Quirky romantic comedy Boy Meets Girl has just finished its run on the independent film circuit and racked up an impressive amount of critical acclaim while sweeping the 2014 FilmOut Festival. Now, this poignant film starring out transgender actress Michelle Hendley is ready to hit the big screen in early 2015, and will begin streaming online later in the year.
Filmed and set in a rural Kentucky town, the story follows Ricky (played by Michelle Hendley) and Robby (played by Michael Welch, Twilight Series) who have been friends since they were 6-years-old. Now in their early twenties, Robby, the epitome of a rural southern car mechanic and Ricky, a cute trans girl who works in a coffee shop and dreams of being a fashion designer, push through their mundane days and lament their limited dating possibilities.
When beautiful debutante Francesca (played by Alexandra Turshen) comes back home to visit, Ricky finds herself drawn to the other woman, forcing Robby to contemplate how he feels about this. To complicate the story further, Francesca's soldier fiancé returns from his military tour in Afghanistan to find out that, much to his disapproval, Ricky and Francesca have become close friends.
As the story unfolds and their lives begin to intersect, the four have to deal with identity, sexuality, frustration, and finally a realization of who they are and what they want out of life.
Boy Meets Girl is a sex-positive love story that crosses all gender lines, director Eric Schaeffer (If Lucy Fell, Never Again, Mind the Gap) tells The Advocate. In a time when most movies dealing with trans-themed plots are casting cisgender (nontrans) actors, Schaeffer has intentionally cast an unknown trans woman for the leading role. The Advocate caught up with him and lead actress Michelle Hendley to learn more.
The Advocate: I watched Boy Meets Girl this week and I have to say, "Wow that was incredibly real."
Michelle Hendley: I'm so glad the film rang true for you! It was of the utmost importance to the Boy Meets Girl crew to create a story that felt authentic to the trans experience.
Previous to your acting career, you had a YouTube channel where you shared your transition details. Do you feel that helped you prepare to be in front of a camera as an actress?
Yes! It seems silly to think that a bunch of YouTube videos would help prepare me for my film debut, but it definitely cut my nerves in front of the camera a bit.
Boy Meets Girl is your first feature film. How did you get involved in the project?
Eric [Schaefer, the director] found me via YouTube and told me about his project. At first I thought he was just some dude on the Internet with creepy intentions, but after checking out his [page on] Internet Movie Database and Skyping with him I realized he was a real deal director. I was very excited to be a part of the movie.
How does your life compare to the life of main character Ricky? Are they similar?
There are quite a few parallels between Ricky and I. For one thing, we are both young trans women. We also come from loving and supportive communities and families, and live pretty "normal" lives. We work 9-5 jobs, cry about boys, and probably spend too much time trying on clothes and looking at ourselves in the mirror. However, Ricky carries a dark past that has made her a little more edgy / salty than myself.
How much creative input were you able to provide to director Eric Schaeffer in order to produce such a true-to-life character?
The story and character developments of Boy Meets Girl were Eric's creations, but he and I collaborated when it came to Ricky's character as a trans woman. Eric used my personal perspective and experiences to keep many of the issues discussed in the film authentic, and it was his attention to detail and willingness to listen to my input that made this project so amazing for me.
To what level of transphobia have you experienced in your life as compared to what your character experienced?
While I have yet to experience any physical violence because of my trans identity, I was teased and bullied in my formative years. Kids can be mean, and I think everyone faces some discrimination/ bullying growing up. I was just targeted for being very feminine. Nowadays I don't really deal with petty teasing but there are individuals who simply refuse to accept me (or any trans person) for who/what I am. I do not give these sorts of people much mind though, to be honest. I don't have time for all that negativity.
Click through to the next page for more from Hendley, including some Boy Meets Girl spoilers.