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Local transgender drama aims to save lives

The motivation for Cole Meyers to write Rūrangi, a groundbreaking local drama series written, produced, and starring transgender talent, was to create positive stories of trans people and to save lives.

Growing up in Auckland, Meyers, a trans activist, writer and educator, was deeply affected by the negative portrayal of transgender people in the media. In film, trans characters would often be victims who would die or be killed, and in print articles, stories of trans men and women would focus on their transition in a sensational tone, he says.

Writing and producing Rūrangi gave Meyers the opportunity to finally create trans characters with depth and authenticity.

“It’s always been at the front of mind to focus on the trans audience. I know the impact it will have to see something like Rūrangi, that has complex, loveable, three dimensional characters doing meaningful work instead of violence, death, rejection and shame.”

Meyers opened up about the making of Rūrangi on Sunday during Flip the Script, a Facebook live conversation produced by NZ-based online site Narrative Muse, which matches users with books and movies written and directed by women and non-binary storytellers. The conversation was moderated by fellow trans artist Ramon Te Wake, who has a starring role in Rūrangi.

Filmed in Auckland and Taranaki, the five part series is about a trans activist returning to the rural dairy community of Rūrangi to reconnect with his estranged father, who he hasn’t seen since he transitioned. A feature length version of the series will premiere during this month’s New Zealand International Film Festival.

Meyers, who was on the writing team of Shortland Street when the show introduced a trans character, says the groundbreaking Rūrangi will help save lives.

“If I had seen one thing like Rūrangi, when I was a teenager, I could see my trajectory of my life being completely different, and I want that so much for trans people.”

The project is also leading the way behind the scenes by implementing a creative internship program, funded by the NZ Film Commission, pairing gender diverse crew with HODs, aiming to develop and nurture gender diverse professionals in the screen industry.

“It was important that there was an opportunity for trans people to be involved in the film industry and that we plant a seed for the future talent. This is not just about me and my writing. I want the opportunity to make and support as much space for others to be involved.”

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