Your film All Things Hidden takes on the difficult, but important, subject of domestic violence. Can you describe how you went about planning and executing the portrayal of violence in this film?
Absolutely. First off, ATH is not another 'battered woman' story. I was adamant about that. This story is about the impact that being exposed to domestic violence has on a child, and the issues that that child is now faced with as an adult. We can only take so much violence sometimes, especially in film, and more so when the story dictates that the victim cannot fight back. It makes viewing the piece spiritually and emotionally frustrating. ATH explores what is left behind when a young person is faced with a traumatic experience.
What many do not realize is that the devastation, the memories, the pain, the guilt, the anger, and the frustration of being forced to live through it often gets hidden, tucked deep inside. As the storyteller, it was vital to me that ATH not be about the violence, but about a young woman (Dannie) struggling to free herself from the guilt and traumatic memories that have trapped her in an emotional vice for so long. And to do it all in a short film format!
Film has always played an integral role throughout my life by encouraging me to open up my heart, imagination, and perception. I wanted to be able to do the same thing with ATH.
Because we are introduced to those memories through Dannie's point of view as a young girl, we are dealing with twenty-five year old memories. Sometimes what we adults remember of our youth is fragmented. Some memories end up more exaggerated as time goes on, and some are just itty-bitty snapshots. But they all leave a lasting impact.
It is the scenes of violence that have left their emotional impact on Dannie, but again, she remembers them in bits and pieces and that is how I wanted the violence to be incorporated, little by little.
This film is not about the violence -- it's about Dannie's quest for answers and forgiveness.
I would love for it to encourage healing. It was very hard to go back and use my memories as a springboard, but I knew I had to, and it inspired my own healing. Once I released it from its shell, I stepped aside in order to allow the story to morph into what it needed to be. And in that process I felt free, empowered, and strong. I always look for stories that help me remember that it is possible to find a way out of what we perceive to be 'the darkness' and find the way back to where it is 'light'.
Seeing the painful process Dannie goes through, I also hope society will continue to ask itself if this kind of devastation is really what we want to leave behind. Do we not want to do better?
I was quite adamant that ATH would not be another "Why doesn't she or he just leave?" story. We all know leaving any abusive situation is not as easy as that. Choices are often dictated by what resources are available. There are a lot more DV and abuse organizations now than there were decades ago. And there is still a ludicrous stigma attached to those who experience abuse and want to release themselves from a violent situation; they are made to feel shame for it. Why? Because there are still people out there who insist that the victims deserve to continue to suffer a horrendous fate of debilitating health and psychological terror until they eventually lose their life to the abuse.
Without a doubt, it would mean the world to the entire ATH team that our film leaves people with hope and courage, no matter how young or old they are and no matter what the situation. Our most devastating of experiences can empower us if we let them. Or they can also drag us under if we let them. We hold onto so much. Our time here can be lengthy or quite short. And it is up to each individual to decide what will define his or her time here.
I hope victims are encouraged to continue to speak up, and fight for their right to a healthy life. There is no shame in experiencing domestic violence. There never should have been in the first place. No one has the right to burden you with that and you have the choice not to wear that mantle. If ATH inspires one person to find a way to heal themselves from their own tragic memories, then I will breathe a sigh of relief. We would like to see ATH lead people to a positive place of personal freedom. I realize it is a lot to expect from a short film, but my team is passionate about its potential. That's why I wrote it, and why my team believed in it.
At the end of our teaser trailer we purposefully state that metamorphosis is intricate, irrevocable, and painful. But we also have to remember that it is inevitable and beautiful.
As the co-director, I decided to stay away from the more 'heavy' scenes because I did not want the actors to feel awkward about my presence. Having started out my life as an actor, I felt it was important to give them the space they needed to make their creative choices without worrying what 'the writer' would think. Sean [Avichouser] and I had several conversations before shooting about my direction and his direction and the story's direction. But after principal photography, we decided the film needed a little bit more so I wrote the two bookend scenes between Brian and Dannie.
Shortly after principal photography, Sean needed to step away from the project for a while so the rest of the cast and crew decided to push forward, which meant I had to step up to the directing plate. So I took my DP, and actors Julianne and Zoe Christie, to the butterfly museum to capture the flashbacks, which was fantastic. Then a few weeks later, I met with actors Carollani [Sandberg] (Dannie) and Gabriel [Sedgemore] (Brian) to talk about the upcoming bookend scenes.
For some reason, I thought I should be nervous, but I wasn't. I was more excited to be given the chance to direct. Carollani and Gabriel are such generous people and actors. They were eager to meet and we talked about why I felt I had to write the scenes, the inspiration for them, and about where their characters were in their lives the moment we open the film.
In post, I worked closely with our composer, Catherine Grealish, whose soundtrack for ATH is breathtaking. Catherine made it so easy. Having never worked with a composer before, I relied on my writing roots to communicate the texture of ATH to her. I offered colors, descriptions of emotions, and sounds. She would send snippets along the way of how she was incorporating the story and my suggestions and it just blossomed from there. She is incredibly intuitive and taps right in to the heart of the story. She has infinite respect and love for the medium of film and music and how they both work together to take us on their magical journeys.
Thanks to Catherine and the ATH cast and crew, the co-directing process was amazing, and I am looking forward to exploring more directing opportunities in the future!