Georgie Stone hopes the short documentary about her life – The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone, which recently premiered at both Tribeca and Sydney film festivals – will be empowering for other trans people.
In the Neighbours star’s own words, the 30-minute film is about “a trans young person finding their voice and gaining control over their life”, a narrative she argues isn’t seen enough.
“There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the media right now, and there are a lot of negative stereotypes with trans people and very sad stories – a lot of them very true and need to be told – but I wanted to tell a story that was a bit more multifaceted,” she tells IF.
Weaving in home video footage from Stone was a child, The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone spans 19 years, following her and her family as she helps to change laws, affirms her gender, and emerges into adulthood. After its festival run it will premiere on Netflix in September.
The documentary is directed by Maya Newell, who began filming Stone observationally in 2014 when the actress was just 14.
The director had came across Stone towards the end of making Gayby Baby. While initially it wasn’t clear what the story would be, Newell notes that, at the time, most media about trans youth didn’t include their voices, and making Gayby Baby had given her an appreciation of the impact of children speaking truth to power.
“We embarked on this collaborative effort to make a film that Georgie was deeply involved in and revealed her, and her personal experience of growing up,” she tells IF.
“Dreamlife… leans a lot on the incredible trove of beautiful archive that Georgie’s parents took over the years of Georgie and her twin brother growing up. It’s presented as a study in memory as Georgie flips in and out of consciousness and remembers all of the moments that have made her who she is.
“Sometimes those moments are big and they’re winning pieces of law reform. Sometimes it’s sitting at the kitchen bench with your mum, having a cup of tea, talking about your future. It was trying to capture that feeling of growing up and all of the small and big moments that make us who we are.”
In addition to being the subject, Stone is the film’s creative producer. She had ultimate control over the footage used and the project’s message, workshopping it along the way with Newell. In addition, Rachel Edmondson worked as a cultural safety consultant to also support Stone through the final edit, and the film had trans and gender diverse advisors of various ages and backgrounds who gave input.
Producing the doco are Newell’s “film family” at Closer Productions, with whom she made In My Blood it Runs. They include executive producer Sophie Hyde, producers Lisa Sherrard and Matthew Bate and editor Bryan Mason.
For Stone, her initial goal with the film was visibility: to share her story with other trans people so they could see themselves. As it progressed, she realised her story could also be inspiring.
“For other trans people, I hope I can see themselves or a part of their experience in this film and know that they’re not alone. Every trans experience is different and very unique, but I hope there are aspects of it that they can connect to in this film… if they’re in a position right now where they don’t feel safe or they’re not living the life they want, I hope it will give them hope that they will be able to live that ‘dream life’.
“And, to people who aren’t trans, firstly, I hope it generates a little bit of empathy. I hope they see themselves in the story, because I think the themes are very universal. I hope it encourages them to take action and help other trans young people live their dream life too, because that can’t just be on us – the onus shouldn’t just be on us to fix all of our problems. Often we’re not in a position to be able to do that.”
To that end, alongside the film’s Netflix release, the creative team will launch an impact campaign with Unquiet Collective and Transcend Australia, led by impact producer Alex Kelly.
“Coming out of the federal election, seeing the Coalition use transgender and gender diverse children as political footballs has been very abhorrent, to be honest, and very upsetting for everybody in the community,” Newell says.
“So the campaign that we want to lead with Transcend is one about celebrating young trans people and amplifying their voices, supporting their families, and encouraging government to fund access to services.”
Planned is a publication created by young trans, gender-diverse and non-binary people, designed to spark inspiration about what their ‘dream life’ could be. This will be then shared with parliament.
“We want people to get creative. That is the powerful thing about storytelling. It’s more than just what you see on the screen; it is actually quite an effective way to agitate for change,” Stone says.
Stone’s role on Neighbours as Mackenzie Hargreaves saw her break ground as the first transgender actor in Australia to play a trans character on a long-running TV series. When she speaks to IF, filming on the last episode of the iconic soap has just wrapped.
“It’s been such a beautiful experience; it’s such a beautiful show. Again, an example of storytelling that is very thoughtful and impactful. The cast and crew are all such incredible, amazing people and I’ve had such a wonderful time.
“I’ve learnt so much on the show and I’m really sad that it’s ending, but I’m also filled with pride to have been a part of it and what we’ve done, and I just feel lucky to be part of its legacy.”
Through Neighbours, Stone found a love of acting, and through Dreamlife, she has developed an appreciation of filmmaking, with both set to steer her future.
“I want to marry those things and in the future be able to act in projects that I’ve helped write and produce, and maybe even direct. That would be really amazing. So I’m working on something right now and yeah, we’ll see what happens. I feel very excited for the future.”
As for Newell, her next project is The Quickening, again with Closer Productions, which has received development funding from Screen Australia and was recently selected for AIDC/Doc Society’s social impact fellowship.
The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone screens at Sydney Film Festival today, at Sheffield Doc/Fest June 25 and 26 and Revelation Perth International Film Festival July 10 and 11.