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Unboxed: a rare glimpse into the remarkable lives of gender diverse artists

Written by gaytourism

Filmmaker Sam Mitchell. | Photo: Supplied

Sam Mitchell never thought she would find a job that she was passionate about and where she could truly be herself.

Mitchell has long worked behind the scenes of film in post-production, editing and animation. But she’s slowly made her way closer the camera and has made a stunning new series about trans and/or gender diverse Australian artists called, Unboxed.

‘I came out five years ago as trans and started transitioning and since then I’ve really connected with the gender diverse community,’ Mitchell told Gay News.

‘I’ve met so many people with inspiring stories and that’s why I wanted to create authentic stories.’

Growing up, Mitchell felt stifled creatively because she could not live in her true gender. She hopes Unboxed will help all people learn more about gender diversity.

‘Being raised of being a man and a boy I felt creatively limited in how I could express myself,’ she said.

‘I feel like my life would be very different for me if I’d been educated about transgender issues or even known what a trans person was.’

More than diversity than just gender

Mitchell made Unboxed with a grant from Screen Australia.  In the six-part series Mitchell manages to showcase artists who represent many different genders, but age ranges, locations and artistic disciplines.

It was a tough job to narrow down the pool of potential subjects just down to six.

‘We had 90 expressions of interest from artists before we even had it funded,’ Mitchell said.

‘There’s a lot of us (gender diverse artists) around the country, I didn’t realise.’

For Mitchell, making the exquisite series was personal. She has long advocated for trans issues and wanted to use her skills as a filmmaker to showcase the diversity of the community.

‘Aesthetics and what we wear and how we present ourselves isn’t all of who we are,’ Mitchell said.

‘We have struggles and successes, issues around housing and families and a lot of untold stories.

‘I’m a passionate advocate for gender diversity and the diversity of human experience.’

Each of Mitchell’s subjects has a different relationship with art and how it intersects with their gender. Some ‘exploit and express’ their gender identity in their art.

But for others, like portrait painter Jackie, art is a distraction from the trials of life.

‘Jackie is insanely talented. She paints in repurposed library books,’ Mitchell said.

‘She has struggled in her life and how people perceive her and how she would like to be perceived.

‘The other complication is she’s a school teacher, she’s come up against people with traditional values and people who don’t want her teaching their children.

‘So she comes home and paints to distract herself from life’s problems.’

Unboxed is now available to watch in Australia on ABC’s iview.

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