This film delves into the remarkable life and challenges of André Chambers, a queer Black man who grew up amid societal clashes in a Southern California beach town. (This film contains language that may be offensive to viewers.)

After surfing the explore page on Instagram for a few hours, I stumbled upon an image of what appeared to be some sort of superhero-looking figure. A muscular man in a leotard with a prodigious beard. The image of André Chambers in the photograph made me think “I don’t know anything about this person, but I want to understand how such a man like this becomes who he is.”

I reached out to André via direct message and then called him. He agreed to allow me to tell his story. This film explores the trials and struggles of André’s life as a Black queer man during the tumultuous 1980s. Underneath that, the film is really about adolescence, overcoming bigotry as well as self-acceptance and allowing oneself to be and feel beautiful.

“Merman” was filmed in seven hours in the beautiful city of Palm Springs. From the style of cinematography to the handheld guerrilla run-and-gun filmmaking, the California sunshine comes through on the screen.

Stylistically, this film uses four visual mediums: digital film, human-generated 2D & 3D animation, and AI animation. I chose these mediums in combination to create a dynamic viewing experience. Each offers a different kind of visual power. My aim is to show that these mediums can work in concert with one another, without one superseding another.

André and I wanted to create something cool, something that reflected his values, dreams and experiences, but we also achieved something more. This is a film that also presents the communities that helped shape him.

I had the pleasure of directing, producing, editing, coloring and composing this project. Adam Shattuck, my longtime cinematographer, and Monica Lawless, my co-producer, decided once again to follow me into another project inspired by an Instagram photograph. And I am grateful for that.