Halo Rossetti set out to create the representation they never had while growing up in the 1990s. The queer and nonbinary filmmaker said the only notable pieces of media they had of trans and genderqueer representation were “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “The Crying Game” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
But with Rossetti’s short film “PONY,” which is currently crowdfunding through film-centric platform Seed&Spark, the West Philadelphia resident will “retroactively go back into the image bank to make something in the ’90s — now.”
“If you’re a transmasculine person, you weren’t going to see yourself represented at all [back then],” Rossetti said. “So I thought, ‘OK. There’s a hole in the image bank. I want to fill that image bank with a story that is set in the ’90s where this kid has these feelings and comes into it as a genderqueer teenager.’ That is something I have literally never seen in my life.”
Set in 1999, “PONY” focuses on Zoe, a pre-teen living in a haunted house. Throughout the short film, Zoe starts to embody their true gender in the wake of their transfeminine sister’s suicide, subsequently defying their grieving mother.
“I [was] thinking about this kid and I thought, ‘How can they figure out who they are?’” Rossetti said. “This kid had this sibling and they were both trans and they had this world together in which they were accepted, but then outside of the world there was no acceptance. What happens when you lose that lifeline and you have to do it by yourself? You have to find a way to assert who you are.”
Rossetti said the film is loosely inspired by their own experiences growing up but contrary to what the film depicts, their parents were always supportive of their gender and sexuality. However, Rossetti wanted to amplify the epidemic of LGBTQ youth suicides, since suicide rates increase for youth with unsupportive parents. Kathryn Foley, the film’s producer, said this is the part of Rossetti’s pitch that spoke to her.
“It’s absolutely terrible and heartbreaking,” Foley said. “[We want] to create a film that helps children and young teens understand themselves better. And also, it’s partially to talk to the parents about how to have these conversations with their children and how to understand their children. We really feel like this story needs to be told now.”
The cast and crew will be able to spread this message once the film is fully funded through its Seed&Spark campaign, which is scheduled to end Sept. 4. Donating includes numerous incentives such as social-media shoutouts, signed posters, your name listed in the credits, and many others. As of presstime, the campaign is about $2,000 away from reaching its $26,000 goal. Rossetti said these funds are to ensure every person on set is paid a fair wage and to ensure the production meets COVID-19 safety protocols.
Furthermore, Rossetti’s team will consist entirely of LGBTQ individuals and people of color. Rossetti intends to lift up these marginalized voices both through the film’s production and through sharing accomplishments of other creators and performers on the film’s social-media pages.
Rossetti noted how most creators and performers do not have work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Out of all the people who are out of work, that includes queer people, trans people and people of color who may not have had as many opportunities on set anyway,” Rossetti said. “So by making this film now, we can actually put money into their pockets.”
Rossetti said many of the film’s older donors have reached out to them with messages about how they’ve never had this type of representation in film. With production set to begin next month and with the goal of releasing during the 2021 film-festival circuit, Rossetti aims to continue reaching more people within this audience.
“[I’m looking forward to] showing it to other people who are millennials and older and for them to really connect and be like, ‘That’s what it was like for me.’ I want people to have that catharsis. If I can touch just one person, it will all be worth it for me.”
For more information on PONY, visit ponythefilm.com. You can donate to the film’s crowdfunding campaign via www.seedandspark.com/fund/ponythefilm.