Sundance Institute Labs alumnus Vuk Lungulov-Klotz returned to his home turf to reflect on the Jan. 23 premiere of his directorial debut, “Mutt,” in a conversation with Variety Studio presented by Audible. The film’s stars — Lío Mehiel, Cole Doman and Mimi Ryder — joined Lungulov-Klotz to talk about redefining trans representation in film and television.

“I wrote this movie about six years ago when I was still young in my transition and understanding what trans was, and I wanted to write a movie about all of my fears,” Lungulov-Klotz reflected. “I tried to really make a story about empathy to showcase a trans identity in a 24-hour period. I wanted to subvert trans representation on-screen with having a character that wasn’t perfect — I just wanted to show a human being. I’m a little tired of taboos or sad stories, so I just wanted Feña, played by Lío, to just be able to exist and make mistakes.”

Nominated for a grand jury prize in the U.S. competition, the film follows Feña (Mehiel), a young transgender man living in New York City who grapples with the intersectionality of his gender identity and Latinx background. All the while, Feña seeks to reconcile with his estranged sister (Ryder), his father (Alejandro Goic) and even his ex-lover (Doman) as those around him come to terms with his transition.

“For the trans community that sees this film, I hope they see themselves maybe for the first time. Because there haven’t been very many films with trans-masculine protagonists, especially written by a trans-masculine person,” Mehiel said, simultaneously wrapping Lungulov-Klotz into a side embrace. “But then also for cis audiences to just recognize they have the same fears about, ‘Am I still loved by my family who I haven’t seen in a while? Am I still desired by someone who I haven’t seen in a long time?'”

In addition to writing and directing “Mutt,” Lungulov-Klotz also produced the film through Lucky 13 Productions alongside Alexander Stegmaier, Stephen Scott Scarpulla, Jennifer Kuczaj and Joel Michaely. The director’s passion for queer storytelling can also be seen through previous short films he’s penned and directed, such as “Still Liam” and “River Fork,” which are similarly centered around a transgender protagonist.

Watch the full conversation above.