What is now the apparel company tees-en-scène originated as a 2017 Kickstarter campaign by Colin Stacy with the intention of creating and distributing a “Written and Directed by Elaine May” T-Shirt. Stacy got the idea for the project after spontaneously meeting filmmaker Steven Soderbergh at an event in Plano, TX and noticing his shirt – a simple black tee with the words “A Film by Mike Nichols” printed front and center. As a fan of Nichols’s “comedy partner and frequent film collaborator” Elaine May, Stacy saw an opportunity to similarly honor the legacy of an influential yet under-appreciated filmmaker.

“Not enough people talk about the work of Elaine May. With 13 acting, 11 writing, and 5 directing credits, she’s hardly as prolific as some of her contemporaries. (Blame the industry.) Yet despite her hardships, the work she has managed to produce is one of a rarefied distinction within American filmmaking. Her four directorial features from ’71-’87 are films that should constantly be on the lips of any red-blooded, wide-eyed lover of cinema: A New Leaf, The Heartbreak Kid, Mikey and Nicky, and Ishtar.” – Colin Stacy

Following the success of the kickstarter campaign, Stacy officially opened the tees-en-scène online store with the mission of creating “shirts that place women and non-binary filmmakers front and center.” The company now produces 12 shirts and counting, honoring visionary filmmakers like Kathleen Collins, Claire Denis, the Wachowski Sisters, and now, Cheryl Dunye.

Dunye, who emerged as part of the New Queer Cinema movement of young film and video makers in the 1990s, visited Indiana University in January 2018 as part of a collaboration between IU Cinema, the BFC/A, and Bloomington PRIDE. Dunye’s stories are often set within a personal or domestic context, foregrounding issues of race, sexuality, and identity. Her narratives are peppered with deconstructive elements with characters directly addressing the camera and making ironic references to the production itself. The effect of these devices, and of Dunye’s appearance in her films and tapes as herself, is to blur the distinctions between fiction and real life. Dunye has made over 15 films including the award-winning The Watermelon Woman (1996), and recently joined Ava Duverney and Oprah Winfrey as a director on OWN’s episodic television series Queen Sugar.

During her visit, Dunye sat down for an IU Cinema Exclusive Interview (featured below) and a conversation with BFC/A Director Dr. Terri Francis, which was later published in Film Quarterly, Vol. 72 No. 2, Winter 2018 (pp. 45-54).

Structural Laughter and Constructed Intimacies: The Self-Reflexivity of Cheryl Dunye

For each filmmaker they celebrate, tees-en-scène contracts a relevant writer, scholar, and/or critic to submit a companion essay that is printed and distributed alongside the associated T-Shirt design as a collectible card.

The essay cards are printed with a unique image on the other side, paying tribute to the individuality of each honored filmmaker. These cards come from the collection of Caitlyn Stevens, featuring (from left to right), The Wachowski Sisters, Sandi Tan, Claire Denis, and Lucrecia Martel.

For the “a film by Cheryl Dunye” design, Stacy reached out to our own Dr. Francis, who opted to put Cheryl’s voice front and center by contributing a segment from her 2018 Film Quarterly article/conversation. We are very excited and proud to share the product of this collaboration, which was captured perfectly in the following twitter thread:

BFC/A Director Terri Francis and Communications Assistant Caitlyn Stevens rocking their new Cheryl Dunye T-Shirts by tees-en-scène ♥︎

So, what’s next for Dunye and tees-en-scène?

From Cheryl Dunye’s website:

“In 2015, Cheryl’s multi-award winning short film BLACK IS BLUE was named one of the top five “Must See Feminist Films” by IndieWire. It is now being developed into a feature film with Laverne Cox attached to star in the lead. She is also set to adapt and direct a feature based on the novel THE WONDER OF ALL THINGS for Lionsgate. In 2019, she launched her Oakland-based production company called JINGLETOWN FILMS, which is actively developing two episodic series — THE GILDA STORIES, an adaptation of the beloved 1991 queer vampire novel by Jewell Gomez and ADVENTURES IN THE 419, based on Nigerian scammers.”

From tees-en-scène’s website:

“we don’t just endeavor to elevate past directors and their work, we want to help continue pay and elevate women and genderqueer persons and POC working in the filmmaking and critical spheres. as we grow, tees-en-scène will dedicate a percentage of our profits to help fund filmmaking projects from women and genderqueer people of color. if you are a filmmaker or know of a project that could benefit from extra funds to complete a project, email us at teesenscene@gmail.com.”

You can purchase a Cheryl Dunye shirt of your own HERE for $28 (short sleeve) or $35 (long sleeve)!

Black Film Center/Archive, 1320 E. 10th Street Wells 044, Bloomington, IN, 47405 || bfca@indiana.edu

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