shooting star

How trans filmmaker Silas Howard made it to the big time to make shows about us

Silas Howard with Indya Moore

Name: Silas Howard

Who He Is: Director

What He’s Contributed: Howard grew up in Vermont before moving to San Francisco, where he began exploring the arts scene, eventually playing guitar for noted queer rock group Tribe 8. It was there he met his frequent collaborator Harry Dodge, and the two opened gallery together.

Howard found his calling with his directorial debut By Hook or By Crook, co-written with Dodge. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. By Hook or By Crook would go on to play festivals around the world, and pick up top honors at Outfest in 2001.

Fresh from his success, Howard threw himself headlong into directing short films, music videos and episodes of popular TV series like This is Us and The Fosters. He made history in 2015 when he became the first transgender director to helm an episode of Transparent. He’s also lent his talents to Pose and the forthcoming Netflix revival of Tales of the City. In 2018, he also returned to feature films with A Kid Like Jake. Starring Jim Parsons, Claire Danes, and Octavia Spencer, the movie deals with loving parents trying to cope with their child coming out as transgender…as a toddler.

Why We’re Proud: Howard’s talent and visibility have helped raise the bar and break down barriers for transgender directors everywhere. For that matter, his work on TransparentPose, A Kid Like Jake and Tales of the City has provided a valuable contribution to the ever-enriching tapestry of LGBTQ stories in film and television.

As he told ScreenCrush:

A lot of my work centers around trans and gender nonconforming – or really, centers around stories where the characters happen to be that. First, it’s about stories. And I’ve been very fortunate with TV to be able to work on Transparent and The FostersFaking It and I’m on Pose right now. So I’m working with incredible groundbreaking storylines around LGBTQ characters. I’m just so grateful because I’ve done it on my own for so long and now to see that land on such a wider platform, it’s important for people to be able to access it.

I really want room for the ambiguity. We live in a culture that’s so polarized, I just thought, “Oh my god, to protect this space where it’s not yet labeled but open.” I’m glad that it resonated. I think it was great that this was such a queer helmed project and that they brought me on as a director. Not to make it sound like that, but brought on someone who’s trans or gender nonconforming to tell this story, I think it’s important. Because I can kind of go into the messy areas, even places that made me uncomfortable because I knew where we were going. It felt like that ability to go into the messy areas was opening up a conversation in a way that a message movie would not. I didn’t want a message; I just think it’s hard to do the right thing and know what the right thing is.

What should Pride look like at 100?

When Pride turns 100, I hope we will be telling centered stories with the understanding that representation is the start, not the end, of our battle. Fifty years from now, I hope we will have learned to honor and celebrate those who are most vulnerable and often unrecognized in our communities, whose lives are driven by the fight for justice and civil rights on the ground. –Silas Howard