This past weekend, I was lucky enough to attend Outfest in Los Angeles. As a trans man in film, this festival feels a bit like the world cup to me. I feel seen, heard, and represented. I get to watch things that make me laugh, cry and lose my mind. But this year, I saw a film that honestly and truly reminded me why I love movies and want to tell stories.
Bit, the third feature film directed by Brad Michael Elmore, is a roller-coaster ride of, hilarious, character driven storytelling set in an exciting universe where powerful women rule the streets and men should be the ones afraid to jog at night.
The film follows Laurel (Nicole Maines), a trans woman, who is visiting the big city for the first time to spend the summer with her older brother. On her first night in LA, she meets a pack of queer vampires led by the mysterious and badass, Duke (Diana Hopper). Different from other groups of vampires, they don’t allow men to be turned, stating that they can’t be trusted with power. Instead, they aim to feed on the terrible internet trolls, misogynist and predatory men of Los Angeles.
The fresh take on a trans narrative, especially in the horror genre, is very much needed right now and Bit knows it. With a stellar performance by Nicole Maines, Bit delivers a world that flips the vampire genre on its head and takes a bite out of every overdone trope to bring us something refreshing and endlessly entertaining.
I was lucky enough to be able to ask some questions to the brilliant writer and director of Bit, Brad Michael Elmore, and ask a few questions about the film.
What was the inspiration behind Bit?
A lot of things, too many to get through. Mainly things like Jem and The Holograms, The Craft, and The Lost Boys are things that I think are clear touchstones for it.
Every single character is incredibly complex, were there any specific inspirations you drew from? Especially for Duke and Laurel?
Nearly every character is drawn from life in some way, even if not fully, and certainly not at a 1:1 analogue, and then supplemented with ideas and cultural influences that I dig.
Laurel was easy to understand in some ways, simply because everyone knows what it’s like to be 18, horny, a bit of an outsider, and wanting to do something exciting and get out of maybe a small town.
Duke was the most invented. I really wanted to make an iconic, nihilistic figure in the vein of Tyler Durden or The Joker, but something that was anti red-pill MRA (men’s rights activists), that had that attitude that appeals to angry angsty teens but that could never be hijacked by reddit trolls. The name is both a reference to David Bowie’s ‘Thin White Duke’ character, and John Wayne, because as she says she is from a farm, and I wanted to give her this element of shit-kicker, just a patina of it, something that you wouldn’t maybe notice at first. A hick swagger that remained no matter how punk and city she became.
Izzy and Frog are based on friends of mine in my early twenties, just interesting people I met who if I was gonna make a team of vampires they’d be who I’d recruit.
ROYA came from an experience I had where I saw a teen girl on a skate-board who was dressed like SLASH, joint jutting out from her mess of hair and ratty clothes, who skated by a bunch of skin-heads by the Huntington Pier and gave them all a double middle finger and skated off. It was epic.
From Dracula and True Blood to Buffy and Twilight, Hollywood has had no shortage of vampiric lore, did you find yourself drawing from any previous films for the Bit vampires?
I went back to the first principal as much as I could with the vampires. I wanted to get rid of all the ways they can be hurt, and make it really simple and folkloric. Their nails and fangs are actually like crystals if you look closely, and they turn to wood when fire touches them. But more so I was leaning on the audience knowing so much about vampire rules/laws/ideas that I could just speed by all that and get to the stuff I was interested in. I wanted to play fast and loose with the iconography of vampires, down to the montage of VLAD which is taking every cinematic version of Dracula, from the Hammer films to Warhol all the way to Nu-Metal DRACULA 2000, and use them all as ONE man’s biography, as a sort of shorthand.
What kind of research, if any, did you do in relation to portrayal of transgender characters?
Lots. Absolutely tons. I started with the people in my life that I knew and drew from life experience and observed humanity; it was certainly a conversation I had been listening to and been concerned with. But once committed to the idea of making a vampire movie with a trans lead I did what any good nerd does: I hit the books. There are too many sources to name but I’ll tell you where I started:
Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock (holy shit she is an incredible writer)
Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (which, believe it or not, had nothing to do with me casting Nicole. I had no idea she was an actress and when her name popped up in casting it perked my ears up, but I didn’t place her as the same Nicole at first which sounds insane, but Bit happened so fast in a whirlwind once the financing came through.)
She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Once the script was finished I vetted it with a close friend of mine, Sabrina Saunders, a comic writer and actor I had worked with on my first two films, to see if I had done anything that would piss her off, or was just off the mark. Once they had given me their support I felt more comfortable to show it to people in and around that conversation and community that I wasn’t close to. The response at the script level was overwhelmingly positive, and then I felt like it was okay to start sending it out to try and get made.
What aspect of Bit did you find the most challenging?
The schedule. It got financed and our window to cast and shoot the film was so short that it was lunacy. It’s hopeful that for every shooting day, you have at least two prep days, but for Bit our prep days were our shooting days. It was very fly by the seat of your pants. Post was also rugged because I found myself butting heads about the edit.
What would you like the main take-away from this film to be? Is there anything important that you have taken away from it yourself?
Honestly, fun. The feeling that you get when you hear an X Ray Spex record.
My takeaway? I’m just glad I get to be a footnote in the Nicole Maines story, as she ascends to the stardom she deserves.
Will viewers be able to watch Bit at home any time in the near future?
Gosh I hope so.
If this film finds its way to a festival near you, I implore you to take the time and go see it. Bit is a masterpiece of horror and comedy and its truly authentic telling of LGBT+ stories is hopefully going to set a very high bar for future media to meet. Not to mention, aesthetically, this film has made it hard to beat.
I would sincerely like to thank Brad Michael Elmore for not only creating Bit, but for taking the time to speak to me at the Outfest screenings and to take part in this interview. Follow and support Brad and Bit on social media.
Brad Michael Elmore: Instagram