OUTTAKES is a lo-fi web series about two trans guys. It is based on the genre of the transition video, videos created by people in the process of transitioning their gender. These videos, created all over the world in bedrooms and living rooms on laptops and webcams, are a way for trans* people to share experiences and information, and to feel less isolated by reaching out and building community online.
Creator, writer, director // Sylvan Oswald
Co-director, writer // Maria Cataldo
Starring: Sylvan Oswald, Becca Blackwell, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Mikéah Ernest Jennings, Avi Glickstein
Season 1 followed creator Sylvan Oswald and actor Becca Blackwell as they set out to create a web series about a guy coming out to his partner, played by Zuzanna Szadowski, as trans.
Season 2 starts one year later. Becca, now Beckett, is trying T, Sylvan’s leaving Brooklyn for good and Zuzanna’s trying to sort out the future with both of them.
My primary identity is as a writer. Video came much later. Sometime in the middle of college I was in a state of extreme melodramatic heartbreak-slash-longing. I was in London for a semester and when I returned, I started writing in a way that was entirely new to me. Maybe it was all the avant-garde theater I'd been studying, the experience of living out of the country, or feeling completely overwhelmed by my desire for a woman who wouldn't have me, but for the first time I was able to make some different choices about the form my writing would take. I did not, in fact, know what I was doing. But I was writing at the same time of day for several hours, intuitively, even nonsensically. In the afternoons I was attending classes on cultural anthropology and literary theory that were way over my head. The only way I could process that information was by somehow bastardizing it creatively. Every few days I would go through the material, including my notes from class, and circle the stuff I liked and build upon it. It was at this time that I began to represent gender non-conforming characters in my work. I had no vocabulary for them, though. Even in 2000 I knew few gay people and had never known anyone trans. So I wrote boys to be played by girls. Sometimes I think that my writing knows more about me than I do.
Outtakes came out of a moment of frustration with the American Theater, where I'd come up as a playwright. In 2013 the conversation around trans artists and trans content was even less developed than it is now. I felt like I was having trouble being heard. There was also a moment of idleness - performer Becca Blackwell and I had some time booked to work together, but what I had in mind was feeling kind of dead to me. So we just started messing around and watching videos online. Naturally we landed on YouTube transition videos. Neither of us had ever made one. We were like, let's make one, but what should it be? "Should I play you? Should you play me? Should we play ourselves?" We shot on my 2009 laptop webcam because that's the aesthetic of those transition videos (and because I don't own a camera and had no prior experience making video). I showed the raw footage, which included me directing Becca, to my best friend, filmmaker and editor Maria Cataldo, who later became the co-director, and said, "What do you think we should do? Which approach do you like better?" And she said, "No, Sylvan, this is the show." That's how we found the style.
Now, 16 years after my writing grew up, I say I make "plays, texts, publications, and videos." The practice of video feels like a visitation to me, a way of speaking beyond my present knowledge. I'm working with it in a crude way, but I enjoy making art the best when I am working from that naïve place. I'm forced to trust myself. So now I'm trying to do more things I don't understand. I'm co-creating a show with the brilliant performer Jess Barbagallo. There's no play to speak of. I'll let you know how that goes.
-- Sylvan Oswald, creator, writer, director of Outtakes