Jennifer Lopez and Trans Nibbling Star in Doc Short as Official Oscar Entry for Doc Short Runs Theatrically Jan. 12th Through Feb. 9th
Reviewed by Me’Chele Sevanesian-In 2013 Jennifer Lopez announced she was producing a show that would highlight real-life issues based around a fictional family who are all adopted.“The Fosters” then became one of the most popular shows to come out of ABC Family now known as Freeform, and now has a spinoff TV show entitled “Good Trouble” which Ms. Lopez also produces. Around the same time, Lopez made multiple appearances and was featured in an article as she talked about her “nibling” (her now nephew who at the time was transitioning from being born female and coming out as non-binary then trans). Note the usage of “they, their, them” is used instead of him or her.
“Draw With Me” follows Brendon, Jennifer Lopez’s nibbling as they talk about their experience of coming out as a non-binary and finding that art was the main source of expression. Quite early in the documentary, Brendon makes a comment that really highlighted the point of documentaries like this, “I was the first one in my friend group that came out… but I certainly was not the last.” While Brendon has the opportunity to be a major voice in the trans community because of who their aunt is, it is important to realize that there are many children who experience gender dysmorphia and suffer in silence.
Life is about finding joy and passion, and also relying on these things to help us get out of the misery that can be so overwhelming. This is exactly what we see with Brendon and their love for art. Art is just a clear version of expression even if the meaning is hidden behind abstract pieces, there is still a message. It was a really enjoyable documentary to watch. I felt very connected with Brendon and their rawness about their experience made it very understandable. The film itself highlights the complexity of the situation, which many people accept but don’t fully grasp until they know someone who is transitioning.
Another thing I really appreciated was how the parents came to terms with their hesitation. They did not pretend as if they were gung-ho for the talent show when Brendon came out. This is something a lot of parents struggle with, so much so that they even disown their children because they are in denial. Films like this can open a doorway to understanding the emotional journey families have to navigate.
“Draw With Me”, is a highly informative and heartfelt film. One full of useful information that uses the medium of art to help paint the picture.
“Their message was clear.” – Oprah Magazine
“An important and timely film.” – Harper’s Bazaar
“An incredibly brave story.” – Good Morning America
“Brendon is going to light the way for so many kids” – New York Post
DRAW WITH ME was created in partnership with The Trevor Project (the leading suicide prevention line for LGBTQ+ Youth) and powered by the Onassis Foundation. The film has had a wonderful impact on the LGBTQ+ movement having been presented at Tribeca Film Festival with the support of GLAAD, having been the subject of the first-ever panel at the United Nations on Transgender Health, and having screened at numerous high-schools in conjunction with the New York Department of Education. National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2020, marked a milestone for the film when President-Elect Joe Biden supported the LGBTQ+ movement in an award show that screened DRAW WITH ME and honored Brendon with the Revry Visibility Award presented by Jennifer Lopez.
“The film is important and timely in its story and message, and can have a huge impact, ” says Jennifer Lopez in the film. “It’s a story that is very close to my heart because it is a family affair. It’s about accepting change and challenges with love, and that knowing when we do, everything is possible.”
“Although I knew that telling this story came with a lot of responsibility, I felt ready and the family truly made me feel safe and comfortable in doing so,” shares Director, Constantine Venetopoulos. “The entire family joined as one in supporting Brendon and the film. What I truly believe drew me to the story, though, was Bredon’s confidence in knowing who they were at such a young age, and being ready to use their experience as a tool for other youth who were struggling with their identity and coming out. I thought ‘I wish I had someone like Brendon to talk to when I was struggling in the closet as a kid.’
Brendon has expanded their artistry beyond drawings and painting and is now a sophomore in college studying acting. An advocate for acceptance, Brendon’s message for all those whose family, friends, or co-workers may be trans is simple and clear, “Believe us when we say who we are.”
The full 24-minute film is available to the public at ArenaScreen.
Full Director’s Comments Below: When I first heard about the Trevor Project I remember thinking “I wish there was something like that for me when I was struggling in the closet as a kid in the small suburbs of Greece”. Fast forward a decade later I would find myself at the United Nations sitting on a historic panel on Transgender Health on the 50th anniversary of the Stone-Wall riots, with the subject matter being our film and its impact. People see a short documentary, but what they don’t see is the series of events that led to it. One of my earliest childhood memories is that of observing my toy action figures examining their anatomy while wondering who I was. What would follow would be a long journey of self-acceptance from marrying a woman (though I was a gay man deep down), to coming out of the closet and pursuing my dreams as a filmmaker in the United States. At the first opportunity, joined the Trevor Project as a volunteer of the chat life-line and have since done my best to support many youths going through their own coming out journeys and struggles with suicidal thoughts.
A lucky turn of events connected me with Leslie Ann Lopez, a talented opera singer set to perform in my first feature film MAN IN THE ATTIC. Through Leslie Ann, met her child; Brendon Scholl, a youth with whom I clicked immediately. It was friendship at first sight. I remember walking into Brendon’s room enamored by it being filled with art, covering every crevice of the wall and ceiling. Brendon was very open about their art and what it meant to them, and they shared the story behind some of their drawings and how art had saved them. My coming out journey was not easy either, so Brendon’s story spoke to me in a profound way, though being gay and being trans are vastly different journeys. As our friendship continued to unfold the CEO of the Trevor Project who was also a friend mentioned that it would be an honor to have Brendon as a speaker in one of their events. When sharing the invitation with the family, I also shared my wish to document the family’s story and Brendon’s transition and coming out story in a film preceding their speech. Brendon and their family joined with excitement, ready to share their story in order to support other youth going through similar journeys. That was when all the dots connected, becoming the beginning of DRAW WITH ME.
Although I knew that telling this story came with a lot of responsibility, I felt ready and the family truly made me feel safe and comfortable in doing so. The entire family joined as one in supporting Brendon and the film, from their loving grandmother to their aunts Lynda and Jennifer who both joined the film; Lynda by using her voice as a journalist asking the right questions and Jennifer with an educational introduction shared with millions of her followers. What I truly believe drew me to the story though, was Bredon’s confidence in knowing who they were at such a young age, and being ready to use their experience as a tool for other youth who were struggling with their identity and coming out. I thought “I wish I had someone like Brendon to talk to when I was struggling in the closet as a kid”. So listen to us… and as Brendon says so well, “Believe us when we say who we are.”
DIRECTOR / PRODUCER – CONSTANTINE VENETOPOULOS
Born in Athens Greece in 1980 -3rd generation in a lineage of shipbuilders- Constantine Venetopoulos graduated from London’s CASS Business School with a Master’s Degree in Marketing, embracing his family’s cruise line heritage while staying faithful to his passion for poetry, literature, and the film world. In addition to publishing two novels, his films have premiered at Tribeca Film Festival among others.
His most recent work ‘Draw with Me’ created in partnership with ‘The Trevor Project’ about Brendon Scholl a youth in transition, featuring Jennifer Lopez and President-Elect Joe Biden -the leading suicide prevention line for LGBTQ youth- made history at the United Nations, commemorating 50 years from the Stonewall riots and has been presented to schools world-wide including NYC’s Department of Education, as well as being deployed as a resource for diversity by organizations such as Esteé Lauder and JP Morgan.
He has directed ABT’s prima ballerina Luciana Paris and actors Bill Skarsgård, and Ian Alexander among others. His first feature film MAN IN THE ATTIC, a psychological thriller featuring Emma Hepburn Ferrer Is anticipated to hit the cinemas in 2021. He is the founder of ‘Kuntaur Film Festival’, a children’s film festival in the remote village of Kuntaur in West Africa lacking access to electricity, sharing the cinema experience with the youth by deploying mobile generators and he is the creative director of The Lamin Koto Super-School Prototype for which 2020 marked a milestone when a mass scale photo posting was installed in collaboration with French artist JR’s INSIDE OUT social impact platform.
Constantine was recognized by JR as the face of Greece in a PHAIDON educational publication in 2020, is supported by the Onassis Foundation, and is a frequent speaker at Tedx Talk events. Constantine Venetopoulos has been an author, filmmaker, and advocate for human rights since 2010 is fluent in German, English, and Greek and his plans for the future involve further narrowing the gap between social impact initiatives & film, while currently developing a film that will document the first-ever venture by a disabled person into outer space, among other projects.
SUBJECT – BRENDON SCHOLL
Brendon Scholl is a visual artist and college sophomore majoring in theater arts. Their art has been an integral part of their life since childhood, as evidenced by the crayon compositions covering the heating units of their room, followed by mural artworks around the walls. Their entire room is an expression of their artistry, in a 360º art gallery of their inner world. As they continue to evolve as an artist, they simultaneously carry this passion into their activism and advocacy. They were one of the leaders of their GSA in their high school and marched proudly this past spring in the Black Lives Matter protest marches. Brendon was honored by the Trevor Project -the leading suicide prevention line for LGBTQ+ Youth- during their annual fundraiser in 2018. Soon thereafter Brendon made history when a documentary about their life of advocacy was screened at the United Nations, in a special anniversary commemorating the 50th Stonewall riots.
Brendon led the first-ever United Nations panel on Trans Health matters, as the voice of the youth. Brendon hopes to continue with their activism and their art throughout their lifetime and to see the changes necessary for this country to live up to the promises made to ALL Americans, by setting a worldwide example for equal rights and opportunities without exception.