Austinite Fiona Dawson exclaims, “I’ve been described as the bisexual female version of Mr. Rogers,” when summing up her role and how she is viewed as an advocate for the LGBTQ community.
Dawson, an Emmy-nominated and award-winning director, producer, writer, and public speaker, is promoting her unscripted series, Now with Fiona through ATX TV Fest, which badge and ticket holders can view on demand starting Thursday, June 17 through the duration of the festival, which ends Sunday, June 20.
The proof-of-concept episode, produced by Free Lion Productions and presented as part of the Syndication Project, takes inspiration from reality shows such as This is Life with Lisa Ling and Queer Eye.
In the inaugural episode, hosted by Dawson, we meet activist Stuart Milk, the nephew of visionary gay politician Harvey Milk, and Kate, an indefatigable Honduran transgender woman seeking asylum in the United States. In addition, Dawson weaves in voices of hope from the streets of New York City’s WorldPride, as she believes strongly in sprinkling in a good amount of hope and positivity in every episode.
The nine-part series is executive produced by Mindy Raymond, of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance and co-chair of Women in Film & Television Austin. Both Dawson and Raymond call Austin home and some of the episodes include Texas stories and locations.
The two met only 18 months ago, through mutual friend, author, and public speaker, Dr. Sheila Newsom.
“We had lunch and literally, it was just like a kismet moment,” Raymond tells CultureMap. “And I had seen her film TransMilitary, [a SXSW 2018 Audience Award Winner] before we had lunch, so I was already enthralled.”
Dawson, who was raised in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, and moved to Houston in 2000 after volunteering in Bangladesh and a year in Portugal, wanted to be like Princess Diana when she grew up.
“She inspired me as a young child because I saw the power that she had on her platform and her visibility to raise awareness about issues that she wanted other people to care about,” Dawson says.
Her desire to advocate for others led her to various jobs in Houston, where she worked for Casa de Eperanza, helping abused, neglected, and HIV-positive children, and later for the Houston Area Women’s Center for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Eventually, she settled on an even bigger platform, media production, and a stint in New York and Washington, D.C.
Now Dawson is back in Texas (“I am a proud Texan,” she exclaims.) and teaming up with Raymond to bring Now with Fiona to a “mainstream audience that wouldn’t necessarily automatically go for LGBTQ content,” she says.
So, what is next for this project and the collaboration?
“The common theme to the type of work that I want to do, or we want to do,” says Dawson, “ is to be able to reach those people who might be on the fence when it comes to LGBTQ issues, but be able to educate and entertain them in a nonconfrontational way, and be able to say, ‘Look at this story. Look at these emotions and this experience that this individual has, and let’s help you relate to that so that you can understand that gender is on a spectrum, that sexuality is on a spectrum. We just happen to fall in different areas on that spectrum.’”
“We’re really focused on getting this out into the world,” Raymond adds. “The time is now, too. People are ready for it. This content is so relevant. We’re seeing this on a global scale, that these conversations are happening.”
Catch Now with Fiona during ATX TV Fest, in addition to plenty of other original series and panels. To learn more about the series and where it’s heading next, check the website.
After the 27-minute episode, viewers can watch a conversation with Kate, the central character who fled Honduras to save her life; as well as Edna Yang with American Gateways, who helped Kate once she arrived in the U.S.; and Ricardo Martinez with Equality Texas as he discusses the intersectionality of immigration and the LGBTQ+ community.