Actress-Filmmaker M.C. Brennan has exciting news. After her transgender teen comedy, Dramatis Personae, won an Outfest Screenwriting Lab fellowship and was given a staged readingâ€”with Exes and Ohâ€™s auteur Lee Friedlander directing Nip/Tuckâ€™s Willam Belli in the lead roleâ€”things are really heating up.
â€śThe Outfest experience led to a lot of interest from producers and now Iâ€™m in the process of preparing to direct the script as my first feature! There are some really exciting folks whoâ€™ve expressed an interest in being a part of it, and hopefully over the next couple of monthsâ€¦those pieces will fall into place.â€ť
The Arizona native, whoâ€™s lived in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles, began making short films while still in high school, while she was acting in local theatrical productions, commercials and 1985â€™s gender bending flick Just One of The Guys. The multi-talented trans woman has covered sports for Phoenixâ€™s LGBT Echo magazine, designed posters for Dr. Demento, written over 150 songs and recorded five full-length albums.
Lately, Brennan has been experiencing a cinematic career revival. Her first full-length screenplay, The Peopleâ€™s Choice, won several awards, she appears in 2007â€™s lesbian Itty Bitty Titty Committee and Jana Marcusâ€™s acclaimed photographic celebration of trans lives, Transfigurations (currently showing at Seattleâ€™s Gender Odyssey Conference).
Brennen says sheâ€™s particularly thrilled with the reception her latest screenplay, Dramatis Personae, received at Outfest. â€śItâ€™s very exciting and very flattering. [The Outfest Screenwriting Lab] was, by far, the most knowledgeable, most supportive environment Iâ€™ve ever experienced.â€ť
Based loosely on Brennanâ€™s own experiences, Dramatis Personaeâ€”which Brennan describes as â€śPretty In Pink meets Hedwig and the Angry Inchâ€ťâ€”revolves around a transgender high schooler from the wrong side of the tracks, and her riches-to-rags, new kid in town love interest.Â Â Â Â
Disappointed with â€śwhat passes for teen comedies today,â€ť Brennan reminisces, â€śWe had...the great John Hughes movies like Sixteen Candlesâ€¦[that] spoke to the real truth of growing up and finding yourselfâ€¦[and] had at least some queer subtext.Â I wanted to write a very funny, borderline filthy teen comedy that put the queer characters front and center.â€ť
The screenwriterâ€”who once wrote a four-book series spoofing secret agent archetypes, then co-founded the satirical Loon News and contributed to Comic Newsâ€”finds inspiration in her own life.Â Â â€śFrom an early age I recognized the cosmic absurdity of my situation, and I think the ability to laugh at myself and at lifeâ€™s little ironies is one of the reasons Iâ€™m still on this nutty planet.â€ť
As a great venue for confronting controversial issues, Brennan contends itâ€™s critical to have more trans comedies.Â â€śYou can get away with saying serious, important things in a comedy that would never fly in a dramaâ€¦Humor can be a kind of ambassador for people, giving them a way in to understanding things and identifying with charactersâ€¦they would never have understood otherwise.â€ť
Identifying as â€śjust an average middle-aged woman trying to get by,â€ť Brennan says she recognizes, â€śI got here in a different way than a lot of the women I know. [And] I donâ€™t forget where Iâ€™ve come from.â€ť Â
When she was younger, the bisexual Brennan says her relationships with women made things more complicated.Â Â â€śItâ€™s enough of a challenge to get people to understand the concept of being transgenderâ€¦when you try to explain same-sex attraction, itâ€™s really confusingâ€¦youâ€™re back to square one, trying to guide people through the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation.â€ť
â€śI needed to own it or it would own me,â€ť say Brennan about being openly trans.Â â€śItâ€™s more comfortable for me to get it out there.Â If the script is good, thatâ€™s really all that matters. The beauty of words on a pageâ€¦is that itâ€™s beyond gender and sexuality. Itâ€™s the ideas that count.â€ť
Brennan believes the trans experience provides a unique perspective. â€śTrans artists, trans people, are changing everything. While the specifics of our journeys belong to usâ€¦our experience isnâ€™t so different from the dilemma everybody faces at one time or anotherâ€”to be true to themselves. The yearning for authenticity and meaning in a homogenized world is universal.â€ť
Trans writer, Jacob Anderson-Minshall, co-authored Blind Curves, the first in the Blind Eye Mystery series, available now. ContactÂ or visit Anderson-minshall.com for more information.