SURVIVOR MADE is a holiday documentary that centers queer, trans, and BIPOC survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) whose lives and stories intersect through their place of employment in downtown Los Angeles. The film begins at the start of Gifted’s make-or-break holiday season. Pressure is on at the warehouse where a diverse chosen family of survivors work at a dizzying pace to hand inspect, gift wrap, package, and ship artisan products crafted by the program’s budding survivor-entrepreneurs.

Before becoming co-workers, Ana and Cherry met at a Los Angeles women's shelter where they lived with their children after escaping their harm-doers. CEO and founder, Sonya, presents a brave face to her team, but in private, she is stressed. Not only is she pregnant and due two weeks after the holidays, if the program doesn't make its sales target, her seasonal staff — mostly single mothers — will lose their living wage jobs. As Sonya takes a step back, Ana takes the lead and, in turn, promotes Cherry. SURVIVOR MADE follows three women taking on new roles for the first time while trying to keep their families safe and their business afloat. Although the stakes are high, the team goes all in with an inspiring and heartwarming combination of humor, gratitude, and holiday spirit.

1 in 4 women and 1 in 2 trans folks experience IPV in the U.S. Resisting narrative tropes of survivors as powerless and isolated, SURVIVOR MADE is a nuanced and hopeful exploration of what it means to survive.

  • Drew Denny
    Queer Habits, The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With My Pants On, Momster
  • Samantha Curley
    Framing Agnes (Sundance '22, NEXT Innovator Award and Audience Award)
  • Andria Wilson Mirza
    Executive Producer
  • Carla Roda
    Kickback, Menudo Forever Young, Our Quinceañera
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    LGBTQ, BIPOC, Family, Feature Documentary
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 16 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    July 24, 2023
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Drew Denny

A 2022 Sundance Fellow and MacArthur grantee, Drew Denny directs narrative, documentary and commercials. Harper’s Bazaar called her one woman show turned Academy Award nominated podcast ASKING FOR IT “a Fleabag fix in a post-Fleabag world,” and Marta Kaufman’s shingle OK Goodnight is producing a narrative television series based on her documentary QUEER HABITS—following drag queen nuns who save a rural homophobic community from ruin.

Her first feature won Best Feature, Best First Feature and Best Cinematography in its 50-festival run, earning her a spot in The Advocate’s “40 Under 40” list, where she was named “an auteur to watch.” Her most recent narrative film MOMSTER, starring Amanda Plummer and Brianna Hildebrand, premiered in Competition at the Tribeca Film Festival where it was selected for their debut Pride program and called “Tarantino and Nicolas Refn’s queer feminist love child.”

In over a dozen documentaries, she has secured unprecedented access to subjects as diverse as drag queen nuns in California, abortion clinics in Texas, climate change refugees in the Maldives, NASA scientists in Greenland and sex changing fish in the Pacific Ocean.

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Director Statement

It took me years to come out as a survivor of domestic violence and years more to share my story. Through group therapy and research, I learned that domestic violence is tragically common in LGBTQ communities, so I made a play and podcast exploring my experience of queer intimate partner abuse. I received over a hundred letters from survivors who said they heard their experience in my work—many of whom were still with their abusers and who admitted that hearing my story helped them realize that they need to leave to survive. I have always considered myself an activist filmmaker. Most of my documentaries have focused on climate change or LGBTQ rights, and my narrative films have all centered queer female characters. But those letters hardened my charge.

I am so proud that this film is made by a team of survivors. Our engagement with the participants and themes in the film is not a professional endeavor but an everyday element of our lives — we are the community. The benefits of survivors representing survivors are palpable in the authenticity and sensitivity we bring to the thoughtful treatment of our participants, and to the hard won expertise we bring to the craft of telling their stories.

We made this film for survivors who will see themselves represented on screen, many for the first time. And we hope that those who have not experienced abuse will begin to understand us, to learn how to love us, a little bit better.