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Director Sydney Freeland: We Need Diverse Voices Telling All Kinds of Stories—Not Just Their Own

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Freeland is an Emmy-nominated film and television director

I am female, Native American and transgender.

On top of all that, I’m a film and TV director in Hollywood. That’s challenging even if you don’t come into this industry as a minority.

I strongly believe that diverse voices make stories better. The difference between a story told by someone who is removed from the place, the people and the community, and one that is told by someone who has seen it first hand—who has an intimate knowledge of the place and the people—is evident in even the smallest details. Those moments of viewers recognizing themselves in the characters are crucial, and it’s made possible when minorities aren’t just in front of the camera, but when they are behind the scenes too.

And yet, I want to be clear that we can also tell stories besides our own. I’m obsessed with sci-fi and comic books—yes, I am a transgender Navajo woman who loves Star Wars and Marvel movies. We don’t want to be pigenholed. As much as we want to tell our own stories, our unique experiences help us to imbue other people’s stories with additional perspective and flourishes that add depth and breadth. We come to mainstream stories with views that expand and enrich the stories we all love. Shows like Transparent and the upcoming series Pose feature trans talent both in front of and behind the camera. For me it’s also inspiring to see Taika Waititi, an indigenous Maori man from New Zealand, directing a blockbuster like Thor: Ragnarok.

I started in film because I love telling stories. And although everyone has a story to tell, empowering individuals from underrepresented communities to tell all kinds of stories—to afford them the opportunity to show what they have lived and bared witness to—is vital to a deeper understanding. It’s essential to our collective human story.

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