|Filmmakers Hannah Merritt (left) and Flannery Wasson|
During June's LGBT Pride Month, filmmaker Flannery Wasson (Univ of Arkansas) explains below the background to Stage Presence, the film she made with Hannah Merritt.
Stage Presence was created in our college town of Fayetteville that is nestled in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. We could have easily shot the picturesque nature scenes around us, but instead we chose to spend 8 months in smoky bars and loud nightclubs burning through batteries late into the night.
Stage Presence follows two young people who use performance as a means to express themselves and address gender stereotypes. Moises identifies as bi-gender and has just begun to perform as Valerie at drag shows as a way to connect with and explore both gender identities. He’s always felt there was more to discover even after coming out in his teens, so he has finally decided to break into the growing drag scene in northwestern Arkansas. Whitney is a rising stand-up comedian who writes material that doesn’t include typical "female" jokes. As a former peer health educator, she’s become known for crafting jokes that challenge making light of sexual assault. New to performing, she’s continually looking to establish herself and find her voice on stage.
Stage Presence gives you perspective into performers’ lives to see what motivates them to ignore the risks and nerves and get on stage to share their craft. It was important to us to capture the moments you don’t usually have access to when you are just an audience member. It’s not often that people can have conversations with stand-up comedians or drag queens, so we wanted to make sure to make a film that gives you the intimate look into their lives. Hannah and I had never made a documentary before creating Stage Presence, and we did so as undergraduates in a graduate-level course. In the end, we ended up with a film that we are immensely proud of and eager to share.