A Web Series in Several Iterations
Brenda & Annie
The idea for the first iteration of Brenda came about in mid 2002. Before then I had not had any real awareness of, or any interaction with the transgender community. At around that time I met three women in various stages of their transitions. One of whom had a girlfriend both before and after their transition. The idea that love transcends gender really stimulated the incurable romantic in me.
Around that time, I read a novel by Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) called Invisible Monsters that featured a transgender woman called Brandy Alexander. In the novel it later comes out that Brandy is not actually transgender. She is a man called Shane who has been sexually abused as a teenager by a policeman. Shane then struggled to be himself after what he had been through. He then had chosen to become a woman as a way to disfigure himself; to lose all sense of identity and get beyond the control of others. Being somebody who had always struggled with identity and fitting into society, this really resonated with me and the character Brandy Alexander stayed with me.
A little while after that, my friend Steve invited me out for a drink with him and his gay friend, Annie. We got rambunctiously drunk and I found Annie to be both hilarious and attractive. During that evening: the thought struck me that it would be just my luck if I fell in love with her and spent the next five years of my life chasing after someone totally off limits to me. As I got drunker, that idea became more and more inevitable as she became more and more attractive to me. The following morning, I awoke with a hideous hangover, chuckling at the thought. Over the course of the day the idea of a cross-dressing, heterosexual male who falls head over heels with a gay woman was born. And, in order to have a relationship with her, he convinces her that he is female and in the process of transitioning. He even starts taking hormones and planning his operations. I thought about Brandy Alexander as I imagined Brenda actually going through the process all in the name of love.
Being almost six feet and ten inches tall it seemed a no brainer to me that I would play the cross-dresser. I pitched the idea to Steve and Annie and they both loved it and agreed to get involved. We met up a few times and outlined the story, deciding that we would shoot on Mini-DV and shoot guerrilla style. We decided that a day trip to Leigh on Sea would make a good first scenario and one grey Saturday in the Autumn of 2002, we head off. The idea was to shoot in public places, where we would remain in character, and interact with the public, ad-libbing and riffing off of each other.
The finished product went down well at several festivals and art installations but our busy lives made a second instalment impossible until nine years later.
To be continued
Simon Downham-Knight – Copyright 27/6/2021