'Queerdo': A Behind the Scenes Look at the Film We Should Be Supporting
Take a look inside Bianka Alexandria Bell’s upcoming film Queerdo. The independent film follows the life of Dee, a non-binary runaway teen who escapes a wealthy yet abusive family to start fresh in San Francisco. Dee has to grow up quickly as they navigate new relationships and face unforeseen life lessons. We interviewed Bianka for an in-depth look on the process of making Queerdo., the importance of the film, and how we can help it get seen.
How did you come up with the concept behind QUEERDO.?
‘QUEERDO.’ adapted because upon arriving to San Francisco, I was struck by the homeless situation and how apparent it was. Coming from a place like New York City, you’d think you would be used to seeing such a reality. But because San Francisco is so small, the issues are presented to you right in front of your face. Yet, people chose to ignore it every day. The tech industry is expanding and displacing in a city that used to be a place of refuge for LGBTQ+ individuals. Almost HALF of homeless youth in San Francisco are LGBTQ+. That fact is not discussed nearly enough. LGBTQ+ people don’t currently make up a large enough portion of the country’s general population for that to be an acceptable figure. So, why aren’t we seeing these people’s realities represented when we talk about San Francisco in mainstream discourse or watch shows depicting it as this liberal hub of flamboyance and acceptance? It’s a falsified reality. And because of this lack of representation was so evident to me, the story behind ‘QUEERDO.’ sort of just found me.
Did you draw any parallels from your real life to create this film?
Absolutely. Most of my work is inspired by my real-life experiences; both what I’ve personally endured and things I’ve observed. The most prevalent themes of the film— isolation, identity confusion, finding one’s “chosen” family and the notion of “home”, whatever that may mean— are concepts I’ve spent years grappling with in my own life. Though I may or may not share the same background to my protagonist, their inner headspace as they navigate themselves through a complex world definitely parallel the ways in which I’ve approached my world in the past, and even presently, sometimes.
What has been the most challenging part of bringing QUEERDO. to Life?
The most difficult part of this process remains centered around one of the elemental themes of the story: Money.
As a small-scale production, with a primarily no-name cast and crew of mostly queer people of color, the fundraising process has been time-consuming and stressful. It is a job in itself. We wrapped production on December 11, 2018, and since, I’ve spent my days sending emails to individuals, publications and media outlets to promote/support the film. At $1,911, we’re still fundraising to finish paying off our cast/crew, and after we hit the $3,500, I can finally begin to coordinate meetings with potential editors, sound designers and colorists to get the film finished and completed to its full potential.
The main character “Dee” is a nonbinary teen who runs away from an abusive home. Your previous short film In Plain Sight addresses homelessness in San Francisco. There seems to be a theme surrounding homelessness/hardship. Why is that narrative important for you to share?
It’s an underrepresented narrative. Most of my social circles in the city consist of low-income queer people of color; they are my peers, my friends, my family. They work incredibly hard and are incredibly talented, and yet, they get almost no visibility or voice in this world— that’s absolute bullshit to me. It’s time for a change. And if that movement doesn’t exist yet, I want to start it. If others are on board, I want to develop this movement alongside them.
You’ve mentioned the importance of “chosen family” especially among queer adolescent youth. What do you think QUEERDO. will show audiences who may be struggling with family at home?
Once we as individuals reach the point in our lives where we begin to recognize the hypocrisy of so many of these “traditionalists” and actively live out our most organic selves, we are chastised. We are labeled as “rebels”, “dangerous”, “loud”, “disruptive” and unholy. We are tormented, and even killed. When you become “othered” like that in this world, it becomes imperative to your mental and physical well-being to find communities in which you are safe to speak and act as you were born to. To exist freely. To actually have your freedom. As a little queer kid of color, I had no inkling that I would EVER be able to exist so freely in this world.
As a media-maker, I have the ability to create a different reality for kids like me, growing up in a place that they feel unwanted, undesired, unheard. I want them to see my work and think “It doesn’t always have to be like this. I’m not going to have to feel this way forever. In fact, maybe tomorrow’s the day I meet someone who gets it. Who gets me.” And maybe, hopefully, that sadness will dissipate, if even just a little bit. Just enough to get them through the rough part. Because I truly believe that there is a better reality out there for each of us. There is a better, more embracing community. And the more aware we become of this potential, the less we’ll have to hear stories of young people hurting and killing themselves because they never saw a brighter future. Creating that recognition is my ultimate passion in this life; my purpose, I believe.
You casted Aarianna Johnson ‘A.J.’ as the main character “Dee”. What made you confident in her ability to take on such a major role?
I didn’t know A.J., what her prior acting experience looked like, or what her pronouns were at the time I reached out to her about potentially playing this role. All I knew was that I had previously seen a photo of her on Instagram tagged #androgynous, and that image resurfaced in my mind as I was thinking about Dee’s potential aesthetic. A.J. simply had the perfect look. She’s young, fresh-faced, a person of color, and doesn’t adhere to the typical feminine expectations of a “woman”. So, I hit her up on Instagram, giving her a synopsis of the story, the character, what my expectations would be of her as my lead actor, and she was hella down with it.
QUEERDO. is being submitted to film festivals as a possible television pilot. Who are some entertainment companies you would love to pick up this project?
So, for now I’d like to keep all possibilities open. I think (thankfully) we’re living in a time where the scope of “diversity” is widening, and that’s slowly being reflected on television. Though this “widening” process needs to be expedited, in my opinion, it keeps me hopeful that we’ll see more stories like “QUEERDO.” being showcased on widespread platforms.
I will say, we’ve got one production company that’s keeping close tabs on the project, founded by one of my personal mentors and role models, and I’d really like to work with her if all works out.
What do you hope your audience will learn from QUEERDO.?
That the experience of being someone who is a part of the LGBTQ+ community is about so much more than just our sexual attractions, our genitalia, or our “confusion”. It’s about the beauty of community-building, the acceptance of others (even within our sub-communities), the lessons we extract from our struggles and how we use them to persevere and become successful in our own rights.
It’s about deconstructing stigmatized ideas about race, poverty, ideology and their intersections, and providing a nuanced understanding to these subjects. Quite literally, this world ain’t just black and white, or male and female; these binaries simply don’t exist. And though they never have, this reality has remained silenced. We simply can’t accept that anymore. It’s time for the world to stop turning a blind eye to realities and conversations they don’t want to acknowledge simply because they appear “difficult”. Acceptance is a process. I have faith that the more visible these taboos become, the less they will become taboo.
We really want to see this project come to life. How can we get involved to make that happen?
Simply by sharing and donating to our crowdfunding campaign. Every kind of exposure helps. Donations of any size matter. We appreciate the excitement, anticipation and support of ALL our followers, endlessly.