The Switch is a show that tells the stories of transgender people through humour

The Peak interviewed SFU alumna Amy Fox, one of the creators of the show, about the process and the inspiration behind the sitcom’s inception.

It is one of the few shows both filmed and set in Vancouver.

Created by Amy Fox of Trembling Void Studios and Elizabeth Marston, The Switch is a show that seeks to represent transgender people in a way that isn’t shallow. Rather than appear as a convenient moral lesson in a show, as Fox put it, The Switch seeks to show transgender people as simply part of “the breadth of humanity,” partly because it is unjust to erase their stories, but also because seeing only a narrow slice of humanity in TV is boring.

We sat down with Amy Fox to talk about the creative process.

The Peak: What is the basic premise of The Switch?

Amy Fox: Well, there’s a couple ways of answering that. One is that it’s about Sü, who leaves Trump’s America to come to Canada to work as an IT programmer and then comes out as trans and then 24 hours later winds up unemployed and sleeping on the couch of her ex who is an adorable eco-terrorist played by myself.

…Another way of looking at it is [that] it’s a contemporary millennial sitcom. It’s about people growing up in a wired world with unstable jobs, unstable housing, and unstable lives, but finding community and hope through that.

P: What motivated you to make the show?

AF: Initially we had a comedy routine about transgender issues created by and performed by trans people and we were suddenly living in different cities and going “ah, what do we do with this?” We decided we’d just make a web series. Now, neither of us had actually used a camera or written a script or acted before, so we figured that couldn’t be too hard. Anyway, seven years later and a web series became a TV pilot [which] became a TV series; six parts, shot and set in Vancouver.

Along the way we also wanted to make something that was featuring transgender stories, real ones (except for the parts we made up)… ones that you don’t see in the mainstream media, also with transgender actors in it, ones that would be fun and uplifting and hopeful all at the same time… and funny.

P: Apart from the humour in the show, what messages would you like to send to casting directors throughout the industry?

AF: It is much easier than people think to cast a show with multiple trans leads. A lot of the time when casting producers are making a show with an underrepresented, marginalized group they’ll go and fumble around for a week or two and come back and say, “Hey, we couldn’t find anybody!” and then cast someone who [isn’t from that group]…  They say, “Oh, we just couldn’t find anyone” or “these actors don’t exist.” That happened with the Dallas Buyers Club [sic], the director is on CBC saying [something similar to] ‘there aren’t any trans actors.’

We had a pretty minimal budget and five of our lead actors are trans, and three of them are from Vancouver. So they’re definitely out there and they’re very good actors; [they’re] representing the range of humanity.

If you’re trying to find trans actors or any other underrepresented actor group, what you have to do is, [speak] to the casting directors for a minute: you gotta think about how to look for people, people who don’t have agents who are checking on their behalf on casting director sites everyday. Put it out on Facebook, put it out on Craigslist, make sure if you are putting it on [casting] sites that it isn’t locked down only for people with agents. Understand that people have day jobs and that they can’t just go get coaching a drop a tape on your desk the next day…

P: The show is funny, of course, but we see that the show begins with Sü being fired for being transgender; how deep will the show delve into heavier issues such as discrimination and hate crimes against transgender people?

AF: Well, episode one talks about immigrating while trans and looking for housing while trans, and discrimination against trans people because we’re perceived to be sex workers. [It also talks about] gentrification, and suicidal feelings and people being afraid of moving somewhere because they’re afraid they’re going to get hate crime-d to death. But if they stay somewhere, they’re going to wind up homeless because that area that they are living in is being gentrified. That’s episode one.

We deal with a lot of heavy stuff, but it’s a very lighthearted show. It’s defiantly hopeful. And, over the course of the season, we [touch on] looking for employment while trans, bullying in schools, dealing with… job harassment, trans people in sports, trans people in cis-centric women’s spaces, dating while trans, and the medical system.

P: What are the main takeaways that you hope a given audience might get from the show?

AF: That it’s funny. That’s our primary goal, to make something that’s entertaining and is about stories that you’re not seeing a lot. It’s good, it’s fun entertainment. Go and check us out on Amazon or iTunes or Google Play, Vimeo, Revry or YouTube, Red: everything’s launching on August 15. It is there and I think you’re really going to like it.

P: What would be one word of advice you would give to a SFU student who wanted to get involved in making film or TV?

AF: SFU, Capilano, [and] Langara all offer great film programs: go study there . . . or don’t! You can also go to film sets and work, starting for free, which is cheaper than paying someone to teach you [filmmaking]… after that, you can start making a bit of a living…

P: Is there anything else you want to add?

AF: Go SFU! I went to SFU for, probably a little too long, picked up a bunch of degrees in unrelated subjects and I have used everything I have learned.

Season two of The Switch is already in the works. Once the show reaches 100,000 downloads, Trembling Void will have the funds necessary to proceed with creating their next season, which is likely to be longer than six episodes. Much of it has already been planned, so make sure to be on the lookout for more of this new sitcom. Until it launches on other platforms, you can watch it here.