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2024 Inspiring Graduate | Trinity Moody: UNM newsroom

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Trinity Moody didn’t grow up watching television, but they do plan to make a career writing for TV shows. They recognize the irony.

Moody will graduate this month with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Digital Media with a concentration in screenwriting, with plans to highlight Hollywood’s misrepresentation of non-traditional storylines through satirical film and TV projects.

“I started in film, completely new,” said Moody, an avid writer. “I just knew I didn’t want to be an author and I wasn’t allowed to watch TV as a little kid, so it was still kind of a novel.”

Moody grew up as part of a military family, but spent most of their childhood in Maine. When it came time to look for a film school, they liked that the University of New Mexico had the opportunity to study the writing aspect of film and television and that the campus offered the chance to explore a desert landscape. As a lover of Western films, Moody was intrigued by the prospect of being immersed in the setting of their favorite film genre.

“I love writing westerns,” said Moody. “I find that the most interesting and complex plot points I’ve ever been interested in have a lot to do with what I can drive out of my characters, especially in terms of character tension.”

An internship at Incluvie, a film criticism website dedicated to analyzing diversity and representation in media, helped them see how stories with queer characters were spoiled with tropes and misrepresentations. Reviewing films through an inclusive lens motivated Moody to try to write better stories, but fear of criticism kept them from sharing their work with others.

A new opportunity arose for Moody in 2021 during their third year of film school. When film production restarted after the initial pandemic shutdown, Netflix needed a team of production assistants to maintain COVID-safe protocols on set. Moody became a production assistant on End of the Road, where they helped people perform set COVID tests, distributed protective gear, and disinfected everything actors touched. Once production wrapped, they got the call to do the same for AMC’s Dark Winds.

Around the same time, Moody began experiencing strange symptoms of dissociation and difficulty concentrating at school. The frequency and intensity of the episodes increased and it soon became clear that they were simple partial seizures. By the fall of 2022, Moody had dropped out of school, unable to complete a day on campus without experiencing periodic stress-induced tonic-clonic seizures. They could no longer drive safely and even sleeping put them at risk of falling out of bed and suffering a concussion. Doctors diagnosed Moody with epilepsy, but the seizures did not respond to medication. After many tests, scans and doctor visits, they finally determined the cause: a brain tumor.

The good news was that doctors were convinced that the tumor was not cancerous and that its removal would allow Moody to live a seizure-free life again; but the surgery would remove part of their right temporal lobe, amygdala and hippocampus, affecting their recognition of people’s faces, directions and memory. Moody did not lose hope and instead found motivation in the fact that their neurological exams before surgery showed advanced language, composition, writing and grip strength. Doctors were confident that the rest of their brains could eventually compensate for the loss.

“That’s why I had to show myself that I could still write, so that if I didn’t recognize your face, I could at least tell a good story,” Moody laughed.

In November, Moody underwent brain surgery.

Moody’s determination to recover was clear. Just two weeks after the operation, holding herself “like an old lady” on a cart and putting on glasses, Moody went to the grocery store.

“It was horrible, but I was fine.”

Moody’s neurologist was fascinated by their rapid recovery.

“I went straight back to work, quite suspiciously quickly, with my own stuff and it went completely fine,” said Moody. “I think a lot of it was about my confidence. I was quite stubborn about it. I had to prove to myself that I could still do things like that, especially writing.

By the time the spring semester started, they were back in school part-time, working as communications interns for the university’s Communications and Marketing department. Moody utilized the services of the Women’s Resource Center, the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center and the Accessibility Resource Center to smooth the transition and ensure they received the necessary accommodations.

Bottom out

(Photo by Erin Dalton)

Moody on the set of their short film ‘Bottom Out’.

Any film student may know that one of the most critical elements of your college career is the completion of a capstone project. Shortly after the surgery, Moody began working on the screenplay they had been waiting to write for a long time. After sitting in the Zimmerman Library for days writing on a whiteboard in the style of “conspiracy theories,” Moody had written “Bottom Out,” a Western short film about two jocks who reunite after high school and the stealing a woman’s bag only to realize she’s chasing them. During the robbery, tension arises between the two main characters, which threatens to boil over.

“It was a great feeling, not only because I realized I still had it, but I actually now had a lot less to lose because this script was more for me than for anyone else,” said Moody, emphasizing the freedom that they had. felt working outside the parameters of traditional Hollywood cinema.

After a crowdfunding campaign, casting, table reads, costume development, and the purchase of a props container, production for the short film began with a cast and crew who shared Moody’s long-term goals: developing satirical film and television projects that could poke fun at Hollywood’s representation of queer and minority characters.

The screenplay was even read during a table read at the UNM Cherry Reel Film Festival.

Working on the film proved to Moody that they were capable of not only writing, but also directing and advising younger students.

“Through my capstone project, I was able to mentor many first-year and second-year students at UNM. On the set of ‘Bottom Out,’ I found myself talking a lot about how people should just get their work out there,” they said.

Working on set with others who felt underrepresented in the media gave Moody the space to better understand their own identities. At age 15, Moody had tried to transition, but ended up going back in the closet for several years until they were away from family and the rural New England community.

Brain birthday

(Courtesy of Trinity Moody)

Moody celebrates their “second anniversary” with a brain-themed piñata.

“Working with people around me who understand me and what I’m looking for really helped me discover my own identity and I was able to start testosterone at the beginning of this year,” they said. “Working on set with people who are in the same circumstances as me and who really feel underrepresented made it such an easy decision.”

After graduation, Moody plans to continue collaborating with like-minded filmmakers. Moody hopes to unite individuals who feel misrepresented on screen, so that those who don’t have the budgets and resources to produce alternative projects can give each other a voice. The ‘Bottom Out’ team has already started rewriting the screenplay into a television series and plans to use the short film as a proof of concept.

As Moody prepares for the launch phase, they have many experiences to reflect on. They are a year older than they planned to graduate, but they see that as an advantage that has allowed them to develop their self-defense skills and take advantage of the networking opportunities at film school. When they think about everything they experienced during their time in New Mexico, divided into chapters before and after brain surgery, they know that their lives are just beginning.

“It felt like a second chance. I call my brain surgery my second anniversary and I still celebrate it because I feel like I’m a whole new person afterward.