Page to Screen: The Making of The Weight of Injustice (PART I)

PRE-PRODUCTION

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My first ‘final draft’ that preceded another 7 final drafts.

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.

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Where it all came together.

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.

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Audition day for Holly

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.

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Rehearsals 

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.

 

1

The Noise.

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 noise

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
The noise

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
The noise

K.M

Buy your plane ticket, AND GO.

“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.

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Austrian Alps, 2011

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.

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Indonesia, 2015

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.

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Margaret River, 2010

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.

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Thailand, 2009

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.

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Monument Valley, 2016

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.

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Kuala Lumpur, 2011

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.

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England, 2010

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.

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New York City, 2016

WHY OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM SETS US UP FOR FAILURE

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.

Why giving up on what is not making you happy is OKAY.

I set up this blog when I first received news I got my new job as a Travel Consultant. It was a time filled with excitement, nerves, and pure wanderlust. The idea was that I would blog my many adventures and share the wealth of knowledge I knew about visiting the world. When everyone asked me what I loved doing, travel was the first thing that popped into my head. I had just recently got back from my first solo trip to another country, and I was vibrant and full of life. Which is exactly what the Travel Agency I worked for preyed on.
It made sense, really. I loved travel more than anything and to get to work in the industry where I would occasionally get free holidays seemed nothing less than glamorous. Right? The money seemed great, a monthly salary. Until i realised it actually worked out to below minimum wage. Which they justify by promising you’ll earn commission. Eventually.
Three weeks of intensive training initiated what I thought would be my career. On hold was my degree which I only had 18 months left of, and relationships with many important people in my life. There were 12 of us in training, mostly all in the same shoes; young twenty somethings, a desire and passion for globetrotting, and leaving footprints in all our favourite places. These three weeks were filled with discussing our favourite travel destinations, telling campfire stories, life changing moments, and professing a desire for helping people achieve their travelling goals. It seemed ideal, perfect. They honed our passion and turned it into sales skills without us even realising.
And then after three weeks they set you free, into store where you face real customers and not manufactured, automated people with perfect responses. You go from making a booking from head to toe in an hour to chasing someone for three months to get a deposit. You go from constant support and recognition, to a boss who is so slammed with enquiry that they can’t help you. And you make mistakes, and it’s frustrating. And you start to realise you no longer care about these people’s holidays anymore.
Because they’ve made it not about that anymore. It’s ‘what was your margin on that?’ or ‘you didn’t mark that up enough.’ It’s a cycle of ripping off clients and justifying it by believing we should charge for our time. But we get paid a salary. And is a Melbourne to Sydney domestic worth a $100 mark up? I know customers aren’t stupid. It’s 2017 and we’ve had access to internet searches and infinite fares for years now. They know more than we think.
 
The life of a Travel Consultant is not glamorous. There is nothing glamorous about chasing down people for the umpteenth time to book a flight to Adelaide. There is nothing glamorous about working 45 hours a week, and getting paid for 40. There is nothing glamorous about working below minimum wage. There is nothing glamorous about genuinely earning $3000 in commission, and having the company take 85% for themselves. You get enticed with incentive and educational trips, but they often rely on everyone around you performing well too. And they soon become a distant myth. They tantalise you with 60% off Contiki tours, but then don’t give you the time off to do them.
 
Soon enough, it became spirit crushing and soul destroying. My love for travel was diminishing. I hated human interaction and feared every customer that walked in; what horror they would present me with. But it was not just my love of travel that they took away, they took away my life. I was flat and empty, dreading coming in every day. Crying into my pillow at the thought of getting out of bed and putting on that uniform. My home life suffered, I blamed everyone else for my misery, almost breaking some relationships. 
 
And the hardest thing was, people were so happy for me when I took the job. And so in not liking it I felt I was letting them down. I kept my feelings to myself for a long time, not wanting to admit that I hated it, that I had failed. Failure was the biggest thing. I had spent days convincing my parents (and myself) that this would be good for me. Their worrying looks and concerned questions let me know otherwise, and to then go back to them and admit that I had messed up was heart wrenching. I dreaded seeing the look in the eyes of everyone around me after for months telling them I loved it, that I was miserable. That took strength like I have never had to muster up before. But as soon as I told them it was like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. It was no longer my dirty little secret. It was a real problem that could call for a real solution. The realisation that I had somewhat abandoned my degree hit me hard after a few months. I was still enrolled, but in my mind it wasn’t important to me. Looking back now, that terrifies me as education is so important. I made the decision to throw myself back into it, as it was always something that inspired a true passion and drive in me.
 
Knowing that I was going to leave  the company changed my life completely. At work, I did the minimum to get through until I could resign, and it was painfully frustrating. But my home life became so much better. To be able to talk to people at home about how shit my day was became the only thing getting me through the 9 hours I spent there. There was a light at the end of the tunnel.
 
I sit here now, at my desk, and it’s my last day as a Travel Consultant. I am not sad to leave, but I am sad that this company manipulated the impressionable girl who was full of life 6 months ago. I’ve lost who she is, and I’m slowly getting her back, but it’s going to take time. I squashed the feeling of giving up for a long time, as I’ve always seen giving up as a negative thing. Society portrays giving up as negative thing, as failure. And maybe it is failing, but I don’t think it’s always negative. My life over the last 6 months has taught me that this life really is too short to be unhappy, and if you are investing into something that is taking away your happiness, it is truly not worth it. It is now time to see positively again, relearn my worth as a person and as an employee, and refocus on whatever the future holds for me next. Despite how draining the last 6 months have been on myself as a person, I will never move on from anything in my life without learning a lesson. The most terrifying thing for me was to fail; and the lesson I learnt is that sometimes failing can set you free. Perhaps this blog won’t be a travel journal platform like originally intended. But perhaps it was never supposed to be that anyway. I’m happy to say that after everything this company took from me, in the end, I still love travel. And I will continue to love travel… while I stay as far away from the industry as I possibly can.