As We Are
We spoke to Deborah Espect, the creator of As We Are and curator of
FilmPride. We chatted about YouTube, writing authentic queer characters
and the killing off of lesbian characters.
This interview took place as part of a panel discussion on queer web
series with other creators. You can watch it in full here.
How did As We Are come about?
I decided to make As We Are back in 2016 after watching a number of lesbian deaths on TV and in films. I just got really fed up with the representation that we were getting in popular fiction. I really wanted to write about authentic characters in the LGBTQ+ community and stories that didn’t just revolve around characters coming out. At the time a lot of the stories were about characters coming out and when they did come out the writers didn’t know what to do with the character. They were killed off or they moved away.
YouTube is of course a fantastic platform for many reasons, but what can it do to protect the LGBTQ+ community further?
For one of my short films, the thumbnail for it [on YouTube], is two women in bed. I’ve had to delete comments from disgruntled straight men who thought the film would be just two women in bed but the story behind is a parody of the dead lesbian trope. A lot of people thought they were going to watch lesbian porn, which it’s not at all! So that’s annoying. We’ve got some really brilliant queer platforms here in the UK like Queerbee and Lesflicks. I think it’s really important to have these platforms. The plus side with YouTube is you’re reaching out to so many people, and I think by having queer content on just queer platforms, people who are not part of our community will never get to see our stories and how will we manage to educate people if they don’t actually see us. That’s why I want to keep my stuff on YouTube but yes, you’re making yourself really vulnerable. But I’d like to still keep positive about reaching out to a wider audience by being on YouTube still.
Blake (left - played by Fox Fischer) and Chloe (Jenny Harrold) in the final episode of As We Are
What was the writing process for the series - especially writing a trans character authentically?
I wanted to explore some of my own confusion that I had in the past about that. I mean what Chloe goes through in As We Are is a little bit like what I was imaging myself going through had that situation happened in real life. For Chloe’s characters I kind of just explored my own thoughts on it. When it comes to Blake, I contact Fox Fischer, a well known trans activist, who is fantastic. We discussed this character, we built this character together. There is a conversation between Chloe and Blake where I had a lot of Fox and their partner Owl’s input to make the character genuine and authentic. Obviously writing a web-series with a character who has a trans experience, you really shouldn't be doing that without talking to a person with a trans experience. Their feedback and their input was invaluable. It has given Blake that authenticity that I wouldn't have been able to do alone.
It feels easier these days to cast queer actors who are part of our comunity than it would have been 10 or 15 years ago because a lot of actors have been scared to come out because a lot of the time that would mean they’d have been out of a job. Now it’s so much easier. It’s actually a really exciting time for us queer filmmakers to be able to cast people from our community to play our roles.
In the UK mainstream media, especially on TV, it’s usually the same people who write stuff all the time. It’s getting better in terms of inclusivity but it has been really difficult to have our characters portrayed realistically because the people writing had no idea of who we were. They are starting to realise that our voices matter.
Are there are queer characters or storylines that have inspired you?
I’m going to show my age now, it was Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A lesbian witch, amazing! The death of Tara broke my heart and I will never get over this and in fact that death is referenced in one of my films - The World Can Wait.
You can watch 4 part series, As We Are now on YouTube!