During the hight of Covid Lockdown in 2022 The New Current had the opportunity to talk with award-winning filmmaker Rosser Goodman about her work on the touchingly powerful LGBTQ+ feature film Holding Trevor.
Hi Rosser thank you for talking to TNC, how have you been holding up during the lockdown?
The lockdown has been scary since it began here in March. It felt instantly eerie – like we were all in a version of Brid Box that only ever existed on the screen. LA traffic has never been so good, nor has the air been this clear in decades. I am literally seeing mountains I did not even know we had.
Has this time offering you with new creative inspiration?
That’s a great question – My answer is yes and I think it has for a lot of creatives. Aside from the natural freak out – when you are suddenly stuck home and risk death if you leave, there are literal old closets to clean out and yard to tend to – which I think very surely frees up internal space to create.
In 2018 you where name as one of Take The Lead 50 Women to Change Hollywood, what did it mean to you to get this type of recognition?
It was wonderful – but what was even better is that the 50 of us got to participate in several workshops together geared toward change and not just here in Hollywood, but all around the world. We mostly focused on how women can support women to be of service to each other. I learned that I can promote someone else better than promoting myself and vice versa. Now I make space for that and it’s a joy.
How did you get into filmmaking, was it always something you wanted to do?
I grew up acting, writing and playing music. I loved directing theatre as I got older, but when it came time for college – it was my mom who insisted that I become a filmmaker. She said I had something to say and film was the best way to do it - I was far too artistic, she said, to do anything else. So, here I am.
Did you always feel free to identifying as an LGBTQ filmmaker?
Always. I don’t think I can hide it even if I wanted to and I would never want to experience that kind of discomfort again like when I was not out as a teen. There are plenty of other ways life offers to feel deep pain – so ones I can avoid – I do.
"The fact that this can still be rare – is pretty upsetting to me. I think the more everyone can see seamless integration of queer lives into all areas of society – the easier it will be to exist."
Is it still important for LGBTQ+ films to push boundaries not only for audiences but for themselves?
Always. We have marginalised voices, stories and lives. It is our duty as such to continue to educate others and represent ourselves on big and small screens. What a joy it is every time we get to see ourselves whether on the street, at a march, in a bar, on Instagram and on mainstream TV! There is nothing like it! We always need more until stereotypes and old troupes become outdated and all marginalised people share in representation and having their voices heard.
Since making Holding Trevor how much would you say Queer Cinema changed?
Well, I would like to think we continue to tell deeper and deeper honest stories artistically with high production values. My prime directive in writing and directing my queer work is to not tell and retell the coming out story ever. And, I think filmmakers still do. I get that, but it’s not what I want to see or celebrate. Most of the feedback I have received on my queer films from straight and LGBTQ+ audiences is how unique and refreshing it is to see queer characters that are already queer and comfortable with themselves when the movie starts. Then the focus is not on being queer but the journey. The fact that this can still be rare – is pretty upsetting to me. I think the more everyone can see seamless integration of queer lives into all areas of society – the easier it will be to exist. Some may think that’s aspirational for me to say, but that’s my point of view.
What was it about Brent Gorski screenplay that interested you so much?
Man, I read that thing and it just made my heart sing. The script really spoke to me with its deep angst and he burdens of being misunderstood. Thematically, I was absolutely drawn to the depiction of addiction – alcohol and drugs as well as sex and love addiction with a little codependency thrown in for good measure – that was super fun to explore with the characters and how to build the right tension in the scene. The ending that some viewers found to be unhappy I think, the writer and I actually found to be liberating. We really connected on the value and messaging of the script.
When you're working on a project do you allow yourself to be flexible with the script and be open to changes?
All writers need to be open to that – not so much in television, but absolutely in the independent feature world. When I have written something I am directing – if there is a better way to shoot it or tell it, I will. There are writers who are not filmmakers who cannot give up one page or one line of dialogue and so it must get shot, but chances are it won’t be used in the final edit.
You have a reputation for being an Actors' director, how did this reputation come about?
Well, for me like I said, I grew up acting. There was no greater joy than to dig deep into a character, come up with a detailed backstory and determine what motivates them. I know what that process is like, what it feels like and how hard actors work every time they approach a new role. So, I trust them. I trust they have that process like I had as an actor and I want to hear their ideas and take on the scene, what is authentic and what to them makes the scene sing. Actors like being heard and respected – just like everyone. I think the appreciate that I like hearing them and that I trust them. If I have a note, I have a note and will give it, but I like to start with what they bring. Also, I can say that of all the moving parts on the set – of which there are plenty – there is a certain predictability to those mechanical elements – lights, camera, but action is the most organic part of it all and that’s the actors. It’s my favorite part of filmmaking. Actors feel that and love it.
How much has your style and the approach to your films changed much since your debut?
I think the more you do something the better you get. But, I have spent so much time on set, that I am very much at home there. Every shoot feels amazing. Every shoot is different like a fingerprint, there is always something to learn. It’s my happy place and I am sure a lot of directors could say that. Every chance I get to direct, I take it.
What inspires your work?
Story-telling and collaborating with others is all I need to be inspired. I do like to tell anything that we have not seen a thousand times. So, I like to tell stories that are untold. If audiences are used to seeing straight white cis born men of a certain age in a role, I love to shake that up with a trans woman of colour with a disability, for example, play that role while the role itself may not having anything to do the actor’s identity – it’s role. Any marginalised person ought to be cast to play any role that may or may not have anything to do with their other-ness. I think we are headed there more and more in television nowadays – thankfully. It’s exciting to see it unfold and dreamy to watch.
What can you tell me about your upcoming Sojourner Truth Project?
It’s a dramatic 1-hour narrative series in development about her life, legacy and activism as a feminist and as an abolitionist. It is specifically not “another slave story,” instead it starts with the first court battle she won which had never been achieved by a woman or a person of colour at that time.
And finally, do you have there any tips or advice you would offer an emerging LBGTQ+ filmmaker?
Well, tell your own stories fearlessly even if you think the world is not ready. As different as you feel, as painful as that is for all artists – that is your gem. Your uniqueness is your strength – your voice is your soul and others deserve to get to know you and see you. Life is a gift and our time here is short – make the most of it – all clichés, I know, but true nonetheless. Be you, unapologetically, but always be kind.