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Made Here

Transgender life centered in new Vermont short film 'I Have Something To Get Off My Chest'

The new fiction/experimental short film "I Have Something To Get Off My Chest," from Vermont filmmaker Cedar O'Dowd, centers transgender life, featuring a trans man recovering from gender affirming surgery. The film blends live action scenes with experimental cyanotype animations and an original music score.

Filmmaker Cedar O'Dowd answered questions via email with Vermont Public's Eric Ford. This interview has been lightly copy edited.

Eric Ford: What made you decide to make this film?

Cedar O'Dowd: I made this film to try to communicate an emotional reality I was having trouble finding words to express. Besides being a pun about top surgery, the title "I Have Something To Get Off My Chest" is very much a reference to that.

Eric Ford: What was the filmmaking process like?

A picture of Cedar O'Dowd. They are smiling, wearing a floral shirt with floral earings.
Courtesy the filmmaker
Filmmaker Cedar O'Dowd

Cedar O'Dowd: In college, I felt like I lost my voice because I was always trying to meet the standards of short filmmaking that would get me a good grade. After school, I wanted to make something that didn't ask permission. We shot the live action stuff over one day in August 2022 with a six-person crew — a sound guy, a boom op, a cinematographer, two actors and me.

I'm really inspired by how Eliza Hittman works with actors to get performances that feel authentic, so I wrote minimal dialogue and spent rehearsal time focusing on chemistry and trying to get my actors to forget about cameras rather than memorize lines. Leo had recently had surgery and Zay had a date set, but are also both incredibly empathetic, intuitive people with great chemistry and they each brought a lot to the roles. I also really believe that good sound design can elevate storytelling and make something inexpensive seem like it has higher production value, so I chose locations and designed scenes with sound in mind. The Made Here Fund saved this production. I was able to afford to pay my post-production crew for color correction, sound design, and music and to buy so so so much watercolor paper for my animations. A year and half after our initial shoot, things finally came together!

Eric Ford: There are some really beautiful animation segments in the film. How did you create those?

Still from cyanotype animation loop
Cedar O'Dowd
Still from cyanotype animation loop

Cedar O'Dowd: I use a photography printing process called cyanotype, where you paint a chemical mix onto paper that develops blue in UV light. Cyanotype was famously innovated by early photographer Anna Atkins to document botanical specimens. I was interested in documenting objects from my experience with medical transition that might be considered "unnatural" and breathing life into them with animation. I collaged these objects with photo transparencies and pressed flowers from my neighborhood in White River Junction. Cyanotype is a pretty time intensive process because they take an hour to cure in the dark and then have to develop in the sun for ten minutes each. At first I was curing sets of six to 10 frames at a time in the perpetually flooding, unfinished basement of my job then carrying them upstairs in giant secondhand picture frames, developing them in the sun in a parking lot, then running them back downstairs to wash the chemical components off and to dry. This was really inefficient because I had to wait for a sunny day at exactly high noon to get smooth animation and we had a very rainy summer. I eventually got a UV light so I could work on rainy days too. Towards the end of my process, my partner, a friend and I were also able to rent some studio space for cheap and I no longer had to worry about my work getting destroyed by flooding.

Eric Ford: What has the response been so far when people see the finished film?

Cedar O'Dowd: The response has been really great so far. Unsurprisingly, it's hitting hardest with trans folks and our loved ones.

Eric Ford: What do you hope audiences will take away from it?

Cedar O'Dowd: I think some art is coffee and some is soup. Coffee art like Boots Riley's films or G.L.O.S.S's music energizes people to fight oppression. I make soup art. The goal is to soothe and heal people so they can get strong and fight another day.

Vermont Public is proud to present "I Have Something To Get Off My Chest" online and on broadcast. O'Dowd was a recipient of the Made Here Fund, which provided funding towards the creation of this film.

As Director of Content Partnership, Eric works with individuals and organizations to make connections leading to more Vermont stories. As Producer of the Made Here series, Eric partners with filmmakers from New England and Quebec to broadcast and stream local films. Find more info here: