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For decades, homosexuality has been a theme in vampire novels and films. “Bit,” a new film by writer and director Brad Elmore, is one of the first to feature a transgender protaganist portrayed by a trans actor.

Nicole Maines (“Supergirl”) stars as a trans teen who becomes entrenched with a mysterious group of punk feminist vampires hellbent on ridding the streets of predatory men. The movie was selected to close the Popcorn Fright Nights summer horror film festival, Aug. 8 – 16 at Savor Cinema in downtown Fort Lauderdale. 

“Most R-rated movies are geared toward 13-year-old boys or at least coded that way,” Elmore said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I wanted to make an R-rated movie for young girls: fun, strange and gory, occupying a midground between ‘Lost Boys’ and ‘Jem and the Holograms.’”

The filmmaker took a risk, centering the plot around a transgender teen.

“I was just so tired of a lot of movies wanting a pat on the back for including a second or third tier character that’s trans,” he explained, noting that his city is one of the multicultural and diverse in the world.” 

“Anybody can make a sexy genre film, but I asked myself how do I start there and have a trans lead without it being a trans plot? So many trans-centered movies are about (gender) transition or identity,” he pointed out.

The project came together quickly, in just a matter of months. Elmore had the structure of the story in mind, but still took time to research his characters.

“Since I was writing a bunch of characters outside of my experience, I had to do the footwork and vetting of the script, which took longer than the actual writing,” Elmore explained. “I wanted to make something fun, but with characters that were real. They have to feel real to writer and to the audience. The fun comes from the situations and not the characters ‘winking and nodding’.”

Maines, a trans actor who recently broke onto the scene, was definitely a catalyst in the successful completion of the film.

“She’s key to everything. I saw a bunch of tapes and auditions…it had to be a trans person playing a trans person or what’s the point?” Elmore asked. “I skyped with her and we hit off. She’s a very charismatic person. Really, it was a no brainer, she was perfect.”

And Maines brought her A-game: “There’s a lot of pressure for a young actor to go from one role in a TV show that is a minute long to the lead in a movie where you’re in every scene. That’s a lot of pressure and she could handle it,” he added.

In addition to “Bit,” Popcorn Fright Nights will premiere 73 films (including 10 world premieres) from 16 countries, and bringing together established filmmakers and emerging new voices to its annual celebration of the genre.

Local theater producer and director Erynn Dalton will present her film directorial debut with “The Gravedigger” on Aug. 15. Dalton, founder of Abyss Productions and Wilton Theater Factory, adapted the acclaimed play, utilizing a classic horror story's legacy as the thread for an absorbingly original tale about a tragic “monster.” The film was shot earlier this year in her Wilton Manors theater.

Popcorn Fright Nights runs Aug. 8 – 16 at Savor Cinema, 503 S.E. 6thSt. in Fort Lauderdale. An all-access festival pass is available for $99 ($169 for couples). Tickets and a full schedule at