The Ties That Bind

Chapel Hill, Orange County | Film Feature

Documentary, LGBTQ

Diana Newton

1 Campaigns | Chapel Hill, Orange County

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This campaign raised $10,356 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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A searing look at a Southern family wrestling with each other and their beliefs, exposing the culture wars at play below the surface. Family ties are tested in a crisis of understanding and opportunity for acceptance. A radically relevant story at this time in NC--and in the course of humankind.

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About The Project

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The Story

In 2002, my youngest sibling, whom I had long known as Christopher, came out to me as transgender. Suddenly I needed to recognize her as my sister, Christine.


How strong or fragile would our family ties prove to be as we face what for us was a crisis of understanding and opportunity for acceptance? 


With this question in mind, I decided to capture my family’s journey of adaptation to her transition over time. The Ties That Bind is my documentary memoir--a radical story of a non-radical North Carolina family.


I am certainly not the first documentary filmmaker to traverse the often strange landscape of one’s own family. When we dare to train “the big eye” of our cameras on those we love, it is a courageous, but dangerous act, fraught with the risk of misrepresenting, exposing, or alienating them in some way. We also risk ourselves by getting in front of the camera as well as behind it, bringing our perspectives, biases, and beliefs fully into our own awareness, as well as laying them bare for viewers.


What capacity did we really have for allowing the people we say we love to change and grow?  To what extent did we really know and accept each other? Could we even recognize  our family’s norms around handling differences?


Family is the ultimate crucible. For it is there that each of us is subjected to the heat of norms, history, and expectations, and in which our best selves are refined or our spirits incinerated. Yes, Christine’s gender change was dramatic, but it really only served to ignite my family’s longstanding pattern of laughing away pain and to render it no longer viable, that is, if we were going to stay connected in any genuine way.


Every family has patterns that can get superheated when one of its members colors outside the lines. An unexpected choice of life partner, a surprise divorce, the desire to move: any of these can turn the heat up. Coming out is perhaps just higher on the change thermostat. To what extent does our bandwidth for unconditional love depend on the variables of religion, age, hopes or fears? This film is my exploration of the deeper questions that have washed up in the wake of Christine’s transition, rather than about the comparative simplicity of her actual change.



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Film editing

Costs $5,000

Before we can do anything else, we have to finish editing! Help Emily keep her headphones on and fingers flying on the keyboard.

Sound mixing

Costs $2,000

We have footage from 5 different cameras and mics over 12 years of shooting, so sound mixing will even it the audio for your ears.

Music composition & licensing

Costs $1,000

Music can completely shift the way you experience a scene. An original score is more than a few notes away, and R.E.M. doesn't come cheap.

Color correction

Costs $1,000

"It's not easy being green"-so true! Color correction will keep us looking healthy and real when the film shows in theaters or TV broadcast.

Festival and distribution fees

Costs $1,000

Making a film is an exercise in futility if nobody sees it. Every festival has entry fees, even if we don't get accepted!

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

About This Team


Director: Diana Newton is the President of Falling Apples Consulting, her company that is committed to developing integrated leaders. She is the co-author, with thought leader Dr. Paul Hersey, of Leadership Blueprint: Why We Better Lead and Lead Better (2012). 

Diana’s dedication to leadership led directly to her interest in filmmaking. She began as a writer and producer of training films that explore the complex dynamics between managers and employees. Diana began studying documentary filmmaking in 2003 at Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies and also began production of her documentary memoir, The Ties That Bind. In 2009, Diana wrote, directed, and produced an educational documentary case study--Change Journey: Facing Terminal Illness--that focuses on the process of managing change, based on the real-life story of a cancer patient and her Hospice support team. 


Executive Producer: Erica Rothman is the owner of Nightlight Productions. Erica's background as a psychotherapist enables her to explore the "inner terrain" of subjects and their stories with particular sensitivity and depth. She has written, produced and directed acclaimed projects, including documentary films that focus on local and global health care, public policy, the arts and humanities. Erica received a 2007 Gracie Award for American Women in Radio and Television, and key awards at several other film festivals. At the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies, Erica has mentored medical residents and Fellows who have created documentary projects about their work. She has also co-taught a documentary filmmaking course in Oaxaca, Mexico for several years.


Videographer: David Tyson is an award-winning cameraman with over twenty years of experience in broadcast television. His credits include credits include A&E, The History Channel, national coverage of the Michael Peterson trial for Court TV, and February One, a civil rights documentary that aired as a national PBS broadcast in 2005. He is also the owner and Executive Producer of Tyson Communications, a full service film and video production company based in Raleigh, NC. David has been deeply moved by the "profound love story" at the heart of The Ties That Bind since our earliest shoots over ten years ago.


Videographer: Randy Benson is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has been featured on the Bravo Network, the Independent Film Channel (Split Screen), WTTW-Chicago, UNC-TV (NC Visions), and others. He served as producer for the Court-TV program Inside Cell Block F, and has worked in freelance camera & audio production for ESPN, Fox Sports South, CBS Sports and the State of North Carolina. His latest feature documentary, The Searchers, is a portrait of researchers of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Randy also teaches documentary film and video at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, where director Diana Newton first took classes from him!


Editor: Emily Jean Frachtling is a freelance editor and videographer based out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina with a passion for storytelling. In 2013 Emily graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Visual and Media Arts, concentrating in Documentary Production. Though her specialization is in editing, she has also worked as a production assistant on a wide range of projects including Barbara Kopple’s most recent documentary Hot Type: 150 Years of the Nation. Emily has been working for Nightlight Video Productions, a company with a focus in documentary style videos, since 2009.  In addition to her work in documentary production, Emily has also worked as a programming associate for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC. She has shown true editorial courage in working with the many hours of footage shot on several different cameras and editing platforms as they have changed over the life cycle of this project.



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