Written by Jay Kidd, ICG
Photo Credits: ICG
Bianca Cline's love of filmmaking started at a young age. "When I was in high school, my parents got a video camera," she smiles, "and I commandeered it and started making movies." Soon after, her mother informed her that filmmaking was a real job that people did for a living. "I instantly said, 'Yes, that's what I'm doing. I'm going to be a filmmaker."
Being born and raised in Los Angeles afforded Cline opportunities to connect to the industry while still in high school. "I worked with a guy who repaired 35-millimeter film cameras for the studios," she remembers. "I got my foot in the door when I was a teenager, and then I went to film school at Brigham Young University."
In college, Cline worked alongside ambitious peers who, after college, raised money to shoot a feature. The film screened in theaters, and its success kick-started her career as a DP. Cline began working on indie feature films and eventually transitioned into shooting commercial spots for such major corporations as Oreo, Nike, Champion, and Citibank. It was around this time her children were born, and she joined Local 600 as a director of photography. Recently, Cline has moved back into feature films, lensing A24's Academy Award-nominated critical hit Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.
Looking back, Cline says that although she recognized her trans identity at a young age, she could not explore it. "I saw a TV show where they were talking about a character that had a sex change," she recalls. "I said, That's who I am.' I knew I was a girl. I tried to talk to people about it, but I was immediately met with a lot of negative reactions. I was born in 1977, before the Internet. There wasn't much talk of trans people in general. The word transgender didn't even exist."
Cline began her transition in her thirties and found acceptance from her working peers.
"I realize I have a lot of privilege," Cline continues. "I have a fairly stable life. I don't fear being fired. I don't fear any kind of violence at work. So, I need to make sure I'm vocal and help to change others' views. I need to let people know they know a trans woman because it's so much easier for me than for some other people. I have an obligation. I can't disappear and just live my life as a cinematographer."
Cline says being transgender creates an empathy that others may not experience. "The world teaches you to hate yourself when you're trans, and that creates an understanding of other human beings that shows up in my work," she shares. "I think it's easier for me to put myself in someone else's shoes. That's a lot of what being a cinematographer is about."
When asked about the state of current trans politics, Cline shares a story to illustrate how she feels. "Marcel was playing at SXSW last March, and it was the same week that Texas had made it illegal for kids to be trans. There was a pro-trans rally in Austin, so I went with my son. There were lots of anti-protesters, but there was also this speaker there who was so beautiful. They said, 'We're going to win because we love them more than they hate us.' That informed my view of what's going on. There's a lot of people who hate us, but if we love them more than they hate us, we will win in the end."