There are times when you and your friends go on a wild holiday, or do something daring and crazy or just have an epic bitch fest and you feel like you’d be great on TV; well that’s what happened when director Brandon Smithson decided to create a docu-series following the lives of him and his close friends.
The first episode in the series is called ‘Bad Girl’ and stars trans model Arisce Wanzer. Arisce rose to fame in the fashion industry as one of the most sought after transgender models, but also as the model who came out and slammed Kendell Jenner’s complaints of being bullied during fashion week. In the episode she addresses the open letter she wrote to Kendall Jenner saying that the younger sister of Kim Kardashian “doesn’t know what it means to be a real model”.
Arisce declares that she wants to be remembered by everyone and informs us that “you don’t die until your name is spoken for the last time”. And it seems that she’ll be achieving that dream as she is set to star in the new Whoopi Goldberg produced series, Strut.
I was lucky enough to snag an interview with Brandon Smithson after he published the second episode of his captivating docu-series. Brandon is a sweet-heart, and the meeting feels more like a friendly conversation than an interview.
How are you? How’s LA?
Brandon: I’m great, LA is amazing and hot as usual.
So jealous! So, help me tell the readers a bit about you.
I live in LA and I’m somewhat of a nerd. When I have downtime, I’m either playing Street Fighter V on PS4 or out roller skating with friends.
What dream are you chasing for in LA?
The dream is for people to see my fashion films, docu-series, music videos and say “Hey, let’s give this guy what he needs and hire him to create that for us!”. As a filmmaker I’ll be creating art for the rest of my life, the next step is to reach a wider audience.
So tell me about Inner Circle, which I’m obsessed with. What inspired you to start this project?
Last year my dear friend and fellow filmmaker, Paloma Valenzuela, created a comedic mini webseries titled “The Pineapple Diaries.” She told stories about Dominican culture that were relatable, vibrant in colour, and most importantly, original. Watching her series inspired me to create something authentic and fresh. I have an incredible support system of friends and family. Many of them work in the arts (models, photographers, performers, etc.) and are on the cusp of breaking out in their field. I wanted to tell their stories and show everyone how amazing they are.
Well the docu-series is so interesting and there are only two episodes out so far. What else can we expect from Inner Circle?
Well the docu-series is aptly titled Inner Circle because it follows the people closest to me. You may not know the names of everyone highlighted, but you will soon! Some chapters are dialogue heavy like “Bad Girl” and others are edited as mini music videos with none at all. You can expect to see beautiful imagery mixed with organic storytelling. A lot of shows out today are overly produced and feel forced. I made a point to go the opposite route.
One of your close friends is trans model Arisce Wanzer. How do you know her?
Arisce Wanzer is one of my best friends. We met 5 years ago in NYC at a house party and have been inseparable since.
I’m hella excited for Strut! It’s not often that you see an ensemble cast, all of colour, on a major TV network. Chapter one of my docu-series gives a more intimate look at how hard Arisce has worked to get to this point. She deserves all of the fame that is coming her way.
What’s your opinion of the way gay men are represented in the media?
Now that we have films like Barry Jenkins’ upcoming feature “Moonlight“, I think gay men are starting to have more diverse representation in the media. So it’s great!
What more can we expect from you?
My sister just gave birth to a son and I’m a proud first time uncle. The next project I’m working on is creating original educational videos for my nephew as he grows older (think Reading Rainbow meets Blue’s Clues). We live on separate coasts in the U.S. but I want to be a part of his learning process. I plan on starring in these videos so that he will be familiar with my face, despite being thousands of miles away.
Watch Brandon’s docu-series “Inner Circle” at brandon-smithson.com