Introducing Andie Morgenlander and her film “Whistle Down Wind” – Queer People in Rural Appalachia

I have written several blogs in the past about performing arts and how they can highlight various areas of diversity and social justice.  Once again I am pleased to support this new film about an unaddressed segment of our population – LGBTQ+ people living in US Appalachia.  I also had a chance to discuss this important new film with the co-writer and director Andie Morgenlander.  Please read this fascinating and insightful interview and consider supporting her work!

STAN: Andie, could you tell us a little more about the film, maybe its plot and main characters?

ANDIE: I’m happy to go a little bit into the narrative, without giving too much away! It’s a queer love story, taking place in Southern Appalachia. The film is chapter-style, so we’ll see them in the late 90s as children and early/mid 2000s as teens, and then adults.

The story starts by nine-year old Janie’s artistic family relocating to a small Appalachian town. Her and Alex, her new next door neighbor, become inseparable – when Janie loses her Mother, Alex’s supportive place in her life becomes solidified. In their teenage years, Alex starts dating her youth group friend Jake, struggling to make sense of familial expectations and her beliefs. Alex and Janie navigate an awkward but enlivening double date and the social scene of their rural high school. The besties sneak out to a party, and a rollercoaster of an evening leads to their first kiss, intolerant frenemies provoking a fist fight and ultimately, getting caught and quickly closeted again by Alex’s parents.

You’ll have to see the film to find out what happens during the adult chapter, and how the story ends!

STAN: Why did you decide to make this particular film? Is there some particular unseen segment of the community you are wanting to make visible?

ANDIE: My hope with this film is to spotlight queer communities in Southern Appalachia. I think often times there is a misconception that trans and queer people don’t live in rural areas. And we do! There is such a rich history of LGBT+ resistance and existence in the South, and it’s really important to me that these narratives be shared. Lastly, shying away from southern stereotypes, we’ll explore a subtle, third space of queer identity and the impact of conservative ideology, family and grief on sexuality. Southern roots can be muddy. How do we break down the cultural barriers that keep us from fully loving one another?

STAN: Are there things from your own personal or life experiences that led you to create this film?

Film Co-Writer and Director Andie Morgenlander

ANDIE: This script is deeply inspired by parts of my co-writer, Julia Christgau’s, personal story. However, the film definitely reflects many aspects of my personal journey. From the impact of patriarchy on teenage relationships, to navigating family dynamics, to the saving grace of best friendships….these are all threads that have impacted my identity. Whistle Down Wind is the movie I needed growing up. It’s the film I need now – a mirror, a way of looking back and reminding my inner teenager that they were/are valid. My co-writer, Julia and I are both queer. I’m gender nonconforming and was born and raised in North Carolina. This narrative shows how we lean on our chosen family, our best friends, and our blood-bound family…even when it’s difficult. Our film makes visible a Southern slice of queer exploration that many have lived, but few have seen depicted in cinema. For these reasons, I am beyond grateful and stoked to direct this feature film.

STAN: What is your current schedule for the film and how may people be able to view it?

ANDIE: This Summer, we’ll shoot in Sylva, North Carolina with a blend of student filmmakers from Western Carolina University and professionals! We are less than two months away from shooting this film. To create an environment of mutual care on-set, we’ll shoot Whistle Down Wind through an ethical filmmaking framework. Historically, the film industry has been riddled with harmful practices, placing crew members’ needs last on the priority list. We believe those at the forefront of the making process should be treated as sacred human artists.

I wrote this framework with input from the Southern film community, my grad cohort and mentors. Liberation, collective care, equitable storytelling, accountability and wholeheartedness are the core elements of this methodology. In late June, we’ll have a week of orientation where we’ll teach/learn this framework together. Then, we shoot for eighteen days in June and July! After that, we’ll begin the post-journey. The film will likely play the festival circuit in late 2025 or early 2026, and receive online distribution. Maybe we can send a follow up email when it’s completed and ready to watch!!

STAN: How can people assist you in bringing this film to completion?

ANDIE: Right now we are raising 25K for production through our crowdfunding campaign: and these funds will help pay for food for the crew, cast + crew payments, housing and location costs. If you are able to spare a financial donation of any amount, they are all tax-deductible since we’re running this campaign through our fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas, who is a 501c3.

Additionally, if anyone has a catering connection in Asheville, Dillsboro or Sylva, NC OR access to a house that could be used as a location, in-kind support is incredibly helpful at this point in the process, so if you want to support in that way, don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]. You can also follow our socials through @JusticeFilmCollective or @whistledownwindfilm.

STAN: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the film or yourself?

ANDIE: This is very much a passion project and a labor of love. We’ve been backed by organizations such as New Orleans Film Festival, Warner Media, Campaign for Southern Equality, Cucalorus Film Festival and Blue Ridge Pride. As a Southern story made by and for the Southern LGBT+ community, I’m so grateful that you’ve even taken the time to read this Q + A, and thank you so much for your support of this project!

STAN: Thank you for spending this time with me, and I wish you the best in securing funding completing this wonderful project.

+ + + + + + +

Do consider supporting this film’s production by contributing to their crowdfunding campaign or emailing [email protected].

Advancing Your Career in Australia: Tips for International Professionals

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Often part of career management is considering a move to another country, especially when working in a diverse and inclusive environment with maximum potential is a key consideration. I am pleased to provide this guest blog from Deborah Martin (see short bio bottom of the blog) about considering a move to Australia as part of career planning.

Australia, known for its strong economy, diversified culture, and numerous work prospects, draws individuals from all over the world looking to better their careers. For international professionals considering Australia as their next career location, navigating the Australian employment market and comprehending visa restrictions are critical first steps toward success. In this post, we’ll go over useful ideas and insights for overseas professionals wishing to further their careers in Australia, with a special emphasis on visa issues.

To enhance their careers in Australia, overseas professionals should first understand the visa restrictions. Australia provides a variety of visa choices based on professional conditions, including skilled migration visas, employer-sponsored visas, and temporary work visas. Each visa category has its own qualifying requirements, application process, and validity duration. Understanding the visa landscape enables foreign professionals to choose the best visa pathway for their career goals and take proactive efforts to get the relevant papers. Aligning one’s talents with those on the Skilled Occupation List can boost career opportunities.

While understanding visa restrictions is important, overseas professionals should also explore various sponsorship options available in Australia. Many Australian firms are willing to sponsor competent experts from abroad to fill important tasks and alleviate skill shortages in the local workforce. Professionals may improve their job search techniques and raise their chances of finding work in Australia by identifying industries and firms that actively seek out overseas talent. Networking with industry colleagues, visiting career fairs, and using online job portals may all assist overseas professionals connect with possible sponsors and explore intriguing employment opportunities in Australia.

Building a strong professional network is vital for growing one’s career in any nation, including Australia. International professionals should actively cultivate their professional networks in Australia by attending industry events, joining professional organizations, and networking with peers and mentors in their sector. Networking activities not only assist professionals make new relationships, but they also give vital insights about industry trends, employment prospects, and career development resources in Australia. Building a strong professional network may lead to new employment possibilities, mentoring, and useful contacts, all of which can help you grow your career in Australia.

Investing in ongoing professional development is crucial for advancing one’s career in Australia’s competitive job market. International professionals should spend in developing their skills, obtaining industry certifications, and remaining current on emerging trends and innovations in their sector. Pursuing more education, attending workshops and seminars, and enrolling in online courses may help professionals improve their knowledge and expertise, making them more competitive in the Australian employment market. Employers in Australia reward individuals who exhibit a dedication to lifetime learning and professional progress, therefore overseas professionals should prioritize continuing professional development as part of their career advancement strategy.

Adjusting to a new cultural milieu is crucial for a successful job change in Australia. International workers should take proactive measures to become acquainted with Australian workplace culture, communication standards, and professional etiquette. Embracing cultural diversity, respecting local norms, and exhibiting adaptation are critical for developing great connections with colleagues and employers in Australia. By embracing cultural differences and fostering a collaborative work environment, overseas professionals can seamlessly integrate into Australian businesses and advance their careers.

To advance your career in Australia as an international professional, it’s important to plan ahead of time, network effectively, and understand visa rules. You may position yourself for success in Australia’s dynamic employment market by being acquainted with the visa environment, researching appropriate sponsorship options, developing a strong professional network, engaging in ongoing professional development, and managing cultural differences. With the appropriate tactics and mentality, foreign professionals may take advantage of new employment prospects and achieve their professional objectives in Australia.

+   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +

Deborah Martin passionately advocates for women in tech, empowering them to pursue their tech dreams. Believing in diversity’s power for innovation, Deborah tirelessly champions inclusivity. Her mission: create an inclusive tech space where women thrive, contribute diverse perspectives for groundbreaking advancements, and foster a future of equal opportunities for all.