indulge.com.mt sat down with Sarah Jayne, writer/director of Daughter, a short film and awareness project produced by Nexus Production Group. The story follows three women, unknown to each other individually, who venture out on a Friday night and whose lives become entwined and affected by an act of violence.
Daughter is a powerful short film that is loosely based on and inspired by real-life murders – why did you feel so strongly about them that you had to make this movie?
The opposing way that the two unrelated murders of Jill Meager and Tracey Connelly in Melbourne were reported in the media made me feel frustrated and mad. Jill was working for a well-known media broadcasting company, Tracey as a street-based sex worker, and the headlines and media coverage for each case after the murders occurred varied.
Melbourne was left reeling when Jill went missing after walking home from a pub alone, her body found dumped miles away a few days later. The media rightfully so reported the shock of her disappearance and murder, painting an ideal story of Jill’s family including her life with her young husband, plus her reason for relocating from Ireland to Australia.
The headline when Tracey died was along the lines of ‘Prostitute dead in St Kilda’, a very demeaning and disrespectful way of announcing the murder of a woman who was very much loved in a tight-knit community which looks out for the underprivileged. There was no nationwide mourning, not many questions being asked about who Tracey was, her job headline defined her thanks to the media perceptions associated with sex work. That is what inspired Daughter. Every human, every woman, no matter her job, her status, her skin colour or her nationality deserves respect and I wanted to show this through the eyes of women.
Was the ever-growing #metoo movement a factor in your decision to make Daughter?
I started writing the story in 2014 and developed it into a screenplay not long after, and we shot it in late 2015. The #metoo movement started to spread later thanks to the women who came forward to tell their stories about Harvey Weinstein and the abuse they suffered over the years. The two tie in together now, which is somewhat unfortunate, but it’s also a good thing to be able to use the awareness raised via that movement to also drive home the topics raised in Daughter.
There is a powerful moment in the film when sex-worker Jemma (Aisha Tara) is told ‘get a real job, you slut’, by Amber (Senie Priti), highlighting the lack of support women show towards sex workers, often reducing them to a mere stereotype. Do you think this will have an impact on the way sex workers are portrayed in the media?
That scene highlights the hypocritical nature of humans. Amber has no problem sleeping with men after she meets them in a bar, yet when she sees a woman choosing to sell her body on a street corner, she finds her dirty and cheap because society has an idea, a stereotype of women (and men) who do that line of work. This is also how we as humans look at others sometimes, we judge others on appearance or on the job we do.
Daughter is making the point that every woman in the film deserves respect, so I would like to think that for the most part audiences will take away that yes, there is more to the sex worker than the typical stereotype and in the end it is just a job, the label society places on a sex worker does not speak for the person choosing to do that line of work at all.
What challenges did you face in telling such a powerful story in a mere 28 minutes?
I am big on character development; so you could say writing a script with characters that had true motivation for their behaviour and then containing them into just a short timeframe when I wanted to show more of what drives them as flawed, hurt and yearning individuals was the biggest challenge. I had to accept that.
How important is it to tell these sorts of stories?
Extremely important. Film is a powerful medium and us storytellers can really put something out there to make an impact and cause some change. This change may not happen in an instant, as society’s ideals and expectations of women are still unacceptable and have been for too long.
With film, you leave something with the audience after the credits roll, and films like Daughter are like small puzzle pieces, all part of a bigger picture that can cause change. The world needs more female perspectives in order for the narrative about women to change. Whether it is another perspective on a particular issue or simply telling a human story that we can learn from, it’s important to keep telling these stories.