Behind the Scenes: APTN Trans Health Video Series

Published August 4, 2023
Location Asia Pacific
Language English

In this captivating interview, we have the opportunity to delve into the work processes of the brilliant minds behind the APTN Trans Health Video Series. Charmaine Poh (Almost June Studios) and Eze Soh serve as the Lead Director and Lead Producer, respectively, on this amazing series that delves deep into the health, experiences, and issues faced by transgender people in the Asia Pacific region. As the series was made during the pandemic, everything was shot remotely with direction through Zoom, and it involved an incredibly collaborative process with various local production houses and talents.

How did you go about managing a team of producers, crew members, and other staff across multiple countries during the pandemic, and what were some of the biggest logistical challenges you faced?

Internet connection that enabled smooth communication between the digital and offline teams was really important; we didn’t always have the luxury of a strong Wi-Fi network. Being organised and communicative are key to a production like this.

Eze: On top of the internet connection, we also had to be mindful of on-set etiquette as well. When speaking to production partners, we had to brief them on the sensitivity of the project as well and that can look like doing a sensitivity briefing during pre-production or limiting crew size so as to not overwhelm our interviewees. As some of our interviewees could be immuno-compromised, there also had to be safety procedures put in place to protect them eg. self ART-testing before shoot and implementing mask rules on set. 

How did you go about finding and selecting the individuals who would be featured in the series, and what was your process for gaining their trust and building rapport with them?

Charmaine: We are so thankful for the partner organisations and liaisons who connected us to the various individuals we featured. In any production featuring real stories you were the double hats of being a human who listens and a storyteller who is trying to tell a compelling narrative; these were the driving forces.

Eze: We were able to find our storytellers thanks to our country focal points who assisted with so much of the liaising and communicating. It really helped to have the support of these partners in the different countries who could speak the language and also understand the cultural nuances. This fostered an environment where our profiles felt safe and allowed for these conversations to happen.

Can you talk about some of the themes that emerged during the filming of the series, and how you approached telling these stories in a way that was respectful and authentic to the experiences of the people featured?

Charmaine: We made it very clear that if the participants didn’t want to talk about a certain topic, they had the agency to change the direction of the production. APTN is a trusted organisation and many of the participants understood what the video series was about and were in on the journey.

Eze: Across the interviews conducted, we’ve found recurring themes of familial rejection and even aggression from various social groups and healthcare providers. When recounting these events, interviewees may find themselves being overwhelmed with emotions. When this happens, we allow them the space to process (instead of rushing a shooting schedule) and at the same time affirm and assure them that they have our utmost respect and support. Additionally, the interview questions crafted by Charmaine also exercised sensitivity by allowing them the agency to change the conversation etc. All the questions presented were tailored to their stories and comfort level.

The stories comes from a deep place in their heart and these were just one of the many considerations undertaken to hold space for each and everyone of them. 

What do you hope viewers will take away from watching this series, and what impact do you hope it will have on conversations around transgender issues in Asia Pacific and beyond?

Charmaine: I hope viewers will gain a sensitivity to the healthcare issues that trans people face, and that this series plays a part in working towards advocacy for better policies and solutions.

Eze: I hope this also stirs up empathy in the viewers so that we can foster kinder conversations and be mindful in the way we approach trans and gender non-conforming people. This in turn can translate into more inclusive policies being implemented and a better environment for them to receive healthcare in. 

Finally, what are your plans for the future, and do you have any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?

Charmaine: My works spans contemporary art, documentaries, film projects – I have quite a lot coming up. I’m thankful to have had an opportunity to work with APTN in telling stories that are fulfilling, and I’d be happy to work with you again.

Eze: I’m a multidisciplinary creative that works across film, documentary and commercial but i’m pivoting to focus more on my documentary and advocacy work so there are a couple of community projects lined up. Currently, I am launching an animated film titled “Imagine If”  with a community group in Singapore called “The Heartweavers”. It always brings my heart so much joy to embark on fulfilling stories such as this project with APTN! Thank you for having me.

Learn more about our Trans Health Module project!

Check out APTN Trans Health videos on APTN’s YouTube.
Sign up to APTN’s Trans Health Online Course here.