If I know one thing about red-headed Gemini’s it’s that they’re usually talented, driven, and annoyingly creative beings. If I know two things about red-headed Gemini’s, it’s that they are also terrifying. When they tell you to do something - you do it.
And with that God-awful and ambiguous intro, I take you to why you should see Without a Tracey, the three-part queer/comedic/crime online series by co-creators Alex Culliver and Chelsea Thistlewaite, premiering at Mardi Gras Film Festival this February 19th.
Both under 30, Culliver and Thistlewaite are talents working in, around, and all over the mouth of the film and television industry in Australia. Written and directed by Culliver and produced by Thistlewaite, Without a Tracey is the kind of heart-led, perfection achieving, and boundary nudging that you can expect from two red-headed Gemini’s - you were waiting for that bridge, weren’t you? Set in NSW, the series follows ex-cop Tracey Kimmel, who discovers the body of a teenage boy, leading to a deep dive into the suspicious death, revealing secrets that threaten her family, her community, and her own life.
If this queer, female/non-binary duo with an incredible concept and stunning visual articulation wasn’t enough of a clincher for you, this is mandatory watching because, as previously mentioned, and please do not take this statement lightly, red-headed Gemini’s are bloody scary.
But why take my word for it when you could take their much more eloquent words? read on.
OK, let’s take it to the chorus. You have 5 words to describe Without a Tracey, what are they?
Mysterious, funny, sad, gay, kissing, crime. That’s 6. Sorry.
If ‘sad, gay, kissing, crime’ isn’t the mood of television for 2020 I don’t want to know what is. Now you have 2 paragraphs to convince us why we want to see Without a Tracey?
We can’t give you two paragraphs, but we can tell you that this series will make you happy. It’s complicated and funny and sad and sexy and sharp and looks beautiful.
Everyone worked hard, everyone put their heart into it, why wouldn’t you support young queer filmmakers making art?
And NOW you have as long as you want to tell us what your mini-series is about?
It’s about so much! Love, family, community, kissing, crime, violence, secrets, small towns. But here’s the official logline:
When newly retired ex-cop Tracey Kimmel discovers the body of a teenage boy on her morning run, her razor sharp instincts tell her this was no accident. As she delves deeper into the case she uncovers a secret that threatens her family, her community, and her own life.
If you want more - come to the premiere on February 19th for Mardi Gras Film Festival.
Speak to genre in this series, how are you ‘defying’ it?
The crime / thriller genre is often defined by a certain set of rules or do’s / don’ts. Audiences like these stories because to a certain extent they know what type of story they’re getting when they watch a show like The X-Files, Broadchurch, Twin Peaks etc.
In creating Without a Tracey we actively tried to work within the boundaries of the genre while also bringing something fresh that audiences hadn’t seen before. We have these gut wrenching moments of heartbreak next to humour that we think brings something new to these stories, and we hope audiences connect with in a new way.
Who is this series for?
Literally everyone - lesbian detectives, small town kids who are being bullied for being different, mums, teenagers, city kids, anyone who felt like they haven’t been seen, heard or understood before.
Would you call it subversive? If so why? What is being challenged?
CT: Absolutely. In creating the series we were passionate about showing a queer family in all its complexity, normalcy and nuance. We’re challenging the idea that this representation doesn’t exist within the genre and isn’t the primary source of conflict within the story. We wanted to show a loving, safe familial unit that was more representative of our experience within the queer community.
AC: I think we’re also challenging the expectations surrounding genre. A devastating crime is handled with comedy and self awareness. Are you allowed to laugh? Are you supposed to find this funny?
I think some people have been shocked at themselves for laughing, but I’m wanting to challenge the audience to approach these very real, sad stories that occur in our community with humanity and action. We laugh sometimes as a way of coping with tragedy. We often band together and heal communities with laughter.
The question on gender: Why was it important for this story to be told by a female non-binary duo?
CT: Female filmmakers generally are massively underrepresented in terms of employment and opportunities within the industry. We were in the extremely fortunate position of being able to tell the exact story that we wanted to tell in the exact way we wanted to tell it. Being entirely self-funded was a massive blessing creatively, but it was also a huge amount of pressure. The accountability stopped with us and the decisions we made on the day. We are hugely passionate about telling this story with the heart and love it deserves, and having the lived experience of these characters was crucial to that succeeding.
AC: My creative identity has been shaped by my gender and accompanying expectations in many ways (certainly not always positively!) and I do believe that my experience as a woman in a highly competitive, male dominated industry was a huge strength in being able to tell Tracey’s story.
I’m so grateful that my co-creator, Chelsea, has such a great understanding of the pressures female filmmakers face and was able to guide me through the process. Having a strong Creative by my side to back my decisions and make me feel supported at every turn was the real reason for the completion of WAT. I’m not sure I would’ve had the same tremendous experience if we didn’t have that mutual support!
I think it is essential that more female and NB identifying creators are represented and supported in this industry, and I hope that by creating WAT, we are able to help provide more opportunities for these groups into the future.
The question on sexuality: Why is it important to have queer stories told by queer humans?
Representation is the question and issue in the industry right now. The metrics prove that audiences are craving these stories and craving this representation both on the screen and behind the camera. These are authentic, nuanced and complex stories that we’re telling, and our aim is to push the queer storytelling canon forward in ways that mean that our lives as living queer beings are documented in a truthful way. As a producer the only way to do that is to champion queer filmmakers, to pay attention to what is being said and elevate the voices that haven’t been heard before.
The question everyone is desperate to have answered: Why so many keep cups?
CT: The planet is dying!
AC: The least sexy thing on the planet is watching someone sip out of a single use cup. I refused to include this image in our show. To everyone who burdens me with this image in day to day life - do better!
Without A Tracey premieres at the 2020 Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival as part of its Australian Episodic Showcase on February 19th @ 7pm.