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Chuck, played by freshman David Vasquez, wrestles Neil, played by Erin Clausing, in the final scene from second-year graduate student Patsie Varkados’ film Try Out. Varkados felt motivated by the lack of films addressing gender issues and wanted to correct the oversight.

Grad student exploring LGBT issues with film set in high school

With the recent LGBT–related suicides and bullying, a local filmmaker is attempting to address the issue in her recently completed film.

Earlier this month, Patsie Varkados, a second–year graduate student studying film production, finished her film with the working title, Try Out.

Varkados, who also wrote the script, began working on this project in the fall. The story follows a transgender high-school student named Neil, played by Erin Clausing, who experiences bullying and transphobia when he joins the wrestling team.

One of the biggest bullies in the film is a varsity wrestler named Chuck, played by David Vazquez, a freshman studying theater performance. Vasquez described his character as a “horrible person.”

“He’s kind of a (jerk) and a bully and close-minded to differences,” Vasquez said. “(He’s) mean and (he does) some things that shouldn’t be done. (He) disrespects Neil in very deep ways.”

Vasquez decided to get involved with the film because he had wrestled for several years and heard that the film’s team needed help with choreography for the wrestling scenes.

“The most fun I probably had was choreographing the wrestling match and seeing it come out in a way that I found I could be proud of,” Vasquez said.

While filming the wrestling scenes may have been fun, Varkados said that there were still challenges beyond the cast and crew’s control. 

“There were also more challenges in the writing of this piece than in my previous films because I really wanted him to win,” Varkados said. “I didn't want Neil to get beat up or killed, but I also didn't want to have an unbelievable or cliché ending on my hands.” 

The desire for Neil to win came partly from her dissatisfaction with other films dealing with gender, Varkados said.

“There just aren't enough mainstream films exploring gender today,” Varkados said. “We have a tendency in American society to show people in these positions being punished, and I want to see them win. It's about time the underdog actually gets to survive and not just to survive, but to succeed.”

Varkados said she plans to premier the film at the graduate film screening next fall unless public demand is high.

“Above all, I hope this film has an impact on the straight community,” Varkados said. “I want straight people to come away from this and realize that, when you strip away these boxes of 'gay' or 'straight' or 'queer' or 'bi,' all you have left is people. And that's all we are.”


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