When director Constantine Venetopoulos was working on psychological drama “The Man in the Attic” with Jennifer Lopez’s sister, Leslie Lopez, starring as an opera singer, a room in Leslie’s house filled with drawings caught his attention. That was when he met Jennifer Lopez’s nibling (a non-gendered term used in place of niece or nephew) Brendon Scholl and “it was friendship at first sight,” the filmmaker says.
Scholl was a young visual artist with a passion for drawing. And as Scholl shared them, Venetopoulos noticed the darker aspect of the artwork – their famous aunt, Jennifer had shared a post in 2017, introducing the world to their trans and non-binary journey. Both the art and Scholl’s journey resonated with Venetopoulos, who wanted to make “Draw With Me,” a documentary short, about trans youth.
The awards contender shows how Scholl uses their art as an important outlet while navigating life’s challenges with their family, including an intro with their aunt J-Lo.
Brendon, so much of your story is about trust, what was it about Constantine that made you comfortable to share your story?
Scholl: My mom has good taste and friends. The people she surrounds herself are good. I thought, “If he’s friends with my mom, then no problem.”
We were also on the same wavelength when we were talking so that made it easier to talk to him about everything.
Do you have an early memory of drawing and art?
Scholl: My earliest memory of drawing was when I was a child. I’d be drawing on the walls so two feet of the walls would be covered in crayons and marker, which is not the best look when you have guests over.
My mom came up with this deal that I would stop drawing on the walls, but I was allowed to draw on the radiators and the heating system all around the house. There was no downside to that, and if you look over the house, you’ll see flowers and stars on the radiators still there.
Constantine, how did you thread this narrative of change, challenge, love and telling Brendon’s story in just 29 minutes?
Venetopoulos: There was a lot to squeeze in story-wise, but the thing that kept me grounded was Brendon’s art. Otherwise, I could have easily gotten lost in each person.
The art was a grounding force, and let me discover Brendon through art.
I wanted to tell this story so that other youth know that some stories can have the support and a happy ending. There’s a lot of tragedy out there when it comes to the LGBTQ community, and especially the trans community. It was about telling Brendon’s truth and letting trans youth know that they are not alone.
Brendon, what has this journey been like for you to hear feedback from other people and trans youth?.
It’s been crazy. The ones that stick out are mainly from people my age. I showed the trailer to a friend and she said, ‘You coming out as trans helped me feel comfortable to come out.’
It was something that didn’t occur that my existence helped her. Someone also reached out via Instagram saying they felt seen. It’s one thing to know people are seeing it; number wise, but it’s another to hear people say this is having a direct impact on their lives, and a lasting impact.