Interviewed by @pridematters1
Hello Max, Thanks for doing this interview with me. Firstly tell me about yourself and how you personally identity.
Hi Darren. It’s my pleasure! Thank YOU for setting this interview up. I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. My mom is a marriage and family therapist and my dad is an entrepreneur/philanthropist. I moved to California when I was 18 to attend film school at Chapman University. I graduated in 2014 and then started my production company – and have producing independent film projects ever since. I identify as gay and am engaged to Mark, my amazing fiancé. We’re getting married June 2018.
Tell me how you got into the film industry.
I’ve always loved movies and storytelling. I started as an actor, both on stage and on camera. While studying film production in college, I realized my interest, passion, and skill set for producing. I loved the organization and the responsibility that went along with facilitating the production of a film shoot – big or small. After graduating college in 2014, I started Landwirth Legacy Productions, and have since produced two feature films, a TV pilot, several award-winning short films, and over a dozen PSAs and commercials for clients such as Toyota, LeapFrog, and American Greetings.
I understand you are making a film about a transgender, non-binary character. Why and how did you start making such a film?
Yes, we are! My team and I have been working on this film for almost 3 years now. We started by wanting to create a story that would wake people up to the truth that we are all much more connected and similar than we could have imagined. We knew that we wanted our protagonist to represent the clueless, average, white young male in our society and Varta, our incredible screenwriter, introduced the idea of featuring a gender fluid character as our supporting lead. With the growing conversation of transgender rights and the gender revolution in the news and in pop culture, we felt it was the perfect time to further the conversation by introducing a transgender non binary character to a mass audience. And, of course, we were very attracted to the fact that a transgender non binary character has never been authentically represented in a feature film before!
Do you think that non binary characters and performers are under represented on media?
100%. Even just with casting for our film, we found that, on so many of the casting platforms in LA, we could only select “male” or “female” actors. There are only a couple platforms that even include “transgender” as a means of searching for actors. So that immediately alienates transgender actors and any other actor who don’t perfectly identify within the gender binary. In film/TV, I have seen an increase in the number of authentic transgender characters, but many are still portrayed negatively, and very few, if any, are leading roles. That number is even smaller for non-binary characters and performers. However, trailblazers like Asia Kate Dillon, Tom Phelan, Amandla Stenberg, and Ruby Rose, are now giving a face to transgender non binary identities.
Do you feel that more trans film producers are needed as well as performers?
Of course! I feel that in order to capture more and more authentic trans stories, the entertainment industry needs more trans filmmakers and performers who want their voices to be heard and their stories to be told.
How can this be promoted?
We’ve talked about this a lot! We’re hoping that as more and more trans-inclusive films are made that deliver authentic representation, it will encourage and inspire more trans story tellers to share their stories. Some of the stories that have been shared with us, by people in the trans community, are inspiring, heart-breaking, and powerful. They all deserve to be told.
What difficulties did you face when writing the film as a Gay Cisgender male and how was the research?
There were a couple. One of the biggest difficulties we faced during the writing process for “L” was making sure that we successfully captured the voice of someone who identifies as being gender fluid. And we knew that, despite all the research, people we interviewed, and Youtube videos that we watched, we couldn’t create this character and tell this story by ourselves. I can’t speak for the rest of our team, but I am a gay, cis-gendered male, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to fully understand the transgender experience – which is why we built a team of story consultants who are transgender- both binary and non-binary. Ann Thomas (founder of Transgender Talent), Addison Rose Vincent (trans activist/educator) and Vin Tanner (non-binary artist) have all given us invaluable advice, feedback, and suggestions to ensure that our story and our character is as representative as they possibly can be.
Have you had any criticism or feel you have made errors and how have you dealt with it?
As I said in the previous answer, I’m a gay cis-gender male working to produce a feature film with a transgender non binary, gender fluid, character. As a result, we have received plenty of praise and criticism for this film. Because this kind of story has never been told and this type of character has never really been seen on screen before, many people have opinions on how they think this character should be portrayed and this story should be told. We understand that gender and identity is very personal to people – and we want to do our best to respect those experiences. We also know that this being told from a cis-gender perspective, so telling an authentic trans-inclusive story within a cis-gender context can present many challenges. This is also why we welcome feedback! As new information is presented to us, we are continuously adapting and changing our story in the effort to remain as inclusive and representative as possible. We need to tell this story together!
I understand that you have involved some high profile trans personalities, is this correct?
We have made several friends and allies with some amazing personalities in the trans community. Aydian Dowling (founder of Point5cc and Point of Pride), Dara Hoffman-Fox (Conversations with a Gender Therapist), and Ann Thomas (founder of Transgender Talent) are all endorsing this film. We have also received praise and support from Jacob Tobia, Jeffrey Marsh, Chandler Wilson, and Alok Vaid-Menon – among other non-binary influencers and pioneers.
What can you tell us about the storyline?
I can tell you that ‘L’ is a fun and beautiful story about friendship and learning about being a better ally. It’s about Will, an anti-social white guy in San Francisco, who works as a marketing strategist for various tech companies. Will’s limited world view and cluelessness about everyone and everything around him, forces his long-time girlfriend to leave him. In order to afford his rent, Will begins conducting interviews for a potential temporary roommate. That’s when he meets Lenny. Will quickly learns that Lenny is a gender fluid person who sometimes also goes by the name, Lena. Will considers himself to be a “good ally” so he decides to make an effort to understand and befriend “L”. Together, they embark on a series of wild and frequently embarrassing adventures that lead them to recognize all of the similarities that they share. Things get complicated, and Will learns the hard way just how difficult life can be for a non-binary trans person. But in the end, Will becomes a reliable source of support for L, and does what he can to help them most in their time of need.
Tell me about the production and when the film will be ready.
We have our script, we have our team, and we have our exhibition plan; now we need the funding. Because this is an indie film, we’re able to keep our budget small and maintain creative control over this story. However, that also comes at a cost. It means that we don’t have a big studio with an infinite money supply backing us. We recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise some of our production costs and are talking with some potential investors about securing the rest of the financing. The goal is to seek and secure our full financing for this project by December 2017, start pre-production in January 2018, and then start shooting our movie in March 2018. We are slated to shoot in both Los Angeles and on location in San Francisco. The film is slated to be released and available for viewing in October 2018.
What have you personally learnt from making such a film?
I have learned just how engrained gender stereotypes are within our society, as well as how I can be a more educated and supportive ally to the transgender community. I’ve learned to be more mindful of the language that I use when talking with or about non binary individuals, and I’ve learned just how timely and important this film really is. It seems like every day there are new articles coming out, new celebrities speaking up, new legislation being passed, and new story lines in TV/Film about gender and about the gender revolution. I’ve learned that, while it may be an uphill battle to get this film made, it’s important that we do make it and that it gives a face and a voice to the transgender non binary community.
Do you feel that the LGBT community should be more involved with each other more and if so how?
As cliché as it sounds, we are stronger together. Even just with this film, it’s apparent, that the more feedback, suggestions, and support we receive from the LGBTQ community, the stronger this film becomes. We need to continue the conversation, continue to educate and uplift each other, and all learn how we can continue to be better and stronger allies for each other.
You can follow Max on Twitter @MaxLandwirth
Take a look at the crowdfunding project