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Student’s documentary premieres downtown

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A student addresses the audience at her film premiere downtown.
Mars and student Ashley Brown host a Q&A after the premiere of Life on Mars.
Photo by David West | Life & Arts Reporter

Saturday night audience members experienced life through the eyes of a drag queen.

“Life on Mars,” a documentary about an up-and-coming drag queen named Mars, premiered at Stonewall Warehouse. Life on Mars is a film by Ashley Brown, electronic media senior, that provides a glimpse into the life of a drag queen.

Brown was assigned as a reporter to write a University Star Life and Arts feature on a student who was setting the drag scene on fire. This lead to Brown meeting Mars, aka Jacob Immel, theater junior. The feature became more than just a story for the paper.

“Life on Mars” began as a final project in David Nolan’s digital storytelling class. The assignment was to tell the story of one interesting person. Brown then turned a rough cut into a film after being contacted by Louisiana Film Festival.

The documentary delves into Immel’s life, from his childhood and coming out to his parents, to his discovering drag and becoming Mars. Brown tells this story through interviews with Immel’s friends and family as well as behind-the-scene footage of Immel transforming into Mars.

When Mars’ story was published, she was entering week two of Drag Survivor, a long running drag competition in Austin.

“After I won Drag Survivor it changed everything,” Mars said. “It’s such a small thing, but one night comes with so many benefits.”

One of those benefits is becoming more well known in the drag world. However, behind Mars remains the life of an everyday teenager. Brown said she wanted to capture this in her film so people could see the person behind the queen.

“I wanted to highlight the fact Mars is a person outside of Mars,” Brown said. “I think a lot of people look at drag queens as these idolized celebrities, but that is not their life all the time.”

After the film was made, Brown needed a place to premiere it.

“I talked to the director at Stonewall,” Brown said. “(My film) is San Marcos made and it’s about a drag queen that started at Stonewall.”

The premiere was followed by a short Q&A with Brown and Mars.

The film received overwhelming praise from the audience. Both Brown and Mars hope this will lead to new opportunities for both of them.

Brown said she hopes this film will be the first of many in her film-making career. She wants Mars’ story to be seen by more people.

“I’m hoping the film opens doors for not just myself as a filmmaker, but for Mars as well,” Brown said. “I’m hoping this exposure has been able to provide open doors for her.”

Mars said before the premiere she was riddled with nerves, awaiting the audiences reaction.

“When I saw ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ in high school I was like, ‘this exists and that’s what I want to do,’” Mars said. “To go from that to where I am at, it feels amazing. I feel validated in every way. I just feel like the luckiest little lady.”

After the premiere, Immel said it felt great to have everyone together in one place.

“It was the first time I let my family and my drag life collide,” Immel said. “I wasn’t really sure how it would go, but it went very well.”

Immel said his support system, which the film highlights almost as much as Mars, is vital to him.

“Life on Mars” showcased the life of a drag queen, but the message of being true to oneself is universal. Both Brown and Mars are following this mantra as it propels them into a bright future.

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