The Bystander Effect

A young queer man witnesses an attack on a transwoman, and struggles to get involved.

  • Ethan Paisley
    Indelible (2017, MVFF, Cinequest)
  • Ethan Paisley
    Indelible (2017, MVFF, Cinequest)
  • Suzann Toni
    The Sinners (2020, Mammoth 2021)
  • Rabia Sultana
    Angelfish (2019, TIFF)
  • Jolene Mendes
    She Paradise (2020, Tribeca FF 2021)
  • Rheagan Rizio
    Point 453 (2018)
  • Ethan Paisley
    Indelible (2017, MVFF, Cinequest)
  • Matthew Torres
    Key Cast
    Chicago P.D. (2019)
  • Dorian Lockett
    Key Cast
    Soul (2020)
  • L'lerrét Jazelle
    Key Cast
    Disclosure (2020)
  • Tulley Hunt
    Key Cast
  • Mariscela Méndez
    It Crawls Beneath
  • Tracy De La Rosa
    War Paint (Sundance Official Selection 2017)
  • Matt Somogyi
    Sound Design
    Brutal Affairs (2017)
  • Evan Roth
    Stuck On Someday (2017)
  • Jenny Montgomery
    Company 3
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Thriller, Action, Social Issue, LGBTQ, Trans Rights, Social Media, fantasy, surreal
  • Runtime:
    10 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    July 19, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Ethan Paisley

Ethan Paisley (he/him) is an LGBTQ filmmaker focused on stories that raise social awareness and expand queer representation. 

Paisley has directed two award-winning feature films THE ART OF ESCAPE and POINT 453 currently available on streaming platforms. His shorts PLAYING THE GAME, WILTED, and INDELIBLE together have garnered over 30 awards and screened in festivals like Mill Valley, Cinequest, and Cannes Short Film Corner. He recently directed two docs CHLOE'S STORY and GONE MISSING in partnership with political action organization, Sunrise Movement.

Most recently, he completed post-production on his short film THE BYSTANDER EFFECT. He is a Creative Executive at Artemis Pictures founded by Siena Oberman (MAINSTREAM, THE BIRTHDAY CAKE). 

View his work at:

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Director Statement

I set out to make this film to explore how fear is correlated with injustice. Last year, we witnessed an upheaval of injustice, captured by the smartphones of bystanders around the world. The film is meant to demonstrate the bystander effect and why so many people are afraid to get involved. I wanted to tell this story through my community, the LGBTQ community, to show how fear operates in these situations. The queer lead character is ultimately too afraid to intercept a hate crime against a transwoman because he’s afraid he’ll become the one under attack.

By telling this difficult story, my goal is to show how vulnerability is the only way forward. If we’re not willing to show up as our true selves for others, take risks, and make mistakes, then how will we ever know what lies on the other side of injustice? In other words, if you see something, you must be courageous and say something.

I believe courage is what is missing from those bystander videos that went viral in 2020, and something our culture could use more examples of. I believe film has the power to influence culture more than any other medium of art, and I hope you consider including this film in your festival to magnify our message about how being courageous and vulnerable are the first steps in obstructing injustice and becoming a more connected society.