Outfest kicked off its 40th anniversary film festival Thursday in Los Angeles by presenting Grammy-, Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actor, performer and activist Billy Porter with its 2022 Achievement Award, and then hosted the premiere of his directorial debut film.
As Kemberlie Spivey reported in Forbes in November 2020, the original title was What If? Now, it’s Anything’s Possible, a transgender coming of age drama, starring an out trans actress, Eva Reign. Here’s a look at the trailer for the film, which debuts on Amazon Prime on July 22:
Reign and Porter are making all the headlines, but the unsung star of this project for MGM’s Orion Pictures is Mexican-born out trans screenwriter Ximena Garcia Lecuona. She is walking the red carpet at the premiere at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown L.A.
Before their big night, the screenwriter and Porter answered my questions for Forbes:
Dawn Ennis: How do you feel about debuting your film at Outfest and what does that mean for the LGBTQIA community and representation and visibility overall?
Billy Porter: It feels like coming home. One of the first films I ever starred in was Greg Berlanti’s The Broken Hearts Club all the way back in 2000. Haven’t been back since. I’m thrilled. Representation matters, and I am so blessed to have lived long enough to see the day where I, a Black queer man, get to live to the fullness of my authenticity and thrive.
Ennis: How does a brand like Outfest help support your vision?
Porter: Outfest has always been a lifeline for those of us queer folk who had no place to go. To have a queer film festival that’s 40-years-old is a testament to the fierceness of our community. Build it—and they will come.
Ennis: What does it mean to you to be honored and recognized by Outfest?
Porter: I haven’t really been able to digest the magnitude of this moment. I’m working on that. But I will say this—it was over 20-years ago when I decided to choose myself and hopefully change the trajectory of my life. I did that. And I’m humbled and geeked that Outfest sees me.
Ennis: What was your reaction when you learned the story you wrote was finally going to be made into a movie?
Ximena García Lecuona: I think like the first reaction was not excitement. It was like anxiety. I was like, ‘Oh, no. Oh, shit! Like, what? What have I done?’ Because I really wrote the movie not thinking of the consequences, you know? It was just a fun thing to write. I wanted to be a writer. I needed to have some samples. And then when it actually started to happen, it was like, ‘Oh, no. People are going to see what I wrote? Get to know me on a very large scale?’ That kind of exposure was very, very scary for me. But that went away, eventually. Eventually, it just faded into happiness and feeling I was telling an important story.
Ennis: And then to have Billy Porter, of all people, select this as his directorial debut.
García Lecuona: Yeah, that was great. I think I was excited when they told me that, because I just really wanted to meet Billy Porter.
Ennis: Having met him and interviewed him, I can tell you it’s a treat. Yeah. I heard from Outfest executive director Damien Navarro that he was very inclusive on the set as well.
García Lecuona: Yeah, he was great on set. He’s very sensitive, very fun, great with the younger members of the cast. He’s an angel.
Ennis: I think one of the things I worry about, as an aspiring screenwriter, is I write it and then somebody changes it and it’s unrecognizable from what I had as a vision. Has that happened to you in any way?
García Lecuona: Things definitely change, but I like it. Like in Anything’s Possible, Billy came in, and not a lot of the script changed, like the script itself, but Billy is very intuitive, in the moment. What the movie needed was changes on the spot and I like every change that I saw. I was like, ‘Oh, no, that was correct, like, I overlooked that in the script, or it just went to a very surprising place that I like. I think the movie benefited from having so many voices. At some points, I think I would kind of forget about the delivery and the joy involved in the script and go to serious places. Billy came in and said, ‘No, we can have that, but also make it fun, and have them dance here.’ I love how it how it evolved and changed.
Find out more about Outfest and its many events by clicking here.