The film Boy Meets Girl is in some ways a very traditional “Will they, won’t they?” love story, but also works to break the stereotype of what love looks like in 2015.
The film’s director, Eric Schaeffer, lives part-time in Vermont and filmed much of the movie here. He joined Vermont Edition to talk about the recently released film and how it’s been received.
Schaeffer describes the movie: “Boy Meets Girl focuses on Ricky, a 22-year-old transgender girl living in Kentucky, and her best friend Robby, a cisgender boy. They have been friends their whole life, since they were little kids, and they’ve always been platonic. During the arc of the film, certain things happen that make Robby go through some feelings he might not have been aware he had for Ricky … It’s about people who are trying to identify their innermost desires, longings and wishes that might be different than the box and compartment that society put them in, in terms of what they felt they were allowed, or appropriate feelings or desires for their sexual orientation, their gender.”
The filmmaker says he chose such a cliché title, Boy Meets Girl, because at its heart, the film is a cliché love story. “But clearly, there’s kind of a new exploration of the subject matter in that the heroine, the lead girl, is a transgender girl,” he says. Schaeffer knew the LGBTQ community would support the film, but he wanted to draw in a wider audience. “So I wanted the film to fire on many very familiar cylinders, so that it would invite audiences … that might not be as privy or aware of these issues.”
Schaeffer says his conservative uncle’s reaction to the film was one of his favorites. “I could visibly see in his eyes the excitement and genuine nature of his feelings,” says Schaeffer. “He went far to disclaim ... he’s straight as straight could be … But he said he loved the movie, and that he cried and it wasn’t just because I was his family.”
The filmmaker says that although there haven’t been many conservative viewers yet, their responses are some of the most rewarding. “Because those are people who might … not only not be open to, and not identify and like a movie like this, but certainly not love it. So when those people tell me they have emotions about the film that are positive, that’s obviously super gratifying,” he says.
Schaeffer describes the process of finding a transgender actress as difficult. “I had to get creative … and ended up on this YouTube channel on this really beautiful 22-year-old girl living in Missouri named Michelle Hendley, who had all these vlogs about her life,” he says. Hendley, who stars as Ricky, didn’t have any formal acting experience before Boy Meets Girl.
Schaeffer worked with her for months before giving her the role, flying her into New York to act with professionals and sending her to work with an acting coach. “I put her through the trials because she was starring in the movie and the movie would win or die on her performance," he says. "After six months of working really hard, she got good enough that I gave her the part."
In the movie, Ricky has a lot of support from her community, family and friends. Schaeffer says it was a decision he made after a lot of research and after interviewing a group of transgender women, including Hendley. “It is absolutely untrue and unfair to say that rural America doesn’t have massive pockets of people who are extremely loving towards everybody in their communities,” he says. “Some of the transgender women, including Hendley, that I interviewed from Virginia, Missouri, small towns … they really reported a lot of ‘normal’ circumstances in their lives. And so that was great, and I did want to portray that.”
Schaeffer points out that although not every trans person has had a positive experience, it was something he chose to highlight in his film. “To show a transgender women in a positive light, with a community and a family that love her, was very important and not completely untrue to many transgender people’s experience,” he says.
Much of the film was shot in Vermont, where Hendley resides part-time. He said it made sense for a variety of reasons, including the cost. “When you make a low-budget movie, you have to exercise every possible penny-pinching thing you can to make a film … I figured rather than trucking everybody down to Kentucky, it would be a lot easier and much cheaper, and the community was super supportive and generous to help us get the film shot there,” he says, adding that the rolling hills and streams of Vermont approximate Kentucky well.
Boy Meets Girl will be available on demand and on DVD in April. Learn more about the film here.