Vera Drew on that Emmy nomination and coming out as trans in Hollywood
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE VIA STEPHANIE PFINGSTEN @ IMPACT24
Vera Drew has been extremely lucky with the success she’s had throughout her career in Hollywood. It’s no surprise really when she’s so talented at editing comedy in her own quirky, kitschy style.
Yet, for some reason she couldn’t believe the hit show she worked on – Who Is America?- got nominated for an Emmy this year. We caught up with Vera to find out more…
DIVA: Hello Vera, can you tell us a little about your work?
VERA DREW: I’m a TV and film editor, writer and director and I’ve been working in the industry for eight years. I started as an editor in post-production and, from there, I’ve been able to rise up in a short amount of time.
How did you get into filmmaking and editing?
Honestly, for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a filmmaker. I have early memories of seeing Back To The Future for the first time and my parents explaining what a writer and a director was and I immediately knew that’s what I wanted to do. In college, I did a little bit of commercial advertising stuff in post-production. Then I moved to LA shortly afterwards and pretty much immediately got a job!
What’s the best thing about working in the film industry?
I’ve been really lucky to work on stuff that I would actually watch. So, that’s a great thing. I have a lot of friends who work in the industry but aren’t necessarily working on things they would watch. When I finally got to start working, I couldn’t believe I was going to be paid to make this kind of stuff. I come from a more experimental background and I was surprised by how much I get to use my weird art capabilities in my work.
How does it feel to have been nominated for an Emmy
I never thought that I would get nominated for an Emmy because I make stuff for 15-year-old boys! There’s definitely an art to it, but it doesn’t really get that kind of recognition. When we got the nomination it completely floored me. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t given 1000 imaginary acceptance speeches in my head. I spent most of my childhood wishing I was a girl and wishing I could be interviewed on E!
How did you get the job working on Who Is America?
If you look at the credits you’ll see a lot of people who have worked with Tim and Eric. Dan was one of the directors on the show and he comes from the Absolutely world like me. He contacted me and said, “Hey I just started working on something, I can’t tell you what it is but do you wanna take it?” I never would have guessed it was a Sasha Baron Cohen project. When I finally signed that non-disclosure agreement and found out what it was, I was like, “Absolutely, of course I’ll do it.” Sasha has been a hero of mine since I was a kid.
How much input do you get to have in projects like those?
Like any TV project, it’s always a group effort. I was fortunate enough to be joined by a few other very talented editors and an amazing writer and director. I feel a lot of ownership over a lot of the segments of the show and I feel very proud of it. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever worked on.
But I felt the weight of that job quite often – not in a dramatic way, but I’m trans and this is a scary time to be trans or any marginalised person in the US. I have privilege because I’m white and I live in California and I work in entertainment, but I had a lot of fear in 2016 and Who Is America helped me channel that fear and helped me deal with it and do something with it. I worked through a lot of the anxieties that I feel when I turn on the TV, or look at Facebook or walk outside.
Has identifying as trans ever been an issue for you in within the entertainment industry?
I’m fortunate because I was already on my way to establishing myself when I came out. Every trans persons’ perspective and experience is very different but my experience coming out in the industry has been 100% positive and that’s largely just because I’ve done a pretty good job of surrounding myself with very good allies.
A lot of the people that I have worked with for years, when they found out that my gender was a little bit more complicated than they thought before, they immediately knew that I wasn’t becoming a different person, I was just becoming more me. To be perfectly honest, I’ve become so much better at my job since coming out. I don’t think that’s gone unnoticed either. I can focus more and I’m not worried about how I look constantly. I’ve become better as an editor because I’m more settled in myself, and better as a creative person because I’m living authentically and can create more authentic content.
The benefit of being trans is you immediately know if you’re dealing with somebody who’s a rotten person. People do a terrible job of hiding their transphobia – it’s made me a better business person because I immediately know if I want to work with somebody.
Who would you love to work with?
The Wachowski sisters. I would love to work for or with them in any capacity. I also love Pose and Janet Mock. There’s something special about slice of life trans stories that aren’t specifically about the transition. So much of the representation is about the before and after picture and, for me, that’s the fetishisation of trans women.
It’s impossible for me to see The Matrix as anything but a trans narrative. And, of course, Ryan Murphy. I would love him to adopt me professionally.
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