Blogged by Lewis Hancox, filmmaker and co-founder of Lucky Tooth Films
A few weeks ago Hollyoaks produced by Lime Pictures, won the Best British Soap Award for the second time. A few days later they threw a well-earned celebratory party at the set in Liverpool for the cast and crew. I had the honour of attending said shindig, as I happened to be working with the Digital Team on that day – how convenient! It was fantastic. I chatted with writers, directors, actors and everybody was proud to be a part of Hollyoaks. Even though I’d only worked with Lime for a handful of days I felt a sense of pride too! I can only put this down to how lovely and welcoming everyone has been, they immediately made me feel a part of the team and I’m truly grateful for that. Here’s a little story about my ‘Hollyoaks experience’…
It all started with a media interaction set up by All About Trans. A bunch of trans people, myself included, were invited to the Hollyoaks set to meet some of the important people behind the hit soap (with an upcoming trans storyline, might I add). I brought along my best friend, Laura, and the both of us initially got paired with Vicki Lutas, Online Producer, and Laura Halligan, Researcher. We all instantly hit it off and I was able to talk so openly about my trans journey. It was really relaxed and felt just like four friends having a chinwag. We all exchanged contact details afterwards and assured each other that we’d keep in touch – Laura Halligan was more than keen to hit the town with us! We were next paired with the show’s Executive Producer, Bryan Kirkwood, and Modupe Adeyeye who plays the trans character Blessing. Another great chat ensued and I was eager to know more about their work. Being a filmmaker and aspiring actor myself, it was great to hear about their experiences. It was overall a thoroughly enjoyable and productive day!
A few days later I had a follow-up email from Vicki and Laura to say thank you and how nice it was to meet. Laura began to send over confidential scripts to myself and Sophie Green (also an All About Trans volunteer) to read over and point out anything we felt wasn’t true to a trans character and storyline. I felt touched that they wanted our input and it just goes to show how scrupulous the research department is. They truly care about getting this trans narrative akin to real life. Although I can’t speak for all trans people, and I’d say I’m more laidback than a lot of people when it comes to trans politics, I did my best to point out anything that could be deemed offensive while keeping in mind there had to be drama.
I recently spoke to Sophie about her experience working with Hollyoaks and how she has been liaising with the researchers and scriptwriters, making changes to the language used throughout the scripts:
Terms like ‘born a man’ were in the script and our interaction came at the right time to make changes immediate. Hollyoaks have been very open to ideas and very reassured by the comments and suggestions we as ATT representatives have made, and have also been involved in discussions as to how Blessing’s storyline could develop further. There were issues regarding Blessing essentially de-transitioning, wearing her old male clothing (which she’d kept?). This seemed problematic and the scenes were shot to show her wearing more androgynous clothing which she purchased. Things move fast and improbable stories develop in soap-land, for example, who would have thought the Hollyoaks hospital had a gender specialist?!
Vicki soon got in touch asking if I’d like to work with the Hollyoaks Online (Lime Digital) team on a couple of their backstage videos. Awesome! I can’t think of a more perfect outcome of the interaction. The online videos are a big part of Hollyoaks as a whole, they’re not only to entertain the fans but also touch upon any serious issues included in the storylines and so are educational in a sense. The two videos I’d be working on were focused on Blessing’s storyline and her relationship with Dennis (played by Joe Tracini).
Vicki kindly asked if I’d like to be presenter on the first video. I jumped at the chance, since acting and presenting are two skills I’d love to develop into a career! I would be interviewing Modupe and Joe on a couch in ‘The Dog’. Joe and Dupes were so friendly that interviewing them was dead easy! Digital Content Editor Sophie Grundy gave me a great script to work with and I found myself adding in the odd snippet of my own experiences to demonstrate how I related to the story. The video is up on the Channel 4 website and Vicki told me it has had a great response from their side. She said it was the first time they’d tackled a serious issue in a warm, light-hearted video. I was chuffed! Watch it here.
I’ve not long finished working with the team on the second trans themed video. This time I was director. I helped to come up with the concept and oversaw the production, plus I got to do a rough cut of the video to ensure I would be happy with the edit. This video involved ‘myth-busting’ and it was only recently released online! Check it out below:
If all that wasn’t enough of an amazing outcome from just one interaction, I think the icing on the cake was the Trans Acting Workshop set up by Casting Director Rick Laxton. This was like a dream come true for me! Well, I think the dream would be to actually get cast for a role, but let’s just say it’s a big fat step towards that dream. The workshop was intended to find new talent for upcoming productions by Lime. It’s not often, if at all, that a trans person is cast as a trans character, which is something the trans community often speak out about. What I believe would be even more moving, is if a trans person was cast to play a non-trans character. Surely this can only help to reinforce the fact that we’re all human.
I’d rather be recognised for my personality, interests and talents than being trans. That doesn’t mean I don’t want people to know I’m trans (a bit too late for that), I’m just saying that it isn’t a big part of who I am, so why should it be a big deal to anyone else? The workshop was super fun and though it was casual, it gave me an insight into a professional audition process. Now it’s just a waiting game in terms of a call-back but in the meantime Raphael Fox and I have lots of projects to be getting on with for Lucky Tooth Films!
Some people say that being transgender can make for a hard life in the long-term; hinder your opportunities, especially job opportunities. But my experiences go against that statement completely. In fact being trans has opened so many unexpected doors!
I want to inspire other trans people to get out there, hold their head up high and follow their ambitions. We’re all so much more than just trans and we need to be appreciated for our qualities just as anyone else would be. I’m not a transgender filmmaker. I’m a filmmaker. I just happen to be trans. Hollyoaks treated me as they would any other worker – why wouldn’t they? I had such a positive experience with them and I’m not only leaving with new films for my show-reel, but new friends! I predict a few Liverpool nights out on the horizon. To think all of this came out of one All About Trans interaction is incredible and I’m certainly eager to be involved with more.