Carmel High School graduate Horton directs ground-breaking short film

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Sydne Horton, using the speaker, directs on the set of “META.” (Submitted photo)

Sydne Horton was sold on film directing since she heard about the plot for “META.”

“META” highlights the internalized battle of trans/nonbinary people when battling dysphoria. Set during a 1980s-themed prom, the story follows Artie Talbot, a transboy on his senior prom night where he unexpectedly gets his period, which causes a monstrous transformation that challenges Artie’s perceptions of himself. The script was written by Horton’s friend Savannah Ward.

“The moment Savannah pitched their idea for ‘META’ to me, I immediately knew this was a story that had to be shared,” said Horton, a 2013 Carmel High School graduate. “I can’t emphasize enough how important and influential it is for people to see a part of themself on screen, and with this film I hope that we are able to connect to those that are searching for their identity or struggling to accept who they are. This film is really about identity as a whole no matter who you choose to love or how you identify.”

“META,” which the writer is using as short for metamorphosis,  had its world premiere Aug. 23 with the Outfest Los Angeles Film Festival. Other invites have followed, including the Cannes Short Film Festival, which started Sept. 13. It is slated to be included at the Out on Film Atlanta’s LGBTQ Film Festival, which starts Sept. 24, followed by the Out for Blood at Cambridge UK’s Queer Horror Film Festival in late October.

“I am incredibly humbled and grateful to say that the reaction to ‘META’ so far has been nothing short of welcoming, supportive and warm,” Horton said. “It’s a genre-bending piece that takes what would be a coming-of-age story and twists it by turning it into an introspective psychological thriller.”

Ward and Horton met while attending Columbia College Chicago and worked together on some projects.

“When graduating, we both found ourselves in Los Angeles searching for what the next step was for myself as an aspiring director and Savannah, an aspiring writer,” Horton said. “Within our first year in L.A., we decided to team up and make our first project together. Initially, we planned to make a web series and we had been pitching our idea to various companies. In the end, we landed on making our short film ‘Flicker,’ funded by our friends and family which went on to have its world premiere with LA Shorts International Film Festival (in July 2019). With the success of our first short film, there was no question about teaming up for another.”

Horton said she hopes one day “META” can be a full-length film. It is just under 10 minutes now. The three lead actors were Jordan Gonzalez, Tess Speranza and Tameka Cruel.

“This was Jordan’s first film, and when I say you wouldn’t know that unless someone told you, I mean it,” Horton said. “He’s a proud advocate and member of the trans community and he was the perfect fit to bring our lead Artie to life. He brought a rawness and deeply empathetic performance to the story arc of our film as we followed his character spiral into his own insecurities after unexpectedly getting his period just moments before making his way to the stage for his prom king nominees. Tess played Artie’s incredibly supportive best friend and crush, and she turned our character Lucy into this quirky and fearless high school girl that I honestly wish I could have been in high school.

“Lastly, Tameka, she played our witty and clearly worn-out principal that’s doing her best to keep up with the latest trends, but quite honestly she’s over it all. Working with her, the cast and crew were consistently on the floor laughing.”

Horton is directing a feature-length documentary that provides a hands-on look into a family separated and weighed down by the societal stigmas of mental illness. She also is set to direct a music video and a short horror film in the coming months.

Aside from directing, Horton is working with the props team on FX’s “American Crime Story Impeachment,” which explores President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

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