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Focus Features Announces Lili Elbe Fellowship, Granting $10,000 to Trans Filmmaker

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Focus Features has just recently announced that they’ve created the Lili Elbe Fellowship, which grants one trans filmmaker $10,000. You’ll remember that Focus produced The Danish Girl (bleh) and Brokeback Mountain. According to NewNowNext, in addition to the grant, the chosen filmmaker will be “mentored by Nina Yang Bongiovi (Fruitvale Station, Dope), writer/director Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines) and producer Christine Vachon (Boys Don’t Cry, Carol).”

We’re seeing an influx of trans stories being told in the mainstream media, but the major, incredibly glaring problem with a lot (if not all) of them is that they’re being told by cis people. Because of this fact, these stories are often told from a cis perspective, despite having a trans character as their central figure. These movies and television shows almost always deal with how a cis person reacts to a trans person, who suddenly becomes something to react to, not focus on.

It’s nice to see that more studios and production companies are looking to help trans filmmakers share their stories told from their perspectives. That being said, I can’t help but wonder if Focus is offering the Lili Elbe Fellowship as a bit of a mea culpa for their incredible misstep in the casting and production of The Danish Girl. Calling it the Lili Elbe Fellowship kind of hits the nail right on the head, doesn’t it?

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (, and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters ( She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.