The film is, in part, inspired by the work of Athens, Georgia-based filmmaker James Herbert, particularly his collaborations with the band R.E.M.
The rural country store depicted in the film is in actuality The Corkscrew Country Store, in Estero, Florida as evident by the listing in the credits and the address which is prominently displayed on the front of the store in the film. The Animal Clinic scenes were filmed at the Miracle Mile Animal Clinic in Fort Myers, Florida, again according to the film's credits.
The film opens in the Southwest Florida youth detention center, where we are introduced to the protagonist, Ryan Kazinski (Ryan Daugherty) in his cell, obviously having a difficult time with his confinement. We are also shown the harsh conditions and level of discipline in the facility through prisoner's interactions with guards and Ryan's own experience with the warden.
Later while on trash pickup detail, a fight breaks out between two inmates, and several other inmates (including Kazinski) escape in the confusion. Kazinski and two other inmates are seen running through an orange grove and a swamp, eventually coming to a farmhouse where they enter the house and steal civilian clothes.
The inmates leave the farmhouse and travel down a dirt road to a rural convenience store where Ryan steals an ice cream bar. While he is eating in the restroom, the other two escapees steal a truck and drive away, leaving Ryan behind.
Ryan emerges to find them gone and is questioned by some of the locals who take a liking to him and ask him about his plans and whether he intends to keep running. One of the locals gives Ryan a ride into town.
In the city, Ryan spends time listening to a street musician and talking with a parking meter.
Ryan then ends up in a supermarket where he inhales nitrous oxide from whipped cream cans and observes and interacts with customers. Upon leaving the supermarket, Ryan steps on the bottle cap of one of two men who are drinking beer on the hood of a car. The men become offended and one proceeds to beat Ryan unconscious.
While unconscious Ryan has a vision of a silhouetted woman against a blue sky.
Ryan is recognized and awakened by three other ex-inmates, with whom he attends a party. He leaves, assuring his friends that he has a place to stay.
Ryan visits his brother, who questions him as to why he ran when he only had one month left of his sentence to serve. Ryan cannot answer, and informs his brother of his plan to go to Colorado and seek his mother. Ryan's brother then reluctantly tells him to leave before he becomes too attached to him again.
Ryan enters a bus station and asks for a one-way ticket to Denver. He discovers that he doesn't have the money for the ticket, and after attempting to bribe the bus station manager he is thrown out of the bus station.
Ryan then hitches a ride with a lady who takes him to a doughnut shop. While she is inside, he discovers a gun in her purse, steals it, and runs away.
Ryan is later approached by one of the other escapees who enlists his help in breaking into a veterinary clinic to steal drugs. The two break in, but while the other inmate steals the drugs, Ryan is distracted by the dogs in the kennels, one of which he frees and later places in the window of his brother's room.
Soon after, Ryan is spotted by police. He pulls out his gun, which the police notice, and then runs. The police fire two shots, but it is never made clear if Ryan is hit.
The following morning, Ryan is seen observing planes taking off and landing at a small airport. He approaches a man sitting at a table and asks if he could take him up. The man notices the gun in Ryan's hand, and we then see the plane taking off. The film ends with Ryan looking out of the window smiling.Ryan Daugherty as Ryan Kazinski
Jon Daugherty as Little Brother
Edge Edgerton as Bus Station Manager
Stephanie Davis as Boston Cream Girl
Charles Walker as Inmate/Party Rapper
Elijah Smith as Inmate/Party Rapper
Jeremiah Robinson as Inmate/Party Rapper
Marshall Williams III as Drill Guard
The man at the desk as Ryan looks in a window during the street musician / parking meter scene is played by director, Julian Goldberger.
Trans received screenings at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival, the 1999 Berlin Film Festival, the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, and the 1999 South By Southwest Film Festival, and was released in the United States on January 7, 2000. The film has been aired in the U.S. on both The Independent Film Channel, and the Sundance Channel.
Despite praise from critics and recognition at film festivals, Trans had difficulty in securing distribution. A year after screening at the Sundance Film festival, the film still lacked widespread distribution in the United States. Robert Horton, of Film Comment magazine writes "Given the state of the arthouse/indie scene these days, it can't be too surprising that a film like Trans is left by the roadside...yet Trans is exactly the sort of smallish, idiosyncratically personal movie that belongs in the arthouse loop; for various reasons it will never draw the Happy, Texas-size crowd, but it will mesmerize the kind of audience that regularly takes a chance on something at a repertory house with an adventurous calendar"
Of the film gaining distribution in 2000, Brett Sokul of Miami New Times wrote "Despite the reams of praise, conventional industry wisdom saw Trans as "difficult," i.e., not a reliable arthouse ticket-seller. It's an attitude that dramatizes the increasingly commercial pressures on the world of independent film, once a respite from the dictates of the box office but now often just as enslaved to it."
Trans was distributed by Cowboy Booking International.
Trans was first released on DVD by Fox Lorber on November 20th 2001. The DVD features the film, a trailer, the soundtrack, and web links. Trans was released again on DVD by Wellspring Media on December 26th, 2006.
The score contains music by Fat Mama and her Trans World Orchestra, Jonathan Goldberger, and includes."Peace" performed by Lonnie Liston Smith and The Cosmic Echoes
"Peace" performed by Horace Silver Quintet
"Theme" performed by Cibo Matto
"In a Blink" performed by The Mondal Family
"Baby D" performed by The Mondal Family
"Lions on the Loose" performed by The Mondal Family
"Pimp Slap" performed by Fat Mama
"Gifeltiluv" performed by Fat Mama
"D.U.O" performed by Eulipion Journey Agents
Trans received mostly positive reviews from critics. Wesley Morris of San Francisco Chronicle wrote "Trans itches to be hyper-stylized but settles for occasional flights into coolness". Philadelphia City Paper wrote "Goldberger’s exceptionally weird debut invokes Jarmusch, Southern Gothic and THX 1138-style sci-fi". Gavin Smith from Film Comment magazine writes: "Julian Goldberger's idiosyncratic Trans, which follows the nocturnal wanderings and random encounters of a juvenile detention center escapee amid the strip malls and neighborhoods of Ft. Myers, Florida, may have had a budget a fraction of anything in competition, but it showed ten times the inspiration and cinematic integrity." Lawrence Van Gelder from the New York Times wrote "Trans remains a sensitive evocation of youthful turmoil". In a favorable review from the Village Voice, critic Amy Taubin writes: "What's most remarkable about Trans is how faithful it is to Ryan's consciousness and to the way it shifts between fantasy and a mesmerized response to details of the outside world."
The film also caught the attention of producer, Ted Hope, who offered to produce Goldberger's next feature, The Hawk is Dying.1999, Reader's Jury Prize for Best Film - Berlin International Film Festival.
2000, Someone to Watch Award at Independent Spirit Awards.