Writer-director Marc-Antoine Lemire and actress Pascale Drevillon took the time this week to speak to Solzy at the Movies about the short film, Pre-Drink. The film will screen on Friday during the 42nd San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival.
Thanks for joining us and congrats on Pre-Drink being selected for Frameline.
Marc-Antoine Lemire: Thank you for having us!
Pascale Drevillon: Thank you, we’re very happy with the film’s success so far!
Where did the idea for the film come from?
Marc-Antoine Lemire: Since the very beginning of the process, it was obvious for me that PRE-DRINK was not going to be a film about trans-identity. The main character I had in my head happened to be a trans woman, but I was mostly interested in exploring the thin and sometimes blurry boundaries between friendship and love. Especially in that situation where sex is also involved, I felt like the character of Alexe was perfect for the story, because she’s at a point of her life where she’s especially vulnerable. Her relation with her own body is complex. She wants to feel desired but she wants to protect herself at the same time. There’s is a strong and inevitable feeling of loneliness, which might be also amplified as she realizes she’s even not understood by her very own best friend…
I really think anyone can relate to those things. Alexe go through things that are absolutely universal. PRE-DRINK is about feelings we all have inside, such as love, friendship, sexual desires, fear, disappointment, loneliness… It’s human.
The sexual orientation or identity of Alexe and Carl doesn’t matter at all, which is probably my only statement about it. By making this film, I tried to unstigmatise my characters from their “marginal” condition. I wanted the audience to feel close to Alexe, to feel close to what she really is. I wanted people to forget she’s a transwoman, and see above that, so they can completely relate to her.
Pascale Drevillon: Marc-Antoine…It was all him. His words, his work, his universe. I helped out as much as I could, made a few comments early on about the character, her choices, her relationship with her body. But it was all on the pages from the get-go for me.
The short film runs just shy of a half hour. Could the idea be expanded into a feature-length film or are you satisfied with Pre-Drink being a short film?
Marc-Antoine Lemire: I don’t think it could have been longer, and I didn’t want it to be longer. Actually, I worked hard with my editor Anouk Deschênes to make it as short as possible, cause we had so much footage but really wanted to focus on the very essential. For me, the short form of the film really contributed to this feeling of intimacy between the two characters. We catch them in that small room, on that very specific moment of their lives. It’s a glimpse of their lives, and I like that idea that the audience has to imagine the rest.
Pascale Drevillon: I don’t think Marc-Antoine wants to go that route, I know he has a lot more stories to tell. I would love to take Alexe to TV Land, I’m sure I’d have a lot of fun with her, in her punk-ish world with her wild parties and her awesome friends. There’s a lot to say about young trans women, about their life in the real world – dating, facing society’s pressure to conform as a young person and as a woman, the pressure to be successful AND pretty, AND maybe have a family AND a career…
Were any cis male actors ever considered for the part of Alexe or was it always going to go to a transgender woman?
Marc-Antoine Lemire: Never, really. I knew since the first draft of an idea in my head that it would HAVE TO be a trans woman playing the part. My statement about trans-identity in PRE-DRINK was to try talking about it without having to make it as a theme. The film would still have existed if it would have followed the story of two heterosexual and cis friends. But that’s not what I wanted to do. Plus, i wanted to make a very realistic film, and details were so important, i couldn’t compromise that. The casting process was very long and it took about a year and a half to find Pascale. I did researches and casting everywhere around the city and met a lot of trans woman in a lot of different contexts (most of them where indeed non-actresses)… if that can show you how BADLY I needed Pascale. 😉 and to be honest, if I had to cast a cis person for the role, it would definitely have been a woman, and not a man. Because for me, Alexe is and had always been a female character.
Pascale, I first heard about the film when your personal essay was sent out as a TIFF blast. How did you first get attached to the film?
Pascale Drevillon: Marc-Antoine and I met before the script was finalized. We have friends in common and we attended the same university, we had only heard about each other. He was actively reaching out to trans people around the city and online to bounce off a few ideas and confirm his theories for PRE-DRINK’s story. We clicked the second we met. We became friends quite quickly, I talked about my journey, my experience as a trans woman. My transition was already many years in the past, so I had to dive back in my memories and imagine how Alexe would be going through that, in her own way. Then came the time to cast the lead role. I auditioned of course, having just graduated from drama school. And eventually I got that call, I was in!
Is it harder to find work as an actress who is out as transgender?
Pascale Drevillon: Being a working actress is tough, to start with, especially in our little Canadian ecosystem. Surprisingly, I keep working; I keep booking amazing gigs and meeting new people, leading to new and better opportunities. I’ve been very lucky, but I’ve also been working very hard. I have my own projects (mostly performance art and artistic explorations around the idea of gender) but I also work on major theatre productions. I’ve held small roles on TV and web shows, I’ve done a few short films. I’m very vocal as a trans activist, I’m not sure if it’s helping or hindering me. I’d say the future is looking bright.
What thoughts do you have on the current state of transgender representation in the media?
Pascale Drevillon: We’re slowly getting there, step by step. I think the ‘transgender tipping point’ is real, but we have yet to build a true road leading to our success. We’re here, we’re not as quiet as we once were, but we’re still being silenced. People still wonder about us, why we exist, why we speak our truth, why some of us need to be outside the ‘norm’. I think it’s much easier for trans people who fit typical gender roles, who are able to erase their difference, for their defining past to be invisible… and that’s wrong. It says a lot about who we are, as Eurocentric white privileged North-Americans. There’s a huge level of hypocrisy, as if we couldn’t or shouldn’t fight every battle at once. But gender equality is also about ignoring the difference between the sexes. Feminism is also about not conforming to beauty standards. The fight for trans rights will bring peace to so many issues, once we stop worrying about our differences, about the categories we need to fit in, about the importance of our outward appearance. When trans women win the fight, every women win. Because there’s never been only one kind of women, and there never will be – we’re too complex as humans for that to be true.
As the film has played during the festival circuit, what has the reaction been like?
Marc-Antoine Lemire: I’m still surprised and impressed by the amazing feedback we receive around the world. I started writing this film three years ago, we were like 5 people in a room for the shoot, I had spent all my money on making it happen, and I never would have imagined it would reach that many people.
After screenings, a lot of people come to me, saying they really related to Alexe’s character or what she was going through. Some of them told me they had never seen trans people before, and even admitted that they’ve totally forgot, at some point, that Alexe was a trans-character… That is probably for me the best compliment we received.
And generally, people are a lot more open than I expected (or they just avoid telling me? Haha, I’m kidding.). Earlier this year, we made the Moscow International Film Festival, which was really meaningful for me. Seriously, I never thought PRE-DRINK would be shown in Russia. I was so happy and thankful to the programmers there. They had the boldness to put us in Official Competition, in a country where my two characters would have been oppressed by the actual government. For me, that is a fucking great achievement in terms of reaction. Just being there!
Pascale Drevillon: People have come up to me and told me how much they relate to the characters and their struggle – outside of anything related to gender identity or sexual orientation. People relate to this story of friendship, the story of two people who’ve known each other for a very long time and who are about to make a move that will change everything, forever. Young women have told me their own stories – giving yourself to someone, entirely, more than you would have cared to even, maybe, and then being so disappointed. People still tell me about their experiences with love versus friendship. The trans component is just the extra glitter added on top. Even though you do get to see the extra layer of drama that we have to deal with, the true core of gender dysphoria when it comes to offering your body to someone you love, going forward even if it hurts.
What other projects are you working on?
Marc-Antoine Lemire: I am currently developing a short film and a feature. There are other ideas coming as well… I like to try different things, to explore the medium of cinema and its possibilities. The films I work on right now are very different than PRE-DRINK. I feel like my creativity works “in reaction”. My next project has nothing to do with LGBTQ+ issues. The next one maybe will… I don’t feel like it’s my duty to speak about that, it’s just part of my very diversified interests. I’m pretty curious myself to see what’s coming afterwards!
Pascale Drevillon: So many things! This summer, my new durational performance piece is finally seeing the light, after four years of preparation. On August 4, I’ll perform GENDERF*CKER in front of an audience for six hours – I’ll go through the entire spectrum of gender and try to demonstrate how gender is purely a work of construction, an image we actively create to tell the world about who we are, and how powerful certain symbols of gender have become. This fall, I’ll be in Platonov, a Chekhov play presented at Theatre Prospero for four weeks. This winter, I’ll be in Guerilla de l’ordinaire, a powerful work of fiction playing at Theatre d’Aujourd’hui, for another four weeks. I also have TV and radio appearances scheduled, and GENDERF*CKER will keep evolving and traveling, hopefully. I intend to work mostly in Montreal for the next 6-8 months, but I’m always happy to travel wherever people want me. I go where the money is, as artists do.
Thanks for your time and congrats on the film.
Marc-Antoine Lemire: Thank you so much, Danielle. It was a pleasure! 🙂
Pre-Drink screens on Friday, June 22 during the Worldly Affairs shorts program at the 42nd San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival.