What Is the film TransParent about?
TransParent is a film about the life of Shelley "Treasure" Hilliard, a Detroit 19-year-old girl, beloved by her family and friends. TransParent is a film about Shelley's murder, about a hate crime that wasn't prosecuted as one. TransParent is about the struggle to forgive. TransParent is about Detroit. TransParent is about projections and perceptions and communities misrepresented and misunderstood. TransParent is about incredible beauty and horrific violence. TransParent is about a grieving mother and her commitment to honor her daughter, Treasure.
Your Film Crew
Hi, My name is Dream Hampton. I've been a storyteller for almost 25 years. Sometimes I tell my own stories, but far more often, I communicate the stories of others. Since 1990 I have conducted hundreds of interviews, learning to practice what Dr. ML King Jr. called deep listening, the ability to truly bear witness to another person's story. I began my career as a 19 year old at a music magazine that focused on hip hop but I wrote about Winnie Mandela and women in hip hop as well as classic profiles of people like Snoop and Tupac. During my interview with Snoop, I interrupted the car ride to confront the misogyny of one of his entourage. While I was covering Tupac's trials, and on a lunch break with him, my confrontational questions about his sexual assault charges caused an argument between us that got us kicked out of the restaurant. When Vibe magazine launched I profiled an up and coming rapper, Lady of Rage, and remained on the masthead for fifteen years. I profiled celebrities like Mary J Blige, Anita Baker and Jay-Z and wrote about women who were sex workers and prisoners who were prosecuted for their politics. My articles appeared in magazines like Spin, Harper's Bazaar, Essence, Poz and the village boys, and my essays have appeared in more than a dozen anthologies. In 2010, I collaborated with Jay-Z on the New York Times bestseller, Decoded, to tell a generational story of kamikaze capitalism, dislocation and success.
In 2002 my narrative short film about schizophrenia, "I AM ALI, was an official Sundance entry and won Vanity Fair's "Best Short Film" at Newport Film Festival. In 2010 my feature length documentary "Black August" about the concert series to benefit U.S. political prisoners, premiered at Lincoln Center in New York City. My 2012 music video for "QueenS' by THEESatisfaction was named one of the year's "most stylish" by NPR.
For two decades I have lectured about gender, misogyny, radical politics and music at universities and colleges like Princeton, Columbia, FAMU, U of M and Barnard among many others. I've given on camera commentary on VH1, MTV and frequently appear on National Public Radio.
I am a Detroit native who returned home after living in NYC for 18 years. I love my city deeply and feel rooted here. I have written honestly about the sexual violence and misogyny in my own childhood and neighborhood. I've written about economic violence and Detroit under an international gaze.
When Detroit poet Natahsa T. Miller, a Kresge Grant winner and queer activist approached me to direct TransParent I was hesitant. Shelley was a teenager in a wide network of youth activists that have been like a second family for my daughter. Shelley was associated with The Ruth Ellis Center, a shelter for LGBTQI youth and my daughter belongs to Detroit Summer, a radical youth media group. Ruth Ellis youth and the teens of Detroit Summer both belonged to a collective called Detroit Future, and us adult allies consider these young people exactly that---our city's future. Shelley's brutal murder affected our community deeply. There was grieving and soul searching and unbearable feelings of loss.
Immediately after Shelley's murder, her mother Lyniece Nelson emerged something of a hero, unequivocal in her demand for justice for her daughter. Lyniece is also a true ally to the trans community to which her teenage daughter belonged.
Still, I was uncertain about directing a film. I am a cis gendered hetero woman. T. Miller, who approached me to direct this film she wanted to produce, is a lesbian, but also cis gendered. I didn't want to be a part of another voyeuristic film about trans misogyny and trans violence that provoked sympathy, but reinforced distance. I am an ally. A strong ally. A lifelong ally. And being an ally is about humbly submitting oneself to a life of learning. Being an ally is about taking direction, not having an agenda. When the beautiful documentary "Paris Is Burning" was released in the early 90s, I was one of many who questioned the privilege and gaze of a white woman filmmaker who'd trained her lens on the black and poor and queer. I didn't want to fetishize violence against trans women of color. So many of the reports in liberal media that detailed the horrific violence committed against Black and trans bodies seem like more trans phobia to me, where trans peoples' deaths, not their lives, are the focus.
But Shelley's life and death intersect with so many issues
I'm passionate about, issues I've never felt I had the time or energy or
resources to fully explore or develop as narratives. Prosecution of sex crimes,
of small drug possession and coercion by the police are all practices that work in
concert to populate our prisons. I care about all these issues. I care about
Black girls in Detroit. I care deeply about the Black and queer community,
enough to seek counsel, and yes, direction, as I proceed with this project. I
care about Shelley's death, but I care as much or more about her life. She
wasn't beloved because of her violent death, she was beloved because of her
brave and beautiful life.
A good friend recently introduced me to a concept that radically shifted my idea of what it means to be an ally. He quoted Israeli painter Bracha Ettinger, who, in her anti occupation work with Palestinians, tried to re imagine what it means to be an ally. The quote is, for me, a simple but revolutionary approach to being a partner, supporter and ally:
"Not witness, but withness. Not empathy, but besidedness."
I accepted T. Miller's invitation to tell Lyniece and Shelley's story and I am humbly asking you to support me on this journey. Your money will directly fund this film; it will insure and rent camera and light equipment, provide travel for the film crew and cover costs of production and finally festival submissions.
It is my greatest hope that TransParent bring about understanding and change. I expect to be changed by making TransParent.
Natasha "T" Miller
My name is Natasha Miller; I am a 28-year-old performance poet, activist, and queer woman of color born and raised in Detroit. I've worked/work closely with LGBTQ drop in centers around the city of Detroit including the Ruth Ellis Center. Two years ago while I was walking through a grocery store in San Diego I received a phone call from a friend back home in Detroit. The first words out of her mouth were “did you hear about the story of that transgender woman who was killed on the eastside of Detroit a few days ago?” I hadn’t heard the story so I asked her to give it to me, three sentences in I stopped her from talking and said “that was not a random act of violence, whoever did those things to her had a lot of hate in their heart for this woman and wanted to see her suffer badly”.
For nearly two years I thought about that woman, Michelle “Shelley” Hilliard. I thought about how disposable she was to so many people involved in her murder. I thought about how I hadn’t heard the story of Shelly’s horrific murder in San Diego, and how I probably never would have had I not been from the city that Shelley’s murder took place in. For months and months and months, I wrote poems about Shelley, and hate crimes. I told other people about the story of Shelley, and encouraged them to tell other people about the story of Shelley, but my heart still chose not to settle, telling the story in those ways was just not enough.
In 2012 I was rewarded with a Detroit Kresge artist fellowship, from the moment that I found out that I would be a DKAF I knew that I wanted to tell the story of Shelley, on film. Shortly after finding out about the DKAF I approached the director of TransParent, dream Hampton fellow Detroiter, writer, activist, ally, about directing the TransParent, she accepted my offer to direct the film. Next I went to Shelley’s mother Lyniece Nelson about the creation of the film, she agreed to assist with the production of telling the world the story of her “Treasure” and that is how we got here, asking for your support.
As a queer woman of color with a voice, and with a platform, I know that it’s important for me to tell stories of the forgotten, of the ignored, of the ones I call brothers and sisters. I am hoping that with your help, and with this film that we not only tell the story of Shelley, but also ignite a movement of storytellers that bring light to these types of stories that might not ever be considered important enough to be told, or important enough to keep being told. In advance, thank you for your contribution, you reading this, and being here is already a step in the direction that we are moving towards.
What will the funds that you are donating go towards?
Submission fees to film festivals.
Lighting and filming equipment.
Travel Expenses: to broaden the depth and reach of the film we plan to shoot different Transgender men and women from parts of the country outside of Detroit.
Fees associated with editing the film.
Rental spaces to shoot, and screen the film.
Telling the story of Shelley Hilliard
Fees associated with final cut
The completion of the film.
Why should you support the creation of the film TransParent?“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge we face as storytellers is our privilege as CIS gendered women. We are ever mindful and involved in deep and complex conversations about privilege and gaze as we move forward.
Logistically, there are travel challenges. We need to travel out of state to places where Shelly's have moved, often in search of safer spaces.
We need funds to submit to travel to festivals.
If we do not fund the campaign, we plan to use other methods of getting trans communities outside of Detroit in the film, one of these methods would be getting Trans women and men from around the world to send us videos of themselves to add to the film.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (40 days)