Authentically Us: She Flies by Her Own Wings

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Jesse (Jesus) Ayala

Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Step to the Line by Ricardo Laganaro


What motivated you to make this film?   

16% of Americans claim they know someone who is transgender. +90% of American claim they know someone who is gay, bisexual, or lesbian. The main mechanism the transgender community has to reach new communities and understanding is through media visibility.

We originally prototyped this as a first person POV experience to “how transgender people are discriminated.” In building that prototype we realized that the most effective way to move audiences towards seeing ‘transgender people as people’ was to bring viewers into the subject’s world to see the commonalities versus constantly focusing on the differences.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Insta360 Pro. Used for stitching and real-time monitoring


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story.

We used multiple cameras during multiple scenes to allow the camera to bring close and wide shots – something that passive 360/VR has a challenge doing


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

The story arch changed dramatically as Shannon was invited to appear Fox News to respond to breaking news regarding transgender service people. By using Shannon’s speech to the veterans community we were able to transport audiences back in time visually as she shared those details directly with her community in the speech.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film.

The ability to get to know Shannon Scott and to witness first hand the many ways in which she touches and advocates for people in her communities.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Develop relationships with your subjects, see them as collaborators. Listen to non-profits who service the communities you are filming. They are the experts and know what works and doesn’t.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

On location filming because as the story evolves a director is pushed to exercise flexibility and naturally let a story form.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

An open heart, because being open to compassion will shape the story and open new opportunities that generally are hidden.


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your film:

Pride Foundation is the only LGBTQ community foundation serving the Northwest region of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Pride Foundation inspires giving to expand opportunities and advance full equality for LGBTQ people across the Northwest.

Their media work that support aims to deconstruct transphobia by educating audiences through human stories.


What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?

The environment in a VR film is extremely important. We designed the story to enter into Shannon’s private spaces like her home to show there is nothing different about how she lives from the cis-gender community.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.   

In an early conversation with one of the subjects, they mentioned to me that society doesn’t really have an issue with transgender identities, the real issue is with gender. Gender (and sexuality) and the roles we assign to them are being upended by many cultural changes; women in the workplace, same-sex marriage. Opponents of transgender liberation see it is the latest symptom of the gender debate. By viewing the issue through that lens my approach shifted in how we told the story, the imagery and branding surrounding the project.


What do you want audiences to take away from this film?

That transgender people are people, deserving of rights like everyone else. This film focuses on military service, but really is about the ability for transgender people to work freely without fear of discrimination.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

– 86% of our production team identifies as POC, LGBTQ, or women

– The film is part of a three part series that showcase a transgender Native American, and an African-American transgender man living in rural Montana.

– The films together assert that transgender people have always been here, and should be allowed to live and work anywhere.

– The film does not include discussion of Shannon’s medical transition. This is intentional out of respect and privacy for her, and the general transgender community.


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

The Authentically Us series was the focus of the Oculus VR for Good campaign:

We are currently in development on expanding the scope of the project to new audiences and mediums.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

Support Pride Foundation and other LGBTQ advocacy and community organizations.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.) relevant to the context of the issue discussed in your video:



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