That’s what executive producer Kate Fisher was counting on when she and her team released the now-Emmy-nominated web series Her Story, which tells the story of two transgender women in Los Angeles as they navigate sex and dating with new suitors.
“We always wanted to tell, first and foremost, a love story,” Fisher told The Daily Beast. “Being able to see that play out onscreen with characters that you don’t necessarily see represented accurately a lot of the time—that has proved to be a window in for a lot of people who didn’t understand [trans people] before.”
When it comes to transgender storytelling, Her Story isn’t unique so much as it is peerless. The six-episode series, available for free on YouTube, is one of the few projects to cast transgender actors (co-creator Jen Richards and Angelica Ross) in transgender roles. And instead of telling a story about perpetual heartbreak and discrimination, it acknowledges the beauty that trans people bring into the lives of their friends and partners.
So it’s no wonder that Her Story picked up an Emmy nod for Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series—and, indeed, Fisher, while incredibly grateful for the recognition, is not totally stunned by it.
“It’s kind of surreal,” she said, “but it’s also not in [the sense] that we knew we had something that we thought was special.”
It is, however, a small miracle that Her Story was even in a position to be considered. The series was the first project for Fisher’s new production company, Speed of Joy, and it was made on a small budget with a primarily LGBTQ—and female—cast and crew. A crowdfunding campaign helped cover post-production costs while giving fans a personal stake in the success of the project.
“We had over 600 people donate anything from five dollars to 20 dollars,” Fisher recalled. “We had people donate a dollar, and that was just as important.”
Fisher and her co-producers could have sought outside investment but, for the Her Story team, it was important to tell the story their way or not at all.
“We wanted to do it the way that we wanted to do it and to set a model both in terms of quality, but also in terms of assembling the team behind it,” Fisher said. “When you have outside investors coming in—especially ones who might not get their money back—they want a certain amount of control that we didn’t want to let go of in those ways.”
The independent route paid off. Her Story has a level of realism that other shows with trans characters can approximate but never quite attain. Whether it’s transgender waitress Violet (Richards) being preoccupied by the size of her hands while sitting next to her cisgender crush Laura (co-creator Laura Zak) or transgender attorney Paige (Ross) dreading an uncomfortable conversation about her identity with the hunky James (Christian Ochoa), the series is full of details that could only come from having transgender people involved in every aspect of production.
“Even just having your sound mixer on set be trans—you might not see it on film, but it shows up on film,” said Fisher. “That nuance in the storytelling, that authenticity—it all comes from having a set where everyone felt safe and respected and free to be who they are.”
The road from the show’s January premiere to the Emmys has been “grassroots” all the way, Fisher said.
Fans of the show—this writer included—became proselytizers, sending the YouTube link to friends and family. (Speaking of, here’s that link one more time.) Because the team couldn’t afford to send out DVD screeners, they were almost completely reliant on this word-of-mouth buzz to earn the nod. In fact, they were the only indie series to make it into their category, which otherwise includes shows like the Adult Swim comedy Children’s Hospital and an unREAL-themed Lifetime miniseries.
The groundswell of support is a testament to how broadly Her Story connected outside of the LGBT community. YouTube commenters often praise the series for being “informative” but, more often than not, they can be found cheering for the couples and time-stamping their favorite lines. That’s a sign that the show’s novelty is more than matched by its quality.
At this point, seeing more of Her Story is a matter of when, not if. Fisher told The Daily Beast that talks with companies and platforms to turn the project into a full-length series are moving forward.
“It’s not just a question of finding anyone who will give us money to do it,” she said. “It’s a question of finding the right fit. That’s the stage we’re in right now.”
While those talks continue, Emmy voters will be casting their ballots. And no matter what happens, Fisher and her team are happy that they’ve made it this far considering how far they’ve come.
“I know it’s a cliché to say that it’s an honor just to be nominated but in this case the biggest hurdle was getting nominated,” she said.
“We’ve already won quite a lot so regardless of the outcome on the 11th [of September], we’re going to have our 25-person crew partying hard and winning in our own way, regardless of whether or not that’s with a statue."