Secret relationships can seem fun at first. The sneaking around might even add a little spice to your life. However, there comes a point where you need to take stock and ask yourself why this connection is assigned to the shadows. Ultimately, someone is going to get hurt. In Charlie Tidmas’ immersive short Pillow Chocolate we not only get a taste of what it’s like to be the lover asked to hide away, but what that experience is like for a trans man.
Pillow Chocolate starts in a positive place, as we join two lovers in bed, the glow from their passionate night before still radiating throughout the room. As we learn more about this couple – a young trans man and an older, obviously famous, man – their passion begins to fade, as we learn that one of them is not as comfortable with their situation as they first seemed.
Based on Tidmas’ own experiences as a trans man with “little to no self-worth”, Pillow Chocolate aims to show how you can “take back the agency when someone tries to push a narrative onto you”. The short may be centred around a very specific situation, providing important insight into the casual transphobia that can easily become normalised in society, but it’s also hugely relatable thanks to its universal themes.
“The idea of reclaiming your voice and belief in your own worth is absolutely key to the short”, Tidmas explains as we discuss his motivation behind creating the short film. Adding that “Pillow Chocolate is about reclaiming the story of your own life and not taking shit from someone who thinks you should expect less”.
It’s a notion we can all connect with, as we’ve all had times where our feelings of self worth are below where we’d like them to be. However, with a trans writer/director and lead actor, Pillow Chocolate’s strength isn’t just in finding recognisable elements in the film’s central characters (hopefully you relate to Jamie and not Vince), it’s in that specific perspective it provides – one many of us probably haven’t given enough thought and consideration to.
A short film “produced democratically both for and by trans men”, Tidmas was motivated to create Pillow Chocolate because of a “lack of agency that trans people are receiving around representation in the media at the moment, especially in the UK”. Adding that he felt it was vital “to centre a film on a trans person who is taking control of their own story”. Once again, it’s down to short film to show the rest of the industry how it should be done.
Now developing a number of “trans-centric projects”, including a new short, a feature and a series, Tidmas is an emerging voice in the UK film industry and one we’ve had an eye on for sometime. A BAFTA Connect member and a previous BAFTA Mentee, I’ve heard nothing but good things about his work for sometime now and after watching Pillow Chocolate I’m happy to confirm all the praise was well deserved.