Short Film of the Week: Occupation | FilmInk


DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

The film started with an image. On a long drive, the image of a professional woman being screamed at by a circle of men came to me.

I didn’t understand it, but it was compelling. I quickly jotted it down. It seemed a little too wild to fit anywhere in the feature screenplays I was working on, though I knew I had to use it.

For years I’d been considering how to make a film about domestic violence. The rates of abuse in Australia are alarming. But I couldn’t find an approach that didn’t feel worn out. I realised that this could be a film that explored themes around abuse in more of an allegorical mode. To use the old filmmaking cliche, I thought it would be more interesting to make a film that raised questions rather than provided answers.

Nonetheless, Clara’s behaviour is motivated by research around emotional abuse. I took on much of the research from a 2018 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report. In particular, that almost 1/4 Australian women encounter emotional abuse, violence usually takes place in the home and violence often leads to homelessness.

I took this research to a kind of surreal extreme, in which our protagonist feels unable to leave her workplace-cum-home due to the emotional abuse she is paid to endure from her male clients. I want the audience to question why Clara endures such abuse and feels unable to leave the building in which it occurs.

‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ is a judgemental question often hurled at women in abusive relationships and an interesting question to interrogate.

From all accounts, it’s not that simple.

I came across many reasons why people who are in abusive relationships find it difficult to leave including but not limited to damaged self worth, distorted thoughts, fear, desire to help, financial constraints, isolation and hope that the abuser will change.

I don’t expect the above reasons to be clearly interpreted by our audience in the film, but I do hope they will lend a sense of truth to a somewhat surreal piece.

I had an incredible generous crew and cast on this film who were willing to commit to something different and daring. If we did our job right this film will feel fresh, honest and get people thinking.

Thanks for watching,
Robin Summons





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