Show & Tell: Upcoming Film by PITT Graduate Highlights Gender Roles

Alright guys, today we're going to get a little more serious than usual. But before we get into anything, you should know that as a child, I was this girl:

Literally. Had video-tapping your children and then putting the funny yet brilliant things they say on the Internet been a thing in 1994, I would've had a slew of videos of me looking just like that girl saying very similar things all over the place. Seriously, when I was three until about the time I started kindergarten I wouldn't answer to anything but Jonathan and hated when my mom put me in dresses for church. So when any discussion about gender roles and children comes up, I'm all about it. 

Today, I'm sharing with you an interview with Lucas Omar, a recent University of Pittsburgh graduate who is creating a film about children and gender roles called "Show and Tell." In hopes that you will support the creation of this film through their Kickstarter page. The film is about a little boy named Ethan who wants to bring in his barbie doll, who he designs dresses for, in to show and tell at school. But his parents have mixed reactions and Ethan really wants to bring something in that will impress his parents, teacher and classmates. While this film deals with a lot of important LGBT/Gender issues that some children face today, it is also a light-hearted comedy.

I think that "Show and Tell" is an important film because most little girls who are tomboys like I was get lumped into a certain category of "what they'll grow up to be" and so do little boys who like to play with toys that are marketed to girls. Obviously, I grew up to be heterosexual, but these are adult judgements that should not be worrying little kids, which is what Lucas is getting to in his film. Here's my interview with him:

Lucas Omar, director of Show and Tell, a short film about children and gender roles.
Why did you want to create Show and Tell?
I remember playing with Barbie dolls as a child and I never thought twice about it! I honestly just enjoyed combing their hair and changing their outfits. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. At such a young age, I wasn’t thinking about societal gender expectations and I had NO grasp of sexuality. Gender norms are still a prevalent issue today and I still find parents restricting what types of toys kids play with: trucks for boys, Barbies for girls. You can’t really blame the parents. This is largely due to marketing. When you walk around a toy store, there is a distinct divide between what’s pink and what’s not. Get caught in the wrong aisle and you’ll get some stares. I also want to stress that these toys are not precursors to whether a child is “gay” or “straight,” or “bi” or the many other gender definitions accepted in society today. We must allow kids to discover their interests on their own. Limiting this will only cause angst and a feeling of isolation.

Tell us about your creative process, from how you came up with the idea to how you picked your cast and crew and all the in betweens.
The Story: Well the idea came out of my personal experiences as a child. I played with Barbies, makeup and dresses. Although I did turn out to be gay, I wasn’t thinking about those sexual connotations at the time. And guess what, I also loved recess, playing tag, and football! My interests were wide and vast. So taking the idea of a little boy who likes Barbies, I needed to find a way to raise the stakes: make him bring one into class to present in front of all of his classmates. With this comes the reactions of a gender divided community: an uncomfortable parent, bullies, and the pressure to present something as amazing as his best friend Michelle’s Huckleberry Marshmallow cupcakes. The bigger idea is that we shouldn’t define ourselves by one item or hobby. We are all complex and beautiful human beings.  I didn’t want this to be some depressive PA announcement on the issue, but rather a fun and playful film that is both entertaining and informative. 

Assembling A Crew: I recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelors in Film Studies/Production. I decided to move back home to Tampa, FL to save money and build my director’s reel before making a move to one of the bigger film making centers. With that, I lost a lot of my contacts and crew from Pittsburgh. I spent MONTHS back home making connections. I first came across my producer Ryan L. Terry who has just been a godsend, introducing me to very talented crew and actors. My director of photography (DP) Brandon Hyde is such a joy to work with. It would take me days to go through his IMDB credits. I’m so lucky to have him. He really believes in this project and its message.  I can communicate what I want to him in just a few words. He has a very mellow personality which balances my hypo-mania. 

Casting: Casting was tough. We held 3 distinct casting calls in order to get the talent we needed just for the teaser (the 2 minute promotional video on the Kickstarter page). Ethan, played by Michael Berthold, is one of the most talented kids I’ve ever auditioned. He has such an innocent look about him, with such a cute, raspy voice. I needed a sympathetic lead that not only looked, but also acted the part.  It was a miracle he walked through the door.  Casting the female side-kick Michelle was even more challenging because I had SO much awesome talent to choose from. Kennedy Mason, who appeared on an episode of Criminal Minds, just knocked it out of the park. I needed someone who was powerful and authoritative without being threatening. She is the mentor in the film that holds all of the characters together. She checked off everything on the list. 

How do you expect this film to be received?
You never know with these things, especially when I’m sending such a strong message. I feel like people may read into the LGBT themes and just assume that Ethan will be “gay” when he is older. I’m trying my best to prevent that response. Throughout the film, we see him doing Yoga and even playing poker! I wanted to give him a range of activities that were not gender specific. 

Are you worried about what negative feedback you might receive?
As a filmmaker, I’ve learned to never be worried about negative feedback, but expect it and be prepared. I’m not saying “no” to anything, but rather “yes” to everything kids want to be! 

The message of this film is important for people to hear, even people outside of the LGBT community, what are you hoping that audiences take away most from this film?
I hope people realize that this is a film about acceptance and allowing kids to express their creativity, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Adolescence is such a crucial time for social development. What we say or do may leave an impression on them for the rest of their lives. I think Federico Fellini said it best: “You have to live spherically - in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm - and things will come your way.”

Left: Michael Berthold, playing lead role, Ethan | Right: Kennedy Mason, playing Ethan's best friend, Michelle
How do you think working on this film has affected Michael Berthold (Ethan) and Kennedy Mason (Michelle) - have they been asking many questions about any themes in the script or do they seem to understand and see some of these things in their own lives/friends lives already?
It’s funny how mature and professional child actors can be. I feel like once they read it through, this look of utter understanding flashed over their faces. There was never any resistance to any of the themes, and with a little bit of background information on each of the characters, they understood the characters’ needs and wants. Michael is still getting used to having a Barbie doll as a best friend. Over the next few weeks, I’m encouraging him to play with Barbies and even carry it around! I’m hoping he can understand why many kids find Barbies fun. And since this is likely his first experience doing so, he may find out he likes them! 

Anything else you'd like to add...
Okay, so why the heck do we need a Kickstarter? Just for some perspective, the average mainstream movie today costs about $60 million. Averaging 100 minutes a picture, that’s about $600,000 a minute. Wow. I don’t think I’ve even seen that number written on a piece of paper. We’re trying to raise just over $3,000 for a 15 minute film: just over $200 a minute. We believe that we can make an extremely professional film with these numbers WITHOUT RAKING IN PROFITS. This budget will cover food (which is HUGE when you’re feeding up to 50 people a day!), crew, locations and props. 

Since the message in this film is so important, we hope to show this film to as many people as possible. A portion of our funding will be devoted to film festival fees so “Show and Tell” can be screened internationally. Short films are the building blocks for independent filmmakers. I’m hoping this film is a launching point for bigger and better things, like features that also carry similar, important themes. 

I’ll leave you with this last thought: if it makes you happy and it’s not hurting anyone, embrace it! 

So if you believe in this cause and would like to help this film come together,
please visit Show and Tell's Kickstarter and Facebook pages to see how you can!
This is a partnered post but all opinions are my own.


  1. Interesting post, thanks for sharing! People have been teetering over this issue/discussion for years - when I was young my male cousin always had a G.I. Joe rather than a Ken doll when we played with my Barbies. It's temping for people to draw a line and make things black and white!

  2. Sounds really interesting. I've been talking for a long time about this gendered line in toys, and as he says, it is newer than people think it is. Toys used to be a lot more gender neautral but now I go to toyshops and I see parents actively drag girls out of the 'boys' aisle and vice versa, telling them they'll be bullied if they buy those toys. Parents want to protect them from the effects of stereotyping but do it themselves at the same time.

    1. YES. So true. My parents, thankfully, let me be a tomboy and I eventually started to like "girl toys" and dresses but (beside my mom making me wear a dress to church every Sunday) I was never forced into liking what was "correct" for my gender.


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