TenEighty recently chatted to Bertie Gilbert about his new short film, Blue Sushi. The film, which was written and directed by Bertie and Sammy Paul, is the story of a trans man who comes out whilst performing in a band.
As Bertie is a straight cis man, why did he want to take on transgender issues in the film?
“I guess it was just a story I wanted to tell,” he explains. “I loved the idea of someone’s identity being flogged and commodified, sold to the highest bidder. That as a conflict really intrigued me and I feel like it’s a very relevant notion, especially in terms of YouTube! Somewhere down the road, the idea of applying that basic concept to a trans protagonist just worked. It just felt right.
“Before me and Sammy ever started writing a script, we ensured that we were clued up. We had to be certain we were familiar with the subject matter and acquainted with the community. You’ve got to take these steps to ensure a level of authenticity when creating a character that you as a writer can’t directly relate to. We reached out on Twitter, talked to some friends and, eventually, we got to the point where we are now: a good 20 or so trans folks in our writing credits, which is awesome! Regardless of everything else, we’re just happy we could’ve made so many new friends.”
Alex Bertie and Jake Edwards were creative consultants for the film. “Alex and Jake are awesome,” Bertie says. “They’re such inspiring figures and it’s so refreshing to see two people so vocal and passionate about who they are. They were lovely! We sent them rough outlines, a few drafts of the script and their responses were always so helpful.”
Khyan Mansley was another YouTuber involved in the film, starring as the bad guy. Although the role wasn’t written with him in mind, Bertie says that out of those that auditioned for the role, Khyan absolutely nailed it.
It wasn’t Bertie and Sammy’s first time working together, with the pair having written and directed Bertie’s Rocks That Bleed. Speaking about their working relationship, Bertie says: “I think this time it was a much more intensive partnership. He was brought on board the moment I had an ounce of an idea, so it’s absolutely as much his film as it is mine. I would 10/10 make a film with again.
“In terms of production, this was the biggest film any of us had done, and I think it shows,” he says, when asked what he’s taken away from this experience. “I certainly think I’m more aware of how to work on a bigger set. And I guess, obviously, I’m much more aware to the trans community! It’s always been a community that I’ve respected and cared for a great deal, but I wish I’d spoken to more people and exposed myself to it sooner. Because it’s inspiring as all hell and like I said before, it’s just nice to make more friends.”
Finally, when asked what was next for him, he replies, “We’re currently in the very very final stages of writing for my first feature film, which we shoot in New York in December! So that’s exciting! I think that’s all I can tell you for now, but there’s some insane stuff to do with this project that I can’t wait to share with people.”
Earlier this year, Bertie was featured in our Five of the Best: Short Films. Check it out!