Indie Filmmaker Creates a Rom-Com That Focuses on the Joy, Not the Struggle, of Queer Love

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  • Kristen Pizzo

Shawna Khorasani is a screenwriter and director from California. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to act in her first web series, The Adventures of Serena Berg. She just wrapped her second short film, LoverGirl. It’s a romantic comedy about two teenage girls in which the main character, a high school senior named Dakota, stages a bunch of grand romantic gestures to ask out her crush, Danny, and hilarity ensues every time. Shawna describes it as a “funny, happy, sweet love story about two young women.”

The entire cast is part of the LGBTQ+ community, something that Shawna feels is very important as a queer creator.  I had the chance to catch up with her and talk independent filmmaking and the importance of queer representation.

How did you get started in screenwriting?

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That’s one of my favorite questions. I actually got started in college. I was really into this community of independent literary webseries creators on Tumblr. It was really cool to connect with these people and watch them create these projects, to see them make such great inclusive, queer content on their own. I wanted to make a web series based on the play Cyrano De Bergerac. No one was making a show about it, so I'm like, “Why don’t I make this show, take a stab at it, and tell this story?”...that’s where I started in screenwriting. After that was finished I realized, this is what I want to do. I want to make inclusive content like this.

What inspired this short film?

LoverGirl was inspired by Love, Simon. There were so many movies and shows out like that like Moonlight and One Day At A Time that delivered queer representation. It kept bringing this idea back into my head: “We have so many stories like this, but how many stories do we have aimed at teenagers and children struggling with identity and sexuality? I should make something like that.”

While there are movies like Booksmart and the ones you mentioned putting LGBTQ+ teens in the spotlight, what do you think LoverGirl does for queer representation that other media hasn’t?

In Love, Simon the premise is focused on the fact that Simon is in the closet and he falls for an online pen pal but can’t be open about his feelings. It is centered around the drama, the angst of growing up as a queer teenager in a heteronormative world, that fear, that anxiety of coming out, which I think is good to talk about. It’s good to have those kinds of conversations, but I personally feel like the stories are focusing too much on the drama of coming out of the closet. LoverGirl is lighthearted, it’s fun. There is one coming-out scene that is a little angsty, but the film really focuses on normalizing having attraction to women. It baffles me that I have to say we have to normalize that in this day and age. LoverGirl is happy, sweet, funny...all the the things I think queer love stories should be.

Booksmart is everything I want LoverGirl to be and what I meant it to be. Booksmart and LoverGirl are similar because they're both comedies featuring queer characters and they both normalize their place in the story. In Booksmart, when it's revealed that Amy is a lesbian and she has a crush on another girl, no one bats an eye. It's normalized. I love that. And it's the same story in LoverGirl. Booksmart reveals that as a queer woman, the first crush you have on another girl isn't end all be all. With Dakota's story and her mission to ask Danny out, she's not treating it like "this is the woman I'm going to spend my life with", she's encouraged to treat it like "just testing the waters with a first date", and see how it goes. It doesn't matter that she's going off to college and leaving high school, what matters is she's trying, she's being brave, and she's going for it, even if it may not work out in the end.

There are so many stories about older people. I am tired of those stories like Carol that are centered around the struggle and the feeling of not being accepted. I feel like we need to branch away from that and start telling more original stories and featuring queer people with normal lives. Because we have normal lives. My aim in my films is to make it seem like it’s no big deal [to be queer].

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What is something you really want readers to know about LoverGirl?

LoverGirl is such a passion project of mine. It is very near and dear to my heart. I’m 27 now. I didn’t realize I was queer until I was 23, and it took me four years to know I was lesbian and not pansexual, as I originally thought. In high school, I told my close friend I might be bisexual. She thought I was joking. She said “Don’t joke about that.” I thought, “Maybe I’m not. Maybe she is right. Maybe this is just a joke.” That experience stuck with me for a long time.

I made this story [LoverGirl] for young queer people. In recent years, more and more people have been coming out and there’s so many more resources and representation in media and I love that. But when I was in high school, I didn’t have that. If I had something like LoverGirl available to me in high school, I think I would have figured it [my identity] out a lot, lot sooner.

It is so important to tell these stories. LoverGirl is the cute love story queer women have always wanted.

Still, while LoverGirl was created for LGBTQ teens, youths, and everyone else who's struggled with their identity, it's a story I think everyone can relate to. We've all been there, in high school, college, or any time we're growing up and coming into ourselves, and we're faced with that ONE horrible crush that consumes all our thoughts. And try as we might, we end up being awkward or uncertain around them.

Shawna hopes to show the film at festivals all over California and around the country. To help cover production costs, she is running a Seed & Spark campaign until June 6th. Supporters can claim perks like sneak peeks of the film, a 30-minute filmmaking consulting session, and even producer credits.

To keep up with the film, visit the Facebook page.