All Access: Eric Schaeffer & Michelle Hendley talk transgender love story

Boy Meets Girl is a coming-of-age story and romantic comedy about a young transgender woman in Kentucky. This week on GLAAD's video series, GLAAD: All Access, host Claire Pires caught up with Eric Schaeffer, the director, writer, and producer. Schaeffer spoke openly about how he found the star Michelle Hendley, what reactions he's received from the LGBT community, and why he chose to make a love story featuring a transgender character. Check out the interview above!

Pires also talked with the star, Michelle Hendley, a former YouTube blogger who has now received numerous awards for her role, to talk about what it was like to be in her first film. Check out what Michelle had to say below:

What is Boy Meets Girl about?

To me, I think it's mostly about friendship and love, but ultimately about living life by your own terms and your definitions despite what anybody else has to say about you. And living in your truth and being authentic to yourself. That's what the movie has meant to me.

This is your debut film. How did the director find you?

He did a Google search of transgender women, and my YouTube page came up, and he contacted me from there. We read some of the script, and he flew me out to New York for test shooting, and we made a movie! (Laughs)

What was your YouTube series about?

I did a lot of documenting my transition. When I started my YouTube channel, I really didn't have any direction I was going in but then I quickly found myself in the process of transitioning. You know, I'd re-watch videos and hear how I was feeling about myself and how my life was going then and my views on my identity, and through YouTube, I was able to sort of figure a few things out, and I documented my transition. And some blogging just whining about boys (laughs) and other daily life things.

Is it true you had to convince your parents that the film was the right thing to do?

You know, it didn't take a lot of convincing. I did have my dad talk to Eric (Schaeffer). Actually, my dad insisted that he talk to Eric, and after everything checked out, and they felt like this is an ok thing, he gave me the ok to go to New York.

And you, like, Ricky, have a loving father. So is it true that some of the dialogue is based on things your father said in real life?

Yes, absolutely! There's one line at the end of the movie when Ricky's heading out to New York and her dad says "This kid has been throwing curveballs her whole life, but luckily I played baseball." And that is a direct quote from my dad. He said that to Eric when he was on the phone with him.

Ricky seems to use wit as a protective mechanism. Is that something you share with the character?

A little bit, for sure. I make light of difficult things. That's how I deal with them. I try to find something humorous about them. But I would say Ricky has much more of an edge and a barrier that she puts up than I personally do. But, we both try to find the lighter side of things just to deal.

What did you incorporate into the movie from your own experiences?

Quite a bit actually. Ricky and I have a lot of parallels when it comes to our lives as trans women. And Eric came to me to make sure that this character came off authentically and this was a realistic story of a trans woman, so when it came to her frustrations with her breast growth or how guys just seem to be only into sex. These are conversations I've had with my own friends just in my daily life. So, there were quite a few parallels.

How has the experience of being in the film affected you personally?

It has been amazing. The response that we've gotten from so many people. I'm being contacted by trans people all over the world and parents of LGBT kids, and I feel like we're making a positive impact from my community, and it's just been humbling and amazing.

Is there a particular reaction that stands out to you?

There was an individual at the San Diego Film Out Festival who, during the Q&A, said that this movie saved their life. And that was, I mean, it's so crazy to think that this movie that I was apart of had that sort of impact on someone but it is just incredible that it did and I'm so happy that we're getting positive responses from my community.

Was your hometown of Columbia, Missouri accepting toward the LGBT community as you were growing up?

Definitely. I live in a college town. There's a few different schools here, so it attracts a lot of diversity and people from different cultures. So, I still got teased or some bullying like any kid growing up, but this was a very accepting community to grow up in and I feel pretty fortunate to have grown up here in Columbia.

What do you hope viewers within the LGBT community and outside of it take away from the film?

I really hope that when people see this movie, they can look past any label or identity that we try to stick on people. I think there's a lot of emphasis in the media on who's gay, who's trans, and who are they attracted to. If we can just accept people for who they are as more complex than these basic barriers we put up, then that would be pretty awesome. I hope that this movie kind of resonates that and that it goes beyond those definitions.

At GLAAD we focus a lot on anti-bullying for LGBT youth. What advice do you have for transgender youth and for parents of transgender youth?

For the youth, I think it is so important to stay true to yourself, even in the darkest, roughest parts of coming out and owning who you are. It is so worth it in the end to know that you lived by who you knew you were. Living as who you know you are and that so much good will come into your life if you can just hold on to that and know that you are doing right, despite what anybody else might have to say or how anyone wants to judge you. I would not have had this opportunity with this movie for one thing and I certainly would not be in this amazing place where I can reach out to people and you know speak about the positivity of being a proud trans person had I not embraced who I was.

People don't hear this unless people like you say it.

Yeah, and as far as parents are concerned, you just have to love your kid with everything you got even if it doesn't make sense to you. Even if you're afraid for what kind of future will unfold for your child. I know for my parents, they were happy that I found out who I was and that I was slowly becoming more comfortable with myself but they were definitely afraid. They didn't know what could be in store for a trans woman, you know, in the modern era. So, just love your kids as much as you can and support them as much as possible because it can be frustrating and confusing for everybody involved but ultimately if you are loving and supportive, that's the best thing you can do as a parent.

What are your next steps?

Well, I'm going to move to New York! (Laughs)

You are?!

Yeah! (Laughs) Because I'm ready to do this acting thing. I have this momentum working for me and I can't just let it die. I have to see where it can go or else I'll always ask myself, you know, what if? So, yeah, New York! (Laughs)

Boy Meets Girl premieres tonight, February 27, 2015 in Los Angeles at The Noho 7. Details here.

The film can be watched digitally started April 7, 2015 and will be out on DVD on April 28, 2015. Grab a copy of the DVD here.

GLAAD's video series, GLAAD: All Access, features interviews with newsmakers, hit-makers, and people making a difference.

Hear how the director Eric Schaeffer found Michelle: