Tommy Dorfman and Corey Fogelmanis Bring a Nonbinary Love Story to the SXSW Screen

Last year, Tommy Dorfman found out that her directorial debut, “I Wish You All the Best,” was accepted into South by Southwest. For a first-time filmmaker, premiering at the festival is a big moment. And then Dorfman pulled the film.

“I didn’t feel like it was ready. I was still mining it,” says Dorfman. “And I just was like, you know what? We may never get into another festival — you can’t really defer — but what I do know is that I need more time to make it the movie it’s supposed to be.”

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A year later, the film was back on the SXSW slate. Dorfman was in town with the film’s star, Corey Fogelmanis, and costar Cole Sprouse, who was set to meet up with the pair lxater in the day.

“South By was the perfect festival, because the film is [set] in the South; we’re obviously in Texas. It just felt like the right audience and the right space to present the story,” says Dorfman, who grew up in Georgia. “Trans youth are under very different circumstances now than they even were when we made the movie, or even when I first read the book. So again, it feels very timely that this is the film that we made and it’s coming out this year.”

The film is an adaptation of the YA book “I Wish You All the Best,” about a nonbinary teenager who is shunned by their parents. Dorfman first read the book in 2019, “and I fell in love with it, and immediately had a vision for what it could look like cinematically,” she says.

She went on to write the script during the pandemic, and Ace Entertainment came onboard as producer. “It was just really clear to me that the world needed a movie like this,” Dorfman adds. “It’s a film about autonomy and emancipation and really choosing your contentment and happiness and safety, over what society expects you to choose,” says Dorfman. “And to me, that feels very universal.”

The film stars Fogelmanis in the lead role of Ben. “I knew about the book because you put it on your [Instagram] story a couple years prior to us filming it,” says Fogelmanis, addressing Dorfman. “I bought the book and I read it and I was like, this is so sad. When it came back as a movie, I was just so excited to read words that felt like they were something I would say. It felt like you really captured this sense of Gen Z searching, and there’s such a sardonic quality to Ben that I feel like is very much in me.”

The pair connected through mutual friends several years ago when Fogelmanis attended a “Drag Race” watch party at Dorfman’s house, shortly after the release of Dorfman’s breakout role in the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”

Tommy Dorfman
Tommy Dorfman

“Time went on and we were auditioning for the role and I was just going through the first round of auditions, and Corey was in there — hadn’t texted me or anything, kept it very separate from our friendship. And we probably hadn’t talked in like well over a year,” says Dorfman. “The tape was so clear to me in that audition,” she adds. “It was the first time I’d ever heard words that I’d written read out loud. I remember being like, oh my gosh — this is exactly how I wrote it. It’s crazy that there’s a person in the world who can take this scene and bring it to life so vividly how I imagined it.”

Fogelmanis describes the experience of watching himself in the film as “overwhelming, to say the least,” he says. “It feels very vulnerable. It’s very much a diary in video form, of this character Ben,” he adds, turning again toward Dorfman. “I was just so proud and so happy to have experienced that and to have been a part of your directorial debut. That we get to share this movie with the world — because I feel like it really needs it.”

“I was jealous behind the camera. I was like, it’s cool that you get to play this character from when they’re supertight and super closed-up to the most liberated version that they’ve ever been of themselves,” says Dorfman.

“And wear cute Marc Jacobs while doing it,” adds Fogelmanis.

“Having these kids look like kids was really important to me. I think the costumes in the film feel very dropped in and very grounded and realistic. We were pulling vintage, old Supreme from archives; I was pulling from my own closet. Sometimes I’d be like, you know what? I think I actually have a skirt that’s better for this.”

Dorfman and Fogelmanis were both dressed for a day of press in Celine. Fogelmanis, who got his start as a Disney star, was recently photographed by Hedi Slimane for the designer’s “Portrait of an Actor” series.

Corey Fogelmanis
Corey Fogelmanis

After SXSW, Fogelmanis is headed back to set to start filming a still-to-be-announced project, and then will return for season two of “My Life With the Walter Boys” for Netflix. “So I’ll be busy in that world for a minute. And then, yeah — just excited to explore different parts of myself in the next characters that I play,” he says.

Dorfman is already working on her next film, another coming-of-age story set in a different genre. “I always loved teen movies growing up. And so it’s kind of a dream to get to start my directorial career making them,” says Dorfman.

As for what Dorfman hopes audiences take away from “I Wish You All the Best”?

“Love is really at the core of this,” adds Dorfman. “My hope is that people take away that there’s goodness in the world. There’s beauty in the world. There’s love in the world. Sometimes you have to look in other places for it.”

Tommy Dorfman and Corey Fogelmanis
Tommy Dorfman and Corey Fogelmanis

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