“Never ever could I have expected that this is where I’d be,” says Brian, at the beginning of the I’m Going to Make You Love Me. From 1974 until 1987, long before the “T” was added to the end of “LGB,” Brian identified as a woman named Tish. Hormones and electrolysis defied her Portuguese predisposition to body hair. Breast implants and silicone injections allowed her a pinup model physique. Tish was gorgeous by anyone's standards, so convincing as a woman that in 1979, after marrying an army man, the newlyweds moved to a military base. This was pre- “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. No one so much as blinked an eye. Five years later and post-divorce, Tish moved to New York City. There she was a nightlife celebutante, part of the Andy Warhol circuit and happiest on stage, performing Motown covers in skin tight dresses, aglow in the spotlight. “I probably would have killed myself if I could have seen the future,” continues Brian. “It would have been so terrifying to know that this was going to be my life now.”
Tish’s life was far from easy. She was addicted to drugs. Prostitution was a regular part of her life. Brian is now in his sixties, thirty years sober, and, since 2013, happily married to his partner, Jim. It’s been decades since he turned a trick. Now a counselor, he’s saved countless lives helping people in the LGBTQ community overcome substance abuse and navigate the transition process. Why would this future have been so terrifying to Tish? Who is Brian? Who was Tish? How did she come to be in the first place? And why is she no longer? Or is she? What, if any, of Tish remains? IGTMYLM answers these questions. Though likely to incite conversations about the nature of genderism past and present, it is meant to be a biography of an exceptional life from two directors well primed in the art of documentary biography.
I have known Brian since 1993 when he asked me for a ride to his driver's test in Brooklyn, NY. Even though he owned a car, Brian had never had his driver’s license. The Rhode Island driver’s license, along with every piece of official identification, listed him as Natalia; transgender woman, famous NYC club performer, friend to Michael Musto, Lady Bunny, Penny Arcade and...divorced wife.
As we drove around Brooklyn trying to find the DMV, Brian pointed out street corners and talked animatedly about his sex work and acting life as Natalia/ Tish. Included in the list of tricks were some local Hassidic men who loved Tish and deemed her the girl with a little something extra. In many ways I started making this documentary film on that drive around Brooklyn, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I grabbed a camera and started filming Brian.
Most of my documentaries have been of a biographical nature. Some have been historical in nature, and others explore social issues like homelessness, mental illness and incarceration, The common thread is they all express my passion for telling stories. For more than seven years I was a producer at the PBS series, AMERICAN MASTERS, where I produced many arts and culture documentaries, and won some pretty hefty awards. At the ripe age of 58, I feel as if a lifetime of lessons and filmmaking skills has gone in to the making of i’m gonna make you love me. Do they give grants to filmmakers who finally pull their style together before 60?
So much research and thinking went in to this documentary; I referenced everything from Jonathan Caouettes’ wonderful documentary, Tarnation, to Susan Faludi’s memoir
In The Dark Room. At times this documentary was an investigative piece, then an experimental film, and even a combination of the two. It has gone through a number of manifestations (God bless my editor, Nevie) but in the end I realized that we just needed to tell Tish/ Brian’s story. I hope the world finds it as intriguing as what Brian told me in 1993.
Recently lauded at the Sundance Film Festival and South by Southwest Film Festival, Richard Linklater – dream is destiny is about to be distributed nationally by IFC Films and Hulu, with overseas distribution by the sales agent, Dogwoof. More information on the documentary and it’s screenings at www.linklaterdoc.com 2015 also saw the release of a Galan Inc. documentary that Karen Bernstein co-produced with Latino Public Broadcasting, Children of Giant.
In her role as a series producer for American Masters and producer of Ella Fitzgerald – Something To Live For (1999), Bernstein received a national Emmy award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series. For producing Lou Reed – Rock and Roll Heart (1998), she received a Grammy award. In 2000 she co-produced American Masters/ Juilliard (2002) and American Masters/ Clint Eastwood. Her work has been screened at over 100 international film festivals including Sundance and Berlin. Body of War was produced with Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro, toured film festivals around the world, and was shortlisted for an Academy award in 2008. The ITVS funded film, Troop 1500, also did an extensive tour around film festivals both in this country and abroad and was broadcast on Independent Lens in 2006.
Both Are The Kids Alright? and Producing Light have won Emmys in Texas. Her web video for Etsy.com on the craft movement in Marfa (http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/?s=Marfa+no+place+like+here&submit=Search) conjured over 250,000 hits on the Etsy website and was re-tweeted on BoingBoing and Huffington Post in 2010. Current projects include the documentary feature, I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, and La Vie En Rose, part of the Patina project.
transFIGURATION, a documentary program for PBS on a collaboration between the photographer, Rino Pizzi, and 12 Texas-based artists, was broadcast in May, 2014, and exists as a permanent KLRU web link (http://www.klru.org/episode/arts-in-context/transfiguration/).With the high definition satellite TV series, Gallery HD, she produced two documentaries about two Texas artists and groups, Julie Speed and the innovative gallery, Ballroom Marfa. Her short film on Elizabeth Streb (PopACTION) , dancer and choreographer, was awarded a New York State Council on the Arts grant.
During the four years of post production on i’m gonna make you love me, my twins were added to an already buzzing Owens household. With this development, my perspective on how to edit this movie shifted. I started to see this project through the eyes of a mother. It has always been a story about love, but it needed to grow into something bigger…it needed to be more about love of oneself. The conversation I hope this film inspires is about the importance, as a parent and as members of society, of not only loving but accepting our children. It’s big and yet, simple. It is one person’s journey, but we can all see ourselves trying to find comfort in our skin every day. I’m proud of this movie for saying that it is okay to live one's truth, outside the box.
In the beginning, editor Nevie Owens honed her skills by making bad movies shorter; now, 20 years later, Nevie has had the pleasure of working with acclaimed directors and on projects she is proud to show her grandparents.
For almost 20 years Nevie Owens has worked as an editor on award winning feature and short films. Starting as an assistant editor on the films Rolling Kansas, Drop Dead Sexy, and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset, she soon progressed to lead editor on Kat Candler’s film Jumping Off Bridges. Since then she’s edited over a dozen narrative and documentary features, including Mitch Schultz’s groundbreaking documentary, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Matt Muir and Chris Ohlson’s, Thank You A Lot, and the genre bending feature, The Teller and the Truth. She recently completed the celebrated Louis Black/Karen Bernstein bio-documentary Richard LInklater: dream is destiny, and the much anticipated, i"m gonna make you love me.
Nevie moonlights as a technical director for live musical performances in Austin to escape the editing room. Nevie’s favorite movie is Delicatessen, she is uncannily good at cribbage, and had perfect attendance in high school.