Every Thursday night, the Lavender League Bowling Club descends upon stained bowling alley carpets, clad in purple and gold uniforms and ready to finger holes and throw balls at a finite horizon. The League is a club for older lesbians led by Susan, a suicidal, wig-wearing ex-real estate agent. The women in the league drink, they laugh, they cry, and they talk about love and death, endings and beginnings.
Susan’s unlikely confidante is our nameless, leather-clad, trans protagonist (we call him ‘X’). X moved to LA to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor and taking Hollywood by trans storm. He met Susan while picking up extra cash as her pool boy, and is now an active member of the Lavender League.
X is surrounded by transitions. When death strikes the Lavender League, which happens frequently, X serves as the unofficial eulogist. On camera, he is made to kill himself over and over again, following the repetitive direction of supposedly feminist filmmakers.
When Susan dies (on her own terms and with her own flair), her funeral brings a surprise visitor to Los Angeles. Susan’s estranged trans son, Alex, appears at her wake. Invisible to all except to each other, X and Alex ‘recognize’ one another. The sudden knowledge of each’s existence pushes the two to revisit their disparate relationships to Susan. Over the course of one transformative weekend, X and Alex explore the dark, sexy, and confusing places where grief meets desire and performance meets self.
This film is made by more than 30 trans people and their collaborators. Together, we form T4T Productions. We believe that trans people should have creative autonomy, access to the film industry, and control over trans narratives.
The majority of the cast is trans, but only two characters are trans. The film goes beyond trans representation to offer trans-specific modes of casting, performance on screen, and camera language that resist the transphobic gaze and are formally queer.
We believe transformation is a concept trans storytellers are uniquely positioned to make work about. Our project reframes and reclaims attitudes about death as a type of transformation. Susan’s death is not tragic. She dies on her own terms, in a practice of self-determination. And it is her death that brings X and Alex together, birthing a unique form of desire amidst their grief.
Death and gender transformation both sometimes involve a goodbye to a former way of existing and being seen in the world. But like Susan’s own ‘transition’, trans people are not tragic. Too often, media about trans people suggests the opposite.
Death and Bowling’s characters are flawed and complicated. We offer nuanced trans characters, rather than the usual antiquated portrayal as either “damaged goods” or flawless martyrs, as heroes or villains.
Directors like Rainer Werner Fassbinder inspire our camera language, mise en scene, and characters. Fassbinder created films that are queer not just because he was queer, or because his characters were queer. His films called attention to the ways power creates violence and impossibilities in love, relationships, and filmmaking itself. Artists such as Agnes Varda, Isaac Julien, Frank Ripploh, Leos Carax, and Gregg Araki are all creative influences.
We have a huge, beautiful, talented team. Too much to write about here, but we want to start by introducing you to our writer/director, cinematographer, and producers:
Lyle Kash (he/him/his) graduated from Oberlin College in 2013 and holds a BA in American Studies. After graduation, he worked with Media Mobilizing Project (MMP), a community-based nonprofit that provides media production, training, and advocacy to grassroots organizing campaigns. As a Movement Media Fellow, his work with MMP taught him about the power of filmmaking as a political act, and imbued him with the importance of visual storytelling as a tool for social activism. In the spring of 2015, Kash worked as a Gaffer/2nd Camera on Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum, directed by Madsen Minax. This experience served as technical training, and provided him with boundless creative and aesthetic inspiration. He learned the value and magic of working with and for other trans people to create meaningful, artistically rigorous, boundary-pushing work. Lyle is currently completing his MFA in Film and Video at the California Institute of the Arts.
Michael Formanski (he/him/his) is a New England-born director, cinematographer, writer, and musician living in Los Angeles. He makes films that range from dealing with deep seated social issues to genre sci-fis. His latest film, The Iron Wall, confronts the impact of masculine identity on the institutionalization of homophobia in working class New England. As a musician, he composes live scores to accompany films from the silent era, such as Murnau’s Faust and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. As a cinematographer, Mike develops visual languages that shift and evolve with the characters' stories and emotional arcs.
Ariel Mahler (they/them/theirs) is a nonbinary trans filmmaker, producer, AD, and queer/trans rights advocate. Last month, Ariel released Bad Ally (dir. Nyala Moon), an irreverent comedy series they co-created with Daquisha Jones of Philadelphia. Bad Ally tells the story of Mix, a white nonbinary trans person, Harriet, a black cishet woman, and their fierce, fabulous, "femmillennial" friendship. Set in NYC, Bad Ally uses humor to be unapologetically political, leaning in to today's charged climate while simultaneously embracing and critiquing activist culture. To view the series and get more info, visit www.badallyseries.com. Ariel has also worked as an AD on Brothers the Web Series, Tell By Date, a short film, and Pulling Wool, a feature. Ariel is constantly inspired by the many trans filmmakers and artists who are consistently making work and pushing boundaries, especially in such a volatile political culture. But they feel that an intersectional trans media revolution is on the horizon, and they couldn't be more pumped.
Sinah Ober (she/her/hers) was born in Germany’s Black Forest to a carpenter and a tailor. Her films are about personal perspective and individual experience. She is interested in childhood, femininity, sexuality, history/culture, and trauma. After traveling to India, Sinah began her university education at the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg, where she studied history, linguistics, literature, English and the Holocaust. She continued her studies at the University of Iowa, where she shifted her emphasis to performance art, photography and film theory. Sinah graduated summa cum laude in 2012 with a BA in Cinema. She recently received her MFA in Film Directing from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). She has completed internships at Human Energy Films, LLC in 2012 and at Nonetheless Productions, Inc. in 2016. In the fall of 2016, Sinah participated in the Telluride Student Symposium and taught a semester long seminar class, Social Media and Storytelling, at CalArts. Currently, Sinah works full time as an independent freelance producer, actor and director in Los Angeles and Berlin. Sinah has worked on over 50 short films. Her films as a director have screened at several venues, including the Student Experimental Film Festival at SUNY, the International Academic Video Festival in São Paulo, and the International Kansk Video Festival in Russia, among others. She is the producer of numerous short films, including The Sacred Disease (2016) and The Creature (2016), Retreat (2017), The Iron Wall (2017), Brisas (2018) and The Boogeywoman (2018). Her films as a producer have recently screened at the Viennale, Portland Film Festival, Baltimore Film Festival, and elsewhere.
There is an extreme dearth of trans film professionals working in the field. We provide on-set training for trans crew who might not otherwise have an entry point. The funding we receive from Kickstarter will go directly to securing locations, renting equipment to create a film of this caliber, and into the pockets of our crew members. Support will sustain not only Death and Bowling, but the artistic careers of more than 30 trans artists. We guarantee flat stipends to our entire crew. WE WILL BE ABLE TO PAY EVERY MEMBER OF OUR CREW A DAILY RATE IF WE HIT OUR REACH GOAL OF $150K. In either case, we prioritize the labor of trans professionals in all of our departments, and in all stages of the process. This commitment of funds to our crew allows us to designate the remainder of funds towards production design, professional equipment, and locations, to allow for the high level of production value we believe this story deserves.
Risks and challenges
The T4T Production team is already in pre-production for our Fall shoot. We are securing locations, crewing up, cuddling up with the script, and shouting about the film from our rooftops. We are ready. The biggest challenge is up to you. We need your help to fully finance this dream project so we can enter principal photography in September.
Our production timeline is as follows:
February, 2018: Casting period
March-May, 2018: Pre-production for proof of concept
May, 2018: Proof of concept shoot (22 pages of script), 6 total days of shooting
May - August, 2018: Pre-production and fundraising
July 1, 2018: Kickstarter Campaign Begins!
September 1 - October 1, 2018: PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY, 24 total days of shooting
October - December, 2019: Complete rough-cut of Death and Bowling
January - March, 2019: Color correction, sound mixing, titles, and music
April, 2019: Picture lock in preparation for festival submissions
So far, we're right on track. And with your support, we can stick to our schedule and fully realize this beautiful film.
Thank you from all of us on the Death and Bowling Team. We can't wait to share this movie with you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)