Lee & Charlie

Chicago, Illinois | Film Short

Drama, LGBTQ

Eli Sulkowski

1 Campaigns | Illinois, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $11,280 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

124 supporters | followers

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LEE & CHARLIE is the debut collaboration between Eli Sulkowski (he/they) & Leah Raidt (she/her). This film invites you into the intimate private moments of a trans man and his wife as they journey to create a family. This project will shoot on a trauma-informed, queer & trans led set in Chicago, IL.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

At a time where the safety, bodily autonomy, and livelihood of trans people and their loved ones are under constant threat and attack, our film is a declaration of our inherent dignity. The queer and trans team behind Lee & Charlie is creating a story filled with intention and hope for all.

The Story


Lee, a trans man in his early 30’s, is creating a family with his wife, Charlie. When we first meet Lee- we learn that he must go off his hormone replacement therapy (HRT- testosterone) in order to start menstruating again. We learn that Lee has been on HRT for many years and this new shift in hormones will deeply effect his body. Once Lee begins to menstruate, his egg retrieval procedure is close behind him. After Lee’s procedure, his body faces a big adjustment from going off and then back on hormones. A few months pass and we see Charlie in the early stages of pregnancy carrying Lee’s retrieved egg. We watch the couple care for each other throughout Charlie’s pregnancy through tender baby-kicking moments and past twinkling memories revisited. We reach a brand new territory with the couple’s arrival of their baby, Emma. Charlie, much like Lee during his hormone journey, is facing a hormonal imbalance. She is in the throes of post-partum depression. Lee has taken on the role of primary caretaker for himself, Charlie, and Emma. It’s exhausting him. After a well-intended surprise gone wrong, Lee and Charlie get into a heated argument resulting in Lee leaving the home momentarily. Charlie is alone with Emma for the first time since birth. Time passes and we meet the couple again, but this time in couples therapy. Through their therapists gentle nature, we discover how both Lee and Charlie have been navigating the beginning of parenthood. 


Lee, a trans man, and his wife Charlie are smack dab in the middle of creating a family. Insecurities, hormone imbalances, loss of bodily autonomy, and the exhaustion of new parenthood test the limits of  this resilient queer couple. 


LEE: Trans man in his early 30’s. Partnered to Charlie and is deeply in love. Lee is a quiet guy. He did not grow up in a supportive and loving household. He carries nervous energy around becoming a father, especially becoming a trans father. Lee is gentle, happy, and calm on the surface. His brain is constantly swimming with thoughts. His heart holds both tremendous pain and happiness. 

CHARLIE: Early 30’s. Grew up in a big, loud family. Charlie is a fierce soul and creates a safe space for  Lee. She has no problem being honest and upfront. While she has always seen herself becoming a  mother, she has never seen this journey more clearly than when she fell in love with Lee. Charlie is very certain of herself except in the moments she is not. Charlie is by no means controlling, but is uncomfortable when she doesn’t have control. 

THERAPIST: Any Gender. Age 40’s-70’s Calm, gentle, present, helpful, and lovely. 

EMMA: Lee and Charlie’s baby. Just a cute baby being a baby. Unseen by the viewer.

DR. K: Lee and Charlie’s primary care doctor. Any Gender. Over 30. Unseen and exists as a VO.




We’ve all seen cinematic stories similar to Lee & Charlie. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl get married. Boy and girl start a family. The end. And from first glance, this story might look like that, but if you peel back one layer you find the rich complexities and struggles beneath. Pregnancy storylines are rarely told through the lens of “the father.” This storyline has a hyper-focus on Lee in the beginning. Lee is a different type of father. He is a trans father. With the lack of education and misinformation on trans healthcare- that’s why we follow Lee. Most people don’t know that when an AFAB (assigned female at birth) person begins to medically transition with HRT that they most likely stop menstruating- which is the case for Lee. Like Lee, to begin menstruating again, HRT must cease.

As a trans man myself- I have experienced this personal journey. While I haven’t begun the journey of family planning with my wife just yet, I deeply know the ins and outs of the hormone rollercoaster of HRT. I chose to focus on Lee with extreme intention. While Lee has always been a man in whatever physical form he was presenting to the world at the time, this is the first time he’s experiencing a period in his CURRENT form. It’s scary, discombobulating, and uncomfortable. Something that’s worth mentioning is the reality that Lee has to “out” himself in every medical situation. Every doctor he sees Lee’s doctors in this story are receptive, open, and accepting, but that is rarely the experience trans folks have with their doctors. I chose to not write trans suffering into Lee’s medical experiences because trans and queer viewers deserve to see the hopeful possibility that they will be cared for no matter what.

I wrote Lee & Charlie for a multitude of reasons. The big one being, yes, my wife and I are planning to have a family, but there are a lot of other reasons. As a trans performer I rarely get to see my life experience accurately portrayed in film/television/theatre. For a very long time the only transmale/transmasc storyline I had ever seen was when Hilary Swank played Brandon Teena in the film "Boys Don't Cry." Now if you've seen that film or know Brandon's real life story- you know that it ends in epic tragedy. You know that the role of a transman was played by a cisgender woman. Queer and trans stories are often told through the lens of suffering. Cis actors are often cast as trans or queer people. I wanted to be a part of a creative movement where I both stop that from happening and create new pathways for LGBTQ+ stories to exist without them being skewed through a heteronormative narrative. We deserve to tell our stories. My community deserves to tell their stories. I deserve to tell my story.

As the team for the film continues to grow- everyone who joins on has the same thing to say, "this film is so important." This storyline showcases this particular trans and queer couple with clarity. This film is absolutely catered to the trans and queer community, but the realistic emotions from the characters give the film a universal reach. Any type of couple, parent, partner, husband, wife, co-parent, mother, father, etc. will be able to find some slice of themselves in this story.

This is a script that deserved to exist 30+ years ago. It deserves to exist now because like they have always been- trans rights are under siege. The story of Lee & Charlie provides basic trans health care education. It invites the audience into a very sacred and private part of LGBTQ+ lives. Parenting and building families in the trans and queer community is nothing new. It’s just a new story to your average individual. Be above average. Engage with us and help our story grow.



In the beginning, this script had the intention of just existing as a passion project, but it has turned into something so much bigger. It stayed in his mind as a passion project because of the time it was written in. The script budded to existence in the middle of the pandemic. After losing countless gigs and seeing future creative endeavors be canceled or postponed- the idea of creating his own project seemed hopeless. But Eli had his first table read with just his wife and co-producer/director Leah Raidt. After that first read, Leah and Eli knew they had to work together. They decided that, even in a pandemic, they were still going to make this happen. Leah is a force to be reckoned with. Her experience with trauma informed direction and strong positive leadership puts her in the perfect position to direct this film. 

The script went through a few more drafts and Eli was finally ready to share his script with a bigger team of trusted creative allies. The table read was a smashing success and provided both Eli and Leah a springboard of excitement to keep this project going. 

Shortly after the table read and the script building a solid foundation, Eli and Leah started meeting regularly to connect with community and figure out how to build the best team to carry the story of Lee & Charlie. After Leah and Eli combined their lists- Trina Mulligan joined the team as Director of Photography.

Trina's gentle and calm approach to cinematography is exactly the energy needed for the set of Lee & Charlie. The script has a fair amount of intimate moments and Trina's presence alone creates a safe working environment. Between her attention to detail and unique eye, our film will be as beautiful as it is powerful. 


Our set will require proof of vaccination for all of cast and crew. Our Production Coordinator/COVID Safety Coordinator will facilitate mandatory rapid COVID tests each morning upon arrival to set for cast and crew. Unless eating or drinking, everyone will be required to wear a mask at all times. The actors will be unmasked during active filming. We will also provide extra masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.  


L & C is in its first phase of fundraising. Our total desired budget for the film is $40K. We recently finished a fiscal sponsorship application in the hopes of receiving $20K to help us reach our goal.

Throughout June, we will continue to build and refine our storyboard and finalize script edits. Our campaign will be running all of June and into July. July will also involve the on-boarding process of the rest of the team and crew along with securing camera and lighting equipment.

August makes way for us to apply for the Full Spectrum Features Community Storytelling Grant and The Frameline Completion Fund. The month of August will also involve rehearsals with actors, director, and intimacy choreographer. 

In September we will shoot the film over the course of 4 days. Once wrapped, October 2022-December 2022 will begin the editing process. During that time we will apply for DCASE & Illinois Art Council Grant.

Thank you for reading!


The L & C Team

Pssst- use these hashtags when sharing our campaign! #leeandcharliefilm #chicagofilmmakers #queer #trans #lgbtq #pride


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Production Insurance

Costs $2,500

We want to keep our production, crew, and set as safe as possible.

Covid Testing

Costs $500

This will cover the cost of cast and crew being tested daily with at-home kits.

PPE/Air Purifier

Costs $200

Covid and health protection equipment.

Director/Producer Stipend

Costs $1,500

Covers director and producer stipend.

Screenwriter/Producer Stipend

Costs $1,000

Covers screenwriting and producer stipend.

Director of Photography Stipend

Costs $1,000

Covers the photography direction stipend.

Meals/Craft Services

Costs $1,300

Covers the cost of craft services & three meals per day over three shooting days for cast and crew.

Intimacy Choreographer

Costs $800

This covers the cost of intimacy choreography. Professional intimate safety is what we're about!

Lights & Camera Equipment

Costs $5,000

Quite possibly the most important part of this project. Our equipment costs!

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Gas for Equipment Transportation

Costs $200

Covers the cost of gas for the transportation of set equipment.

About This Team

Eli Sulkowski : Writer / Producer / Actor in the role of LEE

*LEE & CHARLIE is his first produced script.

Eli Sulkowski (he/they) is a multifaceted artist. He’s an actor, painter, writer, and dancer. He earned his BA in Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. Originally hailing from Detroit, Michigan- Eli moved to Chicago to pursue a more diverse career in a bigger city. Since moving to Chicago, Eli has signed with Gray Talent Group and has primarily focused on his acting career. His TV debut was season 1 of SHOWTIME’s Work In Progress. Modeling credits include: Google Pixel, Eyebobs, and Sandro Miller. Theatre credits include: Victory Gardens Theatre, Broken Nose Theatre, and Pride Films & Plays. Eli loves writing poetry, short stories, and both theatrical and film scripts.


Trina Mulligan: Director of Photography

Trina Mulligan (she/her) is a Chicago based cinematographer with an immense and everlasting love for visual storytelling. After graduating from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in Cinematography, she has established herself as a successful working DP in the film and commercial industry in Chicago. She enjoys the process of creating a unique, striking and compelling visual language for every film that she works on. She uses her profound knowledge of a variety of shooting formats, from 16mm and 35mm film to digital to craft and create stunning images to bring worlds and characters to life. When she’s not on set, she enjoys oil painting on raw canvas, and shooting photos with her film camera in nature. www.trinamulligan.com


Leah Raidt: Director / Producer 
 *First-time Director for film

Leah Raidt (she/her) is a Chicago-based "Creative Leader" (Actor / Director / Producer / Teacher) whose work uplifts and advances queer, feminist perspectives. Leah is the inaugural recipient Halyna Hutchins Producer Award at Cinema Femme Short Film Festival for her exemplary work managing crew and creating a safe set on the short-film ROUGH RIVER LAKE, which was her debut film project as co-creator and lead producer. ROUGH RIVER LAKE won Best Short Film and Audience Favorite at the London International Short Film Festival, and is currently in the film festival circuit. Most recently, Leah served as a production coordinator at Cap Gun Collective, alongside mentor PJ Fishwick (director/producer), on the concept shoot of EAT SH*T GOOD starring Eunji Kim. She is an instructor at The Green Room Studio and Actors Training Center, and runs a robust private coaching and taping business for actors of all ages and experience. In 2019, Leah was selected as one of four directors for the Chicago Director’s Workshop at Prop Thtr. In 2018, Leah developed and directed Reverse Missionary, a one person show written and performed by Juliet Barrett as part of The Guest House Project at Haven Theatre. She is a two time grant recipient of The KY Governor’s School for the Arts Toyota Alumni Fund. Theatre credits include: Steppenwolf Theatre, The Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, American Theatre Company, and more. In addition, Leah is a trauma-informed meditation teacher. She holds a B.F.A in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University, and is an alum of The School at Steppenwolf. She is proudly represented by DDO Artists Agency. Learn more at www.LeahRaidt.com IG: @LRaidt @RoughriverlakeFilm 

Chelsea Jean: Lead Actor in the role of CHARLIE

Chelsea Jean (she/her) has spread her attention and passions out over many avenues. She graduated with a BA in Theatre Performance from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI and went on to study at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, CA before moving around between Chicago, Virginia Beach, Nashville, and her hometown to work on various theatre and film projects. She spent 15 years focusing solely on acting before setting it all down to explore working in various mental health support roles, finally landing on starting her own business as a psychospiritual coach, writer, creator, and speaker. She finds herself drawn back to acting now with a renewed heart and a desire to breathe life into stories that act as catalysts for deeper love, stronger communities, and more supportive and challenging questions around what it truly means to be in relationship with one’s full experience of life.

Ṭaüs Tamara Jafar: Composer

Ṭaüs (he/they) is an Iraqi-American musician, transdiscinplinary artist, and producer. Without being tethered to medium or genre, Ṭaüs' creative output is bold, raw, and confidently vulnerable. Their work explores queer liminality and transgender embodiment, while indulging their listeners in Sufi eroticism. Ṭaüs' award-winning music and songwriting has been in the CMJ Top 200 for radio play, been featured in pop songs, film scores, video games, and large-scale art installations. Most recently, their music has been featured in HBO Max’s hit satire Search Party and on Apple Music’s "Best of New Indie" Curatorial Playlist.



Current Team