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Mission StatementGroomsperson is built from a team of trans and queer artists working together to represent the authentic nuances of transitioning and shine a light on the complex day-to-day experiences of being trans.
About The Project
Benj Welmond, Director: In December 2020, my former college roommate reached out to me and asked if I could be a groomsman at his wedding. “Sounds great!” I responded, “But just so you know, I no longer identify as a man”. I explained to him that I had come out as non-binary and that I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing a man’s suit. Instead, I decided to wear a dress to the wedding.
Benj, trying on "the dress"
This permission to present outside of traditional gender norms provoked a lot of anxiety for me on how I wanted to be seen. I had to find a dress that felt appropriate for the wedding: similar in color to the groom's party attire, but feminine enough for me to feel comfortable. I began the search for a dress with the assistance of a close trans friend. Together, we navigated a variety of boutiques and department stores and were confronted with the challenges and attitudes of others in our search of finding the perfect garment. After an extensive search, we found the appropriate dress, and I realized that even in these smaller decisions this whole “gender thing” was achievable with the support of my community.
This life experience inspired me to write Groomsperson, my most personal film yet.
Groomsperson test shoot
Groomsperson is the story of July, a shy, transfeminine nonbinary person in the early stages of their transition, and Sylvia, a lavish trans woman and July's closest supporter, as they try to find a dress for a wedding. The film takes place over the course of a single afternoon, as July and Sylvia stumble into a high-end boutique and everything that can go wrong, does. They are confronted by Alyssa, an uptight store owner with a very limited understanding of gender dynamics. As July tries on formal feminine attire for the first time, their relationship with Sylvia is tested and they must confront the realities of their transition and the expectations of heteronormative spaces.
According to a recent study by the UCLA Williams Institute, about 1.2 million Americans currently identify as non-binary. Across this population, there is a variety of different personal definitions of what it means to be non-binary. While the media has done great strides in representing this experience on screen, the “gender questioning” experience is still rare.
The Non-Binary Flag
We, the Groomsperson team, feel that by telling stories about this experience, we can lift some taboos and create discussions around gender diversity. We want to tell stories with complex trans and non-binary characters and the confusion, fear, and awkwardness of the early stages of transition, especially when entering heteronormative spaces.
In order to create a safe space to explore and enrich these stories, we felt it was important to build a trans and queer environment behind and in front of the camera.
We envision the film to take place in a single, continuous take as the characters navigate the boutique. We want the audience to feel like an active participant, as our main character, July, learns to discover their femininity. By keeping the whole film focused on an extended moment, we are representing the protagonist’s feelings of anxiety.
The film is inspired by the work of filmmaker Pedro Almodovar: bombastic colors, over-the-top but relatable characters, and a playful campy tone. Art direction plays a huge part in developing this world and we have an extremely talented team of artists involved in its creation.
Artist Pau S. Pescador and clothing designer Nancy Stella Soto are creating a handcrafted world just for this movie. Our film takes place entirely within an upscale boutique in a high-end neighborhood. The set will be designed to be over-the-top and unapproachable, functioning as a stand-in for July's insecurity in exploring feminine spaces.
All of the costumes will incorporate Nancy’s contemporary stylings, using her signature looks to create an exciting visual language for each individual character.
To represent the inner turmoil of July’s transition, we want to incorporate abstract animation throughout the film. We’ve been collaborating with artist Chloe Welmond and composer David Grabowsky to create a prototype of what that animation might feel like: rough scratches and bursts of lines across the screen combined with a course, death metal-inspired soundtrack.
Currently, our script is complete, we have secured a majority of our cast and crew, and have found the perfect location to shoot our film. The next step is to begin our production!
We need to raise $20,000 to get through the production phase
This will allow us to:
-pay our incredibly diverse and talented team
-pay for set design
-rent out equipment and gear
-apply for permits, insurance, and all other necessary elements
-adhere to COVID safety protocols- we want to make ensure that our cast and crew stay extra safe and receive ample testing supplies and PPE equipment
Once production has been completed, we will begin the post-production phase of our film: editing, creating the score and animation, color correcting, and sound mixing. The film will then be submitted to major film festivals with an interest in comedy and LGBTQ+-related content.
Once we've reached our goals for production, there's still more to do!
-If we raise $3,000 more we will be able to pay for post-production sound (sound mixing, sound design, and scoring)
-If we raise $4,000 more we will have enough to pay our color corrector and animator!
-If we raise $5,000 more we will be able to pay all of the fees associated with submitting to our favorite festivals!
We appreciate any contribution and participation, and we need your help getting the word out about this important story. There are many ways to share this project with your friends and community across social media.
Please consider copying a call to action of your choice below:
Help @benj.welmond make Groomsperson a comedy about the early stages of gender transition. Join us at: www.seedandspark.com/fund/groomsperson
Let's help @benj.welmond and the rest of their crew tell trans stories with trans artists! Learn more at: www.seedandspark.com/fund/groomsperson
What happens when a trans person needs to find a dress to be a Groomsperson at a wedding? Find out at: www.seedandspark.com/fund/groomsperson
What am I supposed to wear as a groomsperson?!? Help @benj.welmond and team figure it out at: www.seedandspark.com/fund/groomsperson
Look for updates, announcements, and shareable content on Instagram: @benj.welmond
Thanks for reading, watching, and sharing!
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About This Team
Benj Welmond (they/them), Director
Benj Welmond is trans non-binary filmmaker that graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with the first self-defined Film and Digital Video degree. They enjoy making personal and surreal films that champion new voices and challenge stereotypes within identity. Their newest short, Faulty Father, has screened at 25 different festivals, and won the Staff Award at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival.
Benj is currently a freelance editor that has worked with the Martin Luther King Community Health Foundation, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, the National Ad Council, and many more.
Mari Walker (she/her), Executive Producer
Mari Walker is an award-winning director, writer, and editor. Films she has worked on have screened at over 300 film festivals including Sundance, SXSW, Frameline, and Outfest. Her work explores identity through multiple forms and genres, championing the shared humanity of others through stories that promote empathy and equality. Her first feature, See You Then, had its World Premiere at SXSW. Now heading into its PVOD release on April 19th, it has won seven awards, including Best Narrative Feature at the Sun Valley Film Festival, and is currently rated at 96% on RottenTomatoes.
Nancy Stella Soto (she/her), wardrobe designer
Nancy Stella Soto is a Los Angeles artist and clothing designer. Her collections are rooted in the avant-garde, that embodies its great democratic spirit! Her styles are made to look great on a variety of different bodies, are right for any occasion, and are provocatively uplifting. Soto has an interesting take on beauty, one semi-removed from aesthetic, re-routed and dispersed into a context that’s writing her own history, her lens on contemporary expression. She also co-runs papiboybabyboy a Los Angeles based ceramic collaboration started in 2020.
David Grabowski (he/him), Composer
David Grabowski is a composer, writer, and sound designer. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2011 with a BFA in Music Composition and minor degrees in piano performance and conducting, where he studied with Nancy Galbraith. He has written for chamber ensembles, orchestra, soloists, film, and dance.
David’s music has been heard at festivals including Sundance, spanning genres including drama, comedy, horror, and documentary.
Teddy Lance (they/them), "July"
Teddy Lance is a professor & PhD candidate at the University of Southern California with a background in theatre performance. Previous roles include Azdak in Bertolt Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle (Promethean Theater: Chicago); Aaron Kreifels, Fr. Roger & various others in The Laramie Project (Mysterium Theater: Tustin, CA); Renfield in an original drag adaptation of Dracula called DRAGula! (no, not the one you’re thinking of—STAGES Theater: Fullerton, CA); & various roles while earning their AA in Theatre at Fullerton College. They’re also a baby trans so pls send good fits their way, thanks.
Pau S. Pescador (she/they), "Sylvia"
Pau is a trans fem nonbinary artist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She works in films, performances, and photographs utilizing colorful playful materials and everyday objects to discuss personal relationships and her experiences navigating the world in a trans latine body. Pescador has shown work at institutions and museums internationally including exhibitions, performances, and screenings at Biquini Wax, Mexico City; LADRÓNgalería, Mexico City; and UV Estudios, Buenos Aires, as well as within Los Angeles at Getty Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA at Angels Gate Cultural Center; Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art and REDCAT Theater. Her first collection of writing, CRUSHES: A NOVELLA was published by Econo Textual Objects in 2017. CRUSHES is a series of vignettes about a queer relationship with a potential other and the pleasure and heartbreaks that come through this desire.
Maya Butler (she/her), "Alyssa"
Maya Butler is a tv and film actress. Most recently you can see her doing her thing in Paramount’s miniseries The Offer playing a young Diane Keaton. You can also catch her in the last season of NCIS and CW’s Dynasty. Maya spent much of her childhood traveling between Israel and England and attributes her wild imagination and love of storytelling to these formative years. Growing up in a multicultural home, Maya has always been drawn to stories that challenge us to look through another’s eyes and give a voice to those that don’t often get the microphone. When she’s not acting, you’ll find Maya cuddling with her pup, watching an absurd amount of true crime drama, or ideally doing both of those things at the same time.