Last year a friend let me know about a New Jersey-based indie filmmaker, actress and dancer named Gabi Faye who was creating a movie that had the working title of #metoo, in recognition of the countless people who were survivors of sexual harassment or sexual assault. She thought I would want to be involved in some way since I had written an article for one of the sites on which I have a regular column about the movement. It was called #metoo….you too?
After it was published, another memory came to the fore. I was in my early 20s and living alone in an apartment. My hair was down to my waist at the time. I had mostly felt safe as a single woman and blessedly had not had been assaulted as many I have known throughout my life. That was until I received a voice mail message and note on my windshield from a neighbor I had not met. He told me that he wanted to wrap my long hair around his naked body. My first thought was that he had been stalking me since he knew which car was mine and somehow he knew my name and got my phone number. I immediately called the police and reported it, turning both the note and the mini tape over to them. I then contacted a male friend who walked across the street with me and we knocked on his door. He seemed surprised to see me. I told him what I had done and that if he didn’t refrain from contact and if the threat of the police involvement wasn’t sufficient, I would tell his wife. He went pale and stammered his response. I felt both vindicated and slimed that it happened in the first place. I also minimized it since once again, it could have been worse.
When I contacted Gabi, I told her my story and she invited me to become part of the film. I also shared that as a therapist who works with trauma survivors, I would be available should anyone else involved in the movie need to process. She had wisely brought another therapist on board at the onset, so I was back up.
The summer day dawned and we were invited to meet at the location in Bucks County, PA. It was oppressively hot earlier on and we piled on and off a bus, sweating and dusty. It was my first venture into being on a movie set and I was amazed at how much time it took to shoot what is a short film. Gabi and her crew were patient and professional, sensitive to the needs of the cast since they knew that emotions would likely be running high. They made sure we were well hydrated and nourished.
The sadly familiar to many storylines involves the rape of a young woman named Anya (Jacinth Headlam) by her Uncle Ned (Doug Willen) while she is in a pool. In the aftermath, she flees and is picked up on a country back road by a bus driver portrayed by Leslie Bean, that was filled with women whose mouths were covered with black tape. I was one of those women.
As the bus bumps down the roads to an unknown destination, we look at each other knowingly but don’t say a word, since we are silenced by shame and fear. We share a common bond but can’t yet voice it. We are uplifted by each other’s presence. Our driver notes that there is a mechanical problem with the bus and she needs to pull over. A Kind Man (yes, that is the role played by Dave Phillips) asks if the women need help repairing it. While we are asked to leave the bus, we stand in a circle and one by one take off the tape and declare, “Me too,” as we each tell our stories. Bearing witness, many of us cried. I was deeply moved by the vulnerability shared and the strength it took to say the words that made it real.
I had the honor of interviewing Gabi about the journey she took from survivor to thriver.
What inspired this film?
What was it like for you as a filmmaker to step back and view the production from a professional perspective when it is deeply personal?
How have you changed as a result of going through the process?
Were there pivotal moments you experienced during the production?