Frankie, a non-binary trans person, crashes their ex-partner’s men-only 12 step meeting, determined to be heard… no matter the cost.

‘Frankie’ is a raw and resonant tale of the universal struggle for acceptance. Directed by James Kautz, and a debut short film from Red Seed Films, ‘Frankie’ inspires audiences to reexamine the connections between gender, masculinity, trauma, and recovery. A story about the need to be seen on one’s own terms, Frankie centers on the struggle of a non-binary trans person mere days after coming out. In a room where men talk about their feelings, this film shifts the question from “How are we different?” to “What makes us the same?”

We checked in with the director who told us a little more about the film’s background:

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

A few years ago, I entered into a men’s codependency group. It was honestly the first time in my life I’d ever been in a space where cisgender men were so openly vulnerable. A common theme amongst all of us in the room was this idea that we’d denied our true selves in an effort to ‘stay safe’ in the face of someone else’s addictions and fears.

My spouse Morgan, who is a Producer on Frankie and plays Frankie, was coming out as trans, non-binary at the time, and they were having so many similar revelations about their own experience.

The commonality of that human need: to be seen and recognized despite someone else’s fear – that was the seed of Frankie.

The group almost becomes a character of its own in this film, what specific traits were you looking for this group to have?

The mens’ group really needed to embody a spectrum of masculinity, from aggression, to empathy, to ambivalence. They needed to be this cohesive pack while still totally unique and individualistic in their challenges to Frankie.

We spent a lot of time with casting and I feel so fortunate with the group we assembled. I think the film really lives and dies by the strength of our cast.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

Keep going. Take your time and keep going.

What do you hope people will take away from ‘Frankie’?

I hope folks who watch Frankie, especially those who maybe have some rigid preconceptions about gender and masculinity, walk away feeling genuine empathy for someone like Frankie. I hope they have a human experience, as opposed to a political experience.

What are your favorite films?

I’m in love with stories that start, and stay, just a few paces out ahead of their audience; stories where we’re just dropped into a character’s shoes with virtually no explanation, their day-to-days already moving at full speed.

Short films like Caroline by Logan George and Celine Held or The Strange Ones by Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein, as well as feature films like Lynne Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here, or Robert Machoian’s The Killing of Two Lovers, they’ve had such a transformative impact on my own storytelling.

When there’s so little exposition, it forces us as viewers to become very active. We become emotional detectives, story detectives. I love that.