Logline: Every day an abused homeless woman’s cries for help go unnoticed. When she encounters a lonely business woman, and recognizes this stranger’s isolation as her own, she pursues this chance connection as a chance for her survival.
Current Status: Completed
Length: 20mins 21 secs
Writer: Shelly Lauman
Director: Shelly Lauman
Producer: Daniela Ruiz
Key Cast: Yolonda Ross with Paula Roman
About the director: From Sydney, classically trained as an actor in Melbourne at the Victorian College of the Arts, Shelly has performed for some of Australia’s most critically acclaimed theatre companies. She recently earned her MFA in Directing at the American Film Institute Conservatory. Her first short TWO DUCKS was the winner of the Audience Choice award at the 2009 World of Women Film Festival. Gender, body and voicelessness are the main themes of her work.
Looking for (ie buyer, distributor, sales agent, producer, media interest) -
Funders or made in association with: This is a student film made as the thesis component for completion of a Master of Fine Arts at the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles.
Where can I watch it at WOW? Friday 29th - SOUND AND VISION screening - 2pm at Cinema Paris, Fox Studios.
Congratulations! Why did you decide to make this film?
Thank you! There is no short answer to this question, except to say that I don’t think I did ‘decide’. It just kind of evolved… I think this will make sense in question 3… hang on :)
Who is the Woman Outside?
She is the what we see; what we notice first. The outside appearance, the perception - a woman yelling in a park, a woman going to work - she is a description. We either accept or dismiss her according to what we are comfortable with. She presents herself to the world in the best way she knows how and that is what we see. On the inside, however, is her invisibleness, her fullness, her pain, her joy, her need to connect. Her voice. Her humanness.
Imagine I am a member of the audience. Why should I watch your film?
Because it is particular. Unique. The lead - Yolonda Ross - delivers an exceptional performance. It is personal. It is visually beautiful. It is thought provoking.
How has your work as an actor influenced your role as director?
Completely. I think particularly in my writing. I write a performance out. As a director, my primary focus is the performance. It’s what I am most interested in. And having an exceptional DOP by my side to capture it.
Woman Outside is your AFI thesis film. How did the idea, concept and script develop during your time there?
AFI is set up to emulate the Hollywood studio system. Part of this includes a ‘greenlighting’ process where students submit a script they would like to make for their thesis and it is either ‘greenlit’ or not, by committee. My thesis script was not greenlit so I had to choose someone else’s script.
One of the editing students had submitted a story about a homeless man who plays the guitar trying to get his life back together. This story didn’t really interest me but I did like the kindness of this main character. I really wanted to make a silent film and this character reminded me of Chaplin’s Tramp.
As we developed it, I was looking for my way in and researching homelessness was a starting point. It was the complete opposite direction of Chaplin’s fairytale character but I do like real life very much. In fact I love mixture of the two in cinema. Anyway - this research led me to a documentary about Skid Row. In an interview about living there, one woman quite candidly said 'I get raped every night.' The fact that this could be someone’s reality never even occurred to me as a possibility and my naivety shocked me.
One day, my producer and I were walking down the street and out of nowhere, a woman carrying a plastic bag stormed behind us, sat down on a bench and started yelling; fiercely protesting. Her body was tense, eyes wide, thoughts and sentences jumbled. I wondered, if she might be living the same reality as the woman in the doco.
While she did not speak directly to us, she included us. Her need to speak was so insistent. One of the things I know about myself is that my need to speak is definitely insistent. I understood her even though I didn’t understand her. The way her words came out all seemingly tangential, reminded me of my own thought processes.
Her outward expression of her internal-ness felt circumstantial. I am lucky enough, privileged enough, to be living an experience that is safe and protected and I want for nothing. She is not. But our need to connect, to be heard, to be seen, to communicate, to speak, felt - feels - the same.
Talking with a mentor of mine in Australia, she was curious as to why I cast an African American woman in the role. I told her about my Woman With A Plastic Bag. Her response -
Really?! That’s amazing! You’ve had the same experience before…
What? I replied.
Yeh - you were walking home from work, upset about your break up and a woman carrying a plastic bag started screaming at you. You weren’t sure what her circumstances were exactly - was she homeless, was she not? - but we talked about it for ages. You couldn’t stop talking about it. I even think she said something that was helpful or maybe just her speaking jolted you into some perspective. But she was white - which is why I asked the question.
I have absolutely NO memory of this happening. None. Not even now. But clearly, something inside me needed to say it.
Since its release what type of feedback have you received?
I’ve had lots of conversations about race. About me, a white woman, telling a story about a black woman. Whether or not I am allowed to do that.
I’ve had lots of people say how they notice people on the street more.
I’ve had people say that men won’t make this story. That it’s a woman’s story. I’ve had men say directly to me that they don’t get it. My 17 yr old brother had a poetic response. He got it.
I’ve had lots of people say how sad it is. Haunting and sad.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The feedback about whether or not I am allowed to tell a story is something that interests me. I didn’t make this film to talk so about race but rather the need to speak. Like I said, the homeless woman I saw on the street - what connected me to her was how vehemently she needed to communicate.
The only way she could see to do it was to yell on the street. If our external circumstances separate us, what unites us is this need to connect. I am interested in how our privilege blinds us. I wonder how we can open the conversation that is inclusive despite the different experiences we live.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
A film is made to be seen. This seems like a good way to generating that. A way to contribute to the conversation.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify the message of this film?
Yes all of the above. Except producers. We have an exceptional producer. But yes anyone who is the position to share this with a broader audience.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
I would love it to be seen and received by a wide group of people. To stir conversation. To make you think. To have a shared experience. To move people.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this film?
How do we - as individuals and as the human race, as a species - help or hinder our primal, essential human need to connect?
What are you directing or developing now?
I am working on a feature script at the moment. About my family. I’m also performing in a play at Belvoir St Theatre called the Great Fire.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
No. Thank you this was great.
If you enjoyed reading about 'Woman Outside' we recommend Breaking Night Directed by Yolonda Ross who is a leading actress in 'Woman Outside'.
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela