from Zen Pace
FRAUD came to me at a time when my identity as a queer person was evolving. I was questioning where I fit in the world, which is ironic, since that is the very point where we begin with Shira, the protagonist of the film.
It was in a recovery meeting that I met Dana, the writer and lead of FRAUD. We were untangling the knots of our pasts; slowly learning that we have a choice to be the narrator of our own story. So when Dana asked me to direct FRAUD, a story about a trans woman who has put on so many masks she lost sight of herself, it was a no brainer.
In the queer community, many of us developed the skill of wearing multiple masks at once. For some, these masks broke off and underneath we found our own inner child. But for others, the infectious skill of adapting, hiding, and never being one thing, became a permissible form of trade. We trade for money, sex, nice things, toxic friends, all to avoid the deepest parts of ourselves.
This is where we find Shira. But at our core, at Shira’s core, we just wanna be seen. I know that feeling, because for much of my life I was also in hiding. Behind the booze and drugs was a kid who wanted you to acknowledge them. It would all be so trite if it wasn’t so real.
That’s what I’m drawn to; fractured characters who are trying to hold up the broken glass and make something of themselves despite it all. There is beauty in facing the dark contradictions in ourselves and still moving forward. I wanted to make something that embraces the contradictions that come with this story; making it energetic yet finding the soft and tender moments that pull at our heart strings. I wanted to explore and celebrate the nature of finding hope, even when morality is grey and so much is unknown.
To further expand on the contradictions of the film, we found ways to play with visuals; using deep blues to isolate our character, or harsh cuts to take us from a moment of stardom to standing in front of the very thing you want to escape. While this film has slick pacing at times and expansive visuals, it’s about love, change, and how powerful it can be to step into an adventure despite the risk.
It is a specific story; dark, and often brutal. But I wanted to bring my midwestern big-heartedness to it for a contemporary audience that like Shira, wants to be seen.
Because if you keep your heart open long enough, there just might be people who can come in and change your life.
from Dana Aliya Levinson
As a sober, trans, Jewish artist, I am constantly seeking out new and innovative ways to explore how we build our identities and how multiple identities can intersect in one lived experience. FRAUD provides exactly this opportunity.
The script was inspired by an actual day I had during my days of active drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to the main character's trans ness, many of the other issues in Shira's life are pulled from my own autobiography; financial distress, familial codependence, substance abuse, and historical trauma.
These issues are rampant within the trans community and yet they haven't been significantly addressed in entertainment. With debates about the validity of trans people's existence, the time is ripe to expand people's notions of who we are. The truth is, we have messy and complicated lives that stretch well beyond our trans identities.
Today, trans stories are at a premium, but the effort put not developing trans artists is not commensurate with the interest in our stories. Too often, our narratives are being written through an outsider's gaze. Because of this, often the stories told about us are centered on transitioning or coming out. Or if not, we exist to educate the cis lead. Sometimes we purely exist as a symbol of virtue or vice. Shows like Pose have begun to challenge this norm of didactic trans storytelling, but we still have a long way to go.
Only a trans writer writing from experience has the power to capably expand the cisgender world's notions of who we are and how we can be represented.
To me, true parity is when we can have a trans lead who is grey, messy, morally complicated, and unafraid of the dark. It's an opportunity that cis, straight, white, male characters are afforded without question. It's time to let us trans girls show you how messy we can be too.
Life rarely presents fully finished photographs. An image evolves, often from a single strand of visual interest - a distant horizon, a moment of light, a held expression.
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