PJ is an award-winning cinematographer. His work has been showcased at both Sundance and Cannes and earned him awards such as the ASC Charles B. Lang Jr. Heritage Award as well as the Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography. PJ has been featured in AMERICA CINEMATOGRAPHER and shot the 2009 Academy Award nominated and 2008 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Grand Jury Award Winner TROUBLE THE WATER produced/directed by FAHRENHEIT 9/11 producers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. Manohla Dargis with THE NEW YORK TIMES called the film “SUPERB… One of the best American documentaries in recent memory.” PJ’s feature cinematography credits also include, the 2006 Independent Spirit Award nominated ROOM (Sundance, Cannes), the Los Angeles Film Festival Narrative Feature Award winner GRETCHEN, and THE 2 BOBS directed by Tim McCanlies (SECONDHAND LIONS, IRON GIANT) produced by Anne Walker (DAZED AND CONFUSED, A SCANNER DARKLY). PJ is currently shooting FOURPLAY, four true tales about sexual intimacy, his second feature with acclaimed director Kyle Henry, produced by Jason Wehling and executive produced by Michael Stipe and Jim McKay.
Jay has held many positions in book and magazine publishing, and he is currently a senior editor at Greenleaf Book Group. As developmental director and special programs director at Cinematexas International Short Film Festival, Jay raised funds and produced the music and installation festival sidebars. He also helped raise funding for director Margaret Brown’s documentary Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt (2004) and was production manager on director David Barker’s short Seven Days (2004). Jay is currently developing Forever Home, a feature-length documentary about prosecutor-turned–animal advocate Nathan Winograd and his No Kill Millenium movement, which focuses on ending the killing of homeless pets in America’s animal shelters.
The Sex Change Capital of the World
“At first glance Trinidad, Colo., population 9,000, seems like any other rural town. But, as the documentary Trinidad reveals, this sleepy settlement has become known as “the sex-change capital of the world.” The leap from a Wild West colony and once mafia-ruled coal mining township to a place where upwards of 6,500 transsexuals have sought out the services of Dr. Stanley Biber since 1969 is explored through the story of three transgender women.
Dr. Marci Bowers is the first transgender surgeon to perform Gender Reassignment Surgeries and took over Biber’s practice; Sabrina Marcus, one of Bowers’ patients is the founder of the Southern Comfort Transgender Conference; and Dr. Laura Ellis is a family practitioner who is fully transitioning into life as a female. The three set out to renovate a Victorian house to transform it into a post-op recovery bed-and-breakfast, and the documentary details each woman’s history and day-to-day lives, without sensationalizing the aspects of their transformations.
This element of the documentary was paramount for one of Trinidad’s directors, P.J. Raval, who wanted to paint a more humane portrait of the everyday lives these women lead.
‘It was very important to humanize these individuals,’ he said. ‘Because I think the transgender community is just completely underrepresented in all medias. And the stories we do get are very sensationalized, and they very much focus on the physical surgery aspects – we live in a culture that is very obsessed with transformation and body modification. So, naturally all of the interest when transgender comes up is going to be on the physical appearance aspects.’
The town’s claim to fame was brought to Raval’s attention at a dinner party, when a female guest told stories about ‘how it was rumored there were transsexuals and cowboys roaming the streets,’ he said.
‘I just couldn’t imagine that I was so unaware of this town’s existence, and what was happening there,’ Raval said. ‘So, sure enough we Internet searched it a couple of days later and found out about Dr. Biber’s history; and the practice that had been going on since the ’60s, which also blew our minds.’
In 2004, Biber (who has since passed away) was handing over his practice to Bowers. Raval placed a call to Bowers, whom he termed as “really warm and inviting” on the phone and took his first trip to Trinidad. The journey became the first production trip for the documentary.
The town itself proved to be an integral part of the storytelling process, Raval said.
‘Part of what’s happening there, you have to give the town credit, because the stereotype of small town America would be that, any small town would be running transsexuals out of town – they would not be accepted,’ Raval said. ‘It was really a little bit of a mystery of what was going on in this town: Were people just being polite, or if they were really accepting of this. We went around and got different perspectives from local business owners, we interviewed kids to get their take on gender. We definitely got some interesting responses.’ Raval hopes audiences will respond to Trinidad and adopt the town’s approach of valuing individuals, not what they see at face value.”
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