Eric Schaeffer. Photo: Wolfe Video.

Director Eric Schaeffer. Photo Credit: Wolfe Video.

GALO: I might ask you, was it difficult finding the backing for this film? Obviously, once you’re shooting, you have to consider your budget; your schedule… How did that impact on the locale, shooting in the South? Can you tell me a little bit about how that came together?

ES: Well, my whole career has been based on not hearing “no.” Not having “no” debilitate my ability to make films. So I learned very quickly that I could have a very fruitful and very rewarding career, but not actually get a movie made. [Laughter] When I first saw that, years ago, I said that’s not the life that I want — I want to make movies that people actually see. So I’ve constructed a life where I could make a movie by any means, by what I have. It’s kind of like whatever money I can raise, that’s when we’re starting. People will ask, “How much money do you need” and “How much money do you have?” So I’ve constructed a life of making a movie based on what I have, not by what I don’t have. I put the cart before the horse, in a good way. I mean, there’s a base amount I need. But I make sure I have it, whether it’s my own money or raising it from financiers.

GALO: So the word “no” just isn’t in your vocabulary?

ES: No. I hear it a lot, but I set up a workaround for “no,” so that if I hear “no,” it’s not ultimately going to impact my ability to make the film. The “no’s” I hear, while they’re plentiful, I’ve set up a fail/truce backup plan so that no “no” can debilitate me. So whatever money I make, I make. Having said that, I cheated the South in Vermont — because in Vermont I have relationships and places I can shoot for free, and it’s obviously a lot closer than shipping everybody down South from New York. So, things like that. You learn to shoot from what you have and you tailor stories production-wise to what you can pull off. And, luckily, I have each group of people. And one thing about digital shooting, you can do it a lot more radically and more cheaply than shooting on film.

GALO: There was a nice, easygoing Southern feel to the film, in terms of the slang, the accents. The cast didn’t seem to have any trouble with that.

ES: No, they were all driven. We all laughed because when we were trying to pin down a particular sound — and I know there’s many parts of the South — we just decided people move around in the South, and it doesn’t mean it has to be a particular Kentucky accent sound. It was kind of a smorgasbord of accents going on, which I found all kind of lyrical and nice to listen to — as long as there was a southern accent coming out of their mouths…

GALO: You were happy. Regarding resistance, did you encounter any kind of emotional resistance with casting or crew? You made a pretty brave choice deciding to include full nudity as an integral part of the story. Did you find everybody basically compassionate about the story you wanted to tell?

ES: Oh yes, a good question. The whole cast and crew — obviously, the cast most importantly, in terms of what they felt comfortable acting — was completely on board. For instance, with the nudity, they understood that was a very important and endemic part of the story that needed to be told. But, you know, every personality is different. With actors, they have their strengths and weaknesses, and the things they’re good at instantly and the things they have to work harder at emotionally to get to in a character. So every actor/character in a rehearsal process period has things…

GALO: They can bring to it.

ES: That they’re instantly suited to. For instance, Michelle is instantly good at comedy. And for her, the challenge was accessing some of the more uncomfortable emotional beats in the character. She was able to do it, ultimately, but that was more of a challenge and required more rehearsal, whereas the comedy came very naturally to her.

GALO: And she was fortunate that you took the time to get a more resonating and emotional performance out of her before you started shooting. Francesca, the love interest of Ricky’s — she has a love interest, a fiancé who is a marine stationed in Afghanistan. As the antagonist, he provides the essential conflict in your story with his refusal to accept a transgender person in his life or Francesca’s. Had you or your associates had any former experience with that kind of non-acceptance?

ES: I have not, [at least] as it relates to the transgender community. I have, in very personal terms, [experienced] bullying, bigotry, and a lack of acceptance toward myself growing up — and even in my adult life. And many of my friends, whether it was for racial or socioeconomic reasons, certainly some in the LGBT community, [have experienced non-acceptance]. But none [of these reasons] in my personal experience have been in the transgender community. So again, this film is about everybody, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, sex orientation or gender. [It] deals with identifying with the pervasive feeling that we all, as human beings, have to a greater or lesser degree at some point in our lives — the experience of not being accepted for who we are, unconditionally and without judgment.

GALO: Right. There’s a beautiful moment in the script where Ricky, as the transgender character in the script, is trying to make her little brother comfortable with who he is. He’s concerned that he wants to be normal and she reassures him that he’s a very normal young boy. I think it had something to do with the fact that he wasn’t as interested in sports or football…

ES: With the toys he wanted to play with. Because he had witnessed his sister in a transgender life, he wanted to make sure that the toys he wanted to play with made him normal. I’m glad you liked that scene. It was a very important scene to me in that she wanted to reassure him that whatever toys he wanted to play with…

GALO: That it was OK. I thought that was a beautiful little touch in the film. Do you feel you’ll continue to develop scripts that are aimed at the LGBT community or is it just whatever is in the air at the time?

ES: Really, it’s that this story was aimed at everybody. It was aimed at people in the LGBT community and straight people — just everybody. This wasn’t a film I set out to make that was for any particular group of people — obviously, as it’s one of the few films that’s about a transgender woman, it’s the sort of film that hopefully will appeal to the LGBT community. Having said that, hopefully all audiences — including straight audiences — can embrace it, and I guarantee, will identity with the film. So in thinking about what my new film will be, I really enjoyed the process of this film, and it’s really made my heart swell with the feedback and the emotional response I’ve gotten — and that why I make films.

GALO: Well, that’s great to hear.

ES: So I want to try and make films that get that response. And this one seemed to have succeeded a bit. So it makes me want to make another film that can do that.

GALO: For this subject to have received a broader audience, it was a difficult undertaking but one that was definitely worth it. Since you’ve been making films for some time, have you seen changes overall in the film community, about what they will accept in scripts? Do you think the whole climate is getting healthier?

ES: I’m in the independent film world and not really the Hollywood film world, so I can tell you that the motivating factor hasn’t changed one iota for what scripts will be accepted and what scripts are interesting to the people who give money to make movies. And that’s the question of: will the movie be financially profitable? That’s really the only dictate they go by. And toward that end, if people come and support Boy Meets Girl and it does well financially, then people that are in the business of making movies will look at that and say, “yes, I want to be more open to scripts about transgenders.” But if it doesn’t [do well financially], they won’t. It’s simply that cut and dry. It’s a bottom-line business.

GALO: And the bottom-line is the dollar.  

ES: Right.

GALO: This has been very interesting to me, Eric. I appreciate that you could take the time to speak with GALO, and I thank you and wish you the best success.

ES: Thank you. And I really appreciate your taking the time and your interest.

Boy Meets Girl – Trailer from Wolfe Video on Vimeo.

“Boy Meets Girl,” which runs at 1 hour and 39 minutes, is currently available on Vimeo VOD for rental (48-hour rental period for $3.99) or purchase ($14.99). To learn more about the film itself, you can go to the official Web site by clicking here.