Daughter explores the way women are viewed in society by following three female characters on a Friday night out in on the town. Each woman varies in age, culture, wealth, education and social status, but on this fateful night, the women's lives will become entwined and affected by an act of violence.
Interview with Writer/Director Sarah-Jayne
Congratulations on the film! Why did you decide to make Daughter?
Daughter started out like just another one of my short stories really, a bit of a writing exercise I would do at night steaming from an idea, inspired by the tragic death of Jill Meagher at the time. Being a crime buff I was reading a lot and following the case. Like all my short stories, I put it down and picked it up numerous times. Then the murder of Tracy Connelly in St Kilda happened a year later. I was following that case too.
What I noticed was the opposing media coverage of the two women and the type of stories that were being written, both victims of gendered violence, yet Jill was a household name, we all mourned for her and social media was used to find her killer. Tracy however went on to just be a strange heading “Prostitute dead in St Kilda'. Or along those lines. I was reading up on this and I was fascinated by the way one woman was discussed compared to the other based on their occupation.
Jill worked for the ABC, Tracy worked as a street based sex worker. What influenced me a lot as a St Kilda local at the time of Tracy's death was an article in The Age* written by fellow St Kilda local Wendy Squires talking about her friend Tracy as a real person, just as Jill was talked about by her family in the news. So why the difference in media coverage? This was fuel for my fire as a writer.
Why did you structure it around three stories of three different women?
When I started the first draft the story started out as Scarlett's point of view, as Scarlett the main character watching these women around her, Jemma the sex worker and the loved up Alethea, with the dream job. Then it ended on the audience watching Scarlett's reaction to gossip in a local cafe and her realisation that women are judged harshly by what they do out in public by those around them.
As the script grew, to draft 13 at the time of shooting, so did the characters and they took on their own life, all three leads had a separate story to tell and stood alone as a real life individual. I think that is super important as that is real life. Scarlett still remains the observer in the final version and although she is no longer the single lead character, she is also making choices like the other leads.
I structured the story around the three women as I wanted to say that no matter who you are, as a woman in society you will be judged. You will labelled by the job you choose to take on dependent on your circumstances or not, people do talk, people are hypercritical, you will be looked at if you drink and party all night as a female, or if you choose to walk home at night alone and meet foul play. Also to say that victim blaming happens too often in our society. Everyone, male or female deserves respect and every woman should feel safe on the streets, day or night.
We can see the women passing each other, they are aware of each other’s presence in the film but it’s only at the end that they acknowledge each other’s experience. Is this a metaphor for women’s role in contemporary life?
Not so much a metaphor about women's role in contemporary life but more so a commentary of sorts - a commentary about how individuals view each other in society and how we are quick to judge another by our first glance. Unless we have been affected by the same thing as this person, we are quick to turn a blind eye and too wrapped up in our own world to care about another, especially a stranger's problem or circumstance.
As an example from Daughter, Alethea doesn’t think much of Jemma when she crosses her path as she can see that Jemma is a sex worker. Jemma looks at Aleteha like an upper class snob who would not know her problems nor care. At the end, however, the characters’ lives go from being individual stories, which only the audience sees, to one entwined story and yes, the lead characters react to a harsh reality - that we are all human, all wanting and deserving of respect, all judged and all capable of being victims.
Scarlett is the youngest character who is at a crossroads in her life and she could go either way depending on her choices. She could be successful and pull herself out of her shit situation or let it consume her and change her life for the worst. That is another interesting layer in the Daughter story.
What type of feedback have you received so far about the film?
So far we have only shared the film with cast and crew and the audience present at the premiere screening and the feedback has been positive from what I have heard.
Daughter would make a great education piece, which has always been my main aim. And we were reassured after the screening from the audience feedback that Daughter looked and felt like that sort of film, so we are happy.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
As a new director and a harsh critic of my own work I have been surprised by the feedback, as I was taking on a big role as the director or this piece I had written, a massive undertaking due to a number of factors. I think it has surprised me more than challenged my point of view as the messages I wanted to get out there have gotten through and it was not so much as ambiguous to the audience what I was trying to get across, it totally hit the nail on the head.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
Exposure - and an interest in Daughter as an awareness and education piece. As previously stated I want to use Daughter as an educational tool, so interest for distribution through school networks and education facilities are a must for Daughter. Private screenings through organisations who have a human rights interest and stance are also crucial.
The more people helping us spread our message, the better. We are looking to connect with as many people who want to spread our messages as possible and are open to any suggestions and the best way to do that is to get exposure and this is a great platform for that.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message and audience?
Anyone who is keen to help spread the word and make it possible for Daughter to get noticed. We need to reach a whole range of people - distributors to help us get Daughter out to the right audience, film festival directors who need more films by female directors and storytellers, journalists to cover the rest of our journey as we tour from May this year and anyone who can financially support NPG so we can continue to keep spreading our message as we tour nationally through private screenings, where we have interest.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
A social impact. I want Daughter to be a part of a movement that promotes changes in our society in terms of how we view victim blaming and gendered violence in our communities and society as a whole. And equally important is how we start to educate our children on issues such as gender roles and respect for others which lead to violence in our communities if not talked about. We want to start a discussion and plant positive seeds.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this issue and film?
I would say it is our tagline - Would you care if she was your daughter? I think that always manages to hit home just how real violence against women is in our communities and we want to shut down victim blaming.
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Writer and Director: Sarah Jayne
Producer: Ivan Malekin for Nexus Production Group
Looking for: Buyer, distributor, sales agent and media interest
Funders: City of Port Phillip Cultural Development Fund 2015/2016, Executive Producer Thomas Liddy and Associate Producer Ante Malekin, various crowd funding investors.
Made in association with: We Love it Productions