"I think that telling this story is a lot more than Elizabeth Carmichael and her life choices, but a story that people can relate to regardless of gender, race, or status." ~ Andre Gaines
During HBO's The Lady and the Dale, the story of Elizabeth Carmichael comes to life in a four-part docuseries. The interesting narrative details the rise and fall of the 1970s transgender entrepreneur, whose collaborative creation of the fuel efficient, three wheeled vehicle "The Dale" caused controversy. Carmichael would later be accused, convicted, and serve time for fraud before her death in 2004.
Carmichael created the Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation in Nevada. The Dale was featured as the premiere vehicle and named after Dale Clifft. It served as a fuel-efficient car during the fuel crisis in the 70s. The company was later dissolved in 1978. The docuseries premiered on January 31 on HBO and is available for streaming on HBO Max.
Andre Gaines, executive producer for the series, partnered with filmmakers and brother duo Mark and Jay Duplass to tell this story. What makes it more interesting is that Gaines, a man of color, boldly considered the cinematic art, as opposed to languishing in whether or not others in the black community would be receptive towards the exploration of transgendered lives.
"As a black filmmaker and producer, I have an obligation to tell stories that are not only universal, but to honor the heritage, and, sometimes, those stories have to be told that can be uncomfortable," Gaines said about the docuseries.
Gaines and the Duplass brothers are represented by the same agency which gave birth to their networking and that of like minds. When asked as to why he chose to work on a docuseries revolved around a transgender figure, Gaines said, "Stories don't have a color to them. They have a relatability or a cry that resonates with people. That has to be told and that's one of the reasons I took on the project. It was to sell the relatability to the viewers."
Gaines admitted that a few stories had to be cut out, but ultimately, he was proud of the work with the crew. He also tied the importance of transgender rights amongst the black community. "Transgenders face numerous mental-health issues, especially blacks. And add that in the face of violence and fear they face because of their choices, our communities are still coming up short with proper mental-health care. Their rights shouldn't be separated but inclusive due to the basis of humanity."
Notable activists and pioneers in the LGBTQ community, including Audre Lorde, Alvin Ailey, and James Baldwin, have helped pave the way for humanistic inclusivity with passion and vigor, regardless of gender. "It's the art that's important for those leaders," Gaines said. "If you choose to be reminded daily about the difference of a person, you won't focus on their gifts and their contributions. Carmichael, despite the corruption, still had a gift planted inside of her, as we all do."
When asked what project he will take on next, Gaines said, "I've got my hands attached to Stephen King's Children of the Corn as a producer. We started shooting during the early stages of the pandemic in March and my next film will honor comedian and activist Dick Gregory."
Gaines did give advice for those trying to break into film, production, and the debate of whether Los Angeles has to be cemented as the place to be to achieve Hollywood dreams. "I believe that when you follow the passion to the point that it consumes you, it will lead you to a place you can thrive," he claimed. "Telling a person you have to move to L.A. to make it happen is really subjective. Your drive is going to move you either way and that includes the location."