“DRAW WITH ME”— Art as an Outlet

Ithaka Films and the Onassis Foundation are proud to present the theatrical release of the official Oscar entry for Documentary Short Subject, DRAW WITH ME, about the journey of trans youth – Brendon Scholl – who uses their art as an important outlet while navigating life’s challenges with their their family, featuring a special introduction by their aunt Jennifer Lopez. The film runs theatrically now at ArenaScreen through Feb. 9th.
DRAW WITH ME
DRAW WITH ME is the story of talented teen artist, Brendon Scholl, who identifies as trans non-binary and whose art has been a vital outlet for self expression. From coming out as trans and consequently attempting suicide, to becoming an advocate…this intimate portrait of Brendon and their supportive family’s trials dives deep into what was endured and overcome in this heartwarming journey of acceptance.  
“Talking about your identity as a person – sexual preference has to do with who you go to bed with, and your identity is who you go to bed as,” shares Brendon’s mother, Leslie Ann Lopez.
DRAW WITH ME was created in partnership with The Trevor Project (the leading suicide prevention line for LGBTQ+ Youth) and powered by the Onassis Foundation. The film has had a wonderful impact on the LGBTQ+ movement having been presented at Tribeca Film Festival with the support of GLAAD, having been the subject of the first-ever panel at the United Nations on Transgender Health, and having screened at numerous high-schools in conjunction with the New York Department of Education. National Coming Out Day, October 11 2020, marked a milestone for the film when President Elect Joe Biden supported the LGBTQ+ movement in an award show that screened DRAW WITH ME and honored Brendon with the Revry Visibility Award presented by Jennifer Lopez. 
“The film is important and timely in its story and message, and can have a huge impact, ” says Jennifer Lopez in the film. “It’s a story that is very close to my heart, because it is a family affair. It’s about accepting change and challenges with love, and that knowing when we do, everything is possible.”
“Although I knew that telling this story came with a lot of responsibility, I felt ready and the family truly made me feel safe and comfortable in doing so,” shares Director, Constantine Venetopoulos. “The entire family joined as one in supporting Brendon and the film.. What I truly believe drew me to the story, though, was Bredon’s confidence in knowing who they were at such a young age, and being ready to use their experience as a tool for other youth who were struggling with their identity and coming out. I thought ‘I wish I had someone like Brendon to talk to when I was struggling in the closet as a kid.’
Brendon has expanded their artistry beyond drawings and painting, and is now a sophomore in college studying acting. An advocate for acceptance, Brendon’s message for all those whose family, friends or co-workers may be trans is simple and clear, “Believe us when we say who we are.”
The full 24 minute film is available to the public at: ArenaScreen.
Full Director’s Comments Below:
When I first heard about the Trevor Project I remember thinking “I wish there was something like that for me when I was struggling in the closet as a kid in the small suburbs of Greece”. Fast forward a decade later I would find myself at the United Nations sitting on a historic panel on Transgender Health on the 50th anniversary of the Stone-Wall riots, with the subject matter being our film and its impact. People see a short documentary, but what they don’t see is the series of events that led to it. One of my earliest childhood memories is that of observing my toy action figures examining their anatomy while wondering who I was. What would follow would be a long journey of self-acceptance from marrying a woman (though I was a gay man deep down), to coming out of the closet and pursuing my dreams as a filmmaker in the United States. At the first opportunity I joined the Trevor Project as a volunteer of the chat life-line and have since done my best to support many youth going through their own coming out journeys and struggles with suicidal thoughts. 
A lucky turn of events connected me with Leslie Ann Lopez, a talented opera singer set to perform in my first feature film MAN IN THE ATTIC. Through Leslie Ann I met her child; Brendon Scholl, a youth with whom I clicked immediately. It was friendship at first sight. I remember walking into Brendon’s room enamored by it being filled with art, covering every crevice of the wall and ceiling. Brendon was very open about their art and what it meant to them, and they shared the story behind some of their drawings and how art had saved them. My coming out journey was not easy either, so Brendon’s story spoke to me in a profound way, though being gay and being trans are vastly different journeys. As our friendship continued to unfold the CEO of the Trevor Project who was also a friend mentioned that it would be an honor to have Brendon as a speaker in one of their events. When sharing the invitation with the family, I also shared my wish to document the family’s story and Brendon’s transition and coming out story in a film preceding their speech. Brendon and their family joined with excitement, ready to share their story in order to support other youth going through similar journeys. That was when all the dots connected, becoming the beginning of DRAW WITH ME. 
Although I knew that telling this story came with a lot of responsibility, I felt ready and the family truly made me feel safe and comfortable in doing so. The entire family joined as one in supporting Brendon and the film, from their loving grandmother to their aunts Lynda and Jennifer who both joined the film; Lynda by using her voice as a journalist asking the right questions and Jennifer with an educational introduction shared with millions of her followers. What I truly believe drew me to the story though, was Bredon’s confidence in knowing who they were at such a young age, and being ready to use their experience as a tool for other youth who were struggling with their identity and coming out. I thought “I wish I had someone like Brendon to talk to when I was struggling in the closet as a kid”.
Since then the film has screened at The Trevor Project, has been selected by GLAAD and has been the topic of discussion in panels at TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL during PRIDE and the United Nations among others, and has been employed as a tool of diversity education by organizations such as Esteé Lauder and JP Morgan. A personal highlight was when DRAW WITH ME screened at my school in Greece with an audience of teachers, parents, and my own family. There were many feelings in the room. One thing that stood out was when my older brother asked one of the counselors “What should a parent advise their child if they come out to them as gay or trans?” The reply of the counselor has stuck with me: “It’s not about what you should tell them, it’s about just listening to them”.  
So listen to us… and as Brendon says so well, “Believe us when we say who we are.” 
DIRECTOR / PRODUCER – CONSTANTINE VENETOPOULOS 
Born in Athens Greece in 1980 -3rd generation in a lineage of ship builders- Constantine Venetopoulos graduated from London’s CASS Business School with a Master’s Degree in Marketing, embracing his family’s cruise line heritage while staying faithful to his passion for poetry, literature, and the film world. In addition to publishing two novels, his films have premiered at Tribeca Film Festival among others. His most recent work ‘Draw with Me’ created in partnership with ‘The Trevor Project’ about Brendon Scholl a youth in transition, featuring Jennifer Lopez amnd President Elect Joe Biden -the leading suicide prevention line for LGBTQ youth- made history at the United Nations, commemorating 50 years from the Stonewall riots and has been presented to schools world-wide including NYC’s Department of Education, as well as being deployed as a resource for diversity by organizations such as Esteé Lauder and JP Morgan. He has directed ABT’s prima ballerina Luciana Paris and actors Bill Skarsgård, and Ian Alexander among others. HIs first feature film MAN IN THE ATTIC, a psychological thriller featuring Emma Hepburn Ferrer Is anticipated to hit the cinemas in 2021. He is the founder of ‘Kuntaur Film Festival’, a children’s film festival in the remote village of Kuntaur in West Africa lacking access to electricity, sharing the cinema experience with the youth by deploying mobile generators and he is the creative director of The Lamin Koto Super-School Prototype for which 2020 marked a milestone when a mass scale photo posting was installed in collaboration with French artist JR’s INSIDE OUT social impact platform. Constantine was recognized by JR as the face of Greece in a PHAIDON educational publication in 2020, is supported by the Onassis Foundation, and is a frequent speaker at Tedx Talk events. Constantine Venetopoulos has been an author, filmmaker, and advocate for human rights since 2010 is fluent in German, English, and Greek and his plans for the future involve further narrowing the gap between social impact initiatives & film, while currently developing a film that will document the first ever venture by a disabled person into outer space, among other projects. 
SUBJECT – BRENDON SCHOLL
Brendon Scholl is a visual artist and college sophomore majoring in theater arts. Their art has been an integral part of their life since childhood, as evidenced by the crayon compositions covering the heating units of their room, followed by mural artworks around the walls. Their entire room is an expression of their artistry, in a 360º art gallery of their inner world. As they continue to evolve as an artist, they simultaneously carry this passion into their activism and advocacy. They were one of the leaders of their GSA in their high school and marched proudly this past spring in the Black Lives Matter protest marches. Brendon was honored by the Trevor Project -the leading suicide prevention line for LGBTQ+ Youth- during their annual fundraiser in 2018. Soon thereafter Brendon made history when a documentary about their life of advocacy was screened at the United Nations, in a special anniversary commemorating the 50th Stonewall riots. Brendon led the first ever United Nations panel on Trans Health matters, as the voice of the youth. Brendon hopes to continue with their activism and their art throughout their lifetime and to see the changes necessary for this country to live up to the promises made to ALL Americans, by setting a world-wide example for equal rights and opportunities without exception.

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