At 27, filmmaker Brit Fryer is establishing himself as a unique and powerful voice in filmmaking. An alum of the Sundance Ignite Fellowship and the Creative Culture Fellowship at the Jacob Burns Film Center (among many other distinctions), Fryer currently has two short documentary films in festival screenings, Caro Comes Out and Across, Beyond, and Over—although, of course, film festivals are online-only events these days. And from his apartment in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood, he’s continuing to work and to plan his next film projects.
Fryer grew up in the Chicago area and studied film at Carleton College in Minnesota before moving to New York. Although he has made some forays into narrative films, most of his work is in the documentary space—and many of his projects explore ideas about gender and sexuality. “A lot of my films are about my own identity as a trans man,” he explains. “And primarily I work on documentaries where I’m working very closely with my subjects to develop their stories.”
Throughout his life, Fryer has been interested in storytelling—originally finding his voice through slam poetry and participating in Chicago’s vibrant slam poetry scene. When he got to university, he discovered filmmaking and found a new passion. Then in 2016, his senior thesis film, trans-ience, an experimental short that explores his own experiences as a trans man, earned him a Sundance Ignite fellowship—which set him firmly on his career path.
It was during this period that Fryer was quoted in a Buzzfeed article as saying he wanted to “revolutionize trans filmmaking”—and that is still a goal, but the meaning has evolved somewhat. Fryer explains, “At that time, I was thinking about representation—just seeing more people who looked like me both making movies and in movies. But since 2016, we’ve seen a radical shift in representation. We’ve seen more trans characters and more trans folks behind the camera. Now I’m interested in what’s on the horizon of our storytelling, on the stories inside our communities.”
As an example of that, Fryer points to Kind Of, a short film he produced in collaboration with Noah Schamus, about two trans men who are grappling with their new open relationship. Fryer says, “This was a project I wanted to produce because often when we see trans characters, they’re alone, or the film’s central issue is their transness versus the world…but in the world of this short, everyone is trans. We’re dealing with issues that are in our community, rather than our community versus the rest of the world.”
Fryer’s Creative Process
During the preproduction stage on his films, Fryer typically develops an outline or script that will form a frame inside of which the documentary will happen. And then, he says, “We let real things happen within the shapes that we’ve made.” Although he begins film projects with clear goals, he believes it’s important to stay open to reimagining those goals.
He explains, “This is sort of the way I look at ‘transing’—if I can use that as a verb—my documentary practice…. How can I take my own positionality as a person who has transgressed certain binaries and boundaries, and put that into my filmmaking? No matter if I’m making stories directly about trans people or not.”
This was certainly the case with Fryer’s film Across, Beyond, and Over, which had its premiere in 2019. The film is ostensibly about Fryer and the first person he ever dated, as they reconnect to craft a narrative film about their lives. They had planned on writing something together and decided that it would also be interesting to document the process. But in the course of making the film, they discovered that they had many other issues to explore.
The same thing happened in his film Caro Comes Out. Fryer explains, “In that short, we have Caro, a Cuban-American writer, who came to me and said, ‘I want to go to Miami and come out to all my family members, like all thirty of them, just in one go.’ But when we got to Miami, that goal quickly fell away, and the film became more of an exploration of life among these multiple generations of Cuban Americans…. I’m really interested in that—in what happens to people as they are on a path: how do they divert, what do they learn in these diversions, and what do we learn from their changes?”