FMA '20 alum Hansen Bursic's Thesis Film is a Halloween movie centering on the scary times that come with coming-of-age, rather than ghosts or goblins. Halloween 1987 is based on a true story of Jenny Jae Cory and a the Halloween night where what started as a costume gave her a new found confidence in her trans identity. The film won The Freese Film Foundation's 2020 Best writing/Directing and Editing Award.
In addition to the film work, Hansen is currently hosting HalloQueen, a Halloween themed charity stream for Black Trans Femmes in the Arts coming Friday, October 30th.
This week, we had the pleasure of learning a little more about Hansen and his process:
Tell us about Halloween 1987 and the inspiration for the film
Halloween 1987 is a tribute to untold trans history. Centering on Cory, a gender-questioning teenager in 1987, the film follows them as they first put on female clothing for a Halloween couples costume. The film is based on a story from "A Path Less Traveled," a memoir by Jenny Jae Cory, a transwoman who's lived her whole life in rural Appalachia. With this film, I wanted to redefine the traditional "coming out" narrative and push back against the idea that being trans is a "new thing."
What was the process of making Halloween 1987 like for you? Are there any particular lessons you'd like to share with current student filmmakers?
We had such a great team and really spent the time to make it right. Student thesis films are always going to be hectic, there's a lot of pressure to get it right, but all in all we left with a gem, and I really can't be any happier. My advice to film students, especially those making thesis films, pick a few things that your film can't survive without and let everything else be negotiable. For me, that was casting a trans person in our lead and spending the money to get the period right.
How did your time at Temple inform your current trajectory as a filmmaker? Any favorite memories or especially important classes?
It's a little hard to say now as COVID has stalled all future projects and most work opportunities. I learned a lot and had some truly amazing professors. Specifically, I do a lot of documentary work and my time with Professor Tajiri was extremely helpful. Professor Nathaniel and Wolkstein's classes both also really helped me evolve into the director I am today.
What are the ways in which you are staying creative or busy right now?
I recently was offered a job writing for CinéSPEAK, an independent theater in South Philly that started a radical independent film journal. I have been writing all kinds of fun content for them, including a queer horror article coming soon. I am also working on a television pilot I started developing in Professor Wolkstein's TV Directing class about a queer teenage runaway who finds community in the most unlikely of places, rural West Virginia.
Another big thing is I am running a Halloween themed charity stream for Black Trans Femmes in the Arts coming Friday, October 30th. It includes some out of this world drag and musical performances as well as short films, many of which were created by Temple alumni. You can learn more about it and register here: https://www.eventbrite.
What is next for you in the coming months or year?
Halloween 1987 is set to come out within the year in Spring / Summer 2021! We are just finishing up the score but otherwise, it's festival ready. Other than that, I am applying for jobs and trying to decide which coast to live on.
--- We were so glad to chat with Hansen and look forward to hearing more about the success of Halloween 1987