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.

 

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