Brian first got married in 1980 in Rhode Island as a pre-op woman named Tish to a man named David who had just enlisted in the United States Army. Nearly everyone else but Brian’s family were fooled. In 2013, Brian married Jim, legally, in the state of New York. Through the decades, the strife and joy that comes with physical, spiritual and financial change, the questions remain: who is this person and how has he/ she survived?
i'm going to make you love me is told over the course of one day as Brian prepares clothes for his wedding anniversary. Your Kickstarter donation to this project will fund a week's worth of additional shooting in Brooklyn and NYC and a month of editing to prepare a rough cut for IFP (Spotlight on Documentaries) and the Forum at IDFA in November. These two shoots are crucial to expressing the style of the documentary film. The first will establish the day in the life/ anniversary party and the second will provide the artistic vision of a body map.
Karen Bernstein has known Brian since 1992 when asked to drive him to his driver's test in Brooklyn, NY. Though in possession of a titled car, Brian never had a driver's license. His Rhode Island license, along with every piece of official identification, listed him as Tish; transgender woman, famous NYC club performer, friend to Michael Musto, Lady Bunny, Penny Arcade and finally, divorced wife. As they drove around Brooklyn trying to find the testing site, Brian pointed out street corners and spoke as if in an animated confessional/ part performance piece about all the drugs and sex. Included in the list of Johns were some local Hassidic men who loved Tish, and deemed her the girl with a little something extra. She was gorgeous, by anyone's standards. From 1974 until 1987,Tish had worked hard at becoming a beautiful woman. Long before silicone implants were legal she had sculpted hips, cheeks, size 40c breasts. The hormone injections and electrolysis erased a lifetime of Portugese man hair and produced pearly smooth skin. Tish was so convincing as woman that when her boyfriend, David, thought to propose marriage, no one thought it queer. Tish/ Brian's family were the only ones who knew the truth. More than 30 years later, Brian and his partner, Jim, have been legally married in New York. Both are men. In many ways this is a story book ended by two weddings, one with Tish in 1980, an extraordinary feat for the state of Rhode Island, and the second the legal consummation of a long-term relationship between two men in the state of New York. The first time Brian was married he was in a white wedding dress sewn by his best friend, Paulie; the second time he married his partner of 11 years and wore a dark suit and tie from Barney’s.
The Supremes / Temptations song, "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me", becomes more than what Tish sings at The Pyramid with Michael Musto. It is an anthem sung by all who quest for a little something more. In addition to the original as preserved in time by filmmaker, Nelson Sullivan, we will be asking a variety of singer / songwriters to record their version of the song. The diverse array of interpretation will provide a unique musical backdrop to this film.
This is less a political film that a piece of extraordinary biography. So much has been said and written from the front lines of the transgender movement. We have grown used to thinking of the lives of countless men and women as some sort of unified force born from wastrels of the past. As if the parade “trannies” of yesteryear have now gained validity through a handful of leaders. Some have made their way to television and some to film; many have won awards. We debate whether “they” can go in to our bathrooms at the same time We the People cheer as they are invited to The White House in DC. Hardly ever do we stop to ask who are these who we call “them” or transgender/ gender queer, etc. It is meant to be biography from a Director and Editor well primed in the art of documentary biography. It is also meant as a timepiece; a look at downtown NYC in the wild 1970s and 80s when as Michael Musto has said, you wished to be the guy in the bathtub at The Mineshaft every night. “It was your version of the bar in the sitcom, Cheers”. For abused kids like Brian being anything but self was preferable. To have finally found the support of his contemporaries and a few adults in his quest to reinvent Tish as his own persona,was how to survive. Tish kept Brian and countless other wastrels alive in the 1970s/ 80s. As a counselor, Brian has worked hard to keep other people alive.
This documentary film is being made with the express permission of Brian and Jim, his husband of today. We have already followed them in their past lives and in their day to day lives in Brooklyn, NY as professional men at 60 plus years of age. But where is Tish now? Does she live on in the Brian that could not stand being Brian? Does that hunger for attention ever become resolved ? This is an unprecedented look at a man who became a woman and then a man again. It is framed in it most tragi-comedic ways between two weddings, and over the span of one day. We also speak with those who journeyed along with Brian and Tish, Jim and David, and thus illustrate two decades in the street history of NYC. Interviewees include pop culture columnist and blogger, Michael Musto, and possibly, fashion photographer and friend, Steven Klein, art photographer, Amy Cappellazzo of Southeby's, Nan Goldin and more.
From the clubs, to the streets to the AIDs wards and into the recovery rooms, this is a look at what does and does not change with sex.
Risks and challenges
With this degree of funding and a successful Kickstarter campaign, we are in terrific shape. As producers we have taken great care to anticipate twists and turns, as you say. The greatest fear I have is that we won't achieve the distribution goals we've set, but with the entrance of Bond/ 360 Entertainment and Strategy, those fears have been allied. Elizabeth Sheldon and the Shillers are so geared in to social media marketing, cross platforming, much of which is obvious when looking at the merits of i'm going to make you love me. We already have a possible list of celebrities to sing covers of the song at the center of the film ("I'm Gonna Make You Love Me") and our Music Producer is looking in to selling Warner Entertainment on a LP offer. We hope to open this at the Tribeca Film Festival and will host a Karaoke night with the song as the centerpiece. There will be a line of T Shirts and other such paraphenelia. Brian's book / memoir is slated for release with the film. The overall budget for this documentary film is low (under $200K). Once we have the seed money to film the two main stylistic shoots and complete interviews with Brian, we will have the gist of what's needed to edit and complete a rough cut. From the rough cut we can cut the trailers necessary for the Forum at IDFA and IFP Spotlight on Documentaries.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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