When filmmaker Andrea Meyerson discovered Jennifer Leitham performing at L.A. Women’s Fest, she was inspired to make a short film. But before their first interview was over, Meyerson knew the short would become a full-length documentary.
The story was just too fascinating to resist: A. Leitham is a legendary jazz musician: a former go-to straight-ahead bassist for the likes of Mel Torme and Doc Severinsen. And B. Jennifer Leitham was John Leitham until a sex-reassignment surgery in 2001.
After five years of production, Leitham’s story is finally being told in “I Stand Corrected,” making its Philadelphia premiere [Thursday] at QFest.
“I wanted to tell a story about a musician who happens to be transgender. I didn’t want to tell a story about a transgender person who happens to be a musician,” says Meyerson, just before the L.A.
premiere of “Corrected” earlier this week. “Every film I’ve seen about transgender people has always been about the transition. They’re so full of angst. But when I met Jennifer, she was just so happy and was playing such beautiful music. Her music and who she was inspired me. Everything else was secondary.”
The 82-minute biography follows John Leitham from his days at Upper Merion High School, to the decade he spent cutting his teeth on the Philly Jazz scene, to his stardom with Woody Herman’s legendary big band, to his many appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
And through the transition to Jennifer, which derailed that meteoric career for a time, as many in the industry proved less than accepting.
“Anybody that’s in the entertainment business — a musician or whatever — you don’t sneeze when the media shines a light on you. You need to reach people. That’s the whole point of it,” says Leitham, from her home in Pasadena. “I wanted the film to be about my career, and Andrea wanted to tell a story. I would have preferred that the focus be on my career. But, you know, I understand why people are interested in my personal story, and I understand a lot more when I watch the finished product.”
If you go …
What: QFest movie festival
When: Runs through July 23 at venues across the city; includes 55 features from 26 countries.
How: For tickets/showtime info, visit www.qfest.com.