Wednesday 8 February 2017

Interview with Scottie Madden

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Scottie Madden, an American writer, showrunner of adventure reality TV, director, and producer of many documentaries, and the author of “Getting Back to Me: From Girl to Boy to Woman in Just Fifty Years” (2015). And she writes a weekly blog called "Raised By Wolves" and Zuzubean Press. Hello Scottie!
Scottie: Hello, Monika! And I'm honored to be speaking with you - you've kept some amazing company through your blog here - talk about collective wisdom and experience! 
Monika: You can boast of a splendid career in film-making. Do you regard yourself more as a producer, director, or writer?
Scottie: I have always used the term "storyteller" - I grew up in the fine arts with an incredible master artisan as my mentor, and I apply the same aesthetic to my filmmaking - Gerhard inspired and implored me to push both whatever medium I was/am using at the time, be it clay, gold, television screenplay or adventure reality series and the entire story unfolding before me to create something that is the fullest experience possible for the audience.
That richness has a different sense of legacy and expression whether it's a ring on Mylove's finger, or a vampire love story unfolding in a darkened movie theater, but they have the same complete immersion and commitment of the storyteller (me) in them. 

Monika: Your 2008 feature film titled “The Kiss” was a romantic horror-comedy, which was a departure from documentaries that you used to be associated with …
Scottie: Well, yes and no... an indie film is an engrossing, heartbreaking and heartwarming experience, but it requires the above discipline since most of every day you are looking for a solution that money can't necessarily buy - it's a lot like an adventure documentary - there are few places in remote nature that accept credit cards or that play by film-making rules, so your solution to each obstacle tests the outer bounds of your creativity. "the kiss" (all lower case - I was being ironic, lol) could never make excuses for not having money - that is one of an Indy film's cardinal rules - but also, as a vampire flick (which has its own legacy) it was the opportunity to create a world as rich as Lord of the Rings (which never left my hip pocket through high school) and it's a world that is alive today and will be available (this time with a bigger budget) to audiences and fans of "the kiss" soon.
Monika: It has been 8 years since the premiere of that movie. You did not feel tempted to direct any movies from that genre afterwards?
Scottie: I like this question - tempted. That's how all stories are to me, tempting. They tease me with flashes and possibilities. I developed the Vampire world that I created for the kiss for an additional two years - writing the entire histories of all eight vampire clans. So yes, I've been tempted - and not just by the story, many suitors have come to tempt me with making a sequel or a series - with a few near-misses, which is also life here in hollywierd - we're always selling our next projects (which is a diversified slate if you're smart). I am happy to report that the current suitor is proving to be the most promising. Stay tuned for that.

Available via Amazon.

Also, this question allows me to clear up a misconception about hollywierd - nothing is linear in anyone's career trajectory - in fact, our career decisions and path only make sense in retrospect - it's really just a process of saying yes to every opportunity and following the path lit by those choices.
Monika: In your repertoire, are there any film productions related to transpeople? I couldn't find any … was it intentional to stay away?
Scottie: I only came out officially to the outside world with the publishing of my book (I know it looks so... planned). So, and it's not lost on me that you have shown interest in The Kiss. I was trying to deal with the concepts of transformation, resurrection, and being completely committed to love and life. Completely committed to love and life. Completely - which was something that, rich as my life had been, lacking almost nothing... was, just wasn't.
I had resigned myself to "running out the clock" (sorry, I was also raised as an athlete) on my life - be the best dude I could and earn my true womanhood next lifetime. So yes, I intentionally stayed away from ever getting close enough to my "sun" of anything directly transgender, because the warming rays only magnified the pain of my life unlived as... well as me.
Monika: How are transwomen perceived by Hollywood? Is transgender art becoming more prominent these days?
Scottie: Time will tell. As a community, we're all getting closer to getting one "up on the boards." Angelica Ross and Jen Richards got an Emmy nomination for the short series "Herstorys" and I've got a dramatic series based on my book that I've been blessed to have Alexandra Billings agree to play me. So... prominent? Not by a long shot - until trans producers are able to produce a trans-themed product, will we start seeing art.
We are still deemed "supporting characters" even our patron saint and sacred cow, Jeffrey Tambor's Maura is not the lead character nor are trans themes, The dysfunctionally wonderful Pfeffermans is the main character and family is the theme - by design and great intention by Jill Solloway. And this is important for both cis and trans professionals to note.
The cis world thinks "aren't we doing enough of the trans thing over on Amazon? I mean look at the Emmys!" And the trans world says, "yeah, yeah, yeah, the whole family is interesting, and aren't we normal after all, now, get back to Maura." And all Jill is supposed to do is tell HER story as both creator and the one who lived it (it was based on her Moppa, right?). And no amount of Jeffrey's apologies (and his very tangible - behind-the-scenes support) can or will change the facts that a cis-male is playing a trans female. This is why I'm so excited that Alexandra agreed to play me in "The Other Woman."

And while we're on Transparent - it serves as the reason why we have to keep up the fight both to honor Jill's groundbreaking work (she's leading a movement, like it or not but also it's what happens when we are "okay with the crumbs from the table." We don't dare criticize "Transparent", it's ours and it's also why we gave "I am Cait" a chance, we are so starved for anything that we treat it as sacred.
But Transparent isn't anything like "me" anymore Maura is like me or you or anyone but maybe Jill's Moppa... and, here it comes girls, any more than the Goldbergs. I am not Jewish. I have friends who are, I was married by a Rabbi, (long story) and... I don't expect it to be.
I won't hold it to those standards; If it was about an Irish, Scottish, Finnish, Polish family with four girls (and one of them looks like a boy) then it might be closer. So we need to give Transparent a break when it's not trans. It's called television. And drama, but I hear this as I pitch my own show -"oh, we're not sure there's room on our slate for two trans shows" and my counter that they have five medical shows and four cop procedurals gets the metaphysical pat on the head for my precociousness... isn't she adorable, they're so cute when they're young and naive. Which is the point. We aren't understood because we aren't heard or seen. So we continue to push and climb and believe and strive. Time will tell.

Zuma Beach, California.
Photo by Lara Weatherly.

Monika: Why did you decide to write “Getting Back To Me - from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"? Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Scottie: Well like all the other mediums in my life - writing a book was always on the plan - and the subject started as my own LOTR and along the way became any subject that took my soul, but that wasn't appropriate for any of the other mediums that are at my fingertips... that list (entitled "books I will write" in the file drawer in my head) became the thing that I will do when I get... "the time" that mythic beast that seems to be more elusive with every passing year...
... until my body and soul revolted. As I said, I had a life strategy - I had developed very elaborate and robust coping mechanisms to keep my gender dysphoria from derailing my life. Some were the constant behavioral monitoring systems that kept my true self under lock and key, others were the monthly "lockdown" that I had to institute to brace for the hijacker - a severe bout that would seize my body (oh yes it was visceral) and mind (like being on meth and LSD simultaneously), for days.
And one day I had a system-wide failure. My entire body literally threw up the truth of what and who I was to my wife of then 20 years. And for five years after that, we pretended that though this was true about me, just knowing the truth would be good enough. Until it wasn't. So I knew the very visceral consequence of continuing to deny reality. And...
I started to come all the way out. And I kept coming...

And this will sound trite and cliché but the book wrote itself. Seriously in three months of 14 hour days, and an additional two months of editing and proofing. I journaled about the year of my official transition - which required me to be very clear to the reader why each milestone along the way had the significance or irony or humor that it had for me. A memoir has organic freedom that allows for a natural format to disclose my history. As a writer, I use the format to fit the story. And this seat-of-the-pants, real-time account flew out of me with the same force that the truth of me tore through our bedroom on the morning I came out to Mylove. The real decision was whether to publish. There is no turning back in a "no turning back" story...
As for use for my fellow sisters? Yes. I read several memoirs during my time in my mental dungeon, and these gave me the sense that I wasn't crazy, couldn't be making it up. And seeing that someone else didn't have it figured out, was afraid of all the right and wrong things, and finally, thank God, didn't sacrifice her precious life to fulfill the world's expectations. I also "field test" the systems of transition from name and gender marker change (a huge day for us all!) and simple health care, and there's some advice and some "Geezus, I hope you never do it this way" kinda stuff as I navigate the narrow parts of the river. But, and this is something that reviews, both cis and trans readers have been the most enthusiastic about, my book is an inspiration to live in love with love for love, and to laugh. Always.

The first edition of the book.

Monika: The first edition of the book had an inspiring cover. You were looking at a big painting showing you as a female in a lovely hat ...
Scottie: Ah yes, that hat, that picture. A dear friend painted that picture from my FB profile pic, which stealing a page from Kristin Beck’s playbook, I used to quietly announce by a simple “Scottie has changed HER profile picture,” to the world that… my world anyway was starting as of now. And I thank you for calling it inspirational, in one of my previous lives, I was a graphic artist. So I thought, “piece of cake” when I was in the self-publishing mode, designing my cover on my first book was a great opportunity (and no pressure for this chronic achiever!)
But, no one in my family liked the way I looked. The women in my family actually were able to use their defense of my physical form as a way to declare their acceptance of me - “That picture just doesn’t do you justice - I mean you are beautiful and that woman is just… not you.”
Well, who could argue that? So when I got the chance to do the cover for real with current pros at the top of their game and get a visual message that was even more on target with what I was trying to say (more “matter-of-fact” and less aspirational) I leaped at it... and that gave me the chance to ask Alexandra to do a forward and endorsement. So, in the end…it worked out for everyone, my aunts and sisters especially! LOL


All the photos: courtesy of Scottie Madden.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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