenge the pre-conceptions some hold, as she did in her six-part series Unboxed, which told in-depth stories of transgender artists.

“I just kind of felt that there were so many untold stories within that community, stories that I haven’t heard and I believe that lots of other people haven’t heard,” Matthews says. “I feel privileged to be in a position that I can use my trade and my networks in filmmaking to help bring those stories to a general audience.”

Having transitioned five years ago, Matthews believes we’ve got a long way to go in terms of education and widespread acceptance.

“A big thing for me that I’m passionate about is trying to show people that it’s actually not about the physical. There’s so much focus, even in media, on people’s physical transformation and, for me, the message should be much more about identity and self-expression and seeing people for who they are and accepting people for the diversity of the human experience.”

Matthews says her gender transition was positively received by her workplace in the film industry and now aims to use her position to help others.

“The hardest thing for me was actually coming out to my employer,” Matthews says. “But I think the advantage of working in a creative industry is that you have probably some fairly eccentric and creative people in terms of artistic expression in the film industry anyway as opposed to some other industries.

“I’m really privileged now to get by in my job and in my life without too much hassle but it’s harder for people who come out and transitioned much older than me and there are people who don’t even have access to work in the first place and in a much tougher position than me.”

Produced for ABC iview and funded by the ABC Arts Art Bites initiative, Matthews’ six-part series Unboxed dives into the lives of transgender artists. But, considering the diversity of stories on offer, it only scratches the surface of the wider community.

“Just among our circles we managed to get a hundred applicants [for this series], all transgender artists of different ages, gender identities, artistic disciplines and localities, and we had to narrow that down to six for our series,” Matthews says.

Matthews also directed a short film made for the South Australian Trans Community, titled We Are Visible 2017, which sought to challenge taboos around discussion of transgender people, and demonstrate the sometimes difficult journey to finding acceptance from the wider community.

Returning home to Adelaide in July, Matthews will be speaking on a panel at this year’s Screen Makers Conference about how she managed to bring Unboxed to market.

Unboxed was really seeded from a pitch I made at the Screen Makers Conference a few years ago and I’ve managed to, with the help of a wonderful team of producers and crew, take that all the way to market and have it screening on ABC iview,” she says.

“The Screen Makers conference was really the beginning of that journey for me. It’s a fabulous networking opportunity for film makers, even emerging film makers, with key industry players to get a sense of what kind of film projects that broadcasters or distributors might be interested in.”

Unboxed is available to stream on ABC iview

2018 Screen Makers Conference
Mercury Cinema
Friday, July 27 and Saturday, July 28

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