“The weight of the world/ be known upon / her shoulders / and yet she reign tall / on the weight of the world”
The idea for TWOI evolved from mind to paper in less than 24 hours. After sitting on the brewing idea all day I sat down to type not knowing that two hours later my first draft would be on the screen before me. I had never written a screenplay before, let alone had much experience in reading one, so the words were merely a black-against-white, incoherent and incorrectly formatted, mess. The naivety of a first time screen-writer dawned upon me as dusted my hands and kicked back my shoes, a sense of accomplishment distinguished by a splitting grin on my face. Little did I know, TWOI was far from finished.
The following weeks involved ruthless editing, extensive character development, cutting of scenes I had carefully constructed and re-write after re-write. It involved pouring over dictations of rape court cases, reading interviews of victims and trying not only to understand the impact these assaults had on their lives, but to do justice to them too. It involved researching the procedural disarray that claims to be our justice system, and having my heart broken repeatedly as I uncovered the sheer volume of cases that were either never reported, never made it to court, or where the offender was acquitted. I relished in the pain of these victims and the fear that must consume them when they try to tackle the justice system and realise the conclusion of the assault was merely the beginning of the trauma. And with this, I re-wrote Holly, my main character, into a woman who has experienced a harrowing event that look away her innocence.
The anonymous author of this piece: How the justice system lets sexual assault victims down opened my eyes to how this effects real people. I knew I had to present TWOI in a way that didn’t have a happy ending, a way that was distressingly truthful and confronting. Because that is the reality of the victims. I wanted to emphasise that rape and other forms of sexual assault is not a contained issue. It is ongoing, it is ruthless and it changes lives. I wanted to emphasise that sometimes the most daunting and agonising situation is the cross examination (if it makes it to trial), and the prospect of this experience prevents victims from even bothering to battle the legal system. This article expresses parent’s concerns that the court process “re-victimises” people. Having to recall graphic details through intense questions in front of an entire defence team, the defendant, and a jury is not protecting victims. Australia needs to do better. I wanted to cast a light over the disrespectful way that the justice system handles rape cases, especially of those who are under 18. I wanted to showcase the difficult decisions thousands of people go through after becoming victims of sexual assault.
Now I knew how I wanted to present it, it was time to make it a reality. I was lucky enough to know a Director that understood my vision for the story from the very beginning, and was the only person I would have trusted to truly capture my mind on the screen. I decided to Produce the film myself, my inner control freak expressing a desire to make it as perfect as possible. We are extremely fortunate to have on board such a talented and dedicated crew, who not only have a desire to bring my words to life, but have ingenious ideas of their own to showcase the best work they can do. After securing a crew, it was time to put together a cast. I was overwhelmed by the response from the talented actors we asked to be on board. Not only did I think no one would want to be involved, but I thought no one would like my work. The opposite turned out to be true, with people expressing their love for the story and its necessity to be told.
We put together an outstanding cast, but we were missing a lead, and no one we knew fit just right. We put out a casting call and had an overwhelming amount of applications. I was honoured that so many actors expressed a desire to be a part of something so important. In a way, we had kind of decided on our lead before she had even auditioned. She looked like Holly in my mind, and we hoped she would live up to our expectations. Needless to say, she did, and thoroughly impressed us with her audition. Her stillness was convincingly harrowing, and she captured the empty essence of a survivor beautifully, while maintaining an undefinable sense of strength that any victim must conscript. We had found our Holly.
The following weeks ensued paperwork, location scouting, cast and crew meetings, costume designing, several ‘I can’t do this’ moments and many considerations of script revisions. Not coming from a film background, I had to learn very quickly the job of a producer and tackle the role while working part time and studying my third year of a Forensic Psychology degree. While overwhelming at times, it was a rewarding learning experience, and my passion for telling this story grounded me when sometimes it felt a bit much. I put together a folder of talent release agreements, location release agreements, cast and crew information, shot lists, and call sheets. All of which I had no idea existed before starting pre production on this short film. I was extremely anxious about holding rehearsals, but I nearly burst with pride and excitement when they happened. It was so surreal to see my words coming to life for the first time, and to see the passion that the actors brought forth to the story.
As pre-production draws to a close this week and we start filming this weekend, I have had a lot to reflect on. I am incredibly proud that I have put my passion for writing, knowledge of the relationship between psychology and the legal system, and desire to advocate for current issues, to good use. I think we need more people talking about issues that are important to them, in anyway they want to express them. I am proud that I have found an artistic outlet that allows me to speak my mind and hopefully influence the mind of others too. For now, its time to get stuck into filming and watching this story come to life.
I used to play music
To fill the void in my mind but now
My mind is so busy and
The silence is a breath of fresh air
The banging and clanking
The talking and clicking
Take my heartbeat to a flutter and
My lungs are robbed of air by
The stream of thoughts that keep going and going
Are a release of the tangle of strings
That tie a knot around my wrists and
Clench my vocal chords together
It’s a blinding and deafening
Meaningless and meaningful
Abundance of emotions that drowns me and
Sets me free from
But the quiet is never really quiet and
Like cracks in the Earth
It seeps in and
Obtusely announces its presence
I am distant and bruised
Staring empty into the world as
I lose control of my mind and
Surrender my thoughts to
“Travel; it leaves you speechless, and then turns you into a story teller.”
I was very fortunate to grow up being able to travel around the world. From a young age, I was whisked off on a plane with my parents, experiencing new cultures, tasting new food, meeting new people. And so sparked something inside of me, something that once you have can never be satiated, and something that will have you wandering the planet, never truly being tied to one home. In a modern, social media sense, we call it the travel bug.
There are infinite reasons to travel, and I bet that whatever excuse someone gives me I could give them a counterargument as to why it wasn’t as important as the reason they should go. Travelling to me, is the most eye opening education I have received. I have learnt so much about different customs and cultures that allow me to look at the world in a different way. It is interesting talking to well travelled people, compared to those who have never travelled. I believe you gain so much insight, experience and knowledge to be able to bring to, and enhance, every day life. It makes you aware of the world, and the different people in it, and gives you a global understanding of universal issues so you can have educated opinions on them.
It opens your eyes to how people live outside of your country, and brings home the reality of how lucky you really are. I recall riding a bike through the rice fields and outskirt towns of Ubud in Indonesia. We stopped by a local school in the early afternoon, just as the school kids were waiting to be let out for the day. Their school was one classroom; bare walls, basic chairs and tables. Their play area was a concrete 10m by 10m courtyard with a broken basketball hoop. I remember thinking how sad it seemed that these kids came to such a disheartening place every day. However, when the doors open and they came pouring out to see our group of travellers, their faces lit up with the brightest smile. We played basketball in with their broken hoop, and their happiness radiated through everyone. Without travel, I would never have had this experience to be as grateful as I am for the privilege of Western education, and I would never have seen the value in being so happy for having so little.
Travel teaches you more about the world’s past than you could ever learn in a history book. You learn about why society is the way it is today, across many cultures. I thought I had learnt the history of black segregation in America, until I visited Memphis, Tennessee. You can never truly appreciate the history of a location until you have walked the streets yourself, and experienced how its past influences its present. The Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is one of the most brilliant, harrowing and thought provoking places I have ever been. As I walked around it dawned on me that I knew nothing about black segregation and black rights until right now. Located at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, it shoves you into the centre of human rights. It was not until I walked through the preserved rooms of the Lorraine Motel, with a heightened sense of awareness that I was walking through history did I fully appreciate everything Martin Luther King Jr, and the civil protesters stood for. To me, that is the meaning of travel.
Travel opens your eyes with wonder as you see how beautiful the planet we live on really is. I don’t think I truly had an appreciation for how incredible Earth is, and her sheer size until I visited the Grand Canyon. I was fortunate enough to fly in a helicopter over the incredible landmark. As we approached the rim, the ground suddenly disappeared from underneath us and in an instant we were engulfed by the sheer mass of the Canyon. I have never been brought to tears at the sight of anything on Earth until that moment. It makes you feel so tiny and so enormous at the same time; and makes you truly appreciate the world for what it is. To travel and discover the planet we live in gives you a completely different perspective on life, and appreciation for our home.
Travel is amazing because it teaches you about yourself. It pushes you to limits you never knew you were capable of. It throws you out of your comfort zone and tests you to see how you deal with life. And you come out stronger, and wiser than ever before. It propels you into different cultures and scenarios where you have no idea how to act, but the greatest thing about it is that you learn. And you start to believe you can do anything you set your mind to. Whether it be physically or mentally challenging, travel teaches you that you can do it.
However, I don’t believe you never actually find yourself. People travel to go in search of the meaning of who they are, but you always come back with more questions than answers. Because travel opens your eyes to so much new information, you start questioning everything you take to be true about yourself. And while you might not find the answer to who you are, you gain the ability to discover more and more pieces to put it together.
Finally, travel brings you a sense of pride and accomplishment that you have conquered a small part of the world. For months you dream about these places and save up every last cent to get on that plane. It consumes you and its all you talk about. You long to experience new cultures and meet new people and leave your footprints somewhere new. And all of a sudden you’re standing at the top of the Empire State, completely unaware of how you got there. And you’re taking in the incredible view, amazed that this place actually exists and isn’t a postcard daydream in the back of your mind. And you feel a sense of purpose for being there, and seeing it. A sense of responsibility to encourage others to see it too. And suddenly every single hour slaved away at work, and every night skipped out on is worth it for that moment.
And for a moment, just one moment, you feel like you’ve seen the world.
Until you step off the plane back home.
And realise you’ve seen nothing. So you buy the plane ticket, and go again.
I loved school, because I was good at it. And I don’t just mean assignments and exams, I mean I knew the system and worked it. Where I live, at the age of 17-18, we complete the Victorian Certificate of Education, which is essentially the qualifying requirement to attend a tertiary institute. In my personal, educated opinion, the VCE is 85% academic achievement and 15% playing the game. You could be the most intelligent person on the planet, or have a wealth of knowledge about the Russian Revolution that would rival Lenin himself, but if you don’t know how to answer the question as per the system, you have no hope. There are two fundamental issues with the education system; the belief or practise that one style of intelligent is correct, and the moulding of students to fit one life path.
And that is why I believe, our education system sets us up for failure.
Recently my younger brother left high school without finishing his VCE. Initially, I was incredibly wary. All I have known is education. Primary school to high school to university, so naturally, his decision to veer off the course I knew as ‘right’ was a shock to the system. We had all heard of high school drop outs, who work in fast food until they are 25, who maybe started a TAFE diploma but couldn’t hash it. We sneered at them, knowing we were on a better track. But instead of sneering at them, I now feel sorry for them. Because our education system did not give them the opportunities they needed to fulfil their potential, simply because they could not structure an appropriate answer.
My brother is quite the contrary to these people. He left school to pursue alternative means of education that high school could not provide for him. Seeing him succeed in chasing his field of choice, without attaining a VCE certificate is both admirable and thought-shifting. He has in fact changed my view point on the whole education system. It was not working for him, and he took matters into his own hands and changed it.
The sad truth is, however, that thousands of kids out there are in the same position he was, but don’t have the knowledge, opportunity, or for want for a better word, guts to change their situation. And that is not an insult, as I can imagine it is a truly terrifying experience. Think about the thing you are most passionate about; you know it inside and out, you could talk to anyone about it for hours. But the way you talk about it doesn’t meet some prearranged structural outline. So therefore, it is wrong. Now imagine you’re a 17 year old, who is told repeatedly that they are not smart enough, maybe indirectly, but still persistently. They will start to believe it. They will start to believe that they are not cut out for school, for education. And the terrifying reality is that many spiral off of a path they could have succeeded in if they had had the right support, for them.
Despite providing alternative subjects at school for those who do not wish to take the academic route, I still believe there needs to be more done as these classes are still subjected to the same scrutiny and marking requirements as the academic ones, and are scaled accordingly. How is it fair that an artist performs outstandingly in an art class, but their mark is scaled down against a biology students mark because it is not ‘as hard.’ How does that allow students to feel that what they do is valued? High school creates a world of pressure about how you should live your life, and when you need to achieve certain goals by. It propels you into a methodical linear model in which school must be finished by 18, university by 21, this by then and that by then. I was cannon-balled into this life, convinced that if I wasn’t doing exactly what was laid out for me, exactly when it was, I was failing. I went to university straight out of high school and studied a course I didn’t even want to do simply because I felt I HAD to do something. Because doing nothing was wrong.
This attitude ultimately led to self-destruction and a realm of negative thinking which caused me to drop out. Leading to an extended sense of failure and more questions than answers. Why did I have to know what I wanted to do at such a young age? Why were these milestones set out for me and why did they have to be knocked off like pigeons on a shooting range?
It has now been 4 years since I left high school, and I have still not answered these questions. But what I do know is that it’s okay to NOT know. I still don’t know where I want to be in 10 years time, but I’m on a track that makes me happy and wherever I go, I’ll know it’s because I allowed myself the time to figure out what I wanted. Not because, I followed someone else’s opinion on what I should do with my life. I have my own milestones set out now, but it is not the be all and end all if I don’t reach them in order, or in time.
I was set up for failure, and true to my path, I followed through with that failure. But it has taught me more lessons than a classroom ever could. I still love school, and I still love education in every single form it comes in. It is the most powerful weapon we as humans have. But I do believe this is one weapon where it cannot be used incorrectly. Every single soul that enters the education system has a different path and very different needs. The one path attitude of high school-university-job is of the past and we need to take the pressure off of students who do not fit this path, and guide them into the correct one for them.