Trinity Moody didn’t grow up watching television, but they do plan to make a career out of 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 focus in Screenwriting with plans to illuminate Hollywood’s misrepresentation of nontraditional storylines through satirical film and TV projects.

“I started out in Film completely new to this,” Moody, an avid writer, said. “I just knew I didn’t want to be an author and I was not allowed to watch TV when I was little, so it was still kind of novel.”

Moody grew up moving around 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 opportunities to study the writing aspect of film and television and that the campus offered a chance to explore a desert landscape. As a lover of Western films, Moody was intrigued by the prospect of being immersed in the scenery of their favorite film genre.

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

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

A new opportunity struck for Moody in 2021 during their third year of film school. As film production ramped back up after initial pandemic shutdowns, Netflix needed crews of production assistants to maintain COVID-safe protocols on set. Moody became a production assistant on End of the Road where they helped give people on set COVID tests, handed out protective gear and sanitized anything actors touched. When the production wrapped, they got the call to do the same thing for AMC’s Dark Winds.

Around the same time Moody began experiencing strange symptoms of dissociation and difficulty concentrating on school. The frequency and intensity of the episodes were increasing and it soon became clear they were having simple partial seizures. By Fall 2022, Moody, unable to complete a day on campus without having periodic stress-induced tonic-clonic seizures, had left school. They could no longer safely drive a car and even sleeping presented the danger of falling out of bed and getting a concussion. Doctors diagnosed Moody with epilepsy, but the seizures were not responsive to medication. After many tests, scans and doctor’s visits, they finally determined the cause — a brain tumor.

The good news was that doctors were confident the tumor was non-cancerous and that its removal might allow Moody to get back to a life without seizures; but, the surgery would remove a piece of their right temporal lobe amygdala and hippocampus, which would affect their recognition of people’s faces, directions and memory. Moody didn’t 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 the rest of their brain would eventually be able to compensate for the loss.

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

That November, Moody had brain surgery.

Moody’s determination to recover was evident. Just two weeks after surgery, holding themself up on a cart “like an old lady” and donning glasses, Moody went to the grocery store. 

“It was awful, but I was doing fine.”

Moody’s neurologist was fascinated by their speedy recovery.

“I got back to work right away, kind of suspiciously soon, on my own stuff and it went totally okay,” Moody said. “I think a huge part of it was about my confidence. I was pretty obstinate about it. I had to prove to myself that I could still do that kind of thing — write, specifically.”

By the time the Spring semester began, they were back in school part-time and working as a Communication Intern for the University Communication and Marketing Department. Moody utilized services at the Women’s Resource Center, LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center and the Accessibility Resource Center to make the transition smoother and ensure they received the necessary accommodations.

Bottom Out
(Photo by Erin Dalton)
Moody on the set of their capstone short film, "Bottom Out."

Any film major may know that one of the most critical elements of your college career is the completion of a capstone project. Soon after surgery, Moody began work on the screenplay they’d long been waiting to write. After holding up in Zimmerman Library for days, writing on a white-board “conspiracy-theory style,” Moody had written “Bottom Out,” a Western short film about two jocks who reunite after high school and steal a woman’s purse only to realize she’s hunting them down. Throughout the heist, tension develops between the two main characters that threatens to boil over.

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

After a grassroots crowdfunding campaign, casting, tablereads, costume development and the acquisition of a prop dumpster, production for the short film began with a cast and crew that shared Moody’s long-term goals of developing satirical film and television projects that could poke fun at Hollywood’s representation of queer and minority characters.

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

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

“Through my capstone, I was able to mentor a lot of freshmen and sophomores at UNM. On the set of "Bottom Out," I found myself talking a lot about how people needed to just get their work out there,” they said.

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

Brain Birthday
(Courtesy of Trinity Moody)
Moody celebrating their "second birthday" with a brain-themed piñata.

“Working with people in my circle who understand me and understand what I’m after has really helped me to figure out 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 under the same circumstances as I am and feel really underrepresented made it such an easy decision.”

After graduation, Moody plans to continue working with like-minded filmmakers. Moody hopes to unite individuals who feel misrepresented on screen so that those who lack the budgets and resources to produce alternative projects can give each other a voice. The team from “Bottom Out” has already begun re-writing the screenplay into a television series and plans to use the short film as a proof of concept.

As Moody prepares to walk across the commencement stage, they have many experiences to reflect on. They’re a year older than they had planned to be at graduation, but they see that as an advantage that has allowed them to develop self-advocacy skills and take advantage of the networking opportunities at the film school. Thinking about all they’ve experienced during their time in New Mexico, divided into chapters before and after brain surgery, they know their life is just getting started.

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